The predatory providence of ‘pro-life’ Richard Mourdock (part 1)

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns with Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. (AP, Charles Dharapak)

U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana Richard Mourdock has joined Todd Akin, Paul Ryan and Tom Smith among prominent white male Republicans saying appalling things about rape.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock himself, and a host of religious defenders of his agenda, have tied themselves into knots, offering a series of confused and confusing attempts to defend his comments. See, for example, Mark Galli’s appalling article for Christianity Today, in which Galli offers an incoherent and morally perverse appeal to “the providence of God.”

Via Mark Kleiman, here’s Dominican Fr. Jeremy Paretsky highlighting the irony of this appeal to “providence” by Mourdock and Galli:

To say that anything that happens is by God’s will says everything and nothing: it says no more than that creation as such exists by the will of God, who in a single act incorporates all contingencies. Will is confused with desire, which is a function of the human will. No distinction is made between God’s providential will (whereby he cares for creation) and permissive will (whereby contingencies are incorporated into that care). To say that life begun by rape is God’s will fails to make this distinction. It is equally true by the same loose use of language to say that abortion subsequent to rape is also God’s will.

Mourdock et. al. are appealing to an expansive-but-shallow “all things work together for good” notion to defend restrictions on abortion. They fail to notice that this same appeal to providence also means that every abortion must also be “something that God intended to happen.”

Oh, and as Danielle points out at From Two to One: ” The most common byproducts of rape are depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, substance abuse, self-harm, fear, self-blame, sleeplessness, nightmares, triggers, sexual dysfunction, feelings of worthlessness, despair, hopelessness, and even death.” Are these consequences of rape also “gifts from God”?

Since this self-negating notion of everything as “something that God intended to happen” is usually invoked as an attempt to make sense out of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, let’s note that Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, says that Mourdock is “invoking the will of God where it is not appropriate”:

People “should have compassion for the person whose life is messed up by this and not make her an instrument for our idiosyncratic theological commitment,” Kushner said.

“If you believe she has no right to terminate that pregnancy, you’re free to believe that,” Kushner said. “But for you to write your preferences into law and compel another person to mess her life up because of what you believe, I think you’re going too far.”

To make someone else “an instrument for our idiosyncratic theological commitment” is to treat that person as a tool — as a means and not an end. That the person in this case is someone who has already suffered that same treatment at the hands of her attacker only compounds the evil of it.

As Dianna Anderson writes:

Rape victims are not players in your narratives of redemption. People suffering through some of the worst, most traumatic events of their lives aren’t interested in going through more pain just so you can point to it as a redemptive show of God.

… God’s eschatology doesn’t need you to persuade a rape victim to keep their pregnancy. What God does need you for is to understand and support the suffering, no matter what decision they may make. What God does need you to do is shut up and listen. This is not your battle to fight, except insofar as you can come alongside the one who is suffering. This is not yours to explain. This is not your area and God doesn’t need you to persuade a person to suffer more just so They could eventually redeem. It is disrespectful to God to presume to be someone else’s Holy Spirit in a decision that has nothing to do with you.

Many others have written quite a bit of wise and insightful commentary on the predatory providence of Richard Mourdock. Theologians have denounced his theology, politicians have criticized his politics, and people who just generally don’t regard women as sub-human have pondered just WTF exactly is wrong with this man (there’s some overlap between those categories). I’ll have a round-up highlighting some of that in a follow-up to this post.

"Those too, I suppose."

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  • Gotchaye

    I’ve seen a lot of non-religious, liberal commenters dismissing Mourdock’s comments as “theodicy” in the last week, ignoring the point that one could as easily theodicize an abortion; theodicy doesn’t tell people how to act.

    But Mourdock’s revised position has moved further away from theodicy.  Because “biology isn’t uncontrolled”, all pregnancies are literally miraculous.  His new position is that God notices a rape going on, is sad about this, and thinks “Imma just leave this here”.  To make up for it, maybe.  It’s not clear if Mourdock would have the balls to reassure a recent rape victim by saying “on the bright side, at least maybe you’ll get pregnant”.

