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Rape, Incest, and Abortion: Women Victims Want Their Voices Heard

Rape, Incest, and Abortion: Women Victims Want Their Voices Heard
By: Janice Shaw Crouse - 10/11/2012

Often when the topic of legalized abortion comes up and a discussion ensues, someone will ask a pro-life person, “But what about in cases of rape and incest? Would you force a woman who went through a violent attack to keep the baby?” Giving the answer that the entirely innocent baby should not be sentenced to death for the crime of its father is generally not well received.

Has anyone asked women who have been victims of rape and incest what they would do? As a matter of fact, someone has. The Elliot Institute, a non-profit that runs the website afterabortion.org, has asked women and, in fact, supports the women in their quest to be heard by Congress, the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and the media. Thirty-eight women signed an open letter, hoping that one day they would be heard by policymakers about what they have experienced and what they need.

The letter states in part:

Our experiences are varied. Many of us carried our pregnancies to term. Some of us raised or are raising our children, while others placed our children in adoptive homes. Others of us had abortions. In many cases, we felt pressured to abort by family members, social workers, and doctors who insisted that abortion was the “best” solution. For many the abortion caused physical and emotional trauma equal to or exceeding the trauma of the sexual assault that our abortions were supposed to “cure.”

We are the only ones who can bear witness to our real experiences and our real needs. How long will you refuse to listen to us?

In the Elliot Institute’s fact sheet, The Hard Cases: New Facts. New Answers, some of the women make powerful and moving points.

“Why do even pro-lifers talk about exceptions for rape and incest as if that is a way to have ‘compassion’ for the mother? If you really want to be compassionate … give this mother the opportunity to choose life.” — Denise, Incest Victim, Victim of a Forced Abortion

“I feel personally assaulted and insulted every time I hear that abortion should be legal because of rape and incest … We’ve not been asked to tell our side of the story.” — Kathleen DeZeeuw, Rape Survivor, Mother

The Elliot Institute surveyed 192 women who conceived during a rape or incest (164 women were raped and 28 were victims of incest). Of those victims, 69 percent carried the baby to term and either raised the child or made an adoption plan, 29 percent had an abortion, and 1.5 percent had a miscarriage. They found that nearly 80 percent of the women who aborted said that abortion was the wrong solution; 43 percent of these women said they felt pressure to abort from family members or health workers.

In that same survey, 80 percent of the women who carried their babies to term were happy with their decision, and not one of the women who gave birth to a baby conceived during a sexual assault regretted it.

In the Elliot Institute’s book, Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault, the authors allow the women to tell readers about how they were affected by their decisions. Here are some of their insights.

“After my daughter was born, it was love at first sight. I know I made the right decision in having her.” — Nancy

“Often I cry. Cry because I could not stop the attacks. Cry because my daughter is dead. And I cry because it still hurts.” — Edith

“I think that rape victims with pregnancies are discriminated against because people think you’re nuts to have a baby by a man who raped you. We are looked upon as being liars, or stupid.” — Sharon

“Abortion does not help or solve a problem — it only compounds and creates another trauma for the already grieving victim by taking away the one thing that can bring joy.” — Helene

“The effects of the abortion are much more far reaching than the effects of the rape in my life.” — Patricia

Abortion is a highly charged issue, with rape cases among the most politically volatile. Opinions are heated, and it seems everyone has something to say about pregnancy in case of rape. These are the real words, from real women who became pregnant through sexual assault. Their opinions should count. We owe them the right to be heard.

Will you listen?

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