Answering the Rape Question

by C. Fletcher Armstrong, PhD

What about rape?  It’s one of the most popular questions they ask us.  Often, its an attempt to prove that we pro-lifers are either (a) insensitive "fetus-lovers" who don't care about women, or (b) ethically inconsistent, allowing abortion in some cases and not in others. 

When addressing the question we should be aware that not all people are trying to trip us up.  Some who ask the question are victims of rape themselves.

Others believe they have a trump card and they intend to play it.  Their trump card is the "obvious fact" that abortion should be allowed in the case of rape (less than 1% of all abortions).  They will play that card and then try to extrapolate that justification to include all abortions (including, for example, the one that he purchased or might want to purchase in the future).  It's a logical fallacy, but given the lack of sophistication characteristic of most college students, it's not a surprising one.

Many are sincerely trying to understand the public policy consequences of our proposition that the lives of all children, including all preborn children, should be respected.  Many people agree with the position that abortion should not be allowed generally but should be allowed in the case of rape.  CBR does not hold this position, but many people who consider themselves to be pro-life believe that although abortion should not be allowed for parents who consent to sex (because it is murder), women who were victims of violent crime should be given every opportunity to mitigate the consequences of the crime against her.

Normally, when rape is not part of the question, we should try to steer the discussion, as quickly as possible, to the humanity of the unborn child and the horror of abortion. But in this case, if we don't address the horrible crime committed against the woman, we run the risk of reinforcing the stereotype that we ourselves are inhuman, incapable of feeling compassion toward a woman who has been terribly brutalized.  If we do that, we have lost our audience.  Therefore, this question requires special treatment. May I propose a 6-point response to the rape question:

  1. Do you know someone who is a victim of rape? (As a pro-lifer, you are an empathetic and caring person. If the answer is "yes," you need to show compassion. Sometimes, the person will say that she herself has been raped and had an abortion.  This person doesn't need an argument or a debate; she has been victimized twice, so procede with understanding.  We will address this in a future article.)
  2. I’m wondering if there is anything we can do more to prevent rape and to punish the perpetrator. What do you think? (You want the person to tell you what is on his or her mind.)
  3. Some people say it is appropriate to respond to this terrible act of violence by committing a second act of violence, this time against the woman and the child she is carrying. But is that really helpful to her? Will it unrape her? Will it remove the memory of the rape?
  4. Let me tell you where else they do this. In some parts of India and the Middle East, when a woman is raped, she is seen as unclean. The family is so ashamed that she may be sold into prostitution, or male family members may even try to kill her (an innocent victim) to get rid of the embarrassment. We recoil in horror from that practice, and then we turn around in the U.S. and do the same thing to the other innocent victim, the baby, and we do it for reasons that are very similar.
  5. Think about our position that the preborn child is equal to the born child. Would you ever say that the born child that is the product of rape is less of a person than the born child from a loving relationship? Would you say it’s OK to kill an infant whose father was a rapist, but protect an infant who is from a loving relationship? Of course not. We don’t discriminate; we treat them equally.  So how could we discriminate against some children before they are born?
  6. Some people seem to believe that abortion somehow mitigates the harm that rape does to a woman. Would it surprise you to learn than many rape victims themselves disagree? In his book, Victims and Victors, David Reardon surveyed 164 women who had been raped and became pregnant. Some aborted; some carried to term.  Of those who aborted, only 1 expressed no regret about her decision to abort.  Over 90% said abortion had not been a good solution and would not recommend it to others in the same situation. Many aborted because they were pressured to do so.  Of those who carried their babies to term, none expressed regret for that decision.  To summarize, those who aborted wished they hadn't; those who carried were glad they did.  This was not a rigorous statistical study, but the numbers are so overwhelming that they cast doubt on whether abortion is a compassionate response to rape.
  7. This is Point 7 in my 6-point answer. At this point, the question is answered, but I try to go on the offensive at this point.  Most people are totally unaware that sexual predators routinely use abortion to cover up their crimes against minor children.  I talk about this and send them to and  It blows their minds, and the proof is so overwhelming, the abortion industry has no defense against it, other than to ignore it and hope we don't bring it up.

Well, that's my 6-point (or 7-point) answer.  Let me encourage you to read it, study it, learn it, and use it.  Let me know what you think!

Fletcher Armstrong, PhD
Southeast Director
Center for Bio-Ethical Reform