An argument against abortion in the case of rape

It\’s a very good argument too.

Judy Ann Miracle

I will admit to never having really understood the argument that pregnancy from rape is an all out proof that abortion is at times not just allowable but the righteous and just thing to do.

For whatever your views on short skirts and getting pissed as contributions to being raped are, however you insist that it\’s always and everywhere the attacker\’s fault, it does seem extremely odd to insist that the one absolute innocent in the scenario is the one selected to die.

21 comments on “An argument against abortion in the case of rape

  1. I have always assumed there is a vaguely eugenic angle – a rapist must be such a loser that his genes are not worth spreading. And it might be bad to spread them anyway given the apple does not fall far from the tree etc.

  2. If someone moves into your home uninvited, you’re allowed to evict them. If someone moves into your uterus, on the other hand…

  3. Exactly, Matthew.

    Somehow I suspect Tim would not be this sympathetic if the woman had been raped and impregnated by the state or big government.

  4. Ben: Although I don’t presume to put words into Tim’s mouth, nothing he’s said would suggest such a conclusion. I disagree with his position on abortion, but I respect his motives.

  5. Ben & Matthew,

    But you miss the central point. Someone moving into your home uninvited is doing it of their own volition; guilt for their act is attributable to them.

    The conceptus from a rape is an innocent third party.

  6. On both sides, harsh conclusions must follow from the premises one starts with. Most people fudge this.

    There have been some news stories recently about situations where people followed the the premise that abortion is entirely the choice of the mother to its logical conclusion. For example those people who were outraged about the use of abortion to select for boys against girls. Why should that choice be forbidden when deciding to abort to avoid expense or damage to one’s career is permitted? The ethicists in Australia who argued for infanticide also had a point, given the premise they started from. What is so absolute about birth as the dividing line?

    The premise of the anti-abortion side is that the foetus is a human being. You cannot kill a human being without desperate reason. You cannot even, to use Matthew L’s example, evict an uninvited guest (an innocent; not an invader) if it means that the evicted person will meet certain death. It’s not like throwing someone out of your house onto the street, it’s like throwing someone out of your boat onto the open sea. This rule would, logically, apply even if the woman is pregnant as a result of rape and suffers horrendous mental suffering.

    It is not clear in the specific case of the lady profiled in the Guardian whether her mother did suffer more as a result of not having the abortion than she would if she had succeeded in getting it; the fact that she celebrated her daughter’s birthday and told her she was “perfect” suggests not. There is also the question of the value of the daughter’s life. Although she has suffered emotionally from her knowledge that she was conceived from rape she does not give the impression of wishing not to have been born.

    (To be clear about my own postition, I am anti-abortion except very early on. To decide the dividing line is difficult, and inevitably results in some hard cases, but the decision must be made.)

  7. Certain extreme property-rights libertarians would argue that you do have the right to throw an innocent off your boat, and that you have no obligation to offer assistance to someone whose life is in danger. I, and our host, while supporters of property rights are clearly not so absolute. It is strange to see left wingers who absolutely condemn this attitude when met with in an American presidential candidate support it in the case of abortion.

  8. If such a hard line pro-life stance is taken then how can any military action be justified?

    A completely pacifist population would not get killed by the invading force. Its only when the population resists an invasion that the killing starts.

    I find it very odd that so many pro-life Americans rant on about the sanctity of life, and in the very next breath talk about bombing the crap out of some random middle eastern country.

    Be very careful pandering to the American Taliban….

  9. I rather admire the American Democratic politician who had the balls to say “Abortion is murder and I approve of it”. At least he didn’t attempt to euphemise the subject. And as for rape abortions – isn’t it almost biblical, executing the child because its father is a criminal?

  10. Somehow I suspect Tim would not be this sympathetic if the woman had been raped and impregnated by the state or big government.

    I think Tim would be very angry at the government for doing that. It’s still not the baby’s fault that it’s there.

  11. Alan,

    You ask:

    “If such a hard line pro-life stance is taken then how can any military action be justified?”

    Again, the key here is “innocent”; the pro-life position is that it is wrong to take innocent human life. Military action can be justified when there is guilt involved.

    Why is it “hard line” to pretect the innocent?

