I completely understand why “pro-choicers” use rape as their trump card. If the preborn are simply clumps of cells lacking moral status or the mother’s bodily autonomy takes precedence regardless, then how much more justified is abortion when her bodily autonomy has already been grossly violated, when there’s a thing inside her as a lingering reminder of this violation, and when she is irrefutably in no way responsible for its presence? Of course, “pro-choicers” think pro-lifers who are opposed to abortion even in the case of rape are sadistic monsters.
Rape, however, cannot be an exception for those identifying as “pro-life.” For emphasis: You cannot call yourself “pro-life” if you believe abortion is justifiable in the case of rape.
Why are you “pro-life”? If you are only pro-life because you think women ought to keep their legs closed and ought to suffer the “punishment” of a baby lest they do otherwise, then you are vindictive and merciless, and only motivated by control, and not actually life.
If, however, you are genuinely pro-life—if you are pro-life for the “right reasons”—then you recognize that every single human being is intrinsically deserving of human rights, the foremost of which is the right to life, and that no secondary factors, like age, abilities, or parentage, detract from this entitlement. If you are pro-life, you recognize that all human beings are equally valuable, from conception to natural death.
The pro-life position cannot be reconciled with a rape exception.
To elaborate, if I encountered a “pro-lifer” with such an exception, I may ask him or her if it is acceptable to kill a newborn infant conceived in rape. The usual scenario presented in these conversations is that a woman has consensual sex with her husband, and the following day is raped by a stranger. She finds out she’s pregnant, but isn’t sure if the father is her husband or the rapist. When she gives birth, she sees that the baby is a spitting image of the rapist, and she starts reliving that trauma—can she kill the baby? Or perhaps she’s held in captivity and her first chance to kill the child is upon birth. Anyone decent, whether pro-life or “pro-choice,” ought to proclaim “no!” in horror.
So, the follow-up question, then, is “What’s the difference?” Why would it be okay to kill a child in the womb conceived in rape, but not a child outside the womb conceived in rape?
You cannot cite a difference without undermining the entire pro-life argument, which rests on the belief that birth is not morally relevant when it comes to our worth. The preborn and born are deserving of equal protection.
Someone with a rape exception may argue that the degree of suffering such a woman experiences specifically during pregnancy justifies stripping her child of his or her right to life. I would not, in any way, attempt to downplay this suffering. This argument begs a counter-example, though. What if a woman is pregnant through consensual sex, but faces every other sort of obstacle? What if the father has turned out to be abusive? What if her parents are threatening to disown her if she doesn’t have an abortion? What if she has lost her job? What if she fears for the safety and well-being of her other children? What if her mental health has plummeted? Does her suffering not matter? Hypothetically, you can play enough of these cards for that sort of suffering to be comparable to the suffering of a pregnant woman who was raped.
Either killing an innocent human being as a “solution” to suffering is wrong or it’s not. It’s difficult to maintain lines in the sand afterwards once you grant that there may be some cases which merit killing. You can’t keep the floodgates closed after that.
Finally, some people may only hold onto a rape exception as a matter of political expediency—but these people are snakes in the grass, not to be trusted.
If someone is willing to tolerate a human rights violation—the killing of any preborn child conceived in rape—despite knowing that that preborn child is as valuable as the rest of us, simply because it is the more popular, digestible stance, then this unprincipled charlatan might next throw you under the bus if the masses turn against you. After all, at heart, you are no different than that child conceived in rape. Only happenstance—that you are not presently targeted and dehumanized—protects you.
I acknowledge that the majority of “pro-lifers” with rape exceptions likely have simply not thought deeply about the internal consistency (or lack thereof) of their position. Maybe they’re uncomfortable with baby-killing, but they also don’t want to be seen as uncompassionate extremists, so they’ve settled into what they think is reasonable middle ground.
There is no middle ground here. There are just dead bodies of the innocent. With faces frozen and eyes glazed over, they’re probably unable to see the rationale for this exception. You don’t get to call that “pro-life.”