MATTHEW J. FRANCK
I have no opinion on whether Congressman Todd Akin should remain a candidate for senator in Missouri. He said something very wrong, and something very right. What he said about “legitimate rape” and the chances of a rape victim becoming pregnant was wrong and offensive, and he has apologized. He evidently spoke out of ignorance, and he has learned better. What he said about the injustice of abortion even in the case of rape, however, was absolutely right, and this spoke well of his moral sense. It is a hard saying, but it must be said: The abortion of a child conceived because of a rape is as wrong as any other abortion. Women and their babies, in every kind of crisis pregnancy, need our love, compassion, and support. But abortion is never what anyone needs to heal a wound; it only opens a new one.
It is by now a familiar question from liberal journalists when interviewing pro-life candidates: “You’re against all abortions — what about in cases of rape and incest?” Pro-lifers need to learn how to answer this question, because they can always expect it. The question tugs at heartstrings and aims at exposing a weakness. The appeal to compassion for rape and incest victims must be answered with real compassion for both parties in any pregnancy — mother and child. As for the politics of it, a pro-lifer can always say, “I am for any legislation that reduces the number of abortions and legally restricts a grave injustice. If that means a bill that eliminates most abortions that are legal now but makes an exception for rape and incest, I’m for it. But that doesn’t mean I’m for the exception. Every abortion is a tragic wrong, and we must work to restore respect for the sanctity of every life, from conception to natural death, no matter what the circumstances.”
— Matthew J. Franck is director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.
MICHAELENE FREDENBURG Abortion. It’s one of those words that grip us when we hear it — sometimes with anger, sometimes with fear, and often with pain. During public discourse or political debate, it is easy to lose sight of the face of the man, woman, family member, or friend who has experienced abortion.
When I speak or write about the grief and loss due to abortion, I remind myself that at least half of all Americans have been personally affected by abortion — either through their own abortion or by the abortion of someone close to them. I consider how my word choices, tone of voice, and body language may be understood by men and women who feel isolated and alone in their pain and grief. Any communication about abortion and other reproductive outcomes may elicit painful memories and emotions, so I am careful to demonstrate compassion and support.
I believe that we can all contribute to creating a safe place for men, women, family members, and friends to share their experiences — to be accepted and heard — and to begin healing.
DAVID FRENCH Several years ago during a morning drive, I was listening to a rather animated discussion about abortion on — of all things — a local classic-rock radio station. The morning DJs were mocking Christian conservatives in the way Rolling Stone liberals do, by presuming that all intelligent people agree, the issues are settled, and the backward and bigoted carry on only through ignorance and fear.
Then a call came in that silenced them — at least for a moment.
“Hi, I’ve been listening to y’all discuss abortion,” said a quiet female voice on the other end of the line, “and I’ve got my own story to tell.”
“My mother was attacked and raped, but she decided my father’s assault shouldn’t mean that I should die. So she carried me, gave birth to me, and raised me. I’m glad she didn’t kill me for my father’s crime.”
That is how we should talk about abortion in these most painful of circumstances — as a matter of innocence. Under what circumstances can we take a wholly innocent human life? Does the rapist’s dreadful crime justify dismembering a child?
But we can’t talk about legalities alone. It is in these most difficult of circumstances that the church must step up to support and sustain the mother through the most terrifying and trying time of her life. Along with a sacred duty to defend innocent life comes a sacred duty to support and care for mother and child.