Last night I talked to someone I hold near and dear to my heart. The subject of politics came up, specifically Sarah Palin. After listening I said with a questioning tone, So I take it you're Republicans then? Well, Matt is but I'm more of an independent and then for a reason that I know has to do with being impressionable, she went on to tell me that she thinks abortion is murder even in the case of rape and incest and that a vote on abortion should be put to the states.
I just about died.
This person is my sister. Even though we have our differences, I respect her enough to listen and to try to understand her perspective and why she holds it. I also think it is my responsibility to tell her mine and why I hold it, because she should respect me and my position and why I hold it. We don't have to agree with each other but I do expect her to think about what her position means.
I told her what I would tell anyone who got into it with me. I think government and other people have no business, indeed no right, to dictate that a woman must carry a pregnancy to term that arose through rape or incest. Forcing someone to endure a pregnancy, a medically risky proposition, is like raping them again.
She said abortion is murder.
I think what is aborted are just cells, sure they are alive — but so are bacteria, lichen, oak trees, slugs, kittens, Malamutes, convicts and cancer cells.
If abortion is murder, then so is killing someone's family pet and so is killing someone on death row.
If you think it's your right to tell someone else they have to continue to be pregnant when they are pregnant through rape or incest because to do otherwise is morally wrong because it's murder, then you better not eat meat, wear fur or support the death penalty.
Inflicting an unwanted pregnancy on a woman who has been raped is raping her again. That pregnancy can become a constant reminder of having been raped when coping with the effects of rape are already difficult enough. Why make it harder?
As I found out this morning when I set out to do some more research on the psychological consequences of abortion, I found that anti-abortion sites often cite bogus studies that supposedly support the existence of something called 'post-abortion syndrome.' This is supposedly supposed to convince us that it's harmful for women to have an abortion.
According to the APA, American Psychological Association, there is no evidence that abortion causes psychological harm. They based this decision on the best scientific research available. If you would like to read the actual research, it is summarized in the APA's 1992 publication, Psychological Factors in Abortion: A Review. The APA's position statement is available here.
Here's another way to look at the consequences of forcing a woman who conceives through rape - through the lens of evolutionary psychology. Because I am a responsible academic, I will preface this by pointing out that the subject of evolution and rape is a seriously controversial one in psychology. The popular opinion is that rape is a product of the socially constructed power differences between men and women and that it has nothing to do with sex and reproduction. I personally do not agree with that. I think rape is a product of power differences between men and women that are socially constructed and reinforced but also that those power differences arose from evolutionary forces, specifically sexual selection. Women still prefer to mate/pair with men who are wealthy and who are taller, bigger and more muscular. As long as they do, and have more babies with those men, that power difference will continue. When women no longer need to marry a wealthy man to live well, you'll see that change. Equal pay. That is a pro-woman issue too.
But back to rape and the evolutionary psychology of it. If rape is a behavior that has anything to do with a genetic predisposition or susceptibility to use sexual violence to assert power, then do you really want the rapist's offspring, possibly carrying the genes for that psychological susceptibility, to live and have the opportunity to rape and reproduce those genes? Yes, I know that implies something that sounds an awful lot like eugenics. Because it is. But remember, people practice eugenics everyday without realizing it. Most people don't marry just anyone or have children with just anyone. People choose their mates and choose them selectively. Deep down, selective mating is about selecting someone on the basis of what they look like and how they act, both of which are affected at some level by genetics. When you refuse to get sexually involved with a guy because he's not good-looking enough, lacks the smarts or ambition to advance his career, is alcoholic or developmentally delayed — you, whether you like it or not, are practicing a form of eugenics. So why make a fuss over extracting some cells from a woman's uterus?
Is it morally wrong to do that because, unlike cancer cells, they might grow up to do something good in this world? They might also grow up to be a serial killer. More likely, they will just be another cog in the wheel of life on this already overcrowded planet.
Some people, my sister included and I know so because she said so, think it's okay to force a woman to carry a rape pregnancy to term because she doesn't have to keep the child. As if having to keep the child is the fundamental problem... but okay, let's just say that it is for the sake of the argument. If you're going to try to make a woman, pregnant through rape who doesn't want to be pregnant, feel better by telling her she doesn't actually have to keep the child, that she can give it up for adoption, then you better have a better reason than 'it's morally wrong to have an abortion' and you better pay and pay dearly to give those unwanted children the best possible life and education. I don't see extreme anti-abortion people advocating for raising taxes to put more funding into the DHS or to pay for health care and education for children. And, even if they were, it would not make it acceptable to force a woman to be pregnant.
Now if you ask me, the pragmatic thing to do, the best thing to do for everyone involved, is to let the woman get an abortion if she wants one.