  • Magic_Cracker

    …and people who just generally don’t regard women as sub-human have pondered just WTF exactly is wrong with this man…

    In CCD class* I was taught that to regard people as means to your ends was inherently immoral, i.e., it’s a sin to treat people as objects, and that’s how Mourdock, Akin, et al. view women — as objects, means to be used for (what they say are) God’s ends (but oh-so-conveniently serve theirs).

  • Magic_Cracker

    Forgot to elaborate on my asterisk. *I was in CCD in the 80s, before the Catholic hierarchy became so completely obsessed with womenbits that they forgot about the actual women who have the bits.

  • The problem with his view of providence is that there is an implicit assertion that he knows what God intends, and if he supports policies that limit other’s options for dealing with circumstances, then he is saying that he knows more about what God intends than anyone else.  

    I find that kind of sentiment extremely arrogant   Hell, I would think it sinfully prideful; in assuming to know God’s will better than others, he is placing himself in God’s own role in judgement.  I think he ought to pray long and hard for the humbleness that has been commanded of him.  

  • Jay in Oregon

    If you piece all of these statements together, it forms a rather unsettling picture; it looks like most of these Republican lawmakers simply don’t believe that “legitimate rape” happens all that often. Consider:

    * Tom Smith equates his daughter having sex before marriage with being raped.
    * Roger Rivard says that “some girls rape easy”; taken in context, it’s
    even worse because he thinks that women who have sex that they regret
    later simply lie and say they were raped.
    * Todd Akin thinks that a women who’s raped can’t get pregnant because her body has ways of “shutting that whole thing down.”
    * Paul Ryan says that an exception for abortion in the case of rape is
    “a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it”.

    They think that women who get pregnant from being raped are just
    dirty lyin’ sluts who accuse nice young men of rape so they can get
    their easy abortions.

  • Sometimes I think these guys are having a contest to see who can make the worst rape comment and get away with it.

  • hidden_urchin

    You know, I think I’ve come across Mourdock’s perspective before.  It’s exactly how Mary is portrayed in the Bible.  God didn’t ask her consent and she accepted the whole situation.  If you take Mary’s story to be that of an ideal woman then why not suggest that real woman feel the same way or be forced to feel the same way?

  • I’m not sure why we expect a more compassionate response from fundamentalist followers of a religion worshipping a man who was implanted into his mother’s womb against her will.

  • Becca Stareyes

     Reminds me of a quote from Terry Pratchett’s character, Granny Weatherwax, who notes that “Sin is treating people like things.  Including yourself.”  The latter added since she was speaking to a priest so caught up in his church’s schisms and doctrinal disputes that he was tearing himself in two.  But it does make me wonder — when you are surrounded by people who insist on treating you as a thing (or a role) rather than a person, how hard is it to assert a desire for you to care for yourself?

  • Kadh2000

    Agh.  Sorry.  No.  God does not plan for the bad stuff that happens in our world to happen.  That’s not in the nature of God that I believe in.  The closest thing I can come to saying that is this: “God does not plan for any of the bad things that happen to us.  He does put them to use to show his good purpose.”  Unfortunately, the human agent screws that up sometimes. 

  • Risser

    Look, if anti-abortion folks truly believe what they purport to believe, then destroying a feotus conceived from rape is just as much a murder as killing a toddler born of rape. Mourdock’s position is the only logical and moral position if you believe a foetus is just as much a human as a toddler, teen, adult or senior.  Unless you think killing a person whose dad raped their mom is justified.

    So, anytime I hear someone saying they are anti-abortion, except in the case of rape or incest, I hear, “except, I don’t actually believe what I said I believed just a minute ago.”


  • Jessica_R

    And it wouldn’t be better exactly, but at least it would be slightly more tolerable if I wasn’t 1o0 percent certain this asshole *doesn’t* support things like food stamps, free breakfast programs, afterschool programs, universal healthcare and on. Your rape baby is a precious God gift! But fuck you if you expect any help from anyone else in providing for it! I hope his junk gets attacked by rabid dogs. Asshole.

