Mark Davis

As Richard Mourdock’s Indiana Senate fate hinges on how voters absorb his views on rape, all conservatives have an opportunity for a look in the mirror.

Just how pro-life do we want to be?

The Mourdock controversy is nothing like Todd Akin’s self-inflicted wound in Missouri, the result of an embrace of just plain bad medical information.

Mourdock is in hot water for accurately (if not particularly skillfully) articulating what God instructs about the life of the unborn.

If he is on politically shaky ground, it is because he had the courage to stand on the rock of moral truth.

That truth presents conservatives with a challenge, whether running for office or not.

What does it mean to be pro-life? Is it a universal view that every life created is a gift from God and a sacred thing to be protected by law? Or shall we begin a list of exceptions slightly less jarring to those around us?

I cannot imagine what it is like to be a victim of rape or incest. I have endless prayerful support for anyone carrying that burden. But that support does not include a permission slip to extinguish the resulting newly created life.

That is the required stance for anyone who is truly pro-life. It is a hard view to hold in a culture that has placed women’s interests above a baby’s right to be born.

The moral bankruptcy of the rape and incest exceptions has long permeated the ranks of otherwise socially conservative Republicans. The usual drill is to declare a wish to protect the unborn, then to rapidly add that those protections would be suspended if the new life is the product of an admittedly horrible event in the life of a woman.

The politics of this is simple. Many voters will recoil at the notion of laws removing the abortion option for rape and incest victims. Our natural empathy for them diverts our attention from the unborn, voiceless party in the proceedings, causing many to rush to reassure potential victims that we would never, as the saying goes, “force them to have the baby.”

If that seems harsh, compare it to the harshness of a deadly extraction from the womb. But fetuses don’t vote, so priorities remain weighted for political expediency.

There is a route for candidates, or individuals, who simply cannot remove the abortion option for rape and incest victims: it’s called being pro-choice.

Not radically pro-choice in some Susan Sarandon/ Barack Obama way, but observant of a narrow window within which a woman may terminate pregnancies for rape, incest, or any other reason-- a birth control mishap, a lapse in judgement, or she has all the kids she wants already.

If those justifications seem to be a lower bar than the horrors of rape or incest, that’s correct. But here is the ultimate truth: newly created life is either sacred or it is not.

If it is not, abortion becomes permissible for a wide range of reasons.

If it is, abortion is never permissible, except to save the life (not the health) of the mother.

Good luck with that on the campaign trail. But this is not about what is expedient, it is about what is morally sound.

It is far easier to straddle the fence and profess various anti-abortion views from bans on federal funding to parental consent, all the while parroting the calming song of the rape and incest exception.

But those exceptions are a death sentence for the babies who have no say in the circumstances of their creation.

Every Republican-- every conservative-- must pick a side. Will it be the safer option of placing asterisks alongside any stated passion for protecting the unborn? Or will it be the more challenging, tougher to sell yet morally principled side of acknowledging that “sacred” is not an adjective to be trifled with, even to get votes?

Like the slow enlightenment toward our societal rejection of slavery, it will be a long journey for those seeking to make this view the default setting of a nation. Arguments are one tool. Examples are another.

I have had the pleasure in recent years of adding a profound blessing to my circle of friendships. James Robison of Life Outreach International is both a friend and neighbor, with a Texas-based broadcast empire that has welcomed me as I have welcomed him to various shows of mine. We have enjoyed many discussions of faith and politics, on and off the air.

Purely personally, he and his wife Betty are an inspiration. In word and in deed, they are living examples of what Christianity teaches.

If you are thinking that James and I have had some discussions about this issue which have given me clarity, you would be right.

But it is not his words that should open your eyes. It is the fact that he is here to speak them.

James Robison is the product of rape. The years he has spent enriching countless lives, mine among them, would be erased if his mother had chosen to compound the atrocity of what happened to her by eradicating the resulting life.

Richard Mourdock, and all who are truly pro-life, do not condone rape by wrapping it in the justification of God’s will. But any resulting pregnancy is God’s miracle, and we are the stewards and protectors of it.

No one said that stewardship would be easy. The choices are hard, for rape and incest victims themselves, and for the politicians who need the spine and clarity to speak challenging truths if they wish to say they are genuinely pro-life.