No, Rape And Incest Do Not Justify Abortion

/ Commentary

We have all heard it before. It plagues virtually every conversation about abortion. It is the justification of all justifications; the heart-wrenching “what if” intended to toss logic and reason overboard for the sake of a flippant, irrational, and emotional appeal.

"What about in cases of rape and incest?”

Let me make something clear to those who are pro-abortion. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say almost every pro-lifer has been asked this question. There is nothing profound about it. Despite what you might think, you are not derailing the defense of life with some brilliant rhetorical bombshell. In fact, the question is rather shallow and ineffective.

The right to life is inalienable, which means the defense of life is immune to circumstantial complications. In other words, human life is always valuable. Always. It does not matter if a person’s conception is the result of consensual sex or if a child is specially delivered by a phalanx of storks. When a human being is created, even as a result of rape or incest, she has the right to life. There is exactly no context in which that reality can change.

This position is not even controversial, really. I will use a brief hypothetical scenario to illustrate my point:

Imagine a newlywed couple is away on their honeymoon. In addition to the sightseeing, snorkeling, and other various activities they might enjoy, the couple spends a fair amount of time in bed doing what newlyweds are expected to do. After the honeymoon, they return home and prepare to get back to their respective jobs. As the wife walks from her car to her office, she is pulled into an alleyway and raped.

She escapes with her life, but a few weeks later she finds out she’s pregnant. In a panic, she makes an appointment with her doctor and asks if they can determine whether the child’s father is her husband or her rapist.  After some tests, the doctor confidently assures her that she need not worry. The baby belongs to her husband.

Fast forward two years and nine months, the couple is happily caring for their healthy daughter when the phone begins to ring. The woman’s doctor is on the line to deliver the news that a mistake had been made during her tests when she was pregnant. It turns out the child actually belongs to the rapist, not her husband.

This situation, though obviously unlikely, involves all of the same details abortion advocates tend to use to justify an abortion procedure in cases of rape. The woman now will be reminded of her rapist whenever she looks at her daughter. She will relive that horrific experience every single day. Her daughter is the product of the worst day of her life.

Of course, no one would dare endorse the idea this circumstance warrants the murder of the child. It would still be universally unacceptable for the mother to murder the little girl, deliberately ending her life, so as to relieve herself from the mental and emotional anguish caused by her rape. Despite the manner in which the child was conceived, we all recognize that a two-year-old girl has a right to life. It is not controversial in the least. But why?

The primary difference between this hypothetical scenario and an abortion procedure has exactly nothing to do with rape, and everything to do with the humanity of the child. In one case, rape is commonly used as a perfectly acceptable justification for the destruction of the baby, but in the other, the excuse falls short. This is simply because rape is used as an emotional appeal in an effort to avoid the single relevant question:

“Is the preborn child a living human being with inherent, inalienable rights?”

The two-year-old girl is alive, she is a human being, and she certainly possesses inherent rights. All of that is obvious to us, which is why we would reject the notion that her murder would be morally acceptable, even in the hypothetical situation outlined above.

The preborn child’s status, however, is a bit more controversial, which is why many believe its destruction is accompanied by no moral consequence. This is the true debate. Rape, incest, the life of the mother, or any other variables are all beside the point. If the preborn child is a living human being with inalienable, inherent rights, it deserves the same ethical and legal protections as you and I deserve, period. End of story.

This makes the abortion issue pretty simple. If the answer to the aforementioned question is “yes,” abortion is unacceptable in all cases. If the answer is “no,” there is room for discussion. Let’s tackle this, shall we?

First, is the preborn child alive? The Oxford Dictionary defines “life” as “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, functional activity, and continual change.” Now, given this definition, I submit that it is basically impossible to claim a preborn child, regardless of the stage of development, is not alive. From fertilization onward, the preborn child fulfills all three of these requirements, and then some.

Second, is the child a human being? Another easy one. If the preborn child is created within the reproductive process of two Homo sapiens, and it is alive, then it can be nothing other than a Homo sapien, or a human being.

Finally, does the preborn child possess inherent, inalienable rights? Well, given that we have already determined the child is a living human being, to suggest it does not have the same inalienable rights as the rest of us would be a pretty bold claim. This would mean that one would be advocating for the idea some living human beings are less valuable than others, which is an argument which has never gone well, even in recent human history.

“Is an preborn child a living human being with inherent, inalienable rights?”

Of course it is, and abortion must be firmly rejected in all circumstances, including rape and incest.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.

No, Rape And Incest Do Not Justify Abortion
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