What if a woman has been raped?
Most people believe abortion should be allowed in the case of rape.
Rape is certainly a terrible crime against women. The victims need our support and sympathy. We should be doing a great deal more to protect and help them. But abortion, like rape, is by nature a destructive act.
Conception from rape is extremely rare. Many studies have found few pregnancies resulting from rape. There are several reasons for this. Many women are infertile at the time they are raped – they may be in the infertile phase of their monthly cycle, too old or too young to conceive, on the pill or other contraception, or have been sterilised.
Trauma from the rape may bring into play some natural defence mechanisms that reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, such as hormonal change and spasms of the fallopian tube as which inhibit ovulation or fertilisation.
Rape does not always involve a complete act of sexual intercourse. The chance of conception resulting from a single act of unprotected intercourse has been estimated at only 2 to 4%.
South Australia is the only state in Australia where statistics of abortion are collated. These figures show that less than 0.1% of abortions are done for reasons of rape. Assuming the same percentage applies to the whole of Australia, out of the total 80,000 - 100,000 abortions per year there might be around 80 from rape.
To abort an unborn child conceived by rape is to respond to violence against one innocent victim (the woman) with violence against another innocent victim (the unborn child). Abortion always directly causes the loss of a human life.
Abortion will not necessarily help a woman deal with the trauma of her rape. As abortion itself can give rise to severe psychological disturbance, it may only compound her problems.
Society’s easy assumption that abortion is in the woman’s best interest may reflect an attitude that sees the rape victim as ‘unclean’ and abortion as necessary to ‘cleanse her’ of rape’s stain. Unfortunately, once the pregnancy is ‘fixed up’ by the abortion, the anger, guilt, fear and low self-esteem related to the rape may be ignored.
Women pregnant from rape don’t always want an abortion but the opinions, attitudes and beliefs of other people about the rape and pregnancy often make it difficult for the victim to choose any other option. Fear of being blamed or rejected by the family, friends or society may make a pregnant rape victim want to cover up what has happened by removing the visible evidence of it.
It is commonly held that women hate the children they bear from rape – early in the pregnancy there may be feelings of resentment and hostility towards the child. In her study of pregnant rape victims, it has been found that negative attitudes consistently changed to positive ones as the pregnancy progressed; the overwhelming majority of the women had a positive view towards the child by the time of delivery as well as much improved self images.
Rape is a great injustice to the woman and its consequences may be unjust. But an even greater injustice is done by killing the child, who is the other victim of rape.
The choice for childbirth is a choice to bring something good out of what seems so inherently evil. It reaches into her soul and contacts the strength in there. It is a choice to triumph over the rape. It is a choice that will allow her to remember her courage and generosity, rather than just her fear and shame. Counselling, warmth and understanding are the support mechanisms that will give her something to lean on, especially so if she bears a child from the incident.
What if the child has a disability?
Many people think that abortion is best for an unborn baby diagnosed with a disability. Disability is relative as no-one is perfect.
Much can now be done for a child with a disability: surgery, artificial limbs, special education, support schemes, etc. Congenital defects caused by rubella, for example, may be correctable, and the great potential for happiness and satisfaction with life of people born with Downs Syndrome is well established.
People with a disability are not of necessity unhappy because of their disability: rather it is often the lack of support and the condescending attitudes of those who say “He’d be better off if he hadn’t been born.” Is physical or mental perfection a prerequisite for human rights? Who are we to say that someone would be ‘better off dead?’
Many children with a disability can, with proper care and education, become independent and self-fulfilling, and most others can become semi-independent. They can often be taught to read, write and behave in a socially acceptable manner. However, even those who are not able to achieve this are not necessarily less happy.
Despite their limitations, with love and support, people with disabilities have as much potential to be happy as anyone else. But even if they might not be as happy few would argue that all unhappy or potentially unhappy people should be killed.
The child with a disability often brings out the best in his or her family, leading them by determined example and often bringing great affection and warmth to the family.
Abortion of the disabled child is a violent form of discrimination. Nobody suggests that older children who are disabled after road accidents should be killed to relieve the burden on the family. The effect of selective abortion to eliminate a disabled child on the mother and, through her, the family, can be severe. The incidence of depression following abortion for genetic foetal defect may be as high as 92% among women studied.
Disability definitely puts strains on a family and the community is only now beginning to fulfil its responsibility to help. Some parents may believe that abortion would be best if their child were potentially very severely disabled because they feel inadequate to properly care for him or her. These parents often do not know about the organisations and groups available and in despair seek abortion.
These organisations can assist in selecting and arranging the best way to help a child. They can assist in organising supplementary care for parents who are able to look after their child at home but need some extra help, or who simply need reliable and competent respite and support from time to time.
For families that really cannot cope, there are many support services available or they may decide that adoption is better for all concerned. Although it may take much time and searching to find the right place for the child, hospitals and homes which provide excellent loving, professional nursing and assistance for the disabled do exist. There are also individuals who possess the resources to cope with the severely disabled child’s needs. Many people are willing to foster or adopt disabled babies or older children.
Many people, with inspiring determination, accommodate and overcome their disabilities.
The following letter once appeared in the Daily Telegraph: “Sir, We were disabled from causes other than thalidomide, the first of us having two useless arms and hands, the second two useless legs, and the third have use of neither arms nor legs. We are fortunate only, it may seem, in having been allowed to live, and we want to say with strong conviction how thankful we are that no on took it upon themselves to destroy us as useless cripples. We have found worthwhile and happy lives and we face our future with confidence. Despite our disabilities life still has much to offer, and we are more than anxious, if only metaphorically, to reach out towards the future.”
All people with a disability ask is that they are recognised for their warmth and their desire to contribute to society at their maximum ability. As people, it is their wish to enjoy the benefits and activities of our society.