“Personal responsibility” is language that often gets thrown around in the abortion debate by those who would limit women’s reproductive choices. “Abortion is selfish. Abortion is the ultimate rejection of personal responsibility,” is a familiar refrain. If a woman consents to sex, she consents to pregnancy, and should “take responsibility,” the thinking goes, by carrying through the pregnancy.
Now, there are quite a few flaws with that thinking (consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy being the most obvious), but it seems to be a line that meets with some success. While many people believe there should be limitations on when abortion is available, a full 75% of Gallup respondents, for instance, believe that abortion should be legal for rape victims. While there are many reasons that could go into that (like not wishing to force further trauma, through forced pregnancy, on a victim), at least among the pro-life people I know, the fact that the woman didn’t have a say in the matter and isn’t “just using abortion as birth control” factors heavily into their support for rape exemptions.
As it happens, personal responsibility is more of a wedge tactic than an actual argument against abortion. Rape and incest exceptions become the compromise between the two sides.
But this isn’t the way anti-abortion groups and activists see things. For years now, for instance, the Republican Party has maintained a strict anti-abortion platform… with no exception for rape and incest victims. The slow whittling away of abortion rights may make it necessary to concede these exemptions in the short term, but what about in the long-term?
Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, speaking of a recent anti-abortion bill that passed in the House, answered that question. And she pulled no punches in discussing the “political calculations” of these exemptions: