So much of the abortion debate is based on myths, bad assumptions, bad logic, or outright gaslighting through deception. For the rest of 2019 we will highlight one common abortion myth every month.
#8: Women pregnant through rape all have abortions.
The Bottom Line: Not all women pregnant through rape have abortions. According to the only study we have, 50% don’t have abortions.
This myth is difficult to grapple with, but extremely timely as much of the national abortion debate has been focused on abortions in cases of rape in recent weeks. The problem with this myth isn’t people trying to actively mislead others, but a faulty assumption nearly everyone makes.
This assumption is that after being assaulted, a woman who becomes pregnant will always or almost always have an abortion. The assumption makes some sense, in that experiencing sexual assault is terrible and can leave a life-long emotional scar. Facing a crisis pregnancy is very difficult itself. When you combine the two, many people just assume a woman can’t handle it.
In reality, many women pregnant through rape do not have abortions. According to the only somewhat recent study we have on the topic, 50% of women have an abortion and 50% don’t.
Many people also assume a woman would forever look at her child conceived in rape as the “rape baby” or a “product of rape.” However, the study found that of those 50% of women who didn’t have an abortion, 32.3% kept their child and 5.9% placed the child for adoption (11.8% had a miscarriage). So, 84% of the women who gave birth kept their child.
Now, a word of caution. This study was done in 1996, and though it included more than 4,000 women, a much smaller amount of 34 women in the study became pregnant following rape. That number isn’t large enough to give us great confidence of a specific percentage. However, the number is significant enough to tell us not all women pregnant through sexual assault have abortions. America does not understand the issue of rape and abortion very well and should stop making assumptions free of facts.
This assumption is bad because it’s used as a universal truth when discussing the controversial nature of abortions laws in cases of rape or incest. Many people believe the idea that there are people conceived in rape who are alive and walking among us today is some sort of cruel fiction, invented by prolife people to control rape victims. When you look at the number of sexual assaults in America, the pregnancy rates, and the number of women who don’t choose abortion in those circumstances, we know there are thousands of individuals conceived in rape living in America today. The odds are you probably know at least one.
Studies and statistics aside, there are ultimately two very real and unique people to consider when looking at this sensitive issue: the woman and the child.
It’s easy for the prolife person to consider the child. Objectively we know a child has a right to life, no matter how tragic the circumstances were for her conception. But when you consider a woman is in this situation through an act of violence against her—through no choice of her own—it is hard to hold on to the knowledge that there is still another very real life in question. It’s already easy for people who support abortion to not consider the child at all.
This issue dramatically changes when you come face to face with someone who was conceived in rape. Many prolife speakers were conceived in rape. Many have found the prolife movement because it’s difficult for them to hear their life dismissed or talked about as a terrible injustice during political debates. One of our Right to Life of Michigan staff members is only alive today because of a descendant who chose life after being brutally raped. These are real people we are discussing. It’s very difficult to tell any person they deserve less legal protection or have less human value than you do, even in very difficult situations.
Still, many prolife people (including even President Trump) believe abortion in cases of rape should be legally allowable, based in part on this bad assumption. Prolife people obviously have compassion for rape survivors, despite claims to the contrary from pro-abortion organizations. Many abortion supporters cynically use this issue to avoid acknowledging that the vast majority of abortions are done for social or economic reasons.
So, what about the woman?
Many people talk about abortion as a solution to rape, and often think it’s the only realistic path for a survivor to heal in that scenario. These people perhaps don’t consider the possibility that abortion could be the opposite of the compassionate choice for women; the opposite of the quickest path to healing.
A myth we will address later this year is that women do not regret abortions—or that abortion has no side effects for them. This myth is shouted by abortion advocates everywhere, and real women’s stories of pain after abortion are ignored—some even accused of fabrication. Abortion advocates do not want those stories to be heard. It is worthwhile to realize the “double” suffering we instinctively do not want women to experience after becoming pregnant from rape can be multiplied by abortion, not erased.
Some people insist the prolife movement hates women if they expect rape survivors to go through with a pregnancy (even though many women in the prolife movement are themselves survivors). However, there is something worth hearing in the hundreds of women’s testimonies who have experienced pregnancy after rape and still had their child. Their stories are redemptive and empowering, and always speak of healing. They affirm a life was begun, and they affirm the courage and strength they had in responding to the evil act of rape with the loving act of choosing life.
So, which message is truly the most empowering to women? Assuming there is no way she could possibly handle pregnancy after what she’s gone through and insisting abortion is her only viable option, or greeting them with compassionate encouragement, and assuring them that they are stronger than their circumstances? It is not a coincidence that many women who have had children after rape also become involved in the prolife movement to share their stories and spread the message that abortion is not the solution it promises.
In order to challenge these assumptions about the issue of rape, incest and abortion, Right to Life of Michigan produced a short film called Life Uninvited. The film features stories of women who’ve experienced this issue from several angles, including one mother whose daughter was conceived following a sexual assault. From her story, it’s clear to see how horribly the rape has impacted her, but how a woman can come to see her own daughter as more than just a “product of rape” or a “rape baby.” These stories bring the controversial issue of rape/incest and abortion to a personal reality in hearing the voices of those who have lived these situations. We encourage you to watch it and keep an open mind when considering how we should care for the mother and child following sexual assault.
You can watch the short version of each of these women’s stories below: