On the Pro-Life Movement and the Rape Exemption

I just came upon this image of an anti-abortion postcard produced and handed out by the Students for Life of America.

The image shows the pictures of four babies and asks “Can you tell which child has a criminal father? Should a child die for his or her father’s crimes?” The intent is to attack the rape exemption. The argument is that a person’s rights and value don’t depend on how a person is conceived or who a person’s father is.

You know what I find interesting about this image? It’s not aimed at those who are pro-choice. Instead, it’s aimed at those who oppose abortion but support a rape exemption, i.e., those who believe abortion should be banned except in the case of rape (and, generally, incest). In other words, this image is part of a struggle within the pro-lifer movement. How do I know this? Well, quite simply, because the argument only makes sense if someone accepts that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is the moral equivalent of a person, and those who are pro-choice, like myself, don’t.

What exactly is going on here? Why do some opponents of abortion make a rape exemption while others don’t? And what explains all of these arguments over rape exemptions, which seem only to be accelerating?

I was raised deep within the pro-life movement. Growing up, I had trouble understanding why anyone who opposes abortion would make an exception for rape. After all, like the image and excerpt argue , we don’t determine a person’s rights based on whether or not their parents are criminals. [Actually, this isn't strictly true - bastardy laws are an example of determining a child's rights based on the parents' legal standing, but that's really beside the point.] If abortion is murder, then, how is aborting a pregnancy conceived in rape not murder?

And yet, there are numerous Americans who oppose abortion and yet support a rape exemption. A CNN poll found that 83% of Americans want abortion legal in cases of rape or incest. This despite the fact that 51% of Americans believe that abortion is “morally wrong.” (It’s complicated.) In other words, if we assume that the 17% of Americans who think abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape and incest also believe that abortion is morally wrong, we’re left with 34% of Americans believing both that abortion is morally wrong and that it should be legal in case of rape and incest.

Question: What is the difference between a woman who wants an abortion after accidentally becoming pregnant with her boyfriend and a woman who wants an abortion after becoming pregnant through rape? Answer: The first woman voluntarily chose to have sex while the second woman didn’t.

In other words, people who want to see abortion banned but want to keep a rape exemption care very much whether a woman chooses to have sex or not. A woman who chooses to have sex should be required to deal with the “consequences,” i.e. pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. But a woman who becomes pregnant after being raped? Well, she didn’t choose to have sex so she shouldn’t have to deal with the “consequences.” In other words, if someone allows for a rape exemption, their opposition to abortion is not about “saving babies” but rather about making sure women who voluntarily choose to have sex and then become pregnant have to deal with the “consequences” of their decision to have sex.

It is likely that there are some people who believe abortion is murder but also support rape exemptions simply because they haven’t thought through the consistency of their position. They believe abortion is murder, but it seems instinctively wrong to force a woman who never chose to have sex in the first place but was instead forced against her will to carry and bear her rapist’s baby. This is the audience the image at the beginning of this post targets when it argues that if you really do believe abortion is murder, you can’t also allow a rape exemption.

It’s worth pointing out that in the last electoral cycle, we saw the rape exemption under attack more than in the past. Why? I can’t say for sure, but I have a suspicion. I think that while early opposition to abortion was rooted in the idea that sex must have consequences and that women shouldn’t be having sex if they don’t want children, younger generations of anti-abortion activists have come to believe the rhetoric about abortion being the murder of babies, rhetoric that was originally little more than a smokescreen. As more and more opponents of abortion really believe that abortion involves murdering babies, and as they become more consistent about the implications of this, the rape exemption will likely become less popular.

What does this mean on a practical level? Well for one thing, it means that those who are pro-choice have several different arguments to focus on. We need to effectively respond to what some proponents are now calling “the prenatal rights movement.” We need to point out that awarding zygotes, embryos, and fetuses rights always involves curbing and limiting women’s rights, and we also need to effectively communicate about things like fetal development and personhood. But we also need to combat “slut shaming” and the virgin/slut dichotomy. Until we can remove the stigma from sex and especially from premarital sex, there will always be people who oppose abortion not because they believe it is murder but rather because they believe sex should have consequences, and, quite simply, it is these individuals who are the biggest supporters of the rape exemption. It is also these individuals pro-lifers who believe all abortion is literally murder are trying to reach with ads like the one above.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • BabyRaptor

    That graphic says it all…The woman in the situation doesn’t matter. Only the fetus and maybe the male.

    I have a question for these people: Why should the woman suffer?

    Hasn’t the woman suffered enough?

    Speaking as someone whose been raped, yes. Yes, I did. And yes, every other woman whose been a victim of rape did.

  • BabyRaptor

    Also, sorry for the repeat post, but can we please stop referring to these people as “pro-life”? They don’t care about the actual lives in the situation. And they don’t care about the fetus once it’s actually alive. They just care about forcing births. Calling them pro-life offends people who actually worry about lives.

    • Kate

      But that is what they are called (and refer to themselves as) in popular discourse, misnomer or not. Personally, I’m more partial to “anti-choice” and “pro-forced birth”, but I realize that people outside of the reproductive rights movement might get confused. Plus I think Libby’s use of “pro-life” really emphasizes their hypocrisy in her writings.

      • Kodie

        If they’re confused, they can look it up on the internet.

      • BabyRaptor

        I prefer “pro-forced birth” as well.

        You do have a point about people getting confused. So what we need to do then, is start using the more accurate terms so they become commonplace.

      • Twist

        It’s not exactly difficult to work out that anti-choice means the opposite of pro-choice, or that pro-forced-birth means, well, just that.

        I don’t object really to describing them as “pro-life” although sometimes a qualifying statement is neccessary to explain to the casual reader that that term doesn’t actually describe the movement particularly well. Were those who let Savita Halappanavar die pro-life, in the sense of actually saving lives? Apparently not, or she’d still be alive.

    • Niemand

      They don’t care about the fetus either. Witness their indifference to miscarriage. They only care about controlling women.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    Then there’s the issue of the rape exemption anyway – if you prohibit abortion in all cases except rape and incest, then whose word will be used for whether it was rape? Authorities largely disbelieve reports of rape (seeing as there are far too many court cases that turn into attacking the character of the woman) so it’s unlikely they’d take her word for it. There are other means, but they are costly, inexact, or time-consuming.

    And what will be the response when they discover the woman had an abortion but it wasn’t rape? What kind of jail term are we talking about? Or will it be worse than that?

    I actually have more respect for the ‘pro-life in all cases’ crowd, cause they’re at least not hiding their intentions. Both want to eliminate rape entirely, but the ‘pro-life except rape’ crowd pretends like they care about the situation the woman is in, while realizing that it doesn’t matter cause there’ll be no abortions anyway. (Well, no legal, safe abortions, that is.)

    • Slow Learner

      “eliminate rape entirely” – uh, typo for abortion there?

      I mean, assuming they aren’t moral monsters they’ll want to eliminate rape, but in context that doesn’t seem like what you meant.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

        Yep, typo. Sorry – too fast typing.

    • Niemand

      I have a vague memory of seeing some attempts to put the “rape exception” into practice. IIRC, among other things, it requires that the rape be reported within 24 hours of when it occurred. Because no woman went into denial or needed time to work up the nerve to face authorities after a rape.

  • Twist

    I think that being opposed to abortion with no exception for rape is the more logically consistent position if it is about saving babies, because as you say, if a fetus is a baby and abortion is murdering it, why should it matter how that fetus came to be? I think the rape exception thing comes about because even most people who would like to see abortion outlawed realise how monstrous it sounds to say that a woman who has been raped should be forced – not even encouraged, but forced – to carry, give birth to and possibly raise a constant reminder of what was possibly the most traumatic event in her life, even if in private they think that’s what ought to happen.

    If it’s about punishing women for unsanctioned sex, however, a rape exception sort of makes sense, for some rape cases anyway. The well behaved, modestly dressed, church-going virgin pulled into an alley by a masked stranger with a knife doesn’t deserve to be punished for it for the next nine months +, and the married church-going, modestly dressed mother attacked by the delivery guy? Doesn’t deserve to be punished, and her husband DEFINITELY shouldn’t have to watch his wife give birth to another man’s child. But the woman who has pre-marital sex with her boyfriend and can’t afford/doesn’t want a baby does deserve to be punished. If she didn’t want to get pregnant, she shouldn’t have opened her legs, right? And the married woman who doesn’t want children (either yet, at all, or already has some) should have thought about that before she got married, right? The non-virginal, miniskirted woman who’d been drinking at a party before being raped by a friend? Definitely deserves to face the consequences. Probably wasn’t even rape, I mean, she had been drinking/did you see what she was wearing?/what did she think would happen if she went off with him?/she led him on!

    It’s about removing the right to choose from anyone who’s lifestyle they don’t agree with, while ensuring that their own daughters/wives can still get an abortion if the worst happens to them.