  • Risser

    It wasn’t against her will.  She consented.  Of course, it could be statutory…

  • Figs

    What model of God’s power lets Him not be able to stop bad things, but lets him intervene to “put them to use to show his good purpose”?


    She consented. Of course, it could be statutory…

    Are mortals even capable of consenting to Divine impregnation? Talk about power imbalances…

  • Holden Pattern

    Um, so earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, disease, birth defects?  These are all by your definition either “good things” that god plans, or “bad things” that are accidents that the omnipotent god does not control, but are instead to be used as object lessons in how good he is, which we dumb and sinful humans are incompetent to understand?

    That’s a cruel god, right there.  There’s no definition of “good” that fits that behavior.

  • LL

    You’d think that people would question a belief (abortion is wrong) that requires them to say repellent things about rape victims. I mean, I’m sure these appalling ideas are not new to the people saying them, so why are they saying them so publicly now? Do they feel the need to establish their anti-abortion bona fides? I doubt it’s a coincidence that these people are seeking a seat they don’t currently hold (ie, they are challengers, not defenders), plus these are U.S. Senate seats they’re trying to get. Are they operating under the “any publicity is good publicity” theory? Or are they trying to signal to their potential anti-abortion constituents, something like, “This is how hardcore anti-abortion I am, I have no problem throwing rape victims under the bus to prove it.” I mean, if you’ll attack a rape victim, there is pretty much no limit on how low you’ll go to accomplish anything else. I’m not saying these people are necessarily smart or savvy, just sayin’, even stupid people know that saying horrible things gets attention. We all learned this when we were about 3 or 4 years old. 

    Or if you want to speculate further, maybe this is part of an overall strategy on the part of the RNC to cement in people’s minds the difference between an “acceptable” abortion (the ones granted magnanimously to rape victims) and all the other, unnecessary ones, the better to make it palatable to place so many restrictions on abortion short of outright ban (waiting periods, those wand-type ultrasounds, etc.) that it may as well be illegal anyway in many states. 

    Without their opposition to abortion and gay people, Republicans really have nothing to offer many of their voters. So they have to squeeze every last bit of political advantage out of them as they can while they can.

  • MaryKaye

    The difference between a fetus and a toddler is that someone else can raise the toddler.  No one else can bear the fetus.  We do not require a parent to maim their body to save their toddler’s life:  if your toddler has kidney disease you are not obligated to offer up your kidney.  It might be a virtuous action but requiring it says not only that the toddler’s life is important but that it’s more important than your right to your own body.

    To me personally, the alternative is so much worse that I accept the death of the fetus or toddler as the least evil possibility–compared to taking away control of the parent’s body.  Bear in mind here that pregnancy and childbirth can *kill*. 

    I know a number of people who had to make very hard choices of this kind:  someone likely to die of her pregnancy, someone pregnant due to rape at gunpoint, someone reliant on teratogenic medications to stay alive.  In no case does my intervening in their choice seem right.  I can intervene in mistreatment of a born child because I can (with state aid) take the child *away*.  I cannot take the fetus away.  I cannot shift the pain, damage, and danger off the mother onto anyone else.  Given that, I have no say.  Not even in one of those cases above where it was my mother’s life on the line.  (I would have told her to get the abortion.  I didn’t want to lose my mother at age 12.  But I rightly had no say in the matter.  We got lucky, but even if we hadn’t, it still wasn’t my choice to make.)

  • Fred, I hope you’ll consider including in that round-up this open letter from a rape survivor:

    I thought it was courageous and, honestly, made me totally rethink the vitriol I wanted to post in response to Mourdock et al.

  • Wingedwyrm

    In defense of Mourdock, opposing abortion in the case of rape is only consistant with the view that life (read, personhood with all the moral rights thereof) begins at conception.  If, from the moment that sperm meets egg, a person exists with the rights to the use of another person’s organs regardless of that person’s consent or express refusal, then even the horrific nature of how that person started should not eliminate that right.

