Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Exceptions in the case of rape

09-02-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

What about "except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother"? This exception to permit abortion is one that generates intense emotional reactions, which makes it difficult to discuss without descending into highpitched arguments that usually end in personal attacks. Even though this issue has been in the news constantly as of late because of statements made by a candidate for elected office, very little serious reporting has been done which would shed some light on this painful and difficult subject.

The pro-abortion side always tries to make its case from the exceptions and not the rule. And the rule is that the direct taking of innocent human life is always wrong. This basic principle keeps us from sliding back into barbarianism. If it is always wrong then there really can be no exceptions, which is what the pro-life side argues. The proabortion side uses this against the pro-life side to paint them as crazy, heartless and irrational. They do this especially well by arguing from the worst-case scenarios which are heart wrenching and challenging to defend and which make most pro-lifers fold like a house of cards. Don't fold, the "exception cases" are straw men designed to get pro-lifers to back down and agree with the abortionists. It is a conquer and divide strategy.

In order to understand how this issue shapes abortion politics it is helpful to start with the basics. One thing that has been said over and over again by the talking heads on TV is that rape is rape. True enough. (Except when these hypocrites disagree as in the Roman Polanski case.) And just as in homicide there are different degrees so too in rape. The end result of any homicide is a death of a person so too the end result in a rape is that a woman is forced into intercourse against her will and without her consent. The different kinds of rape include: violent assault by a stranger, date rape, statutory rape, and spousal rape. In all cases a woman can possibly conceive a child. In some cases it is less likely but not impossible. The reason for this is that the PH level in a woman's vagina is hostile to seminal fluid and can often kill it off before it can impregnate an egg. But not always. Also if a woman experiences arousal during intercourse that will help change her PH level to one that is more friendly to the sperm. This usually would not happen during rape. Additionally no one knows the effect of massive stress on a woman's fertility.

When using the issue of the "exception in cases of rape" the abortion advocates always want you to think of the case of the violent sexual assault. However conception rarely occurs in these cases as mentioned above but also because these are the cases that are most often reported to law enforcement and where a woman is given medical care including medication to prevent conception. These are also the cases where we have good statistics. In the other cases of rape it is hard to know how often conception occurs as these are not as often reported to authorities. But all told the exception cases (rape, incest, life of the mother) account for less than 2% of abortions (20,000/yr.). Even if you grant the exception how does the pro-abortion side justify the other 98% (1million plus yearly) abortions? Even though abortion advocates have succeeded in getting everyone to think that these "exceptions" are the majority of cases they are actually quite rare.

The fact is that abortion advocates will try to use the "exception" as a giant loophole to allow for more abortions particularly as more restrictions are placed on abortions since they can emotionally defend the "exception" clause but not abortion as birth control. So for instance if a woman comes to an abortion clinic and is too far along to legally have an abortion the staff can permit it if they consider the pregnancy a result of rape even if it wasn't. Who is going to know especially if there is no requirement that a police report is needed to establish the fact of a rape? As a result pro-life legislators have tried to clearly define the "exception" cases with more certitude than just the abortion clinics say so. This is where pro-life politicians walk a minefield. If we grant the 2% exception cases and ban the other 98% you can bet the abortionists will try every way to expand what falls under that 2% until it actually becomes the rule.

So while granting the "exception" may be a good legal strategy on the way to banning all abortions and a safer bet for pro-life politicians to get elected it is not a final compromise. If we hold the principle that direct killing of innocent human life is always wrong we can't just pull out an "emergency escape clause" when the conditions are uncomfortable. If we do then there are no moral absolutes and everything is up for grabs. We did that in WWII when we used the atom bomb despite the principle that it is always wrong in a war to target civilian populations. Finding solutions to our most vexing problems without compromising our principles is key to maintaining our integrity, dignity and the moral order in society .

Violence towards one person does not bring healing and peace to another. Yet many who would abort the child of rape would balk at capital punishment for the rapist. Women who are victims of this tragic situation have to be helped to see that violence to the child in their womb won't bring them the healing they seek and to consider that the life they have conceived need not be destroyed because of the malice of the father. Many women have bravely brought these children to birth and have over time found healing and peace and joy in their child. In the end the child conceived in the darkness and un-love of rape may by God's grace bring light and love to the mother.


Fr. John Bonavitacola