During my first year of community college I enrolled in a freshman level Political Science course. We were asked to select a social issue, take a position, and then develop a presentation for the entire class. With youthful daring and ignorance I chose the topic of abortion. Studying for this presentation was the first time I really dug into the complexities of the abortion debate. For instance, before this I had never been confronted with the question of whether or not pregnancies should be terminated in the instance of rape; I certainly had never been asked to take a public position on this question before. My entire presentation was from a pro-life stance but knowing I would be confronted with the question concerning rape, I worked an exception into my presentation for these cases. This was largely because I did not have a solid argument to support the alternative and I certainly did not have the confidence to take this position in front of my fellow students.
As the day of my presentation approached I became extremely nervous. Not just because it was my first public speaking assignment at the college level, but because I foolishly picked abortion to be the topic of my first public speaking assignment at a college level. I suppose there wasn’t a better way to break me in than the most divisive and emotionally charged issue in modern American discussion. When the time came for me to make my presentation, I walked up to the front of the classroom and said, “The topic I chose was abortion. If I could go back, I would not have picked this topic because of how controversial it is.” I saw the professor smile and nod, which was very much like the smile and nod I received when I chose my topic; thanks Prof for the heads up. But I went through with the presentation, giving all the typical arguments a young pro-lifer would give. All the appropriate stats were there and as far as presentations go, I did fairly well. My concluding statement said something along the lines of “abortion should be illegal in all cases except for rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger”.
After I was finished it was time to take questions. I opened up the floor and stared out into a half a minute of awkward silence; a young woman about my age sat in the back with her arms folded and an unpleasant expression on her face. Finally a woman sitting toward the front raised her hand; she looked to be approaching fifty with a couple strands of grey in her dark hair. I remember she wore a lot of beaded jewelry with loose fitting clothes. I also remember feeling like I might be in trouble. She began to tell the entire class a story.
The story was about a beautiful young woman who was a bit on the shy side. Unfortunately a young man took advantage of the woman by forcing himself upon her as men who are violent cowards do. The young woman was left to pick up the pieces of her physical and emotional wounds alone. It wasn’t long before she realized her complications were not quite over. With the pain from her predator still fresh, she was now presented a very difficult choice— one no woman should be made to make. The next nine months were difficult as pressure was placed upon her from both sides but she made her decision and she made it with a strong conviction. The young woman carried her child to term and then gave birth to a healthy baby girl. There was a young couple in the community that could not have children of their own who agreed to take the daughter of this young woman to raise as their own. The baby girl grew up in a home with two loving parents and lived a normal life. When she was old enough they told her about her birth mother and the courageous gift she gave to them.
The woman in my classroom finished her story. She then revealed to the class that she was the daughter of the young woman. With absolute joy, she thanked her mother for giving her the chance to live and told us she thanked her mother every day for this. She knew her mother made a difficult choice but was thankful she was strong enough to make the choice that allowed her to live.
At this point I was relieved; I was relieved because I was worried I was about to be challenged about my pro-life stance but instead found support from an older classmate. Then I realized what I had done. By allowing the exception for rape in my presentation on abortion I had in a sense told this woman I believe all life was worth preserving through the law except her own. Maybe she did not take it this way but perhaps she did. If this was the case how did I relate to her the values I held about all life being sacred? Did I relate a message that God was the driving force behind the creation of life except in her case where perhaps He did not intend for her to live? It was this experience of mine which solidified my belief that abortion does not need to be the answer to a pregnancy resulting from rape.
This being said, I still believe laws should not be created to force the victim of rape to go forward with a pregnancy. Not all people have the same understanding that life is sacred even in the instances of rape. Many people will not understand how God could create something good after a man acting from his own free will commits a violation so evil. This is a burden too heavy to force women to carry even if it is the right thing to do. To think about a victim of rape being charged with a crime after having an abortion is a place where even the most pro-life believers should think twice about before going. By all means create support groups and crisis centers—encourage women to make a choice for life and tell them how a choice for life can be therapeutic and promote true healing. But if a woman cannot make this choice, remain there for her and care for her in her time of pain. I believe God intends for us to bring a life into this world no matter how that life came about, but I also believe God shows mercy to those who find the pain of this incredible burden too heavy to carry. As pro-lifers, we must be available on both sides of this situation if we ever expect to bring about change in how our culture views abortion in cases of rape.