    Now, I don’t believe that is a right of any person, so even if I were to agree that personhood starts at conception I still wouldn’t believe that the law has any place denying a woman the right to deny that person the use of her organs.  But, the pro-life movement, by saying that abortions should be illegal but make exceptions in the case of rape are actually saying that a person is less of a person because he or she was concieved in rape.  And, I don’t think that’s something any of us believe, pro-life or pro-choice.

    The only reason a rape exception comes into play is because the pro-life movement insists upon demonizing women who would, in any situation other than rape, consider or choose abortion.  “She made her choice when she had sex.”  If they didn’t handwave about decisions having already been made, the idea that there’s an exception to be made for rape would never come up.

    Now, while Mourdock’s position is the only consistant position for him to take, it also illustraits the basic problem of the pro-life position.  The woman’s choice, the woman’s decision of how her own body is used, the legal decision making of one person regarding her person is taken away for the benefit of another person.  It would be similar to making a law stating that every single eligible citizen in America is an organ donor, regardless of personal preference or religion.

  • Carstonio

    I’m at a loss to understand how these vile men are rationalizing their positions. I’ve seem plenty of men focus on cases where men are wrongly accused of rape, and while I condemn the way they treat rape itself as unimportant, I can understand their narrow-mindedness where the issue is all about them. These politicians don’t seem to be in the same group.

  • Victor

    ((( “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”))) What God are they talking about here?

    Come on Victor! Don’t be so ignorant! Of inter-course, I mean, of course they are talking about U>S usual sinning gods so wake UP and smell the smoke if ya get my drift? :)

    There’s nothing wrong with ya Victor!

    VERY FUNNY sinner vic! :(

    Peace be with ya

  • Carstonio

    Rape exceptions are there to relieve anti-choice consciences more than
    they are there to make sure women in need get abortions. They
    demonstrate the futility of having outsiders who don’t understand a
    woman’s intimate situation trying to parse whether or not she deserves
    an abortion, whether or not she’s put enough of a good faith effort into
    fitting their model of chaste womanhood to get the abortion she needs.
    Letting women determine for themselves whether or not they need an
    abortion is a far more efficient and fair system; after all, they know
    better than perfect strangers the incredible complexity of their
    personal situations that determine whether or not it’s a good time to
    have a baby.

  • frazer

    True.  But later, when she says what has become known as the Magnificat, Mary seems pretty happy about it.

  • Catholic Doctrine on the matter is that oblique as the conversation between Mary and Gabriel is she did consent and what is more that the Incarnation was conditional not only on her consent but on her unreserved consent.

    Which is one of those interesting snippets of doctrine which like the generally strong and firey nature of many female saints suggest a God far more interested in the personhood of women than the current hierarchy of his church. (From the perspective of a Catholic woman anyway – I would think it looks incoherent to outsiders).

  • Madhabmatics

    When I was living in the Great State of Mississippi during the personhood amendment vote, there were literally flyers that said “If you have been raped and are pregnant, you should thank god for your opportunity to be a mother.”

  • hagsrus

     She was informed after the fact, IIRC – would it have made any difference?

  • fraser

     After Mississippi proclaimed the fetus a child from the point of conception, two legislators proposed prenatal programs for state prisons because the healthcare there is crap, which means an innocent child is being locked up and malnourished through no fault of it’s own. Surprise! No action taken!

  • EllieMurasaki

    After Mississippi proclaimed the fetus a child from the point of conception, two legislators proposed prenatal programs for state prisons because the healthcare there is crap, which means an innocent child is being locked up and malnourished through no fault of it’s own.

    Those legislators deserve a round of applause at the very least.

    Surprise! No action taken!

    Well of course not. That might result in treating criminal women better than they deserve, or in women committing crime to get better prenatal care. (The fact that afaik it is typically more than nine months between doing the crime and doing the time, probably irrelevant.)

