No 'Morning-After Pill' for Rapists

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) signed H.B. 1215 into law on March 6, making his state the first to ban abortion except for those that are necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. Doctors in South Dakota will face up to five years in prison for performing an abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life.

Some state lawmakers who voted against H.B. 1215 say they did so because it doesn’t permit abortion for rape and incest victims. Other state legislatures, including Mississippi, have introduced a similar abortion ban and are debating whether to include exceptions for rape and incest.

President Bush, who is pro-life, includes himself among some who believe that there should be exceptions for rape and incest. While not impugning the good intentions of President Bush and others, there is reason to encourage them to think past the visceral reaction we all feel about rape and incest, and consider the consequences for both victims—mother and child.

No one disputes that rape and incest are serious crimes, and those convicted should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Furthermore, victims deserve the support and assistance of the public in recovering.

The truth is that rape rarely results in pregnancy. But even if it does, the law should not permit the most innocent victim, an unborn child, to suffer by forfeiting his or her life because of the rapist’s criminal act.

  • “Perhaps more of a gross exaggeration than a myth is the mistaken and unfortunate belief that pregnancy is a frequent complication of sexual assault. This is emphatically not the case, and there are several medically sound reasons for it.” [Vicki Seltzer, “Medical Management of the Rape Victim,” American Medical Women’s Association 32 (1977): 141-144.]
  • A scientific study of 1,000 rape victims who were treated medically right after the rape reported zero pregnancies. [L. Kuchera, “Postcoital Contraception with Diethylstilbesterol,” Journal of the American Medical Association, October 25, 1971.]
  • Pregnancies resulting from incest are also rare: One percent or less. [G. Maloof, “The Consequences of Incest,” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, University Publications of American, 1979, p. 74.]

Rather than aid a rape or incest victim’s recovery, studies indicate that having an abortion is more likely to have a detrimental effect on her.

Victims and Victors, published by Acorn Books and the Elliot Institute in 2000, includes a study of 192 women who became pregnant through sexual assault and either had abortions or carried the pregnancy to term.

Many of them aborted only because they were pressured to do so, and most reported that the abortion only increased their experience of grief. In contrast, none of the women who carried to term said they wished they had not given birth or that they had chosen abortion instead. Many of these women said that their children had brought peace and healing to their lives. [David C. Reardon, Julie Makimaa and Amy Sobie, Editors, Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions, and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault, Acorn Books, Springfield, Ill.]

The Elliot Institute announced on February 9, 2005, the results of a study of the effects of abortion on women. The study documents several harmful effects:

A study in New Zealand that tracked approximately 500 women from birth to 25 years of age has confirmed that young women who have abortions subsequently experience elevated rates of suicidal behaviors, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental problems.

Most significantly, the researchers – led by Professor David M. Fergusson, who is the director of the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study – found that the higher rate of subsequent mental problems could not be explained by any pre-pregnancy differences in mental health, which had been regularly evaluated over the course of the 25-year study.

However, when these and many other factors were taken into account, the findings showed that women who had abortions were still significantly more likely to experience mental health problems. Thus, the data contradicted the hypothesis that prior mental illness or other “pre-disposing” factors could explain the differences.

“We know what people were like before they became pregnant,” Fergusson told The New Zealand Herald. “We take into account their social background, education, ethnicity, previous mental health, exposure to sexual abuse, and a whole mass of factors.”

The data persistently pointed toward the politically unwelcome conclusion that abortion may itself be the cause of subsequent mental health problems. So Fergusson presented his results to New Zealand’s Abortion Supervisory Committee, which is charged with ensuring that abortions in that country are conducted in accordance with all the legal requirements. According to The New Zealand Herald, the committee told Fergusson that it would be “undesirable to publish the results in their ‘unclarified’ state.” [Abortion Causes Mental Disorders: New Zealand Study May Require Doctors to Do Fewer Abortions, Elliot Institute, February 9, 2005.]

A study published in the Southern Medical Journal August 27, 2002, reveals that women who have abortions are at significantly higher risk of death than women who give birth. Researchers examined death records linked to Medi-Cal payments for births and abortions for approximately 173,000 low-income California women. They discovered that women who had abortions were almost twice as likely to die in the following two years and that the elevated mortality rate of aborting women persisted over at least eight years.

