Taking the Easy Route after Rape

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 04/19/2013

Alan’s monthly letter for January 2012

Dear Friend,

My friend, Susan, chose the easy route when she found she was pregnant. Susan was raped. She thought about going to the local abortion clinic. Except the head of the pro-life club—the one Susan had joined at her Christian university—was a frequent protester outside. How could Susan walk past her friend and then into the clinic? But without an abortion, she’d feel guilty, shameful, and embarrassed once her Christian friends and family found out. Given the option of a quick abortion or enduring a nine month pregnancy with the rapist’s child, Susan chose the easy route. She chose life.

“Easy” was the word she used. It caught me off guard. How can she call that easy? The physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth are difficult. There’s morning sickness, backaches, the pains of childbirth, and all the possible complications. Then there’s the psychological component: the stigma of being an unwed mother, the humiliation of rape, feelings of guilt, and the anger at the man who hurt her.

And after giving birth, you either endure the gut-wrenching turmoil of handing over your child to an adoption agency or begin the arduous task of parenting a newborn—as a single mom.

So, why did my friend refer to her decision as the “easy” route? Two reasons. The first was her understanding of the logical reasoning and arguments against abortion. She believed that, despite being raped, having an abortion was the wrong choice.

I remember being challenged with this question by a student during my debate against a women’s studies professor at California State University in San Marcos, CA. I explained that rape doesn’t justify abortion. Here’s how I knew. I asked the audience, rhetorically, if a mother can kill her three-year-old girl who is conceived through rape. No, because rape doesn’t justify killing a three-year-old. If you can’t kill a three-year-old girl because she was conceived through rape, then you can’t kill that same girl because of rape if she’s still inside her mother’s womb. It’s the same girl; it’s just she’s not born yet in one case.

Some abortion-choice advocates protest this reasoning by pointing out that I’m talking about two different things. The three-year-old is a born girl and the one inside is not. That’s a big difference. But notice now that they’re changing the distinction. It’s no longer a matter of being raped or not, but whether the child is born or not. This proves that rape is not the real issue. Abortion-choice advocates think that the unborn is not a human being like the three-year-old girl. They just use rape as an extreme example because of its powerful rhetorical effect.

Here’s another way I look at this question. Imagine a woman is raped, gets pregnant, and the rapist is caught. Would we allow the woman to shoot and kill the rapist? No. If we don’t allow the woman to shoot the rapist who’s guilty, then why would we allow the woman to kill the child who’s innocent? Why should the child pay for the crime of her father?

Yes, my friend was victimized. But she realized that it would be wrong to then turn around and victimize another completely innocent person—her own daughter.

Susan knew this. She decided that to carry her child to term was easier because these apologetic arguments simplified the logic of her predicament. They provided a powerful moral compass during a tumultuous time.

But there was a second reason that Susan felt her decision was the easy route. She avoided the heartache of abortion. Rape creates a long-term, painful memory of a past event. And the child may be a reminder of that for years to come. But an abortion adds a second painful memory—that of killing your own child. It often leaves a woman broken and guilty. It neither un-rapes her nor erases the memory of that event.

Instead, women who abort often remember what the birth date would have been had their child survived. Each year that day reminds them of not one crime, but two: the rape and now the abortion. That leads many women into anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Susan didn’t want that. It would only make her situation more difficult.

So my friend chose life to avoid the heartache of abortion. Now, her daughter, Mandy, is a beautiful, six-year-old girl. Although Susan wasn’t ready to be mother, she found loving Christian parents who were. Susan still gets to see Mandy and they’ve developed a loving relationship.

It is often thought that a woman who has become pregnant through rape only needs emotional support. Logical arguments are said to be largely irrelevant. But it turns out that Susan was able to work out her dilemma through moral reasoning. Apologetic arguments she learned at her pro-life club, combined with her friend’s emotional support, gave her a foundation to make the right choice.

But Susan knew it was also the easier choice. If Susan chose abortion, she’d be consumed with guilt and shame for untold years. Instead, her choice to give Mandy life also gave herself life. Not only was her daughter able to live, but Susan was able to live—live with herself for making the right and easy choice.

This is why I do what I do. The pro-life skills I teach around the country are designed to help people like Susan. It gives them the logical tools to ground their thinking when emotions are blowing them in every direction. And your partnership helps me do that. Not only are you equipping the Susan’s of this world, you’re also helping to save the Mandy’s.

For life,

Alan Shlemon