  • fraser

     Not me. I get what she says, but there’s no way not to discuss things like rape exceptions and the like as long as abortion and E/C are controversial. Plus I know some rape victims who have strongly different takes on both sides of the issues.

  • Julian Elson

    I guess the idea is supposed to be something like:

    1. Rapist is a human agent. He makes the moral choice to rape or not to rape the victim. If he chooses to rape, that is evil.

    2. Rapist’s sperm may or may not fertilize the victim’s egg, which may or may not implant. That’s God’s choice, and outside of human moral agency.

    3. Victim is a human agent. She makes the moral choice to abort or not to abort the fetus. If she chooses to abort, that is evil.

    So, the rapist shouldn’t rape, and the victim shouldn’t abort if she was raped and impregnated.

    I just don’t buy the putative “defense of fetal life” motives, though.

    For comparison, I find the commitment that (at least some) Jains have to the whole “life is sacred and must never be harmed” idea fairly credible. They seem to have put a lot of thought into it and how it should affect their practices, and it goes pretty far into their cosmological worldview. Maybe they’re not always 100% consistent, but who is? (I don’t think comparing real people to some unattainable ideal of perfect consistency is necessarily fair, but is it unfair to compare them to other real people?)

    I don’t really know how most Jains view abortion (I think they oppose abortion, but I don’t know whether many of them support anti-abortion legislation), but I’d say that it’d be credible if they opposed it on anti-violence grounds. (Although I also wouldn’t be surprised if sexism played a role too, since many Jains do embrace a bizarre form of sexism which claims that women must reincarnate as men to achieve liberation, since renouncing everything including clothing is necessary for liberation, and women can’t decently go about naked…)

    I just just don’t trust the motives of Christians of the Mourdock sort. They don’t seem to have any sort of comprehensive “ahimsa”/”Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben”/whatever type view. They have the common-sense ethical view that being a violent asshole who stabs people to steal their money is bad, shared by basically everyone. Then they oppose abortion. That’s it. There’s no overall worldview opposed to the destruction of life like that of, say, Albert Schweitzer or the Jains. They don’t embrace any sort of positive (free prenatal care for all!) or negative (avoid war at all costs!) commitment to life other than outlawing abortion.

    Then there’s the fact that the whole anti-abortion thing is so correlated with opposition to provision of contraception, etc.

    I guess either they’re sexists who want to strip women of freedom, or they’re scatterbrained and haphazard thinkers who sincerely adopt some kind of ahimsa stance with regard to abortion, but don’t realize that it has any implications beyond that. Either way, I don’t think they’re credible, either because their motives are awful, or because they just don’t think with enough clarity and consistency to be credible. As Wingedwyrm says, no-exceptions anti-abortionists may be more consistent than rape-exception anti-abortionists; I still don’t think they’re consistent enough for me to regard them as arguing with both good faith and intellectual diligence.

  • fraser

    That was in response to Dave’s comment.

  • CoolHandLNC

    “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

    I’m sure Mourdock is well-intentioned, but what I hear is “I … myself … I … I”. It isn’t even necessary to parse the theological implications, it just never even occurs to him that isn’t his decision to make because he doesn’t have to bear (literally) the consequences. That just makes it sanctimonious blather. Now if someone wants to make this argument credibly, maybe we could have a registry for people willing to accept the consequences. Then we could have a law where rape is not an exception as long as there is someone available on the registry. They would get a phone call in the middle of the night informing them that they were now on the hook for a rape victim’s pregnancy. They would have to pay for her prenatal care and delivery, compensate her for lost wages, then they would have to take and love that wonderful, beautiful gift from God and raise him or her to adulthood as their own child. Now that would mean something. Pick up the cross or shut up! But even that would be consensual, so it wouldn’t be quite like rape. So lets make it a law that anyone could have a pregnancy dumped on them without warning. I wonder what chance that would have of passing?

