Abortionist shows how the rape exception undermines pro-life claims

In his book, abortionist Dr. Don Sloan writes the following:

“One fascinating dilemma in the abortion debate is the right to abortion in cases of rape and incest. If an embryo is a person and abortion is murder and no one has the constitutional right to kill another person, how can it be OK to kill only at certain times – as in rape or incest? Isn’t killing always wrong? If, indeed, it is a killing? Is it murder sometimes and not murder at others? It seems that people who say they’re against abortion except in cases of rape or incest are basing their judgement on something other than whether or not abortion is killing. Clearly, their feelings about abortion have to do not with the “innocent life” of the embryo or fetus, but with the mother…When pressed, they’ll say that they’re against abortion for “birth control” but not in cases of rape or incest because the woman didn’t “intend” to get pregnant- she was an “innocent victim.”

Presumably then, at other times, the woman isn’t “innocent.”…She’s been irresponsible. Now let’s see that she pays for it. A lot of the arguments about abortion are really about controlling women’s sexuality or just controlling women, period.”

Don Sloan, MD, Paula Hartz Abortion: A Doctor’s Perspective, A Woman’s Dilemma (Dutton Adult, 1992)

Sloan’s argument is false but logically consistent. Pro-lifers claim that abortion is wrong because the baby is a human being with a right to life, and killing her is a violation of that right. A rape exception protects some preborn babies, but allows others to be aborted based on how they were conceived.

A rape exception indicates that babies conceived by consensual sex are  human beings with rights and babies conceived by rape are not – an obvious contradiction – which leaves pro-choicers like Sloan an opening to claim that being pro-life is not about saving babies after all. If there is a rape exception, the question of whether abortion is right or wrong hinges on whether a woman had sex deliberately. If women who conceived through consensual means are not allowed abortions but rape victims are, pro-choicers can claim that fighting abortion is not really about the rights of the baby, but the behavior of the mother.

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About Sarah

Sarah Terzo is a freelance writer and journalist who works for Live Action. She is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and Consistent Life.
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