Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: Abortion and Rape


Each election cycle, pro-abortion and pro-life advocates bring before the public their best arguments in an attempt to gain momentum for their agendas and causes. One of the most formidable arguments made by pro-abortion advocates is that abortion should be allowed in the case of rape or incest. The argument surely has emotional appeal, as all readily concur that it would cause severe emotional trauma for a woman to bring to term a pregnancy that had its beginning with her violation. She is innocent, surely she should not have to suffer the further indignity of giving birth to the byproduct of her victimization.

I recently read an article by Michael Stokes Paulsen, a lawyer affiliated with the Witherspoon Institute. The Institute has a website designed for the discussion of “ethics, law and the common good.” It gave a thoughtful and reasoned response to this argument. The article was lengthy, but I would like to encapsulate its main point in this short essay.
Paulsen asserts that the argument should be answered forthrightly, with the provision that the one asking the question be willing to answer another hypothetical:

Suppose, following a rape, the victim became pregnant and had the baby. But then, a year or two later—or three or four years later—the mother comes to despise the child because the child’s very life and presence reminds her, horribly, daily, painfully, of the awful experience of the rape. Should we permit the woman to terminate the life of the two-year-old or four-year-old child?

(The Right to Life and the Irrelevance of Rape,

Even the most ardent pro-abortion advocate would object to such a killing, though they would no doubt protest that there is a difference between the two hypotheticals. But, the question must be asked, what is the difference? The same emotional and psychological burden is present in both of the scenarios. There is the same circumstance that presents an unfair and difficult burden to the woman. It is not her fault that this happened. So, the only difference between the two scenarios is that one child is born, and the other child is not.

Since that is so, the moral question that frames the issue is the same. Should the unborn child be afforded the same right to life that is given to the child who has left the womb? Remember, the pro-abortion advocate asserts that the fetus is merely tissue, and not a person. He believes that the removal of such tissue should be at the sole discretion of the mother, who has the right to make such determinations for her own body. If he is right in his assertion, then his beliefs are a logical consequence, and the pro-life advocate is wrong. Further, the case of rape or incest is irrelevant to the question of whether an abortion should take place.

The pro-life advocate asserts the fetus in the womb to be a child — a human being, separate and apart from the mother. He believes that the child, though dependent upon her for life and nourishment, is not “part of her body”, but a guest in her womb. Because of this, anytime, no matter the reason, when an abortion is performed, a human life is taken. If what the pro-life advocate asserts is true, then his beliefs are a logical consequence, and the pro-abortion advocate is wrong. Further, the case of rape or incest, though an understandably emotional one, is again completely irrelevant to the question of whether an abortion should take place.

So, who is right? Simply watching the image of an unborn child during an ultrasound test supplies the answer to the satisfaction of the unbiased. In reality, life is denied by our society simply because of the perceived inequity of a pregnancy, not because of any biological argument against the humanity of the unborn child. The Bible certainly refers to the unborn as a child: “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb…” (Luke 1:41).