  • fraser

     I’m familiar with this argument. I don’t buy it. Saying that your rights and options shift in different situations isn’t a radical or revolutionary doctrine: The fact landlords can’t discriminate against tenants based on race, sex, religion, etc. doesn’t make it inconsistent that they can discriminate on lots of other grounds.
    That being said, I agree with the argument that fixating on the rape exception is an error: As someone said downthread, it’s the overall right of a woman to decide on her pregnancy that’s at stake (and important).

  • Carstonio

    Saddening to know that the idea of controlling females under the rationalization that males cannot control themselves is universal:

    I have an idea that may seem truly bizarre – how about parents simply teach their sons that they alone are responsible for their behavior, that females don’t exist simply for male pleasure, and that males will be held accountable when they commit rape? Crazy, huh?

  •  ….

    Words fail me. How the fuck are these people not stuck dead by lightning bolt?

  • B

    Agreed.  I’m pro-choice myself, but I don’t think it’s inconsistent to be pro-life and also take the well-being of the mother into consideration.  That’s already what’s happening with exceptions for the mother’s life and health, after all.

    So the argument would then be that the fetus has rights, but that there are circumstances where the harm to the mother from carrying the baby to term  is so serious that it takes precedence over the rights of the fetus, and that pregnancies resulting from rape may be one of those circumstances.  That’s similar to how we treat the rights of the already-born — as important as a right may be, there are almost always some situations where something else takes priority.

    As for why they might say that you could kill a fetus that’s the result of rape but not a toddler that’s the result of rape: with a toddler, there are alternatives that would preserve both the life of the toddler and the health of the mother.  That’s not the case with a fetus.

  •  Yes, making a rape-exception belies the whole “It’s a person from the moment of conception” argument; if a fetus is a person, then allowing abortion only in the case of rape is straight up punishing the child for the father’s sin. Banning abortion except in case of rape VERY CLEARLY requires that you view forced pregnancy as a *punishment* befit women who consent to sex, and don’t care one whit about the life of the fetus, just whether or not the pregnant is “innocent”.


    You’d think that people would question a belief (abortion is wrong) that
    requires them to say repellent things about rape victims. I mean, I’m
    sure these appalling ideas are not new to the people saying them, so why
    are they saying them so publicly now?

    The thing is, you *don’t have to say these repellent things* to hold that view. You can say “Look, rape and pregnancies resulting from rape are horrible, and rapists must be punished, but it doesn’t change the fact that embryos must be protected. Sorry.” 

    But they *choose* not to go that way. They choose to say “If she gets pregnant, it’s not really rape,” or “God wanted her to get pregnant so he divinely inspired the rapist”.

    Why, it’s almost as if it’s got nothing to do with saving TEH BAYBEEZ and everything to do with hurting women.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The thing is, you *don’t have to say these repellent things* to hold that view. You can say “Look, rape and pregnancies resulting from rape are horrible, and rapists must be punished, but it doesn’t change the fact that embryos must be protected. Sorry.”

    Some of them do. The particular person I’m thinking of is also one of the rare birds who opposes the death penalty, so she is at least consistent in her beliefs, if unwilling to think through the effects of opposing legal abortion.

  • crystal

    Would the Dominican mentioned by Fr. Albert Paretsky?  …

  • Mourdock’s position is the only logical and moral position if you believe a foetus is just as much a human as a toddler, teen, adult or senior.

    No, it’s not.

    No one is demanding I give over the use of my body to any sick or injured toddler, teen, adult, or senior. I don’t have to donate bone marrow or even blood. It doesn’t matter how human a fetus is or is not — if someone does not want to go through the incredibly difficult, painful, and dangerous work of pregnancy and childbirth, which will change her body forever, in order that someone else may live, forcing her to is no different than forcing anyone else to give of their body and risk their life so that someone else may live.

    The only reason it’s different for pregnancy is because of two things: 1) the idea that women exist to be incubators and 2) the idea that when a man orgasms inside a woman, it’s somehow her fault, and she must be punished for it.

  • One of my first sexual fantasies was that God literally used Gabriel’s body to impregnate Mary, and that Gabriel and Mary fell in love first.

