Author’s Note: The following column is based on a real life conversation, which occurred last May. It originally appeared on www.ClashDaily.com in July.
Teenager: Dr. Adams, may I have a few minutes to speak with you?
Me: Sure. What is your name? (Gives name).
Teen: I enjoyed listening to your talk on abortion just a few minutes ago. Your points were solid. But I have just one problem. It’s with the rape exception. Can you honestly tell me that you could look a rape victim in the eye and tell her that she could not have an abortion and that she must take the rapist’s baby to term?
Me: (pulls out phone). Yes. Give me the number of any pregnant rape victim you know and I will call her right now and talk to her. I can’t look her in the eye but I will talk to her.
Teen: (Laughing nervously). I don’t know any pregnant rape victims.
Me: Well, before I put my phone up, can I ask a favor of you?
Me: I have a friend who was conceived in rape. Do you mind if I call her and give you the phone so you could explain why it would be permissible for her be killed just because she was conceived in rape? Her mother is still alive, by the way. I’m sure that her continued existence reminds her mother of the rape. My friend’s name is Laura.
Teen: No, I won’t do that. She shouldn’t be killed, now. That isn’t my position.
Me: Oh, I see. You think that there is some difference between the adult she is now and the embryo she once was that would have justified killing her at that earlier stage of development.
Teen: I see what you are doing. This is the SLED thing, isn’t it?
Me: Yes it is. Size, level of development, environment (whether she is inside or outside of the womb), and degree of dependency. These are the four differences people generally rely upon when they say you can kill the unborn but not the born. Which one is it?
Teen: Well, none of them, I guess. I see your point.
Me: Good. Now, let’s talk about who benefits when the child conceived in rape is aborted.
Me: Would I, or any of the close friends of Laura, have benefited from her death at the hands of the abortion doctor? I mean, would it not have been a tragedy had her friends never known her?
Teen: Well, yes, I suppose it would have been a tragedy.
Me: Well, how about Laura? Would she have benefited from the abortion?
Teen: No, of course not.
Me: Ok, then who benefits?
Teen: Well, the rape victim benefits. Obviously.
Me: But is it really obvious?
Teen: I think it is.
Me: You know if a woman becomes pregnant through consensual sex and has a crisis pregnancy it is a toss-up as to whether she will have the abortion. But if she’s raped and becomes pregnant then the chances she’ll abort are much lower.
Teen: How much lower?
Me: The odds are about three to one that she won’t abort. It may seem counterintuitive but it really isn’t difficult to understand upon further consideration. She’s just been the victim of a violent crime. She identifies with the evil of violence and is reluctant to inflict it on another human being. So she usually decides to suffer evil rather than inflict it.
Teen: I’ll have to think about that one.
Me: Good. It will give me time to ask you another question.
Me: You believe that the woman impregnated by a rapist will suffer great stress bringing the baby to term. You obviously believe that the abortion will reduce that stress. But your argument turns on the assertion that the stress saved by the abortion will actually outweigh any guilt she might experience over the memory of the abortion for the duration of her life. Is that a fair characterization of your reasoning?
Teen: Yes, that’s fair enough.
Me: Well, how did you arrive at that conclusion? Can you point me to some evidence?
Teen: No, I was just speculating.
Me: Well, you haven’t convinced me that the pregnant woman really benefits. The abortion doesn’t solve the problem. She suffers terribly regardless. But when those conceived in rape are aborted there are multiple tragedies. One human is deprived of life, one adoptive couple loses a child, and others are deprived of ever knowing the innocent child who would have had a long life and formed many friendships. I think that the weight of the evidence is against the abortion. I just cannot see who really benefits from the abortion.
Teen: Well maybe I just have some maturing to do as I think about this issue.
Me: I’m not sure it’s really a thinking problem.
Teen: What do you mean?
Me: You have a steady girlfriend, don’t you?
Teen: Yes, I do.
Me: Are you sleeping with her?
Teen: What? I’m not answering that question.
Me: Well, you don’t have to answer it. You just did. You’re sleeping with her.
Teen: Ok … what does that have to do with the discussion?
Me: Well, everything.
Teen: Please explain.
Me: Every time I am in a discussion of abortion that turns to the so called rape exception, there are two common denominators. First, it is always a guy. Second, he’s always sexually active. If he is sleeping with a lot of women he really supports unrestricted abortion. So he just feigns concern for the rape victim in order to preserve unrestricted abortion so he can have unrestricted sex. Then there are guys like you who are just sleeping with a girlfriend and want to preserve a tiny crack in the wall — a safety valve just in case you get into trouble. The idea of an absolute ban on abortion makes you nervous because you are taking risks you know you ought not to be taking.
Teen: I guess everything you are saying makes sense. Maybe I just need to grow up.
Me: No, not really. You pulled me aside and started this conversation because your conscience was bothering you. You weren’t really worried about the rape issue. You were worried about your own circumstances. That’s why it took courage to initiate the conversation. You knew I wasn’t going say things you wanted to hear. You were mature at the beginning of this conversation and you are even more mature now.
Me: Now it is time to stop treating you girlfriend like she’s already your wife. It will clear your mind and help you make better decisions on a whole range of moral issues. Remember that it is always better to decide what you believe and let your beliefs guide your behavior. When it’s the other way around, you become lost and you eventually lose your moral compass altogether. You eventually become a law unto yourself.
Teen: Well, how do I explain this to my girlfriend?
Me: Well, that should be easy. Tell her you are not yet ready to be a parent. Tell her that if she became pregnant it would be your child, too. Make sure you look her in the eye and firmly tell her that you could never allow her to abort your child. In other words, start living your life according to rules instead of clinging to exceptions.
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.