What About Abortion in the Case of Rape?

Author Jonathan Noyes Published on 05/03/2024

Recently, I trained a group of young adults on pro-life apologetics. After the presentation, I took questions from the audience. Almost immediately, a young woman in the back raised her hand. She offered one of the most common and difficult challenges to answer. She asked, “What about the woman who is attacked, raped, and, as a result, becomes pregnant?”

The young woman went on to ask, “Should this woman now be forced to carry that baby to term, give birth, and raise him? Wouldn’t that only serve as a reminder of that horrible event, adding to the already unimaginable trauma suffered?”

This is the “in the case of rape” objection, and it’s a valid question to ask. One of the reasons this challenge is hard to answer is that it’s so emotionally charged. However, there is a good answer.

Three Important Acknowledgments

The first step in answering the challenge is to offer three important acknowledgements to settle the emotions and find common ground with the person raising the question.

First, rape is a heinous crime. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish it must cause. I think we can all agree that rape is evil. And to think of the victim of rape becoming pregnant due to the malevolent actions of another is heartbreaking. When we admit this from the get-go, we settle the nerves of the person we’re talking to by finding common ground.

Second, the objection raises a valid point. By choosing to give birth and raise her baby, the mother may experience painful memories. We are asking her to do a very hard thing. When you mention this, you again find common ground, but you also move towards the objection. This helps lower defensiveness.

Third, the woman is a victim. Unlike other aspects of the abortion debate, the “in the case of rape” scenario involves a situation where the woman has been made pregnant because of an involuntary action. She did not willingly engage in the activity that resulted in her getting pregnant. In this way, pregnancy was forced upon her. She is a victim and deserves our compassion and support.

Leading with these acknowledgments shows you understand this is a very real scenario deserving of a thoughtful and compassionate response. The challenge still needs to be answered, though. Here are four points that will help you do that.

Four Points to Answer the Challenge

First, abortion isn’t compassion. Being the victim of a brutal crime, the mother deserves our compassion. But so does the unborn child. Regardless of how a human life comes into existence, he is still an innocent human being. The means of conception doesn’t justify the taking of that life. The compassionate thing to do would be to help the unborn baby flourish, not kill him. It’s often simply assumed the compassionate thing to do is have an abortion. This is not true, which leads to the next point.

Second, abortion creates another victim. There’s more than one human being involved here. Yes, the mother is a victim. But her having an abortion would only create another victim. Instead of inflicting harm on another innocent person, the compassionate thing would be to protect that innocent life. In the process, she would be doing what’s right by upholding the basic right extended to us all—a chance to live. Not only is this the compassionate thing to do for the baby, but having the baby often has a positive effect on the mother, which is the third point.

Third, abortion doesn’t relieve the pain of rape. Having an abortion won’t undo that horrifying experience already endured by the mother. In fact, contrary to what many believe, having an abortion may only intensify the trauma experienced by the woman. When a woman makes the decision to allow her child to continue living, she can experience a great sense of love, joy, and happiness. By raising her child, she often feels a sense of redemption (see this study of 192 women who conceived through sexual assault). The sense of redemption is due in part to the understanding that all human beings are valuable and worthy of protection, which is the final point.

Fourth, abortion devalues human life. Some people say being human isn’t enough. Some people say we can kill certain human beings because they’re not persons. This view devalues human life by placing extrinsic requirements on value. In other words, it says you must earn your value.

Throughout history, this rationale has had horrific consequences. One clear example is Southern slavery. A portion of the population believed that having more melanin in your skin somehow made you less of a person and therefore less valuable. Pro-choice advocates use similar thinking to devalue the unborn. Instead of the amount of melanin, they say that since the unborn don’t look like or have the same abilities as born human beings, they are not yet persons. Sometimes they argue the unborn aren’t located in the right place to make them a real person. Just as a person’s skin color doesn’t assign value, neither do any of these qualities assign value to human beings.

Human beings are valuable because they are human beings made in the image of God. That image gives everyone intrinsic, transcendent value and worth. This is what makes rape such an awful crime. It causes great harm to an image bearer. This value also exists in the unborn, which is why abortion is also a moral wrong. Regardless of how that child is conceived, he is made in the image of God and is therefore valuable and worthy of life.

This objection is a difficult one to answer. However, there is a good answer to it. If we engage with compassion, find common ground, and then give solid reasons to believe abortion is wrong, even in the case of rape, we can have an impact, and lives will be saved.