Shouldn't We Allow Abortions to Help Victims of Rape?

Brian Clowes
Reproduced with Permission
Human Life Inteernational

"Some people disclaim their natural heritage. I always name my origin. It didn't hold me back and neither has my color. I was born in poverty. My father raped my mother when she was 12. Now they've named a park for me in Chester, Pennsylvania." - Renowned Gospel singer Ethel Waters.1

From an ethical and logical standpoint, a baby conceived through violence is as blameless and innocent as one conceived in marriage, and is therefore deserving of the same protection. Either all preborn babies are worth saving, or none of them are.

As the pro-abortion group 'Religious' Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) says, "Opponents of abortion rights walk a fine line within their own movement when they condone any abortion. Based on their own definition, they are guilty of being accessories to "murder" in certain circumstances by accepting rape and incest exceptions."2

RCRC correctly points out that pro‑lifers must never condone a single abortion, and must never apologize for fighting abortions due to rape and incest. If we allow that preborn lives are disposable for any reason, we set the life of the preborn below that of other human beings - and this is what started our nation and our world on the road to abortion on demand in the first place.

Does Abortion Help the Woman?

As reformed abortionist Bernard Nathanson has so eloquently stated:

"Rape is a heinous, ineradicably humiliating act of violence imposed upon a defenseless woman. The key word is 'ineradicable,' for the destruction of the innocent human being created as a result of that act can never eradicate the unspeakable emotional and psychological residue of that rape. To the contrary, it can only compound the residue with another deadly act of violence."3

As with any other pregnancy that was unplanned, the woman's problem is not that she's pregnant. The main problem heaped upon the mother after the trauma of rape is how others think of her and treat her. Rape and incest victims have always unjustly been victims of the "Scarlet Letter Syndrome," but 'treating' this problem of societal perspective with abortion is like saying that the woman is a hopeless case or "damaged goods."

Former rape counselor Sandra Mahkorn, M.D., says:

"The central issue then should not be whether we can abort all pregnant sexual assault victims, but rather an exploration of the things we can change in ourselves, and through community education, to support such women through their pregnancies. The 'abortion is the best solution' approach can only serve to encourage the belief that sexual assault is something for which the victim must bear shame - a sin to be carefully concealed."4

What is more caring - to sneer at a rape victim's problem and tell her to "just get rid of it," or to respect the life within her and give her the real help she needs? Here are the thoughts of one rape survivor:



In summary, the tragedy is the rape - not the child that is conceived. Contrary to what pro‑abortionists apparently believe, two injustices do not equal a right or a healed life. The greatest pain of the first injustice lasts nine months, but the pain of the abortion 'remedy' lasts a lifetime.

Some may answer that the woman has a right to be free from assault. This is true, of course, but in the case of abortion for rape, the assault has already happened. Just as the woman has a right to be free from assault, so does her preborn baby. Allowing her abortion for rape under this argument is like saying that anyone else who is physically assaulted can find healing and peace by going out into the street and punching the first person he or she sees.

Finally, how many people believe that there should be capital punishment for rapists? Obviously, a very small minority. If the majority of people do not favor capital punishment for the obviously guilty rapist, why then should they favor it for the innocent child, who has committed no crime whatsoever?

How Many Abortions Due to Rape Are There?

Since pro‑abortionists and the corrupt media exclusively emphasize the "hard cases," they have persuaded the public that the number of women obtaining abortions for rape is huge. A national Wirthlin poll found that the average respondent's guess at the number of abortions committed for rape and incest was 21% of the total number of abortions in the United States.5

However, the actual number of abortions due to rape is miniscule. During the time period 1996-2011, six states compiled the reasons that 1.3 million women obtained abortions. Abortions for both rape and incest totaled 0.13% of all abortions - that's one out of every 770.6

Like all of the other abortion exceptions, the exception for abortions due to rape is routinely abused by pro-abortionists. For example:

Of course, pro-abortionists could not care less that such lying makes it much more difficult for law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute real rapists, and opens up the very real possibility of innocent men being prosecuted for rape.10

In summary, the number of abortions due to rape is much smaller than people believe, a tiny part of 1%.

Rape Protocol in Catholic Hospitals

Catholic health care professionals have developed a rape protocol that has been approved by the bishops. The doctor uses a simple test to determine if the victim has ovulated. If she has not ovulated, she is given a drug that prevents ovulation. If she has already ovulated, she is not given the drug because it may prevent implantation.11



It is not enough to simply administer a pregnancy test, because even if it were negative, a conception could have taken place in the weeks before the sexual assault.

This "ovulation approach" protocol is based on the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services [¶36], which states:

"A woman who has been raped may defend herself against conception resulting from sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there were no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum."

In addition, the victim should receive continuing spiritual and psychological counseling and support to assist her in dealing with the trauma of the attack.

Final Thoughts

Abortions due to rape can never be justified for several reasons.


1 Ethel Waters, quoted in testimony on July 25, 1983 by Congressman Thomas J. Bliley, Jr., (R‑Va.), and reprinted in the Congressional Record. Also in her book His Eye Is on the Sparrow, pages 277 and 278. [Back]

2 ‘Religious’ Coalition for Abortion Rights (now RCRC). Booklet entitled "Words of Choice." 1991, Washington, C. Page 24 [Back]

3 Bernard Nathanson, M.D., statement to the Virginia State legislature, February 11, 1982. [Back]

4 Rape counselor Sandra Mahkorn, M.D. "Pregnancy and Sexual Assault." The Psychological Aspects of Abortion [Washington, C.: University Publications of America], 1979, pages 65 and 66. [Back]

5 Results of a 1990 Wirthlin poll described in "The Week." National Review, December 3, 1990, page 12. [Back]

6 For a summary of calculations and references supporting this figure, e-mail Brian Clowes at and request Excel spreadsheet F-03-01.XLS. [Back]

7 Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer. A Woman's Book of Choices: Abortion, Menstrual Extraction, RU‑486 [New York City: Four Walls Eight Windows Press], 1992, page 39. [Back]

8 Andrew Sheehan. "New Abortion Law Brings More Reports of Rape." Pittsburgh Post‑Gazette, June 25, 1988, page 5. [Back]

9 Congresswoman Nita Lowey [D. NY], Chair of the House Reproductive Choice Caucus, on what to do when eligibility for abortion funding under the Hyde Amendment was expanded to include rape and incest in the Summer of 1992. Quoted in Michael Kramer. "Will Abortion be Covered?" Time Magazine, September 27, 1993, page 40. [Back]

10 Ferris B. Lucas, Executive Director of the National Sheriff's Association, has said, "We do, however, wish to comment on the provisions that would allow federal funds to be paid for abortions performed for treatment of rape or incest victims only. The wording would lead a person desirous of an abortion to make false reports to law enforcement agencies which would have to be checked and investigated to some length. These crimes are not easy ones to prove or disprove and resultantly require many man‑hours of investigation. American law enforcement agencies are presently overburdened and do not have this vast amount of time available" [July 18, 1977, quoted by Congressman Thomas J. Bliley (R‑Va.) in July 25, 1983 testimony printed in the Congressional Record]. [Back]

11 "NCBC Statement on Connecticut Legislation Regarding Treatment for Victims of Sexual Assault." National Catholic Bioethics Center Web site, October 3, 2007. [Back]