    The ad itself is another case of anti-choicers erasing the woman. The rapist matters. The fetus matters. The woman who was raped and now has an unwanted fetus growing inside her, whose life it is that will be turned upside down? Tough shit. Put your life on hold for the next nine months, decide whether you can bear to raise it yourself or give it up, decide whether to lie to your family and friends about the pregnancy or tell them the truth about being raped. Turn a traumatic event into a traumatic nine months at minimum. Put your health and life at risk, change your body for ever. Incur huge expenses even if you decide to give it away. If you decide not to give it up for adoption, decide what to tell it about it’s father. Decide whether to lie or tell the child that it is a product of rape that you were forced to keep. Decide whether that will fuck the kid up more than being lied to. Wait until the kid is old enough to start asking questions about it’s father. Wait until your rapist sues for visitation rights. Try to keep your own life from falling apart. You’re just the incubater after all, the only ones who matter are the fetus and the rapist.

    Anyone who thinks that rape victims should have to go through all that is a fucking monster. Anyone who thinks any woman should have to go through a pregnancy against her will is a monster. How can they honestly think that they are the more moral ones? It’s not like a rape exception would even work in real life. Would a woman be able to get an abortion with just an accusation of rape? Would there need to be an arrest or a conviction, or is the woman’s word enough (I’m guessing not)? Would the trial have to be rushed through so the woman can have an abortion before the late stages of pregnancy? Would that lead to an increase in miscarriages of justice? What if the conviction is quashed ten years down the line? Is the woman then charged with murder? What if she really was raped, but misidentified her attacker? Will she be charged with murder if they can’t find who really attacked her? What if her attacker is her husband or boyfriend? Would that still count, or is it not really rape then (I’m guessing not, to these guys)? What if she’s in severe physical danger from her attacker? What kind of damages would a woman get if she was forced to keep a pregnancy and her rapist was caught some years later? When rapists are released from prison, can they get custody? Would the rape exception still apply if the victim did not meet the purity standards set by the anti-choicers? What if she was a sex worker? Or sexually active with multiple partners? Or underage? Or wearing a miniskirt? Or drunk?

    • Didaktylos

      It’s not so much watch his wife give birth – it’s having to provide for a child not his own.

      • Twist

        I think you’re right, although when you consider that wife = property to a significant amount of these guys, I imagine that there’s more to it than having to financially provide for a child that isn’t his, like, having to live with a reminder that another man touched his property.

    • Twist

      “When rapists are released from prison, can they get custody? ”

      And to answer my own question, http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/12/19/when-rapists-want-custody/

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        The whole idea of that makes me feel sick. Well, sicker than this whole discussion has already made me feel…

    • grumpygirl

      I agree exactly with your post. I feel exactly the same way.

      There was a horrible book written by a MALE Mormon author where the female main character was raped by her brother-in-law, had the baby, and then was a “perfect wife” for having raised the child and never even THINKING about an abortion. BLEEECCCCH! So I gave the book to a Jehovah’s Witness, who thought it was so WONDERFUL and INSPIRING!

      Never told her the author was Mormon…(evil chuckle here)

  • http://www.brooksandsparrow.com Angelia Sparrow

    I have a friend who believes EVERYTHING has consequences, everything. Eating, sleeping, walking, breathing. And so of course pregnancy is a logical consequence of sex.

    We finally got to the understanding that I was using consequence to mean “negative outcome.” She was using it to mean “natural progression from an act.”

    How can we debate when we aren’t even speaking the same language?

    • Kodie

      Why do you think consequences have to be negative? Consequence has always meant effect or outcome and only has value if implied or described. If you don’t clean your room, there will be “consequences”. Or, If we continue to pollute the air, we’ll all die of suffocation. If -> then. In the first example, you know the consequence is not going to be ice cream or watch more tv. It is a threat where the consequences is a punishment of some sort – it may be meant to be vague but threatening, or it may refer to a usual style of punishment meant to motivate a child to avoid that punishment. In the second one, the consequence is dire.

      However, if we all show up early to the party, then Mom will be surprised. I think Mom hates surprises, but my sister is sure that she loves surprises. Either way, the consequence is that she’ll be surprised. If I work really hard, I get a bonus. Bonuses are good consequences.

      • Kodie

        I should also add that getting pregnant is a consequence of having sex – not a necessary one. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s how it would happen. But you can take precautions to lower the chance that it would happen when you don’t want it to happen. If you wanted to get pregnant, that is how one would start trying to be. Pregnancy is A consequence of sex, sometimes a desired consequence obviously, and sometimes not. I think the negative consequence comes in when you divide people up by the sexes and say men don’t have to think about consequences, only women do since they would be the one to get pregnant.

        That’s why the anti-choice doesn’t want women to have sex when they don’t want to risk pregnancy – pregnancy would be a negative consequence if you didn’t want to be pregnant. They don’t even want birth control – they want women to suffer consequences, or rather train themselves to think in terms of what the consequences could be, and if they don’t want the consequence, don’t have sex. On the other hand, if they don’t want that consequence, they can use birth control or have an abortion. One is denial, and the other is just smart. If you don’t want to get a head injury from working on a construction site, wear a hardhat. We don’t tell people we shouldn’t build things because they could get hurt. They outsmarted the gravity of falling objects.

    • Rosie

      I was raised in a place where “consequences” was used to mean “punishment” often enough that even now it’s hard for me to parse which is which. Also, where “be careful” generally meant “don’t do that”. Maybe “we” in generally don’t tell people not to build things because they could get hurt, but that’s definitely the message I came away with. I wouldn’t be surprised if others raised in fundigelical culture, especially as girls, came away with exactly that message. It’s kinda depressing to think about.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        I don’t think that’s particularly different from mainstream culture, actually. “Consequence” is usually used to refer to a negative outcome, whether a punishment or an undesired natural effect. We have other ways of to referring to neutral/unknown or positive results. And it’s really hard to think of a way to read, “sex has consequences,” other than “suffer, slut”.

      • Kodie

        I guess it’s hard for me to imagine. I mean my mom was pretty authoritarian to me, so I know what punishment is, but she always called it punishment, or called it whatever it was (e.g. a spanking, no tv tonight, or being grounded for a week). “Consequences” seems like it’s supposed to be euphemistic or something? Consequences are just consequences, they can be good or bad. I didn’t grow up with any idea that consequences were only negative; if there was something negative to be described, it would be described more clearly and definitively negative. Obviously getting pregnant is a consequence of having sex, per se, but it is only negative to be pregnant if you don’t want to be, or if it would get in the way of school, or make everyone in town whisper about you. I guess that is a negative connotation if you are a teenager and you’re warned not to have sex, due to the consequences – the same consequences that are positive if you are ready and want to have a child.

        The thing they are avoiding or labeling as bad is birth control or abortion. It’s not natural to fool with the consequences. For some reason, sex stands apart. They have old-fashioned ideas about what’s sacred and not to mess with it for some reason, but taking precautions can prevent the order of probable consequences. They probably put helmets on their kids who ride a bike, they put plug things in the outlets, child safety seats. I mean, a natural consequence of growing teeth in your head is that they will rot. The prevention method is brushing, flossing, and regular visits to a dentist. They might even come in crooked, so it’s a good idea to correct your bite while you’re at it. Birth control lets women have more control over their own bodies, which for some reason is singularly offensive to them. A consequence of using birth control is not getting pregnant.

  • machintelligence

    Those who would allow abortion in the case of rape might also be following the genetic argument. If we want to eliminate rape, it makes no sense to reward the rapist by allowing his genes to be passed on to the next generation. This assumes that using rape as a reproductive strategy is a heritable trait, which it almost certainly is.

  • saramaimon

    What an obnoxious unprovable statement and how unfair to all decent folks who were conceived in a rape or domestic violence context

    • plch

      what is unprovable and what is unfair? from here it’s not clear.

      • Twist

        I’m guessing machintelligence’s suggestion that using rape as a reproductive strategy is almost certainly a heritable trait?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yeah, I thought of touching that one, but I already have a headache.

  • thalwen

    I am uncomfortable with rape exceptions just for that reason – it should not matter how the pregnancy happened. Plus, any legal limit cannot take into account the myriad of things that can happen during a pregnancy that can only be decided by a woman and a doctor.
    However, forcing someone to bear a pregnancy caused by rape or incest is a particular evil and on some level it needs to be addressed. Perhaps the solution isn’t abortion exceptions but stiffer penalties for rapists that get their victim pregnant.

    • Ibis3

      Oh yes, Mr Rapist. Please remember to put on a condom before you do the deed or only attack post-menopausal women or little girls or you might be sorry.

      What’s wrong with you?

      • thalwen

        We have aggravating circumstances in determining the penalties for crimes all the time. If a rapist inflicts the additional injury of a pregnancy or STD, forcing the woman to have to deal with that along with the trauma of rape, what’s wrong with giving him additional time for that? I didn’t say that we shouldn’t punish rape, but the trauma of a rape pregnancy is a significant one and I think that legally there should be a way to address it so the burden is on the rapist.

