When I hear the new Republican mainstream stand against abortions even in the case of rape, I imagine myself in the situation of being pregnant with a rapist’s child.
Having been a mother twice, I know the experience of holding another human being in your body. It is a mysterious feeling. Truth be told, it is not entirely a comfortable one. It is not just that the bulging belly and swollen ankles and upset stomach make you physically uncomfortable. There is something a little strange about having another person, someone you don’t yet know, another soul, a different personality, swimming around in your body with you.
To then imagine that this other person has been injected into your system by force, by an act of anger, hatred, violence, is just something I cannot envision tolerating. What kind of cruel ideologue would make a woman carry a fetus put inside her by force?
And what of the baby when it is born? Would I be able to look at that child’s face and not remember, every time, the face of its father as he degraded and hurt me–perhaps tried to kill me? I know that many women would try to find themselves in such a child, try to separate the child from the father. But is it really possible? Would their suppression of these memories not inevitably emerge in a distant attitude, a careless care-giving? Would the ambivalence toward their own child not just fester inside them like a diseased wound, turning them into a fearful and embittered human? I know also that some women, having been forced to carry the child to term, would not be able to bond with the baby, perhaps would not try.
What kind of child is created by these events? A child is brought up by more than the mother. How will the mother’s extended family view such a child? It is at this point that I nearly always shift my perspective to the grandmother. I cannot tell you how angry I would be if someone raped one of my daughters. This anger would be superseded intensely by rage at any system that then forced my child to bear the offspring of her rapist. I cannot imagine being able to love the baby who resulted from such events. Could I celebrate this child’s birthday? Buy gifts for Christmas? Could I nurse it when sick or comfort it when sad? I hate to say it–I would hope that somehow I could rise above the situation–but I really fear that I could not.
I imagine an entire family ripped to shreds by such a forcible trauma. Bad enough that they would have to deal with the pain of a rape victim, holding and supporting her as she tries to heal. This experience itself is often enough to cause divorce, to alienate siblings, and so on. But to be made to live with the daily evidence in the face of a person born of that violence through an entire lifetime–it is a cruelty I cannot imagine.
What kind of person does this child grow up to be? There is some evidence to believe that the aggression behind violence is genetic. And, if true, that violent disposition would be compounded by having grown up in a family where you were not just unwanted, but possibly hated. Who is that child as an adult?
The Republicans no doubt think the solution is to give the child up for adoption. It has always been their refrain that “there are so many childless couples who want babies,” as if the mother of such a child is nothing but a breeding machine. So, we are to ask this family whose daughter has been raped to put the child out on the street–along with all the undesired children, born of HIV or abandoned, all the other children American society cannot or will not care for.
And perhaps it works out. Maybe the child is adopted by loving, caring parents, who don’t mind that the baby’s father was a rapist. (Are there such parents out there?) Perhaps when the day comes that the adoptive parents tell the child that he or she is adopted, they don’t mention that the father was a rapist. Or maybe, as so often happens now, the child decides to find its birth parents. And learns the truth. What happens then?
So such a policy ends by magnifying one act of violence many times, by expanding the pain endured by the mother to encompass the child, the extended family, the community.
How in the name of heaven was this ever construed as a godly or compassionate policy? Republican candidates even dismiss the rape–and presumably the whole human tragedy that follows–as the will of God. No church I have ever belonged to believed that God was on the side of rapists.
Of 28 non-incumbent senate races up for election next week, 15 of the Republican candidates favor withholding abortion from rape victims.
Please, if you are an American reading this blog, vote against this cold-hearted, hateful trend on November 6.