Author’s Note: Every summer at Summit Ministries (see www.Summit.org) I give a speech meant to equip young pro-life students with proper rebuttals to pro-abortion choice arguments. I have been asked to reprint the speech in my column (in condensed form). I am doing so in two parts. The first part can be accessed by clicking on this link. I hope you find this – the second of two installments – both beneficial and informative.
Whenever I find myself in an extended argument about abortion I find that there are about six arguments I can expect to encounter before the argument has come to term, so to speak. But, fortunately, the six arguments all suffer from one fatal flaw, which makes them somewhat easy to rebut as long as the proponent of life stays focused on the central moral question of the abortion debate, which is “Are the unborn human?” I’ve dealt with four of the six arguments in the first installment of this series. I deal with arguments five and six below.
Argument #5: “It is wrong for a woman to be forced to give birth to a baby she cannot afford.” This argument is also remarkably calloused – so much so that it is difficult to understand how those who make it could describe themselves as “liberal.” Do we really need to start reassigning Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal to understand how profoundly sick and distasteful this argument really is? Swift wrote (satirically, of course) a proposal that suggested people eat their babies in order to relieve hunger and poverty. Pro-abortion choice arguments often sound chillingly similar.
For those who have never read Swift, I like to use a more contemporary example. In the 80s, a punk rock band calling themselves “The Dead Kennedys” wrote a song called “Kill the Poor” in which they mockingly suggested that we kill poor people as a means of eliminating poverty. That would certainly eliminate poverty. But is that really an acceptable solution? Of course, it isn’t. That was their point.
Make sure to confront abortion choice advocates with the question of whether it is permissible to kill to eliminate poverty. When you do, they will say something like this: “No, I would never advocate killing the poor. I would advocate abortion to prevent them from becoming poor people in the first place.” They are trapped once again in the untenable position of denying the personhood of the unborn. (Please review argument #1 from the first installment in this series).
Of course, there is another aspect to the poverty-as-a-defense-of-abortion argument. It is the crass argument that the mother sometimes cannot “afford” the baby. This raises another fundamental question: “Is it permissible to kill a person in order to alleviate financial stress?” If it is then I’d like to kill the banker who holds my mortgage. (I’m just kidding, folks). Of course, I cannot do that anyway since a) he is a middle-aged man and b) the Supreme Court does not authorize abortions in the 200th trimester – at least they haven’t yet!
Some pro-lifers will say that poor women should not be having babies if they cannot “afford” them. But this raises another important question: What if the poor woman’s baby is the product of a rape?
Argument #6: “It is wrong to force a woman to give birth to a baby after she has been a victim of rape (or incest, which is usually statutory rape).” Whenever I hear an argument for the rape exception I think of my friend Laura. She was adopted and later in life (when she was in her 20s) wanted to locate her birth mother and learn of the circumstances of her adoption. When she did, she learned that she was the product of a rape. I don’t have the audacity to tell her she should have been killed by an abortionist. I leave that to the compassionate liberals who over-simplify the rape issue.
Actually, “oversimplify” is too kind a term. They are exploiting the rape issue in order to avoid the central question of the debate: “Is the unborn - yes, even the product of rape - human?” I say “Of course they are!” And Laura agrees with me. If you disagree, then you may take it up with her or with others conceived in rape such as attorney and pro-life advocate Rebecca Kiessling. Their lives are hardly useless. And because their mothers had the courage to bear them, they have made a profound difference in this world – including saving countless lives with their pro-life testimony.
Whenever the issue of the rape exception is raised it is well worth mentioning Kennedy v. Louisiana, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 2008. In that already infamous case, the Court spared Kennedy from execution on the grounds that it would be Cruel and Unusual Punishment to kill a man who did not kill anyone. This was a brutal rape case – indeed among the worst I’ve ever studied. An expert in pediatric forensic medicine testified that Kennedy raped his 8-year old stepdaughter savagely to the point of causing permanent physical damage. In fact, a laceration to the left wall of her vagina had separated her cervix from the back of her vagina, causing her rectum to protrude into her vaginal structure. Put simply, Kennedy raped, sodomized, and tortured a poor little girl he was supposed to protect. Thankfully, he was easily convicted for doing so. And there is no question whatsoever as to the issue of his guilt.
But the High Court – high on their own arrogance - stated that Kennedy’s execution would not comport with “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” This decision rested largely on the fact that most states reject the idea of execution for rape – even the rape of a child accompanied by other aggravating factors. And so this is the position in which we find ourselves today: When a woman is raped she has a constitutional right to an abortion. And the rapist has a constitutional right to life. But the unborn baby has no rights whatsoever. And they call this the mark of an “evolving” and “maturing” society?
The Kennedy case helps us to better understand another frequently employed argument for the rape exception; namely, that a woman has a right to abort in order to rid her of the memory of a horrible event. But that argument is both logically and factually flawed. Logically speaking, the woman, if granted the right to kill one person, should be entitled to kill the rapist. She should not be entitled to kill the baby! Any assertion to the contrary can be justified only by denying the personhood of the unborn. (Once again, review argument #1 from the first installment in this series).
Factually speaking, there is simply no merit to the argument that abortions either sooth the conscience or assuage the memory of rape victims. In the first place, too many women feel guilty and blame themselves in the aftermath of rape. The abortion adds another layer of guilt and trauma. Only the birth of the child can provide healing – even if the child is immediately given up for adoption. Philosophers Peter Kreeft and Frank Beckwith often point out that it is better to suffer evil than to inflict it. Planned Parenthood counselors are never inclined to raise this point. They profit from the infliction of evil upon the innocent. And they use rape victims to justify their dirty occupation.
After I have finished making all the points I wish to make, I always extend the following offer to the abortion choice advocate: “If I agree to write the exception for rape, will you be willing to lobby for the law banning abortion?” In all of my years discussing abortion, no one has taken me up on the offer. Their reaction always shows that they were never in favor of keeping abortion legal in order to protect victims of rape. They are simply using these women for political purposes.
A movement that both denies the personhood of the defenseless unborn and uses rape victims for political purposes is not one worth joining. These people do not even believe the arguments they are making. They are truly modern day Pharisees – more deserving of our ridicule than our respect.