    • Twist

      I’m not comfortable with lighter sentences for rapists whose victims did not get pregnant. Why a less severe punishment for something that’s largely out of their control? I am however, in favour of harsher punishments for sexual offenders in general, and educating the authorities to be less of the victim blaming pieces of shit that they so often are at the moment. Honestly, I think every time a judge/police officer/whatever makes a “did you see what she was wearing/she led him on/she was drunk/what did she expect comment”, they should be out. Teach people that it’s not fucking acceptable.

      • thalwen

        Exactly, I didn’t say my solution was a good or perfect one or anything – I would just like to see more of the onus of rape put where it belongs – on the rapist. It’s ridiculous that for drug possession we have mandatory minimums that last decades, but a rape conviction, if you’re lucky to get one given all the victim blaming crap, is likely to be a few years, some probation and time off for good behaviour.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I completely agree, especially in getting more rape convictions but one of the reasons that sentences can’t be too high (although certainly higher than what they are now) is that when they penalised rape more or less as rigorously as murder (I don’t know the exact penalties since it was my boyfriend who told me), more rapists started killing their victims (that way they didn’t have to deal with possible testimonies from the victim and if they burned the body, there would not be proof of the rape). Just awful.

  • BradC

    I think you are missing a portion of people who think that the rape/incest exception is simply a necessary concession, that popular opinion is such that abortion restrictions wouldn’t pass if they didn’t include it. That the greater good of passing the broader restrictions trumps the “necessary evil” of including the exception. This was my position back when I was anti-abortion.

    Its pretty easy to rationalize this by thinking that these exceptions probably won’t be used that often anyway (cue Todd Akin’s comment, and other rape culture, victim-blaming tropes).

  • Ibis3

    Sadly, there are a lot of people identify as pro-choice who are actually “I’m going to sit in judgement of you, but I’m not as harsh as those pro-life people.” They want to limit a woman’s autonomy based on the time the foetus has been gestating, they say things like “I’m against using abortion as birth control” and “Abortion is horrible and we should make it as rare as possible”. They’re usually completely on board with rape and incest exceptions for the same reasons as those in the forced-birther camp are. This card is targeted at those people as well.

    • ecolt

      You know, I was once very heavily involved in the pro-choice movement and I’m completely unfamiliar with the straw man pro-choicers you’re talking about.
      “They want to limit a woman’s autonomy based on the time the foetus has been gestating,” again applies to anti-choice rhetoric. Late-term abortions are almost exclusively performed because of a serious medical need, typically in a case where the fetus has almost no chance of survival after birth. The idea that some women just take seven or eight months to make up their minds is an anti-choice myth.
      “I’m against using abortion as birth control” actually is a pretty common statement, but I think you’re taking it the wrong way. Abortion is expensive and physically grueling. And, again, the idea that there are hordes of women out there that just constantly have abortions as their primary means of birth control is another bit anti-choice propaganda. The issue of birth control is about making it more accessible and affordable.
      “Abortion is horrible and we should make it as rare as possible” is a truth. It’s pretty obvious that you’ve never been through an abortion. I have, and I can attest that it is horrible. It’s painful and exhausting and no matter how sure you are of your decision it is emotionally draining. Yes, we do want to make abortion rarer. We want to do that by providing birth control and sex education.
      Finally, “They’re usually completely on board with rape and incest exceptions,” makes absolutely no sense if you’re describing someone as pro-choice. If they are pro-choice, they don’t believe there should be “exceptions,” they believe that women should have a choice. Rape and incest exceptions are by definition not pro-choice.

  • smrnda

    The woman is totally erased by the ad – it’s about the rapist and the cute little baby. The problem is that the real issue is about the woman, the rapist, and the zygote or embryo that would often be indistinguishable from a chicken embryo at that stage would be a distant last place. The ‘person’ whose rights they are defending here are everybody but the woman – the personhood of the fetus is getting higher priority. The whole ‘it doesn’t matter if you father was a rapist’ is just rhetorical sleight of hand – it’s making people think of themselves in their basically adult forms and say “gee, I wouldn’t want to be dead because my father was a rapist” rather than at the stage where they’re talking about, they really don’t have much of a person to defend.

    Also, let’s say that I had been conceived through rape. This isn’t going to make me think that, somehow, since I was conceived that way that a woman who was raped should not get an abortion. I mean, if my parents hadn’t been having sex I wouldn’t have been born, but would that lead me to crusade against celibacy?

    • plch

      actually, I’d prefere to never been born, had my father raped my mother, I hope I’m not alone feeling like that.

      • plch

        ops, to never have been born

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Think I’m with you on that one.

      • BabyRaptor

        No, you’re not the only one.

    • “Rebecca”

      I mean, if my parents hadn’t been having sex I wouldn’t have been born, but would that lead me to crusade against celibacy?

      Exactly. I love when pro-lifers pull the “What if you had been aborted??” card. If I had been aborted, or birth-controlled out of existence, the end result from my point of view would have been exactly the same as if my parents had rolled over and gone to sleep instead of conceiving me. I would not have cared because I would lack the cognitive capacity to care.
      I’ve seen images floating around the Internet that say things like “What if one of your ancestors was conceived by rape, do you wish this ancestor had been aborted??” and I just laugh. I wouldn’t care if this ancestor had been aborted because I wouldn’t be around to care if he or she had!

      • Abbiestract

        The “Thank your mother for not having an abortion” bumper stickers really bother me. I personally don’t feel that grateful for this. My parents are terrible parents. Why should I thank my mother for bringing a child into a crappy situation? The bumper sticker tries to make a black and white issue of something that is not at all black and white. 

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        They might as well make bumper stickers that say “Thank your mother and father for having sex at the exact time that they did and thank the sperm that fertilized your mother’s egg for being just a little faster and tougher than all the other millions of sperm” because those circumstances are just as responsible for my existence than my mother’s decision to not have an abortion. It IS a little harder to fit on a bumper sticker though and, um, no, I’m not going to do that.

      • Niemand

        Petticoat, that bumper sticker would lead to an increase in rear end collisions as everyone tried get close enough to the car it was on to read the tiny print…

        My conception was a random event. My birth was not. My parents chose to have a baby when they did. They weren’t looking for me per se, just a baby at that time point. I don’t see any particular reason to thank them for that. I’d rather thank them for giving me the facts about sex and pregnancy in a sensible and nonjudgmental way so that I’ve never needed to make a decision about abortion. (Well, dumb luck and lack of hyperfertility probably helped too…)

      • Rosie

        Why should I thank my mother for not having an abortion? She wanted a baby more badly than I ever wanted to be alive, I can almost guarantee that.

  • Sheena

    Gah. This insane troll logic (conceptions-by-rape are an okay exception to the NO ABORTION EVAR rule, but only if you can prove it really WAS rape) is infuriating.

    I spent months wrestling with this idea before I realized that I really am pro-choice, no questions asked. The woman’s age, race, education, sexual history, or clothing is irrelevant. Her ability to choose for herself is the important factor.

  • plutosdad

    When I was against abortion, I felt the same way. It is about life, and no matter how the life was created, it was still a life. I thought the people were for a rape-excemption were the most clearly anti-woman, since they cared about the sex in the first place. For me it was about the baby.

    Perhaps the good news is people who truly believe abortion is murder, like you and I did, can be converted to being pro-choice by merely teaching them about human development, as well as the consequences of their policies.

    Actually learning about the lifecycle of humans – as opposed to the lying “pro-life” pamphlet bs like the video of the “scream” and others – made me realize I was pro-choice. How could you not be once you learn the actual science and not propaganda?

    And now it is clear to me the pro-life movement is anything but; they are merely anti-choice.

  • Alexis

    My view of patriarchal attitudes is that “deal with the consequences of her decision to have sex” translates to “deal with the consequences of her sin”. A man may be a little randy, or may spread his wild oats, or may be deceived by a harlot, or just a coming of age ritual but for him there is no sin that is equivalent to a woman having sex out of wedlock (in their view). And no need for any punishment for him unless she is from a respectable family and her daddy catches him, and then he might have to marry her. As matter of fact he may get a pat on the back from his friends. So if it is a dreadful sin for her, and a coming of age ritual for him, who are the him’s supposed to commit their ritual with?

    • smrnda

      In that sense, sexual sin is about women being property – she’s either reducing her market value (robbing her father of capital) or defrauding a future husband, or misleading a man.

      In terms of the ‘if men can sow their wild oats, with whom?’ a goal of many religions is to create a population of disposable women to serve that need. it’s part of dehumanizing women and keeping other women in line.

  • http://sobersecondlook.wordpress.com xcwn

    Er, I had assumed that rape/incest exemptions were based primarily on the recognition of the risk to the woman’s mental health, physical health or life (especially in the case of pre-teen or young teenage girls).

    Though now that I think about it, it is likely more about the wish of conservatives in particular to deny that rape—and especially incest—happen, at least on any significant scale. There still is little or no recognized social “place” for children who are publicly known to have been conceived as a result of incest. Such things aren’t “supposed to” happen, so anything that avoids having to recognize that they do is a welcome relief to many people.
    But in reality, such exemptions are not really enforcible, as a number of commenters have pointed out. And they are also yet another example of how the spokespersons for “small government” would end up having to fund yet more governmental oversight into the lives of individual women if they passed a law like that.