  12. I’m in the “abortion is a necessary evil” camp. Also the “complex moral decisions are best made by the person most affected by them” camp. I don’t know at what point an embryo/foetus obtains the same right to life as a walking talking competent adult, partly because it’s not clear-cut so wherever you draw the line it’s as arbitrary as the age of consent or speed limits – in that some reasonable behaviour caught the wrong side of the line is defined as illegal and plenty of unreasonable behaviour the other side of the line isn’t. But becoming human is a development thing. Even as adults some get further than others towards the “ideal”. And while for various historical and ethical reasons the line has to be drawn that gives lots of benefit of doubt to the innocent party, there is nothing magical about conception that confers instant human status on the conceptus.

    The point with military action is that innocents are invariably killed so a pro-lifer should capitulate and suffer colonisation rather than see innocents die. In practice, if we were invaded by Nevereardovitstan, we would happily trade innocent British and Nevereardovitstani lives to defend our freedom, self-determination and so on, so even the right to life is subject to the “trade-off rather than solution” thing.

  13. “I don’t know at what point an embryo/foetus obtains the same right to life as a walking talking competent adult”: English law traditionally distinguished procuring an abortion from infanticide from murder.

  14. I do think it’s quite funny in a not-ha-ha way that the people who insist most strongly that foetuses aren’t persons and thus have no right, are the same who most strongly insist that said foetuses have a right to be protected from gender discrimination.

    It’s a tangled web, the progressive mind, yes indeedy.

  15. It’s a most engaging suprise that abortion has come up as a topic here several times in the last few months and has, apart from the occasional swivel-eyed lefty loon, been mostly discussed calmly and rationally.

    Abortion is a difficult topic, and one about which libertarians and others of good will may honestly disagree.

    On many other websites, including even those of the Mighty Minds over at Samizdata and CCiZ, the discussion is often confused and quickly descends into vitriol.

  16. The law is probably, as often, at odds with reality. In fact at least some laws on this definitely are as different places have different laws. This is not made easier by the fact that I doubt there is an answer to the question as to when the embryo/foetus becomes deserving of the protection from killing the rest of us desire for ourselves.

    So the easiest solution I see is not one based on some airy-fairy concept of universal or inalienable rights but a utilitarian one. Which solution results in the best outcome? Dunno what the answer is either but it likely involves letting people make their own informed choices to a large extent. I’d probably see abortion under all circumstances banned at 38 weeks, probably see it legal under all circumstances at 6 weeks. You could set a threshold of sorts based on at what stage a given percentage of pregnancies are lost to spontaneous abortion anyway.

  17. alan – “If such a hard line pro-life stance is taken then how can any military action be justified?”

    Are you suggesting all soldiers go around murdering babies? Or perhaps you are simply unaware of the large body of ethical literature that talks about when unintended consequences are acceptable in the course of military action?

    “A completely pacifist population would not get killed by the invading force. Its only when the population resists an invasion that the killing starts.”

    So Clauswitz said. But we know this is not true. We have a very good documented example in the case of the Moriori who absolutely did not resist. As the Maori went around eating the men and enslaving the women. Hundreds of ethnic groups no longer exist because they failed to defend themselves properly.

    “I find it very odd that so many pro-life Americans rant on about the sanctity of life, and in the very next breath talk about bombing the crap out of some random middle eastern country.”

    So much for you.

    “Be very careful pandering to the American Taliban….”

    Anyone who uses a term like American Taliban is a fool who loses their right to be taken seriously in any way whatsoever. Why do you do it?

  18. I’m a pragmatist: I find Peirce’s dictum that all relevance is to be found in possible consequences self evident – so the possible disagreement here lies, as I see it, not in whether you describe abortion as murder or not, but whether you’d be willing to support the state punishing it as what is generally described as murder. Maybe the two sides here are actually quite near to an agreement?

  19. If you think that abortion is murder, then it shouldn’t matter how the pregnancy was conceived.

    But, just to be clear for the men commenting here, that means that if your wife, sister, or daughter should find herself thus impregnated, you should be willing to tell her that it’s her moral duty to bear the child.

    The example of rape is much quoted because many opponents of abortion are not honestly able to say they would do that.

  20. Timmy: I agree. In rape cases, indeed instead of any abortions for any reason, they newborn should be sent round to you to keep and look after.

    How big is your house?

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