Alex Blaze

Even in cases of rape and incest.... Oh, no, here we go again

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 08, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: bristol palin, bristol palin's baby, palin, pregnancy, pro-choice, pro-life, Sarah Palin

Am I the only one who's getting tired of hearing liberals use the phrase "...even in cases of rape and incest" when they talk about Sarah Palin's extreme opposition to abortion?

No doubt about it, the argument is everywhere: being opposed to abortion is right-wing, but being opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest is supposed to be even further out there. I've heard it incessantly ever since Sarah Palin famously answered that she'd force her daughter to carry to term even if she was raped. That there was no exception for rape and incest was one of the reasons the South Dakota ballot initiative in 2006 to ban abortion failed. And Googling the phrase "even in cases of rape and incest" turns up 43,100 results in 0.30 seconds, and that doesn't count the many other ways there are to express that sentiment.

What gets me about it is the implication that it's even worse to oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest than just opposing abortion for women who chose to have sex. I know that most liberals who use that phrase support a woman's right to choose in all cases, but the implication is still there: women who choose to have sex deserve to be punished with pregnancy.

There are quite a few Americans who fall into this space between being OK with whatever a woman chooses to do with her body and being against abortion at all times:

A July [2005] survey by the Pew Research Center found slightly more than a third (35%) saying that abortion should be "generally available to those who want it:" 23% believe it should be available under "stricter limits;" 31% say abortion should be against the law except in cases of rape, incest and to save the woman's life; and 9% say abortion should not be permitted at all.

Almost a third of the country are in that supposedly in-between space, and 23% have made up a "stricter limits" space for themselves based on whatever criteria they thought appropriate.

I agree with the 35% position saying that abortion should be generally available to women who choose that option. No amount of talk about little fingernails is going to convince me that a fetus is a full human being, and no one should be put into the position of carrying a child against her will. And considering that up 50% of all pregnancies are terminated naturally, often so early the mother doesn't even know that she's pregnant, I don't think that God or nature or whoever is in charge thinks these are full human beings we're talking about here.

Either way, it's not my body that would be forced to carry a baby if someone else got pregnant, so what position would I be in to tell a woman that her analysis and experiences are invalid?

I also understand that 9% who think that there should never be any abortion, not in cases of rape, incest, harm to the woman's life, or whatever. I don't agree, but if someone actually thinks that a fetus is a full human being with the rights to life, property, guns, and a vote, then how in the world would a rape and incest exemption make sense? Performing a murder after a rape would hardly right that wrong.

So then we come to that 31% who think that a woman should not be allowed to have an abortion, unless she was raped, was a victim of incest, or could be harmed. These people would probably say that they think that abortion is immoral, that it's taking a life away from another full human being, but, for some reason, they think that it's OK as long as the woman herself is not at fault. If she didn't choose to get pregnant, well, then, that fetus isn't a human life.

How does that make any sense to anyone, let alone a third of the country?

It's the same rhetoric we heard at the beginning of the AIDS crisis (and that we're still hearing): it's God's punishment for having gay sex. But talk about babies born with HIV and suddenly even the Bush administration's willing to send billions to other countries to fight the disease.

While the exception for the health/life of the mother can be spun any number of ways, one for rape comes down to consent for sex, since that's the basic definition of rape. And volumes can be written about why Americans are so caught up in punishing choices people make and why Americans think that sex is something bad, but maybe we can all agree on these following points:

  1. Consensual sex should not be punished. You might not like what someone else is doing, but that's his or her choice. Hoping that he or she gets a disease or pregnant is wrong, and it makes you a bad person for hoping for that. If there were no STD's and unwanted pregnancies were impossible, then would we still support limiting consensual sex or creating consequences for it?
  2. Our goal should be sex without consequences, other than the emotional ones. While someone might not want to have sex (more than fine!), and while we're nowhere near the place where sex has no consequences, it's definitely something to work towards. If there were no unwanted pregnancies or STD's, people would be more free to make their own choices for themselves.
  3. Forcing pregnancy on someone as a punishment helps no one. It doesn't help the woman to "learn her lesson," it doesn't help the father to become responsible (if he isn't already), and it doesn't help the future child to know that they were the nearly 19-year jail sentence for someone else.
  4. Making abortion illegal in any cases doesn't help reduce unwanted pregnancies. Straight up, abortions just go underground when constricted. Women who have a real need to terminate a pregnancy will find a way to do it, because it was never a frivolous choice from the start.

I fully understand that as the election draws near we're going to be hearing more from liberals about how Sarah Palin opposes abortion "even in cases of rape and incest." If that's a winning strategy, fine. But Sarah Palin's answer to the question of whether she'd let her daughter get an abortion even if she were raped is consistent with someone who actually thinks that a fetus is a full human being who can move to Alaska and hunt wolves from a helicopter.

But let's at least have the decency to realize that the people who'd be convinced by that are people who think that sex is icky and needs to be punished. They think that a woman is bad if she chooses to have sex and are looking for a way to let her off the hook if they can, go easy on her if it wasn't her fault, but, jeez, if the evidence piles up against her and it looks like she actually chose to have sex, punish her to the full extent of the law.

But hey, even those folks still have a vote. Ain't America grand?

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 8, 2008 8:48 PM

the implication that it's even worse to oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest than just opposing abortion for women who chose to have sex.

I am SO WITH you on this, Alex.

Excellent post!

(And welcome back to the States just in time to experience the full force of the presidential campaign!!!)

Melanie Davis | October 8, 2008 10:21 PM

I am one who thinks it's not about abortions, it's about a woman's right to have sovereignty over her own body, and I agree with you on all points herein. One thing I want to point out is that when I've discussed this with friends, the "in case of incest or rape" clause isn't framed in a "she didn't consent, so she shouldn't have to pay" argument. Instead, it was more in the "being forced to carry your attacker/abuser's child to term is a daily reminder of the violence she suffered." Of course, this comes from a position that abortion is bad in the first place.

The opposition has already succeeded in changing the debate. It's not about a woman's right to make decisions about her own body and life, now it's about the right for the foetus or blastocyst or fertilised egg to use the host woman to be born. TO the anti-women activists, women have no rights; they are but the vessels of creation. The common thread running through all religious conservatives (not just Christians, either) is that women are beneath the father and his seed in importance.

If women are going to retain their right to their own bodies, the argument is going to need to be re-oriented toward equality and the abolishment of misogyny.

I never got this argument. It seems to undermine the entire pro-life position, which is supposedly grounded in the fact that every blastocyst is a beautiful individual flower morally equivalent to an actual grown person. If you are admitting that it's ok to abort certain fetuses, then you're admitting that a fetus isn't the same thing as a person--there are cases when the mother's self-autonomy takes precedence over that which is, to a prolifer, a human life.

and if you're pro-choice, it is a horrible compromise for the reasons explained above. The only reason that one could oppose abortion, except for rape and incest, is to control/punish women who make 'bad' choices.