    • Rae

      I thought the incest exception (since, if it was a young girl or a teen, it would still be rape) was because “the babies are going to have too many genetic problems”, and even some pro-lifers I asked about it said that was why it covered “rape and incest” and not just “rape”. But, by that logic, if you can abort pregnancies conceived by incest because of “genetic problems” (which, in first-generation incest, are almost nonexistent) why not alos allow people to abort pregnancies with non-incest-related genetic problems?

      • Rae

        Or a girl who was dependent on the parent/relative who had sex with her, then that would be rape. But if it was sibling incest, or cousins, or whatever, as long as they were of legal age then I don’t see it why it should be treated differently from consensual sex.

    • sara maimon

      A woman having an abortion for mental health reasons have nothing to do whether she was raped or not. Women respond to rape in all different ways. Conversely, there are many reasons other than rape that could cause a pregnancy to bet detrimental to someone’s mental health.
      The equation of rape = mental health is also part of their judging the woman’s behavior. Not accusing you, accusing the people you quote.

    • ButchKitties

      I think the rape exceptions are for those who believe pregnancy is an appropriate punishment for women who choose to have sex. Since women who were raped didn’t choose to have sex, then they do not deserve the punishment.

  • Gwynnyd

    “Should a child die for his or her father’s crimes?” I may be more cynical than most, but isn’t that *exactly* what they say Jesus did? Die for the sins committed by someone else? They call that death a good and righteous thing! Do they ever listen to themselves? That cognitive dissonance does not explode their brains is still a mystery to me much greater than the trinity.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    I don’t get how “exceptions for rape and incest” is going to work out in a practical sense. Does a woman have to “prove” she was raped? That seems like a mess- with people not willing to call rape for what it is, women falsely accusing so they can legally get an abortion, or people NOT BELIEVING women because surely they’re making a false accusation just to get access to abortion.

    Also, I think the pro-life argument should be framed not as “women need to be PUNISHED for having sex” but “if a man and woman choose to have sex, and the woman gets pregnant, they have a responsibility to take care of that unborn baby.” (Because, according to the pro-life side, the fetus is a person who deserves to have someone take care of it.) That’s the main difference I see between the pro-life and pro-choice sides- the question of whether anyone is morally “supposed to” take care of the fetus. (I wrote about this here: Why No One Will Ever Agree About Abortion)

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

    OMG Incest.
    Could you imagine getting pregnant from a sexual assault from a family member and having to PROVE it before you could get an abortion?
    And the family taking sides, possibly against you.

    • Rosa

      can you imagine a justice system in which you can convict a rapist within the time limit where abortion is available?

      • ButchKitties

        If the rape trial I was a juror for is any indication, a woman pregnant from rape would give birth before the state had so much as processed the rape kit, and her child would probably talking in full sentences before the case ever went to trial.

  • http://complicatedfeelingsabout.wordpress.com Katherine

    I, like Libby Anne, was staunchly “pro-life” as a child and early adolescent, and am staunchly pro-choice now. For me it comes down to this – no one should get to decide whether or not someone carries a pregnancy, except the person who is doing the carrying, because no one should get to impose their will on another person’s reproductive organs. Full stop. Even if zygotes are human beings (even though they clearly aren’t).

    But I’d like to offer another possible reason that some people may identify as “pro-life” and yet still be ok with the rape exception. Somewhere in the in-between space of being “pro-life” and “pro-choice” (and somewhere in my teens) I felt extremely unsure about where the line should be drawn in terms of personhood. I was pretty sure that unborn babies were people at a certain point, but I wasn’t sure what I believed as far as WHEN that personhood occurred (since a zygote is a collection of cells). I figured that, to be safe, abortion should be either outlawed or counseled against. Except in the case of rape. I grew up around rape victims, and had heard about the horrors of having one’s sexual agency completely taken away. It seemed to me that these women had suffered so much, and it was extremely unjust to then take away their reproductive agency on top of everything else. It wasn’t that I wanted the women who had become pregnant by accident to “pay” or “face the consequences”, it was that I was legitimately afraid that if they had an abortion they might be killing a child. In the case of rape, I was willing to allow for that murky risk.

    Obviously, that is not what I think anymore, and that line of thought eventually led me to the eureka moment of “wait NO ONE SHOULD EVER HAVE THEIR REPRODUCTIVE AGENCY TAKEN FROM THEM!”

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    “Actually, this isn’t strictly true – bastardy laws are an example of determining a child’s rights based on the parents’ legal standing, but that’s really beside the point.”

    so do bills of attainder and corruption of blood. Not that it’s relevant or done today, but I have a weakness for digression.

    • Andrew Kohler

      I remember when I saw Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Much Ado about Nothing as a child and my mother had to explain to me why there was stigma against the character Don John, the villain bastard. I thought then, as a child, “Why is it HIS problem if his parents weren’t married when he was born?!” Similarly, I find referring to people as “legitimate” or “illegitimate” based on the marital status of their parents to be rebarbative and reprehensible. What, am I supposed to feel like it’s some sort of accomplishment to have been born to married parents? I had no say in the matter.

      It seems to me that this idea of basic fairness–not visiting the sins of the father (or mother, but in this case definitely father) on the child–is being despicably exploited by the advertisement in question. I can only hope than whoever made this ad also repudiates the verses in the Hebrew Bible about the sins of the father being visited on the third and fourth generations (or whatever it is exactly). And like many others have said: this ad 1) shows children who are fully gestated and therefore unequivocally people with rights (unlike fetuses) and 2) “What woman forced to carry her rapists child? I don’t see her around here anywhere!”

  • James Healey

    “We need to point out that awarding zygotes, embryos, and fetuses rights always involves curbing and limiting women’s rights.”

    In an email exchange with me, Libby, you made this point. I never addressed it, but now would be a good time.

    First of all, recognizing rights is not an award. Secondly, what rights of women would be curbed? Recognizing the right to life for the unborn almost never interfere with the right to life of the mother, even if motherhood may change her life drastically, usually for the better. The right to abortion? It can only exist by taking away the right to life of the unborn.

    • Rosa

      Rights a woman loses if she is pregnant and the zygote/fetus is granted “the right to life”
      * bodily autonomy
      * the right to choose which health risks to take
      * the right to many kinds of medical treatment (for instance, most cancer treatments)

      Did you not see the copious coverage of the death of Savita Halappanavar? Pregnancy is risky, and so is life.

      Pregnancy gave me kidney damage and some minor damage to other organs. I was also forced to be on bed rest for weeks, which damaged my back and core muscles and took years to completely heal. In the United States, this kind of medical need often pushes people into poverty and homelessness.

      I continued the pregnancy after this started, because I wanted to. But that choice was mine, and no outsider should get to determine just how much risk of my life I have to take for a potential human being that happens to be occupying my uterus.

    • M

      What rights does a woman lose? Here is a list of things women lose if zygotes/embryos/fetuses gain a “right to life”.

      1) Bodily autonomy. Even if you are the only matching donor for someone who needs a new liver or they will die, you are not required to donate a lobe of your liver. This is because living organ donation is major surgery and comes with a fairly hefty list of possible complications, and thus cannot be compelled. By the same token, women cannot be forced to donate their uterus, even for a time, and even if a “person” will die for the lack of it. Pregnancy and labor come with an even lengthier list of potential complications than living organ donation. Given that most of us here don’t think a fetus is a person, it becomes even more unconscionable to deny a woman’s bodily autonomy for a not-yet-a-person.

      2) Financial autonomy. Pregnancy and labor are expensive, babies even more so. Many women become ill enough during pregnancy to require special considerations or even time off, both of which impact their career and might cost them money. Many women lose their jobs, especially in the US, where pregnancy is not a protected medical condition under the ADA. Obg-yn visits are expensive, costing several thousand dollars over the course of nine months. Labor costs over $10,000. A child will cost over $250,000 over 18 years if she does not give it up for adoption, an emotionally grueling process in itself. It is unfair and unjust to force a woman to ruin her savings, her job, and her finances to carry an unwanted pregnancy.

      3) Personhood. Women are more than walking incubators. If a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, she shouldn’t have to be pregnant. Period. Anything else denies her agency as a person with hopes, dreams, strengths, and flaws. It reduces her to “baby-carrier”. To argue that a zygote/embryo/fetus has “right to life” means you deny the woman the zygote/embryo/fetus is inside is a person.

      • M

        Er, ob-gyn visits. Typos suck.

      • ArachneS

        “To argue that a zygote/embryo/fetus has “right to life” means you deny the woman the zygote/embryo/fetus is inside is a person.”

        Just wanted to highlight this. Because I think this is huge. Thank you for being able to be this articulate because I can’t always find the words.

    • Twist

      Even if you presuppose that a zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus is a human being and ought to be deserving of human rights, you have to recognise the fact that it is living inside the body of another human being.

