TW: sexual violence
The debate over abortion evokes many ethical questions, but few are as deep, difficult, and emotionally charged as that of whether women who have suffered sexual assault may get an abortion. Sexual assault is never an easy thing to talk about, and for those fortunate to have never experienced it themselves, it is hard even to imagine the trauma its perpetrators inflict upon its victims.
Sexual assault is an extremely violent and dehumanizing crime, and it is no surprise rape is frequently cited as one of the worst crimes one person can commit against another.1 Men and women who have experienced sexual assault deserve nothing but compassion from those around them.
This compassion should certainly extend to women who become pregnant as a result of sexual assault. Pregnancy poses many challenges even to women who welcome the new little lives into their wombs, and for women who have just undergone the trauma of sexual assault, these challenges take on an entirely new depth. Beyond feeling overwhelmed and underprepared, a woman in this circumstance must also grapple with the emotional turmoil that comes with carrying her own rapist’s child. She might like nothing more than to erase the memory of the assault from her mind, but carrying the child conceived through that same assault makes forgetting the event much harder.
For pro-lifers who understand the infinite value of both mothers and their unborn children, it’s important to also understand the challenges facing women with unexpected or unwanted pregnancies, especially those resulting from rape. Pro-lifers have a duty to provide comfort and care to women in such a difficult situation as well as to remind them that abortion will not undo the injustice of rape. This may include providing material or financial support to help a woman out, or it may just include being a shoulder for her to cry on when she needs it. Close to 3000 pregnancy resource centers (PRCs), located all over the country and in most major cities, provide women with confidential pre- and post-partum care regardless of their circumstances and socioeconomic conditions. In 2017 alone, PRCs served 2 million people.2 In Michigan, Project Rosie provides confidential care specifically for students who find themselves pregnant.3 Sometimes, directing a woman to organizations like these may be the first step toward helping her during her pregnancy.
Regardless of what it looks like for each individual person, though, it should always involve compassion, generosity, and a true effort to help a woman see that there is a way for both her and her unborn baby to make it through this challenging time.
Again, although abortion may seem like a way out of a difficult pregnancy, the unfortunate truth is that nothing can undo a rape. Despite this, however, as Christopher Kaczor points out in The Ethics of Abortion, when a woman chooses to carry a child conceived through rape, she does something beautifully antithetical to the act of sexual assault.4 Rape assaults an innocent human being, while carrying a child protects one. Rape violates the freedom of another person, while carrying a child gives that child a chance at all the freedoms life has to offer. Rape forces the body of one upon the other, but in carrying a child, a woman generously offers her body for the good of another.
None of this erases the trauma of sexual assault or makes a resulting pregnancy easy. But with support from family, friends, and a pro-life community dedicated to serving both mothers and their children, some of the pain of rape can be alleviated without bringing harm to another innocent human being.
Ruth Moreno, April 2022
Sources and further reading
- Top 10 Worst Crimes
- Pro-life Pregnancy Centers Served 2 Million People
- Project Rosie
- The Ethics of Abortion
Picture credit: “A friend is someone who can see the truth and pain in you (To my dear friend CINZIA)” by Jose Luis Mieza Photography is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.