- May 29, 2001
Opinion The unbearable cruelty of no-exception abortion bans
By Kathleen Parker
July 23, 2022 at 2:19 p.m. EDT
An antiabortion campaigner speaks to patients entering an abortion clinic in Dayton, Ohio, on June 24. (Megan Jelinger/Reuters)
Gloria Steinem is often credited with having uttered the remark, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” Although the quote more likely originated with an elderly Irish taxi driver in Boston, according to Quote Investigator, the saying is as true today as ever.
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In view of new and forthcoming laws banning abortion without exceptions, a related if less clever sentiment aimed at certain men comes to mind: Would that a man could become impregnated by a rapist — or by his Uncle Festus — and be forced to give birth to the little spawn.
In the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal, state legislators (mostly men, needless to say) have been busy trying to make life as unbearable as possible, not just banning abortion but also making it illegal for women (and little girls) to terminate a pregnancy even in cases of rape or incest.
As though having a baby isn’t life-altering enough under the best of circumstances, imagine being raped by a stranger or a family member (incest is rarely consensual) and having to carry the baby for nine months — an incessant reminder of the horror that led to conception.
The recent story of an Ohio girl aged 10, who was raped and became pregnant, brought home the complexities of life in post-Roe America. Because an abortion ban without exceptions was already in place in her home state, the child was taken to Indiana for the procedure. Now, at least, she can focus all her energies on recovering from the trauma of having been raped.
Ohio is but one of 15 states that have new or forthcoming laws prohibiting abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, even though about 75 percent of Americans support legal abortions in such cases, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. The other states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin, with others likely to follow.
Seven states that ban abortion but do allow abortions in cases of rape include: Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. All but Mississippi also allow abortions in cases of incest. (Would this be because Mississippi’s gene pool is overstocked with genius? Answers welcome.)
The poor Ohio child, meanwhile, seemed to get lost in her own story after it became an overnight sensation, providing fodder for demagogues on both sides of the abortion issue. Pro-choice activists didn’t hesitate to use her tale to remind everyone of all the horrors that the Supreme Court hath wrought. President Biden, who has never met a sad story he couldn’t make sadder, used the child in a July 8 speech on abortion rights.
Some pro-lifers, who apparently cannot stand success, simply doubted the child’s existence, probably because she was already born. Their argument was that it was way too convenient for a raped child to suddenly materialize just as exception-free antiabortion laws were being hurried into law. But it seems that Providence not only works in mysterious ways but also allows for coincidence. The abused little girl was (and is) very real.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of people who believe that aborting a fetus conceived through rape or incest is just as wrong as any other abortion. The embryo, after all, didn’t do anything wrong. But let’s not mince words: This is nonsense. Notwithstanding that some people among us were conceived by rape and, perhaps, incest, surely the victim’s right to survive and seek sanity overrides all other concerns.
The strictest pro-lifer would argue that all life begins at the same time, no matter the means of conception, and that any interference afterward is unacceptable. The argument has merit. Life’s continuum from conception to birth, the same path we all traveled, can’t be denied. But sometimes nature imposes difficult choices, such as protecting an injured child (or woman) over an insentient embryo, with which religious belief ought to be compatible.
Inarguably, the state has no business aiding and abetting the suffering of a child. Or that of a woman. That said, no one on this green planet ever envisioned an abortion industry that would proudly defend the destruction of 40 million to 50 million gestating human beings. It should be understood that the draconian measures we’re now seeing codified by lawmakers have as much to do with pro-choice fanaticism as with the antiabortion zeal of religious fanatics obsessed with ensoulment.
There’s still time to rethink the worst of these unusually cruel laws, and for the mostly male legislators to allow for exceptions. They should remind themselves that they represent the people, not just hard-line pro-lifers — and that they are not themselves deities, as so many seem to think.