      We don’t allow human beings to make use of, in any way, the bodies of other human beings without their consent. This is evidenced by the fact that rape is considered (by people who don’t see women as their rightful property) as a heinous crime, and evidenced by the fact that we don’t compel blood, marrow or organ donation, even if the potential recipient will certainly die without them. We don’t even take the organs of the dead without their prior consent/ the consent of their next of kin.

      Granting a right to life to embryos neccessitates taking away the right of the woman to not have her body used by someone else without her consent. It’s comparable to forcing her to donate blood, marrow, use of her kidneys for nine months, against her will. We don’t do this to anyone else, so why should pregnant women be the only exception? Unless of course you don’t really see women as people, rather baby making machines with added sandwich making capabilities.

      Bodily autonomy is not the only right a woman forced to remain pregnant has interfered with. She loses the right, as pointed out by someone else, to a lot of medical treatments. Even if it may not be technically illegal to perform certain surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy etc. on a pregnant woman, good luck finding a doctor that will do it, and it you can’t get an abortion, you have to accept that your chances of surviving will plummet. You fail to consider preeclampsia, eclampsia, pregnancy diabeties, deep vein thrombosis, dehydration from severe and debilitating nausea, anemia, hemolytic anemia, severe back and abdominal pain, ectopic pregnancy, placental abruption, pregnancy related thyroid disorders, pregnancy related osteoporosis from the fetus leeching the calcium from the woman’s bones.

      She loses complete control of her body for the next nine months. Pregnancy isn’t a picnic. It’s mentally and physically exhausting and extremely risky, especially in a place where ‘abortion for life of the mother’ effectively means “we’re gonna let you die because your doomed fetus still has a heartbeat”. Depending on her individual situation, she loses the right to decide whether she wants to bring up a child. Anti-choicers claim that adoption is the solution without actually considering how difficult it may be for some women. Can you image a woman who already has children, them watching her go through a pregnancy and give birth only to find out that she gave the baby away? Contrary to popular belief, most abortions are carried out in women who already have children, not selfish slutty sluts, as your side so, so wants to believe. Or a woman who, rather than being a teenager who conceived after a one night stand, is a financially secure adult woman, in a stable relationship, with no physical or mental health problems, who JUST DOES NOT WANT A BABY (yes, we exist, in large numbers, actually, and no there’s nothing wrong with us). Can you image the pressure and judgement she’d face from her family, friends, perhaps partner, coworkers, medical staff, and complete strangers (it’s common knowledge that the bodies of pregnant women are public property *eyeroll*) to keep the baby, just because she can, not because she wants to? In situations such as these women can be pressured, threatened, guilted or scared into not giving up a baby that they absolutely did not want, violating her right to decide if she wants children, her right to decide how many children she has and her right to decide when she has them.

      She loses, in many cases, her financial independence. Particularly if she ends up keeping the unwanted baby herself, society still very much expects (and will not be shy about calling her a selfish bitch if she doesn’t) that she will give up her job or career to look after it, and become financially dependent on the father, who may or may not be abusive, controlling, or likely to stick around. It damages her future earning power. It puts her at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who are less inclined to promote a mother, because they automatically assume that being the primary caregiver (which she almost certainly is) will make her an unreliable employee.

      She loses the right to determine the course of her own life, even it it’s just for the next nine months. She can’t do certain jobs during that time, can’t do certain activities, and depending on how badly pregnancy affects her, perhaps can’t drive, walk very far or even get out of bed. Being forced to carry a pregnancy against her will strips her of her humanity. It makes her less than human, reduces her to the role of incubator.

      Of course, if you believe that that’s all women basically are anyway, I can see why that wouldn’t be a problem for you. If you think that pregnancy, childbirth, then either child rearing or adoption are easy peasy things that women can just breeze through, I can see why you wouldn’t see any of this as so much of a hardship. If you think that women are little more than cattle who exist to serve men and incubate babies, again, I can see why this wouldn’t be such a problem for you. If you think that women exist to breed children and if they die, become disabled or seriously unwell that that’s just what your monster-god intended, I can see why none of it is a problem for you. If you think that forced pregnancy is the price that anyone with the audacity to be born with a set of functioning female reproductive organs should have to pay for existing, then I can see why none of the above weigh on your concience at all.

      However, James, I’m guessing that this is something you’ll never have to deal with yourself. You say that “even if motherhood may change her life drastically, usually for the better” but you fail to consider that WOMEN WHO HAVE ABORTIONS ARE WOMEN WHO DO NOT WANT TO BE MOTHERS. My life, for example, would be ruined, utterly destroyed, by forced pregnancy and motherhood, to the point where I’d consider suicide if I couldn’t obtain an abortion. How dare you presume to make that decision for us? Who the hell are you to decide that the way we choose to live our lives is wrong, force us down another path and with a condescending pat on the head, assure us that we will probably be better off for it? That sentence reveals that you think of women as baby machines and child-rearing robots, nothing more. Seriously, what a disgusting attitude and I honestly feel sorry for any woman in your life.

      You don’t like abortion? Nobody says you have to get one, but keep your patronising crap out of everyone else’s uterus.

    • BabyRaptor

      My right to decide what to do with my life? My right to decide not to ruin my fiance’s life by bringing a child into the world we cannot care for? My right to not royally Fuck my children over by bringing them into the world in a situation where I and their father cannot care for them and don’t want them? My right to not have my body and it’s parts used against my will?

      My right to be something more than a slave to my uterus for your moral comfort?

      There is no “right to life” that is universally recognized before birth. Your religious book might dictate one, but this country isn’t run on your religious book, nor is the world. For the sake of the conversation, we’ll limit it to America. The Constitution confers rights to people *born in* or *naturalized to* America (Or born in a territory that belongs to America). Nowhere does it mention conception, or the location of the mother during any point in pregnancy. Therefore, there is no inherent right to be born.

      You go out on a very shakey, nigh unprovable limb when you say that motherhood usually improves women for the better. I’m not denying that it can, and that it does-to some women. But to say that this is the norm is to deny reality. It’s a blatant act of erasing the myriad of women whose lives were the worse for having children. I’m sorry that the idea that such a thing is possible discomforts you, but you don’t have a right to be comfortable constantly. Nor do you have a right to your own facts.

      Please, for your own sake, make yourself familiar with reality before you try toting out these lines again. Wanting fewer abortions may well be a noble goal, but you make an ass of yourself when you rely on falsehoods and completely negate the one actual person in the situation.

      • Twist

        “You go out on a very shakey, nigh unprovable limb when you say that motherhood usually improves women for the better. I’m not denying that it can, and that it does-to some women. But to say that this is the norm is to deny reality.”

        It’s completely erasing a woman’s right to decide whether or not motherhood will improve her life for herself. It’s like he’s looked at childfree women, decided that the way we live our lives isn’t correct, and decided we should take another path, whether we like it or not, with a condescending pat on the head and an assurance that we’ll probably be better off for it. What gives him (I’m assuming that James = male, apologies if I’m not correct) the right to make that decision on behalf of all women, everywhere?

        I wrote a much longer comment that appears to be stuck in moderation; if I’m swearing too much or being too confrontational I’ll try to rein it in, anti-choicers bring out the worst in me.

      • Anonymouse

        Actually, the Bible is not at all concerned about a “right to life”. There are passages telling the Israelites to rip open the bellies of pregnant women, and another telling a husband to force his wife to drink a concoction that brings on miscarriage if he feels like it. Additionally, if a pregnant woman is harmed by a man not-her-husband and miscarries, it’s only a fine for ruining a man’s possession.

        OTOH, a lot of anti-choice people want to see a woman saddled down with more kids than she can handle, because of course (in their minds) taking care of babies and children is the woman’s job, and if the woman is over-burdened with children, she won’t be agitating to be treated like a human, because she won’t have the time for that.

    • Rosie

      “even if motherhood may change her life drastically, usually for the better.”

      You make it sound like all women are the same, like we all belong to one hive mind and all want the same things out of life. Like we all have the same abilities and skills. We’re individuals, you know. Not only do we have individual situations, individual hopes and dreams, we also have individual gifts and abilities and weaknesses. Some of us would make terrible mothers if we were forced into that role. Which would be not only bad for us, it would be worse for the potential children.

      • phantomreader42

        Well, since he (presumably) recognizes his own rights as a human to bodily autonomy and self-determination, but does not recognize that women have such rights, it’s clear he does not actually see women as human. This is common amon fetus-fetishists. Apparently they think women are some sort of interchangable, mindless breeding machines.

    • Niemand

      Recognizing the right to life for the unborn almost never interfere with the right to life of the mother

      Tell it to Savita Halappanavar’s family.

    • phantomreader42

      James Healey vomited forth: “Recognizing the right to life for the unborn almost never interfere with the right to life of the mother, even if motherhood may change her life drastically, usually for the better.”

