Monday, October 29, 2012

Conceived in Rape

Just about the worst way of coming into the world that you can imagine. So horrible, it is a given that politicians who regularly approve restrictions on abortion allow for exceptions in case of it. But now some people are coming out of the closet. They are the ones whose life would have been at stake--the ones conceived in rape.

In each of their cases, the rape victim found support; she found a way to protect the second victim; she let an incredible good be born from a vile and violent crime.

Interesting how many of those speaking out now are, precisely, women.

Susan is one of them.

Here's Rebecca Kiessling, probably the most prominent of these people with a dramatic story to tell. She has a whole website devoted to the issue, with story after story of people whose life was, even at its very start, sacred and inviolable. Many, having been raised by adoptive parents, were pro-life; many did not learn the circumstances of their conception until later in life. (You can imagine what that did to the "rape exception" some of them had formerly wanted to allow.)

Maybe, in this week before elections, it's time to listen to them.


Fran said...

I am very prayerful as I write this comment. I write as someone who does not disagree with you about abortion, but I also write to you as someone who has been raped.

It is very complicated, and I guess my first level of response is that it often feels like we are all talking about some kind of identified patient, who is in the room with us, although we act as if they are not. This is in general, not pointed to you in particular.

As someone who was sexually compromised at a young age, and as someone who has had a long, long journey to make in order to accept the teaching about abortion, I often listen to the conversation and shake my head. Simultaneously, my heart hurts.

For good or ill, if you have been taken, used and abused - at any age, and any number of times - let me say this clearly... Certain language matters to you, and I still understand that, even if I understand it differently now.

I can assure you that there is power in the words "it is MY body and no one can tell me what to do with it." After you have had people force themselves upon you sexually, using your body for their needs, trust me - these words have power.

Now I see things differently, but would I have ever gotten there if I had not taken the journey? A journey which meant saying those words. No - I never got pregnant, so I never had to make the choice, but I know what I would have done back then. (I am also now commenting from an age at which childbirth is not happening for me.)

I only say all of this, because I am sick, sick, sick to death of the conversation in which rape is the topic, when the topic is really abortion - and why people want or believe that they need them. Where is that conversation? And where is the conversation about violence against women, sexual crimes against both genders? That conversation is much harder to find.

A friend of mine who is a journalist, a Catholic and who was one of my major influences in beginning to see abortion in another light, wrote about this the other day. Here is the link to her piece; I add it because it needs to be part of the conversation.

If we keep isolating abortion and rape, like a ball being volleyed from side to side, lobbed harder and harder, I'm afraid we get nowhere. Each side feels some kind of moral superiority it seems - and frankly there are no sides. That is because it is not my body, or yours, or hers; we are meant to be One Body in Christ. I know that you know that and I do not think that you are wrong or insensitive, but I hope that you can hear or understand my frustration.

If we keep lobbing the "ball" back and forth, what happens in the middle? And does ideology or rules change hearts, or is it relationship? I can only say in my own case, and I thought would NEVER change on this topic, that it was conversation, relationship and love that made all the difference.

I am not morally superior for having a changed heart, in fact I feel like I need to bear more witness, but for now I am merely frustrated and sad. How is the the Body ever unified and restored?

Here is my friend's column, click this link.

What is right and wrong is very clear, extremely clear. How we address it however, not so much. I am ever hopeful for change for others on this topic, but for now, the conversation is not as clear.

And for what it is worth - I can't imagine how abortion was not a choice when my parents were pregnant with me. It was 1957 and I am pretty certain that it could have been pursued; so I am very grateful to be alive. I also have a good friend who might have been aborted, but he was not and he too, has been a force for change for me, influencing me in the both/and of relationship in Christ, not the either/or that seems to go nowhere.

Submitted in prayer and with hope.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thanks very much, Fran, for the courageous, thoughtful and thought-provoking reflection, and for sharing your experience on this blog. You exemplify just what is missing in so much of the "conversation" on these issues: the real stories of people, and not faceless slogans.

I suspect that one reason your question ("where is the conversation about violence against women, sexual crimes against both genders? ") is not being addressed is that our culture does not seem willing to recognize any limitations to individual freedom, much less any objective moral truth. (A Chicago-area teacher said that she is not even allowed to tell her students that use of pornography is "wrong." She is only permitted to say it is "not a good idea.") That leaves us (in the US at least) with 300 million different sets of moral guidelines, and no guarantee that any of them include respect for the personal integrity of another member of society. The only constraints seem to involve post facto punishments like prison.

Your sad experience, and that of so many others whose personal integrity was violated, underlines the truth of Pope John Paul's remark that the opposite of love isn't hate: it's using the other person, a human being with infinite dignity and worth.

What can we do, concretely, to shore up in our culture a greater sense of the reverence and respect due to each and every person?

Perhaps it starts with helping people to tell their stories.

Anonymous said...

I oppose the death penalty and I don't believe that we should make an exception for rapists. Why do so many favor the death penalty for the unborn child of a rapist? Why does the unborn child pay for the sins of its father?

Fran said...

Dear Sister Anne, thank you for your thoughtful reply. Yes - the power, as Jesus showed us - is in the story. It takes a long time for us to learn this, doesn't it?

I am sorry that the anonymous commenter has said what is so often heard... compassion only for the unborn. Trust me, I have that same compassion, but in equal measure for the same gift of God that is the mother. There are so many circumstances, and the telling of the stories will heal us all. And without all of us, what will become of the unborn who are born, but then lost to lives often bereft of stories, of compassion, of love?

It all matters.

Thank you and peace. (PS - I consider myself so richly blessed; I have had such tremendous grace and healing in my life, I am so grateful. It is not this way for all.)

A.C. said...

Thanks to Fran and all women who candidly, courageously and generously share their stories. I am sorry for your horrible experience and any insensitivity you experienced from others.

Here is another -- one of many heartbreaking stories regarding this issue. Deana and other women are asking for Congressional hearings on this issue. To show support "LIKE"


I’ve been there. Not Todd Akin. Not Richard Mourdock. And certainly not their critics who sanctimoniously imagine that they know what pregnant sexual assault victims really want and need.

As my story shows, all too often, our self-appointed champions do more harm than good. I was 17, drugged and raped. When I learned I was pregnant, my family, counselors, and doctors took control. (read more:)

See also

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thanks, A.C., for a valuable reference site.