Hard Cases - Incest / Rape / Congenital Anomalies / Life of Mother

Rape, Incest, & Abortion: A Glimpse Behind the Myths

By Dr. David Reardon, Director of the Elliot Institute for Social Sciences Research, 1994

How does one intelligently discuss the complex issue of rape pregnancies and abortion in less than 800 words? Not thoroughly; but we can touch on a few highlights which will help to dispel many of the myths and prejudices which surround this issue.

It is commonly assumed that sexual assault victims who become pregnant naturally want abortions. But in fact, in the only major study of pregnant rape victims ever done, Dr. Sandra Mahkom found that 75-85 percent chose against abortion. This fact alone should cause people to pause and reflect on the presumption that abortion is wanted or even best for sexual assault victims.

Several reasons are given for not aborting. First 70 percent of all women believe abortion is immoral, even though many also feel it should be a legal choice for others. Approximately the same percentage of pregnant rape victims believe abortion would be just another act of violence perpetrated against their bodies, and against their child.

Second, some see an intrinsic meaning or purpose to the child. This child was brought into their lives, by a horrible, repulsive act. But, perhaps God, or fate, will use the child for some greater purpose. Good can come from evil.

Third, victims of assault often become introspective. Their sense of the value of life, and respect for others is heightened. They have been victimized, and the thought that they in turn might victimize their own innocent child through abortion is repulsive to them.

Fourth, at least at a subconscious level, the victim may sense that if she can get through the pregnancy, she will have conquered the rape. By giving birth, she can reclaim some of her lost self-esteem. Giving birth, especially when conception was not desired, is a totally selfless act, a generous act, a display of courage, strength and honor. It is proof that she is better than the rapist.

If giving birth builds self-respect, what does abortion do? Research shows that abortion causes significant rates of guilt, depression, feelings of being “dirty”, resentment of men, and lowered self-esteem. These are identical to the symptoms that women typically feel after rape.

Abortion, then, only adds to and accentuates the trauma of sexual assault. Indeed, research shows that abortion patients with a history of sexual assault are at the highest risk of post-abortion trauma. They are also among the most likely to be pressured into abortions by counselors, friends, and parents, without the chance to truly explore their own needs and feelings.

Research shows that abortion causes significant rates of guilt, depression, feelings of being “dirty”, resentment of men, and lowered self-esteem. These are identical to the symptoms that women typically feel after rape.

According to Jackie Bakker, “I soon discovered that the aftermath of my abortion continued a long time after the memory of my rape had faded. I felt empty and horrible. Nobody told me about the pain I would feel deep within, causing nightmares and deep depressions. They had all told me that after the abortion I could continue my life as if nothing had happened.”

Those encouraging abortion often do so because they are uncomfortable dealing with rape victims, or perhaps out of prejudice against victims whom they see as being “guilty for letting it happen.” Wiping out the pregnancy is a way of hiding the problem. It is a “quick and easy” way to avoid dealing with the woman’s true emotional, social and financial needs.

“I soon discovered that the aftermath of my abortion continued a long time after the memory of my rape had faded. I felt empty and horrible. Nobody told me about the pain I would feel deep within, causing nightmares and deep depressions.”

The children conceived through sexual assault also have a voice which deserves to be heard. Julie Makimma, conceived by an act of rape, works diligently against abortion, especially when it is encouraged for sexual assault victims. She believes every life has a value beyond measure, a purpose which only time can reveal. Not ashamed of her origin, Julie proudly proclaims: “It doesn’t matter what I have been. What matters is who I will become.” That’s a slogan we can all live with…

In studies of incest victims, the vast majority chose to carry the pregnancy to term. Those in the minority who have an abortion do so only under pressure from their parents to conceal the incestuous relationship. Because incest is a family pathology that involves father, mother, and daughter, all are involved in a conspiracy of silence.

Edith Young, 46 years old, was a rape and incest victim at 12 years of age. To cover up the incident, her parents procured an abortion for her without telling her what was to happen. The emotional and physical scars of incest and abortion still last to this day. She said, “I was being sexually attacked, threatened by him and betrayed by Mom’s silence…the abortion which was to be ‘in my best interest’ has not been…it only ‘saved their reputations’, solved their problems and allowed their lives to go merrily on.”

[Dr. David Reardon has also authored Aborted Women: Silent No More, and The Post-Abortion Review. Elliot Institute]

They have been victimized, and the thought that they in turn might victimize their own innocent child through abortion is repulsive to them.