      So, James, why do you think a woman should NOT be allowed to have any say at all in an event that will, by your own admission, change her life drastically? Should YOU be prohibited by law from making any decisions on issues that could change YOUR life drastically? I think having one of your kidneys forcibly extracted without anesthetic for transplant into someone else would change your life drastically, should I be allowed to whack you over the head, slice you open, and harvest your organs without your consent?

      If YOU demand the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination, then why shouldn’t women have the same right?

      If you don’t demand such rights, post your address and blood type, I know someone who needs a kidney. :P

  • Maria Lima

    I live in Brazil. Here we have life of the mother and rape exemptions. Just yesterday we got the news that one jugde ruled against a woman right to have a therapeutic abortion, even recognizing how dangerous her situation was (due to a cardiopathy) because it was the second time she asked for it, and according to him, it was irresponsible of her to get pregnant once again, so according to him, she must die this time around. The family is appealing to higher courts, but this story shows what having to go to court in these exemption cases can really mean.

  • Matt

    Because of the legal complexities about a rape exemption, and the moral motivation to never see a raped woman be forced to carry a child, the only logical way forward is for all abortion to be legal all the time. I mean, how else would you do it?
    It is 2012, you dont have to be found on the side of the road with blood and bruises and fluid coming out for something to be considered rape any more.
    Fortunately, my country (Australia) has decided to allow all abortions in the instant that the mother’s safety may be compromised. Our medical system has determined that mental health is a significant risk, and so we have reached the point where anyone can basically get an abortion without issue. with this 2 step pathway we’ve not had to go through the complicated fighting america is dealing with.

    The methods are restricted sometimes, which is another fight we have to have, and I’m sure we’ll have that rectified over the next election or two (women cannot use certain drugs to pass a foetus, as the religious nutbags got those drugs added to a special list of case-by-case approval drugs)

    • sara maimon

      I believe you are mistaken about American law. The supreme court decided that the state may not interfere with a woman’s decision to have an abortion period. She does not have to submit the reason for her decision to ANYONE’s approval, whether the reason is mental health or any other.
      Australian law as you describe it is well beyond american law.

  • Sid

    This is REALLY late to the party, but I would have to disagree with a single quote from the original piece:
    “We need to point out that awarding zygotes, embryos, and fetuses rights always involves curbing and limiting women’s rights,”
    Not really, once you start viewing women as people. Let’s pretend fetuses have all the rights of people, for a bit. People do NOT have the right to use another person’s body without that person’s permission, even if it is necessary for survival, even if the person would not suffer any major or permanent health issues from it. If I needed blood, I could not force someone to give it to me. If I needed a kidney, I couldn’t force someone to give me theirs. There are people, right this minute, who are dying because they need an organ transplant, and if they found a suitable donor and that person refused, there would be absolutely nothing anyone could do about it. Even the bodies of the deceased have more rights than those of living, pregnant women. The right to bodily autonomy is absolute (or, near-absolute; I could get into how some of the “exceptions” are based on some of the same ideas that fuel the anti-choice movement, but I’ll refrain). It wouldn’t matter if we were dealing with fully-grown adults.

    So, no, granting zygotes rights wouldn’t interfere with a woman’s rights. Abortion, for ANY reason, under ANY circumstances, would still be 100% legal. The trouble is, anti-choicers don’t want zygotes to have the rights of people, they want them to have more. They want a zygote to automatically gain legal ownership of the woman who was unlucky enough to have it develop inside her.

    (As an aside, I refuse to use the term “pro-life”. Not only is it completely misleading, it starts the discussion slanted toward “pro-lifers”. After all, there are tons of choices people can make that we outlaw, that we SHOULD outlaw. But who would want to outlaw life? “Anti-choice” and “anti-life” are nowhere near equal.)

    • sara maimon

      how about pronatal? but then again one can be pronatal without forcing their pronatal beliefs on everyone else.

      • Sid

        This is probably just me, but if I heard “pronatal” I’d assume it had something to do with supporting pregnant individuals, not being against abortion. Not all anti-choicers think pregnancy is awesome, and (in my experience) very few care about/want to support pregnant women (unless it’s purely to keep them from having an abortion). It might describe a few, but it would describe even more pro-choicers.

  • kt

    I am a woman. I believe in birth control, not abortion (unless rape or incest) Some of us pro-lifers do believe in, support and advocate for birth control. I am one. I DON’T believe the pill causes abortions. Where it concerns consenting adults having sex (which also doesn’t bother some of us) , if birth control is involved, then there’s a good chance no pregnancy occurs, and thus no need for an abortion. Some of us don’t believe or support a woman being forced to carry a child if it would endanger her life or in the case of incest and/or rape. Not all of us “slut shame” people and some of us cringe at those that do. Not all of us are even tied to the Right and never have been, and I really hate that the Right ( i freaking hate the Right and I don’t even believe in organized religion!) hijacks issues, and then everyone else gets lumped in with them.

    Maybe I’m using my own personal life and assuming everyone else should be able to do the same (unless it’s something they can’t help such as rape/incest). You see, I don’t want children. Never have and never will. It’s not that I hate kids. I just love OTHER people’s kids, but don’t want any of my own. I am 37 years old. Common sense told me that if I didn’t want children, then I’d better be doing something to prevent that. I knew *I* didn’t believe in having an abortion from a consenting sexual encounter, so I got on the pill, and made my mates use condoms when I wasn’t on it. Even while I was married, I was on the pill.

    Sure close calls have happened. Missed pills. Condoms can break. Before I married my husband (we’re divorced now) during our dating days, a condom broke, and the occasional pill was missed. I’m amused now thinking about my reactions to that. With the missed pill, the very next day he and I headed to Planned Parenthood freaking out. Thank goodness for PP (something else some of us support). They gave me a couple of pills (I later learned it was plan b) that I took, and that was that. With the condom break, I went to walgreens and bought some plan b, and that was that. I’ll do it again if I had to. Whatever I gotta do to NOT get pregnant in the first place is fine with me. I have never been pregnant. I know I don’t want kids, so I take the steps to prevent that happening.

    I suppose I don’t understand why others can’t do the same. I’m not against premarital sex (I’ve had it lots of times, myself), but I couldn’t imagine myself, especially in this day and age, having a drunken night of unprotected sex or whatever and just….not doing anything about it, until one day, “Oh I missed my period. I’m pregnant. Guess I need to see the abortion doctor now.” There’s Plan B now! Is it so hard to hit up a walgreens or cvs the next day? If the woman doesn’t have any money, she can get it for free (or reduced cost) from PP. I’m pretty sure bc pills and condoms are free or reduced cost at PP, too. I’m sorry, but in this day and age, besides incest and rape, I don’t see why there’s even a need for abortion outside of that.

    Why aren’t pro-choicers advocating birth control instead of abortion? The main argument is that a woman shouldn’t be forced to carry a child she doesn’t want. Ok. Great! So what is wrong with more education for the public in stressing PREVENTING pregnancies in the first place?

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      I think most people would prefer BC to abortion, and there are still issues with access and education that pro-choicers are vocal about. But we also think that a woman has a right to an abortion if she so chooses. I’d rather a woman not get pregnant at all than have an abortion, but I also want her to have that choice if she does become pregnant, no matter what the circumstances.

    • Twist

      “Why aren’t pro-choicers advocating birth control instead of abortion?”

      They are. Sometimes contraception fails, even if everybody does everything right. Why should they then be forced to have a baby they do not want? Not everyone has easy access to or can afford emergency contraception. It doesn’t always work. Some people may not realise in time that they need it. Accidents happen, and there has to be a back up. Abortion is that back up, and in order for women to function fully as equals in society, it needs to be an option open to us.

      “in this day and age, besides incest and rape, I don’t see why there’s even a need for abortion outside of that.”

      Again, because as easy as you have found it to access contraceptives, not everyone has had the same experience as you. And women, particularly women in abusive and threatening situations don’t always have the option of saying no to sex or leaving.

      Reasons why someone might need an abortion:

      1) The condom broke/she missed a pill/threw up a pill and because of where she was, who she was with, or her lack of access to money couldn’t get emergency contraception during the 72 hours during which it is most effective. Or she did get it, but it didn’t work. It isn’t a magic bullet.

      2) Her abusive, controlling partner manipulated her contraceptives to impregnate her on purpose and so prevent her from ever leaving. She realised exactly what he was doing – taking pills out of the packet and throwing them away, before insisting he’d seen her take them – but she was scared and her crushingly low self-esteem and belief (that he had carefully cultivated) that she was worthless and stupid and lost without him prevented her from confronting him, leaving, or saying no when he wanted sex. This is what once happened to me. Some people who have a tendency to oversimplify things suggest that a woman in this situation should ‘just leave’ but it isn’t that easy. Want to blame me? Say it was my fault? That I knew what was happening so I was just as responsible? Plenty of people have, even me, my harshest critic was myself, for years. But I don’t engage in victim blaming anymore.

      3) She got pregnant deliberately, but then lost her job and her partner left, leaving her in an impossible financial situation in which she would be unable to raise a child in anything other than absolute poverty, and decides that she doesn’t want to do that.