“During the eight-year study, women who aborted had a 154-percent higher risk of death from suicide, an 82-percent higher risk of death from accidents, and a 44-percent higher risk of death from natural causes. In 1997, a study of women in Finland revealed that in the first year following an abortion, aborting women were 252 percent more likely to die compared to women who delivered and 75 percent more likely to die compared to women who had not been pregnant.” [D.C. Reardon, P.G. Ney, F.J. Scheuren, J.R. Cougle, P.K. Coleman,  T. Strahan, “Deaths associated with pregnancy outcome: a record linkage study of low income women,” Southern Medical Journal, August 2002, 95(8):834-841.]

A study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, using the same data from Medi-Cal records, reveals that women were 63 percent more likely to receive mental health care within 90 days of an abortion compared to delivery. In addition, significantly higher rates of subsequent mental health treatment persisted over the entire four years of data examined. Abortion was most strongly associated with subsequent treatments for neurotic depression, bipolar disorder, adjustment reactions and schizophrenic disorders. Dr. Priscilla Coleman, the study’s lead author, said that the study design was an improvement over previous studies because it relied on medical records rather than on surveys of women contacted at an abortion clinic. [Elliot Institute, August 20, 2002.]

The British Medical Journal released the results of a study in January 2002, revealing that women who abort a first pregnancy are at greater risk of subsequent long-term clinical depression compared to women who carry an unintended first pregnancy to term. [“Depression and Unintended Pregnancy in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth”: a cohort study, British Medical Journal, 324: 151-152.]

A pro-abortion research team acknowledged the existence of post-abortion syndrome in a study among 1.4 percent of a sample of women who had abortions two years previously. [Dr. Brenda Major, Archives of General Psychiatry, August 2000.]

Those who mistakenly believe that aborting a child conceived as a result of rape or incest will aid in the victim’s recovery are confronted with the logical conclusion of the argument—allowing a victim to kill her rapist will also help her recover.

Rape is not a capital offense for which the death penalty applies. Homicide laws make no exception for a rape victim seeking recovery who kills her rapist by giving him an arsenic tablet the morning after.

Since the law does not permit a victim to aid her recovery by killing her rapist, why should the law permit her to kill the innocent unborn child? If aborting the child will aid in the woman’s recovery, why not permit her to kill the child at any age?

To do so is to make the child suffer for the crime committed by his or her father. It is why:

  • We do not permit a parent of a murdered child to kill the child of the murderer.
  • We do not permit a victim of robbery to steal from the robber’s child.
  • We do not permit a victim of arson to burn the home of the arsonist’s child.

Somehow, the morality and sense of justice that is so obvious when considering these questions escapes many when the same principles are applied to the pre-born child.

While some question the wisdom of their timing, pro-lifers should appreciate that the South Dakota Legislature and governor understand what too many fail or refuse to grasp. A child’s right to life does not depend on the character or conduct of his or her parents. We do not permit a victim to kill in order to be cured or satisfy vengeance.

Society’s disdain for discrimination based on age or physical disability should protect the most vulnerable among us, the unborn child. Consider the words used to refer to stages of human development: conceptus, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent, teenager, adult, middle age, senior citizen.

The words on the timeline refer to age, development and ability—stages of human life. Somehow the terms preceding newborn can blind us to the fact that they too refer to innocent and vulnerable human life. For many, truth is conclusively clear by looking inside the womb through means of four-dimensional ultrasound technology. The truth is in the beholding.

Opponents of H.B. 1215 are considering filing a lawsuit to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1, on the ground that it violates the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973), in which the Court created a constitutional right to abortion.

Also under consideration is a petition drive to put a referendum that would seek to repeal the law on the November 2006 ballot. Supporters would have about three months to gather 16,728 valid signatures of registered voters in the state. If successful, it would suspend enactment of the law until after the November election. If the referendum fails, it would also delay the need to file a lawsuit until the day after the election.

When 500 likely voters in South Dakota were asked whether they supported the bill passed by the Legislature allowing abortions only in cases where the mother’s life was at risk, their responses showed a 45-45 percent even split. Nine percent were not sure. Rasmussen Reports, a national polling firm from Ocean Grove, N.Y., conducted the survey on February 28.

If the South Dakota law reaches the ballot, those who expect to vote against it because it lacks an exception for rape and incest need to think past the initial abhorrence each crime brings to mind, and think long and hard about compounding the offense by killing under the pretext of curing.