In the raging debate over whether abortion should be legal, those who claim to be pro-choice often cite cases of rape and incest as justifying easy access to abortion. What they fail to mention is that less than 1 percent of abortions are performed on women who are pregnant because of rape or incest.
I am part of that less-than-1-percent. Stop trying to make me your poster child for keeping abortion legal. I don’t want the job.
Pro-choice advocates argue that having legal access to abortion is essential for women’s rights. To have the right to kill our own children in the womb is essential for female empowerment. Okay, maybe they don’t say it quite like that. They use euphemisms like “reproductive autonomy” or “women’s reproductive health.”
My experience is that abortion is anything but empowering. In fact, I had an abortion because I felt powerless.
I was a rape victim at 14 and on that day I lost all sense of control and power. And I told no one. When it happened again—another date rape I was powerless to stop—I told no one. Then, when I was 17 and an older, married man drugged and raped me, I was thankful I couldn’t remember the details of the attack. I was not thankful that he got me pregnant.
And so abortion became my only option because I was powerless to keep this child that was part of me and yet her own person. What society and those I sought counsel from told me was that I couldn’t have that child and pursue my plans of going to college. I couldn’t have that child and be a successful person. I understood that I wasn’t strong enough or powerful enough to bear that child and live a fulfilling life.
Having a right to abort my child didn’t empower me; it stole any shred of feeling powerful that may have remained. Carrying out that right left me broken and more powerless than ever. I thought taking the life of my child would give me back my life, but I was never the same. The life I gained has been fraught with depression, addiction, and suicidal ideation. Although I’ve finally reached a place of peace, the years I lost can never be restored.
Instead of empowering me, my abortion empowered my rapist to get off scot-free. The physical evidence of his transgression was destroyed. I was left with trauma upon trauma to contend with on my own.
In the case of incest, a father can abuse his teenage daughter, get her pregnant, then take her in for an abortion. He can thus destroy the evidence of his evil actions and continue abusing her. How is that empowering to the daughter?
In the case of prostitution, pimps can coerce prostitutes to have abortions so that they can get back to work. How is that empowering to women forced into that life?
Whether to have an abortion was supposed to be my choice, but I didn’t feel I had any other choice.
The right to have an abortion isn’t liberating or empowering.
Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it, 2800 times a day? If women doing something 2,800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation we’ve won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression. Frederica Mathewes-Green, When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.
So if less than 1 percent of abortions are because of rape or incest, what reasons account for the other 99 percent? According to a Guttmacher Institute survey, approximately 7 percent of abortions were because of significant health problems with the child or mother. I’ve personally known women—like my pastor’s wife—who were told their child had a significant health problem and would not survive, so she should abort. She chose not to and that same child is now 24 and thriving. So the only thing an abortion would have empowered her to do was to kill a child she dearly loves for no good reason.
The remaining 92 percent of abortions were sought for socio-economic reasons such as the financial inability to care for the child, or because the mother couldn’t pursue her college education or career if she had the child. None of these reasons sound like women being empowered. They sound like women being told what they are powerless to do.
I belong to a closed Facebook group called I Regret My Abortion. From time to time, women have joined this group seeking advice on what to do about an unplanned pregnancy. They are feeling pressured to have an abortion—either by family or by the father—but are conflicted because they don’t really want to. The recurring theme in these pleas for advice and help from a group that, based on its title, is clearly going to counsel them to NOT abort, is this: fear.
Women faced with an unplanned pregnancy are often afraid. What they need is someone to say: “You can do this.” “You are stronger than you think.” “There are resources to help you financially and emotionally.” “I’m here for you if you decide to have this child.”
But that’s not what we hear. Instead we are fed lies that compound our fear.
A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.” For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine. Frederica Mathewes-Green, When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.
But when we do go off “and do this one thing,” everything isn’t fine. And we are left alone in our anger and grief. We are left to deal with the emotional fall-out that so often leads to depression, addiction, and even suicide.
Maybe instead of fighting for the right of a woman to kill her child so she can get ahead and live her life, we should fight for the right of women to be treated with respect, to be supported in a decision that affirms life—hers and her child’s.
Abortion doesn’t solve the problem of rape and incest. It doesn’t solve the problem of poverty and homelessness. It doesn’t solve the problem of fear of the future. It doesn’t solve any real problems, only imagined ones. Because a child isn’t a problem no matter how he or she was conceived.
So quit trying to use me—the rape victim who got pregnant—as your poster child for keeping abortion legal. I don’t want the job.