      4)She never received comprehensive sex education at school and all her parents told her was that she was to wait for marriage. She has been told that PP are evil abortionists who will lie to her and so she has no clue how to get hold of contraceptives or even how to use them.

      5)She just got caught up in the moment, and only realised afterwards that she was unprotected. Then, for whatever reason, couldn’t get hold of emergency contraception.

      6)You know what? Nobody else’s business! Nobody gets to decide what is or is not a good enough reason for an abortion except for the woman having it.

      Wanting to have an abortion is a good enough reason for having one. The second you start placing restrictions on when and why a woman can have an abortion, you must draw a line somewhere between abortions that are acceptable and abortions that are unnaceptable, even abortions that are legal and abortions that are illegal. Wherever this line is drawn, it will be arbitrary, unfair and will end up causing severe harm to women. The line creates a divide with good abortions on one side and bad on the other. It makes abortion into a black and white issue when in reality it is many, many shades of grey.

      Life of the mother? Just how much danger does her life have to be in? Does there just have to be a posibility of death or illness at some point down the line? Because that would cover… all pregnancies. Does she need to be in danger of imminent death? Days away? Hours away? Minutes? Will women like Savita routinely be allowed to die while her ‘doctors’ stand by and do nothing because her fetus’s heartbeat is clearly so much more important than her heartbeat?

      And rape, does there just need to be an accusation of rape? Or an arrest and conviction? What if it takes time to catch the offender? Will trials be carried out super fast to give the woman time to get an abortion, and will that lead to an increase in false convictions? If a woman is later found out to have lied in order to obtain an abortion, is she then tried for murder? Conversely, if a woman is later proved to have been telling the truth about being raped, after having been forced to carry the pregnancy to term, what kind of compensation will she be eligible for?

      Seriously, I’ve never seen anyone who claims that they are aginst abortion except in cases of rape of the life of the mother explain how those exceptions could be put into place in a way that would actually work, and fairly. I don’t believe that it’s possible.

      Preventing unwanted pregnancies is an excellent thing to aim for, sex education should be comprehensive and mandatory in schools, contraceptives should be free and very easy to get hold of. That would be great, but it wouldn’t completely eliminate the need for abortions, and the thought of throwing women whose contraception failed or who for whatever other reason ended up with an unwanted pregnancy under the bus, saying tough luck, you made your bed, now lie in it, face the consequences, whatever, is an insensitive and immoral thing to do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      On what planet do you live on where people advocate abortion over birth control?!?

  • kt

    To Lucreza: No need for rudeness. All I’ve ever heard is abortion in totality or only in some cases vs no abortion at all. I have heard bc arguments of course (Fluke comes to mind), but not during abortion debates.

    • Twist

      Really? That seems… odd. While of course pro-choicers focus on the rights of women to choose whether or not they want to remain pregnant, I’ve never seen a pro-choice argument that aborting unwanted pregnancies is somehow better than making sure they never occur in the first place. For one thing, it’s cheaper, for another, safer for the woman to never become pregnant than to have to have an unwanted pregnancy terminated. Many pro-lifers do not support easy access to contraception. For many of them it is about slut shaming and controlling women, ensuring that women who have unsanctioned sex are appropriately punished for it. The more reasonable and rational ones accept that the best way to reduce abortions is to increase the availability of affordable, effective contraceptives, but still need to realise that it’s not a one-stop solution. But never, ever have I seen a pro-choicer argue that, what, contraceptionis unneccessary because we can all just get an abortion. That’s ridiculous.

      Your post, however, was rather insensitive, what with the assumption that because you find it easy to avoid pregnancy everyone else should as well, without considering the myriad of reasons a woman may have difficulty obtaining contraceptives or using them properly.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        It assumes that all women who have abortions are doing it because they are too damn lazy to take precautions, which absurd.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      …which is why I made the comment that I did. I’ve almost always seen the pro-choice movements discuss the need for comprehensive sex education and liberal access to birth control. Why would anyone prefer abortion to using birth control? It’s a silly statement that deserved a silly response.

      • Twist

        Exactly, prevention is better than cure, but it doesn’t make the cure unneccessary. Why would someone prefer to have a coronary artery bypass, when if they’d caught the condition earlier, an angioplasty would have sufficed? Obviously the angioplasty is preferable, given the choice, and easy access to health care can help make diagnosis and treatment possible before a bypass is needed in some cases. It doesn’t however, mean that nobody will ever need bypass surgery again.

  • kt

    To Twist: Maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought contraception (in various forms) was available to everyone, whether they had money or not. I remember paying for plan b at the walgreens, but if memory serves, when I had to use pp, I don’t think I had the money to pay at the time. They just gave them to me.

    As for the abusive controlling partner, I know all about that, though not in the way he messed with my birth control or anything. I grew up in an abusive home and then married one. I understand how hard it is to get out of that situation. In the hypothetical you put forth on this, you mentioned a controlling man who might mess with his woman’s bc, so that he can make her get pregnant. Because of that, she should have the right to get an abortion. That happens, yes, and I’ve read stories about it. I can’t help but think though that if he’s controlling enough to do that to her, then what’s her getting an abortion going to solve. I mean, if she continues to stay with him, is she supposed to get abortion after abortion? What’s to stop him from messing up her bc over and over?

    As for the rest, you put forth many arguments, and while I don’t agree with all of them, I have always been interested in, and want to understand where others are coming from. While I understand all your arguments, I guess I’ll’ never understand why abortion has to be one of the options for bc. Oh yeah, you also put forth questions as to how we’d determine this or that (mothers life in danger, etc), and my answer is….I really have no idea. lol, but I’m not an advocate of a woman (or a man for that matter) having to “prove” rape and/or incest. I don’t know how it should/would be handled in the case of a mother’s life in danger, but if it were mine, I’d want them to do whatever necessary without squabbling over whether I have minutes or hours to live! Who cares? My lifes in danger! Do something and fast! I’d like to think that’s how a doctor would handle it with anybody’s life, including a mothers.

    • M

      Contraception is definitely not easily available for everyone. I live in a major city, so there’s PP clinics nearby, but there’s an awful lot of Texas that is very rural. In fact, Texas just cut off all funding for PP, which cost them millions in federal funding as well, and has caused many women’s health clinics in the Rio Grande valley to close. The women there, who tend to be poor and Latina, live hours away from free/subsidized contraception.

      I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, so I won’t speak to that part of your post. I’ll just say I’ve read about them, and BC sabotage is apparently very common.

      It’d be nice if abortions were performed for “life of the mother” without squabbling, and that doctors would do what was best for the woman, but we know empirically that doesn’t happen. Savita Halappanavar is only the most recent and egregious example. I would suggest you also look up Edyta, Martha Solay, Olga Reyes, Michelle Lee, and Mikki Kendall. All of them died, nearly died, or had their lives threatened by their pregnancies and yet were denied abortions. For every named woman, there are thousands more who die or are injured whose stories we never hear. The only way to ensure women’s lives are preserved is to make sure that abortion is always legal and that the only person making that decision is the woman herself, her medical proxy, or a doctor in the woman’s best interest.

    • Twist

      “Maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought contraception (in various forms) was available to everyone, whether they had money or not. I remember paying for plan b at the walgreens, but if memory serves, when I had to use pp, I don’t think I had the money to pay at the time. They just gave them to me.”

      Clearly, you’ve done a great deal of research and I bow to your superior knowledge. *eyeroll*

      “you mentioned a controlling man who might mess with his woman’s bc, so that he can make her get pregnant. Because of that, she should have the right to get an abortion”

      How generous of you.

      “That happens, yes, and I’ve read stories about it”

      I know. As I said, it happened to me. However, as you’ve read about it, you’re obviously more qualified to make decisions about it than me, who only lived through it.

      “I can’t help but think though that if he’s controlling enough to do that to her, then what’s her getting an abortion going to solve. I mean, if she continues to stay with him, is she supposed to get abortion after abortion?”

      To use my example, the fact that I’d had an abortion rather than a baby meant that when I had the courage to leave him, I was able to do so without there being an unwanted, unloved child tying me to him forever. It meant that I kept some tiny shred of control over my own life, and instead of sharing custody with the f*cker, I never have to lay eyes on him again. It meant that when the whole mess was behind me, I could get on with my life without a constant, living, breathng reminder.

      And yes, if he does it again, she is entitled to abortion after abortion. However long it takes for her to get the courage to leave, you have no right to write her off. In my case, however, while going through the process of seeking an abortion I was able to access another option for afterwards – the three month injection, that they gave me there and then in the hospital, that he had no way of messing with. I’d asked for it months before, and was refused because of an apparent slight increase in the risk of osteoporosis when it is given to young women. You have no right to decide for me, or any other woman in that situation, that she is a write-off who may as well spend her life as the virtual slave to this controlling **********, chained to him by as many unwanted kids as he can make her have. That’s utterly disgusting.

