Except in the cases of….

If you’re like me, you’re probably eagerly anticipating next Tuesday – voting day – not so much because you get to cast a ballot (and don’t get me wrong, that’s a super awesome responsibility) but because we can officially get out of the political cycle that inundates us with political ads, yard signs, bumper stickers, and all around annoying Facebook (and blog – irony!) posts about the election.

Of course, with every political cycle, abortion becomes a large hot button issue. And it seems like we’ve all become very accustomed to hearing the following: “Except in cases of rape or incest.” It seems that, for a pro-life candidate to seem “moderate” enough, he or she must ardently profess this exception (we will leave the life of the mother to another discussion)

I must, at this time, make something very clear: Rape is awful. As a man I find myself woefully inadequate to discuss this topic. I cannot begin to understand the complexities of rape and the damage it does to its victim.

I also want to be clear that I am not some blockhead chauvinist who completely misunderstands why this is such a weighty issue. As stated, rape is awful. It’s terrible. And – specific to gender – is a completely lopsided crime. When a man rapes a woman, he suffers no noticeable temporal consequences. Yet a woman who is raped, and if conception happens during rape, now has a 9 month burden that can imperil her life, her ability as a wage earner, and cause her unspeakable psychological damage.

With that caveat out of the way:

Along comes Todd Akin and “legitimate rape.” There’s no way to justify that man’s ignorance on this subject. And I won’t waste a lot of screen time doing so. But, unfortunately, his comments have put flesh on the straw man argument against such a rape exception.

And what this means is, a slightly more nuanced view – like Richard Mourdock’s – ends up getting lumped together with Mr. Akin. Which is an incredible shame.

Now I don’t know Mr. Mourdock or his politics, but I do feel like we must examine what he said, and furthermore examine his clarification.

Here is what he said exactly:

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Now let’s be fair to the man and realize that he was on live television in the context of a debate and a big red “time is out” flashing light in front of him. His words, at first glance, do lack nuance and can be incredibly misconstrued.

If you examine the comment you might have two questions “Did that man just say that rape is intended by God?” or “Did that man just say that life that comes from rape is intended by God?”

I think anyone with any semblance of charity and sanity can easily dismiss the first question. (However if you still struggle, here is how he clarified his remarks:
“God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.”)

And so it makes us truly examine what we believe about life. Is all life sacred? Is God involved in the creation of every new life? Or does God only involve himself in “wanted” pregnancies, but recuse himself from “unwanted” pregnancies and pregnancies that are the result of rape?

And if we dare say that God is involved in the creation of every new life. And we have the courage to profess that all life (born AND unborn) is sacred, then is Mr. Mourdock really that off base?

But of course those making civil law may object to the above paragraph. So let’s take God out of the equation for a moment (silly, and ontologically impossible, but let’s try).

What makes a society just? Is not the protection of the most innocent life just? Is not protecting the rights of innocent life, who in no way can fight for itself, just? And furthermore, can two wrongs make a right? Can the abortion of a life created by means of rape ever make right the absolute injustice of rape?

It can be tempting to think that it is moral to allow for the “exception in the case of rape.” To think that “This is awful and completely unfair, in just this case abortion should be legal to even the score” but again we have to ask the same question – can two wrongs make a right? Can fighting injustice with another injustice lead us to believe that we are a just society? *

As believers or non-believers we must answer those questions. As Catholics we are then bound furthermore by our belief in the sanctity of all life.

And as people of good will, if we think this through and realize that justice must be done, we then must do all that we can to support a woman through her pregnancy. We must find every conceivable way to reduce her burden and suffering and to do everything we can to care for the child, whether it is kept or given up for adoption.

That is true justice. THOSE are the kind of services that a government should be funding at nearly half a billion dollars a year. And punitively we must find a way for the agressor to pay his fair share as well. Punitively rape should not only be met with jail time but financial punishments as well that can be paid to the woman to help in the care of her unborn child.

Sadly – the political machine lacks any ability for real dialog, and Mr. Mourdock becomes just like Mr. Akin in the eyes of many, but the uncomfortable issue of rape and abortion will continue to be there – and we must all have an answer for it. Not only to inform our consciences on how to vote, but to also help direct us towards the common good of supporting women who are victimized in such a terrible way, and also to support and sustain the gift that life, even life conceived in such a way, is to the world.

P.S. This post was written on an Apple computer, founded by a man who was given up for adoption.


* I had wanted to make the following case, but I felt like it hurt the flow of the blog post but I didn’t want the thought to go away.  As a society it seems like we are on a course to try to “unbelieve” there are any real differences between a man and a woman.  And I think this issue makes us come more in touch with created reality.  That the overwhelming lack of fairness in the consequences that a female victim of rape can suffer are a sign of how different we are as man and woman.  And I wonder if that plays into the issue at all.  I wonder how much this “exception” tries to also correct this “lack of balance”  That, if we can just abort the consequence a way, we can truly try to make man and woman the same.  And this is what happens when a society desires sameness – instead of equality – between genders.

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