…Jenni was conceived when her mother was raped by a boyfriend as a teenager. She is a human reminder of an uncomfortable truth denied and minimized by people on all sides of the abortion issue: Rape can result in pregnancy, which means it can create innocent babies.
“A lot of people like to sweep it under the carpet,” Jenni told me Wednesday. But, if commonly cited statistics are correct, hundreds of thousands of Americans walking around today were conceived in an act of rape. Jenni, and legions like her, raise a tough question for pro-lifers who don’t want to talk about rape cases. Her smiling face and growing family — she has three kids of her own — is also damning to pro-choice people who argue that abortion is a necessity for a woman impregnated by rape.
“Most people think, ‘these women must hate the child,’ ” attorney and activist Shauna Prewitt told me Wednesday.
Prewitt knows firsthand how off-base these assumptions can be. She was raped eight years ago, and her daughter, now in second grade, was conceived in that rape.
“When someone like me … says, ‘I actually love this child. I actually see her as an extension of me,’ people view me suspiciously. They don’t see me as a legitimate rape victim.”One consequence of this mindset in Prewitt’s opinion: Most states lack laws explicitly denying the rapist-father’s potential custody rights. Prewitt attributes this to denial — both by the likes of Akin and by those who can’t conceive of a rape victim wanting to raise her child.
Prewitt, who does not want to outlaw abortion, wrote in the Georgetown Law Journal that pro-choice politicians “[depict] the unborn child as being solely an extension of the rapist father.”
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, for instance, called children conceived by rape the “rapist’s child.” Prewitt writes that this “[describes] the unborn children in terms that suggest the children are exclusively extensions of the rapist fathers …” Such phrasing is common. From demonizing the baby, it’s a short step to dehumanizing the baby. Prewitt quotes another congresswoman describing the child merely as the “product of such violent, vicious and terrible act.”
But those “products” have names and faces. And lives.