      “I guess I’ll’ never understand why abortion has to be one of the options for bc.”
      “I don’t know how it should/would be handled in the case of a mother’s life in danger, but if it were mine, I’d want them to do whatever necessary without squabbling over whether I have minutes or hours to live! Who cares? My lifes in danger! Do something and fast!”

      You just answered your own question there. The only way they would be able to “do something and fast” without squabbling over whether you have minutes or hours left would be if they could do so with no legal ramifications if someone says at a later date that the fetus could have been saved. As I said, placing restrictions on abortion puts us on a slippery slope that leads us to women like Savita
      Halappanavar dying when they could have been saved.

      You freely admit that you have no idea (with a lol! – nice how this is a laughing matter to you) how the exceptions you suggest would be put into practice, and that you’re not in favour of having to prove rape or decide when a woman’s life is in imminent danger – so think about how these exceptions could possibly work, and the only logically consistent answer is that they can’t. Not without a grotesquely unfair system where women’s entire futures, even whether they will live or die, comes down to one doctor’s word against another’s, or one judge’s word against another’s.

      The only way you can avoid women who have been raped and abused being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, and the only way you can avoid women who could be saved dying because their doomed fetus was prioritised over them, is to allow abortion to whomever wants it, and accept that their reasons are absolutely none of your business.

      And with that, I’m done responding to you, as you’re completely clueless and insensitive.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        …and sometimes, there are going to be women who get an abortion for apparently no good reason. That’s just something one has to accept if the system is going to be fair to the most amount of people possible. Kinda like how our justice system is set up to make it inordinately difficult to convict the guilty in the interest of making as sure as possible that no innocent people get convicted.

      • Twist

        The point being that it’s nobody else’s place to decide what a good reason for any individual woman is. What may be a petty reason to someone may be a life-or-death reason to someone else, and the only person who can decide that, who has the right to decide that, is the woman involved.

        Any reason a woman wants an abortion is good enough, and we need to trust women to be able to make the correct decisions for their individual situations.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Twist – I appreciate all of our lengthy replies here and your taking the time to try to respond to kt’s questions, but I wanted to point out that the following-

        you’re completely clueless and insensitive.

        - violates my my comments policy, which states, among other things, the following:

        Attack arguments rather than people. In this vein, refrain from personal insults and avoid needless vulgarity.

        That said, I do value your comments and hope you keep them coming.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      Lemme get this straight…abortion is perfectly fine if it’s rape or incest or if there was a controlling man involved…but by jolly, those sluts who just can’t deign to be responsible should carry that child! That argument boils down to personal responsibility and shows that you really don’t see the fetus as a being with it’s own right to life.

  • kt

    I’m sorry some of you thought my comments were “silly”. As I already said, I am pro-life, so I’m not sure why anyone is surprised that I don’t fully understand you all’s position (which is why I posted on here to begin with, so I could gain more understanding of your pov/why you support abortion!). I’ve been reading this site for quite a while due to my own upbringing, but today is my first post. I felt compelled to reach out, talk about a personal experience, and gain some insight into a particular cause from those who share a different view. I wasn’t trying to be insensitive, nor did I ever say or imply that women have abortions because they are lazy. I don’t even know where that last bit even came from. Lucreza: Once again, as I said earlier, I have never heard bc during abortion debates. You read that, and then you posted that it was silly, again. If I haven’t heard something, I haven’t heard it.

    Today are my first and last posts, here. I thought with there being (I assume) mostly women here, with (I assume) a common bond, which is being against patriarchy for various reasons, that this could’ve been a place of thoughtful discussion even if we don’t all agree with each other on everything, or don’t understand sometimes. I was apparently wrong about that, and I’m sorry. It honestly wasn’t my intention to offend anyone.

    To the webmistress, I love your site and will definitely keep reading!

    Take care!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      kt – I’m sorry that you didn’t find this comment thread a hospitable environment. I would urge you not to simply reject the points made by Twist and others. I have notified Twist above that she violated my comment policy when she moved from addressing arguments to engaging in personal insults, but I do think she and others did a good job addressing many of your concerns, and I hope you do consider their points. I also hope you will not let this experience completely turn you off considering commenting here in the future, as I do try to maintain an open and respectful tone both in my posts and in the comment threads.

      Let me take a moment to address the question you began with. I think the other commenters did a good job pointing out that birth control is not actually as available as it could be and that even with widespread birth control there are still plenty of reasons besides “irresponsibility” that one might find oneself with an unwanted pregnancy and in need of an abortion. Beyond that, I think I would start by asking *why* you oppose abortion. You seem to say you oppose it because you see it as a way for people to avoid the consequences of irresponsible sex. But why would that be a reason for banning it? We allow people to access medical care even if they are injured as a result of doing something stupid (say, rock climbing while drunk). Even if you think abortion is enabling some women to be irresponsible, why would that be reason enough to want to ban it? Would you support banning open heart surgery because it enables people to be lazy and not exercise, knowing that they can always get open heart surgery later? I suspect not. Then why do this with abortion? I actually touched on this issue in some depth in this post, if you’re interested.

      Anyway, thanks for reading!

  • Joy

    First, that’s not slut shaming, or did you miss the part where having sex is the first step in getting pregnant?

    Secondly, as for the “rape exemption”, no it’s not (always) slut shaming, it’s called being aware that abortion will never disappear completely. Abortion should be a last resort for those who truly need it — that includes not just rape victims but women who need to abort to save their lives. Yes, it’s still murder but not one done in vain at very least, or do you honestly think carrying a pregnancy to term will have the same mental effect on a rape victim that it will on someone who got pregnant by choice? Get real.

    I’ve read a lot of your posts and to be quite honest, you seem pretty stupid. And I know people have been brought up in ultra religious households with ideas of purity pushed upon them, but they’re not stupid so it’s not a good excuse for you absurd levels naivete. Also, I don’t buy all your feigning ignorance that you had no idea what the pro-life movement was really about and never had any of those thoughts yourself. I think you’re just trying to save face to impress your new self-centered atheist friends.

    • Malitia

      So it’s not slut shaming except it is. Got it.

      Where did anybody said about anything about the experiences of someone who got “pregnant by choice” so wants a child being the same as a rape victims? Wanted children don’t get aborted except for medical reasons. Or you think that consenting to sex is the same as wanting a child? Hint: If this was the case the history of contraceptives, abortion and other types of getting rid of infants wouldn’t go back to at least Ancient Egypt.

      Also I highly doubt that insulting someone on her own blog is a good idea.

    • Nea

      First, that’s not slut shaming

      … but the VERY FIRST thing worth mentioning is that those women had sex, followed by another round of the word slut (but not always! Just… mostly?) before getting around to admitting that maybe women shouldn’t be forced to bear rape babies. Totally not equating even non-consensual sex with sluttery, I get it now!

    • Rosie

      Does “women who need to abort to save their lives” include those with unplanned pregnancies (perhaps a contraceptive failure) who become suicidally depressed at the thought of remaining pregnant and giving birth? How does one determine if they’re actually suicidal, and why, without reading their minds? Or, from the point of view of the pregnant woman (and her family), how does she prove she’s suicidal without actually killing herself?

      The problem with only allowing abortion in cases that you view as morally ambiguous is that *only the pregnant woman* has enough information to determine if her pregnancy is one of those cases or not. And, of course, what’s morally ambiguous or even immoral to you might fall into a different category entirely for someone with religious convictions that differ from yours.

    • Anat

      You are right that abortion will not disappear completely. If not given legal channels, illegal and dangerous channels will be sought. Which is why legal abortion is an act of compassion towards women who are pregnant despite their wish not to be so. Why is it that a woman who is pregnant as a result of rape deserves such compassion, but a woman whose contraception failed does not? Neither wanted to be pregnant at the time of conception – neither of them chose to be pregnant. (OK, maybe the rape victim was a married woman who was trying to conceive – so she may have wanted to be pregnant, but not from her rapist.) If abortion is murder it is equally so in both scenarios. The difference is that one woman wanted neither sex nor pregnancy while the other wanted sex but not pregnancy. So woman one is a victim who deserves compassion and woman two is a slutty slut who deserves to have her body taken over (and the rest of her life as well). That would make them equal, right? It’s all about controlling women’s bodies.

  • Anne

    “if someone allows for a rape exemption, their opposition to abortion is not about “saving babies” but rather about making sure women who voluntarily choose to have sex and then become pregnant have to deal with the “consequences” of their decision to have sex.”

    Based on what my Baptist parents told me when I was a teenager, this is it EXACTLY. They just couldn’t bear the idea of anyone else getting away with committing a sin. Pregnancy is PUNISHMENT for fornication, and you shouldn’t try to get around that. It makes God (and Dad) angry. It wasn’t about the right or wrong of abortion itself, and the baby’s/fetus’ rights were never mentioned in their rantings.

    But- this was back in the ’80s and from what I’ve read (I don’t trust my own memories to reflect society in general) fundamentalists/evangelicals weren’t so adamantly ‘pro-life’ back then. But the ones I knew were definitely pro-punishment!