    I think I was a weird kid.

  • MaryKaye

    While I would not make this argument, I do think you could make a coherent argument that you were weighing harm to both parties and deciding that the harm involved in demanding that a woman bear a child she doesn’t want to bear is lower than the harm of aborting that child, but the harm involved in demanding that a woman bear a child she doesn’t want to bear *when she has just been raped* is higher, and is too high.

    I have to say, though, this is not at all what I’m hearing in the US.  For one thing, it would invite us to consider whether there are other circumstances where the harm to the woman outweighs the harm to the fetus, and that is not a discussion abortion opponents seem to want to have.

    When I was getting ready to adopt an older child, I read a story in one of my adoption-prep books that made a painful impression on me.  An infertile couple adopted an older child with reactive attachment disorder (a mental illness stemming from early attachment problems–lack of parenting–and potentially leading to very serious behavioral issues).  Then they found out that the adoptive mother was pregnant.  They had wanted a child very much, but having a baby with their current adopted child around seemed disastrous.  They decided to keep the baby.  Their older child attempted to kill the baby and had to be institutionalized, very possibly for life.

    Some years after reading that story I was myself the adoptive parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder–gods grant, not as severe as in that story.  And one month I missed my period.

    I had always put myself in the category of “firmly pro-choice but would not have an abortion.”  I was pretty confident I would not have an abortion if raped, though of course one never knows in advance.  But I had never considered the situation where having a baby might be a catastrophe for my older child.  (Adoption is not a panacea.  Consider how an insecurely-attached child will react to seeing his parents *send a baby away*.  Bear in mind that in practice, if kids with RAD don’t resolve it to some extent while they are still kids, they don’t ever resolve it, and that means, with high probability, prison or institutionalization for life.)

    I actually thanked the gods, sincerely, when I found out that I wasn’t pregnant, I just had a bleeding disorder that would need intensive treatment.  It came somewhat close to killing me and it was *still* better than being pregnant would have been.

    I think I would have had an abortion.  I didn’t know there were circumstances that would lead me to do that, but it seems there were.

    How the hell is anyone else going to know whether I should or shouldn’t?  Who knows my child better than I do?  Who can forsee what the household would have been like better than I could?  How are you going to make an interventionist law about this that would be even slightly just?

  • I guess either they’re sexists who want to strip women of freedom, or they’re scatterbrained and haphazard thinkers who sincerely adopt some kind of ahimsa stance with regard to abortion, but don’t realize that it has any implications beyond that.

    Those two options are not mutually exclusive.  Actually, I tend to think that they are rather complimentary.  

  • Compliment: To praise.

    Complement: Connotes ‘together’.


  • Nifty. I always figured such people must have existed, but found it troubling that I never managed to find one.

  • wendy

    Except that the toddler isn’t *still* breathing off someone else’s bloodstream, kidneys, thyroid, leaching the calcium from her bones, messing with her blood pressure, maybe causing clots, maybe giving her diabetes, and even in the easiest least complicated case putting her in line for many more hours of extreme pain and skeletal alteration that people looking at her bones a thousand years after her death will be able to recognize. 

    An unwanted pregnancy is a *continuing* assault. 

    By Talmudic law, a pregnancy that poses harm to the pregnant woman doesn’t involve an “innocent” child at all, there’s a pursuer threatening an innocent woman. The proper, righteous course of action is to defend that woman. 

  • BC

    I’ve always read Luke 1:26-38, the angel visitation to Mary, as God’s way of asking permission of Mary before the “visitation of the Holy Spirit.”  Had Mary responded negatively, I think the angel might have said something along the lines of  “My bad.  Forget we ever had this conversation” and gone to some other virgin.  I never thought that Jesus was “implanted into his mother’s womb against her will.”  

  • BC

    More like requiring all Americans to give their organs to someone else even if they didn’t want to.  “Okay, we need a kidney and you, BC, are the perfect match.  See you at the hospital tomorrow at 7 am.”