The “pregnancy is rare in rape” comment made by senatorial candidate, Todd Akin, has produced a firestorm of criticism from all sectors. But no one seems to have addressed the question which provoked the comment in the first place: would Akin accept an abortion exception in cases of rape and incest?
Akin actually went on to answer the question after his ill-fated rape comment, and answered it well, saying essentially he believed the rapist should be punished and not the child. In other words, “Why kill the baby?”
It’s an excellent question, and its a shame the conversation didn’t go there because it’s a conversation we need to have; for, is a child conceived in rape any less worthy of life than a child conceived otherwise?
The conversation didn’t “go there” because the abortion-mad media hounds already had the bone they were sniffing for in Akin’s comment on the alleged rarity of pregnancy in instances of “legitimate rape”, but we can “go there” now.
The question of an exception for abortion in cases of rape or incest particularly concerns Catholics since the Catholic Church is quite alone in holding that procured abortion is “intrinsic evil” - meaning never justified under any circumstances.
In other words, direct abortion is never licit, not only in cases of rape or incest, but even to save the life of the mother - a hard reality that was recently concretized in the canonization of St. Gianna Molla, who chose her own death rather than her unborn child’s.
However, the firm reality of this teaching is usually in conflict with most pro-life legislative efforts which often allow for a rape and incest exception in order to avoid constitutional challenges.
John Paul II addresses this conflict in Par. 73 of Evangelium Vitae. In recognizing circumstances “when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law”, the Pope says it is still licit to attempt to limit the evil effects of an unjust law even though the attempt itself might necessitate the toleration of some evil aspects (such as the rape exception).
The Pope’s teaching is rooted in the moral principle of “the lesser of two evils”, one of the four basic moral principles which help us navigate morally complex issues where cooperation with evil in some degree is unavoidable (the others being the principle of double effect, tolerance, and compromise).
Choosing between “the lesser of two evils” is a common Christian dilemma in the political arena. There is rarely a perfect candidate or a perfect bill. But we still have a duty to the “Kingdom of God on earth”, when perfection is not one of the options, to vote for that which will do the “least harm”.
The presidential race presents a textbook case for the application of this principle. It’s no mystery that the Obama-Biden ticket is radically committed to abortion “rights”. Romney and Ryan are staunchly pro-life, but Romney would support an exception for rape and incest, making his position less that perfect relative to Catholic moral principles.
Obviously the Romney-Ryan ticket is “the lesser of two evils” on an issue that deals with no ordinary evil, but an intrinsic evil. However, expecting Catholics to choose the lesser of two evils in this instance assumes that Catholics actually care about abortion and recent polls show that they do not: Pew Research reported in July that 51% of Catholics believe that Obama-Biden best represents their views on abortion and only 36% chose Romney-Ryan.
Amazingly, while Catholic support of abortion escalates, the rest of the nation is seeing the exact reverse. A recent CNN poll now shows that 62% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all but the most extreme cases, and only 35% want abortion for any reason.
So while we can rejoice that America is waking up to the ugliness and damage of abortion, the increasing Catholic support for abortion is an occasion for much wailing and gnashing of teeth (and perhaps a good examination of conscience).
And the problem isn’t just “over there”. Though we have no polling on the issue, we can assume the same percentages for Guam. Guam Medical Records reports that 55% of abortions since 2008 have been procured by Chamorros, most of whom, we can assume, are Catholics, or at least come from Catholic families.
Plus, Guam continues to play host to the least regulated abortion industry in the nation, a sad reality which continues due to the refusal of the legislature to pass the most basic life-protecting bills such as Bill 309-30, which would have mandated normal medical care for a child who survives a failed abortion. The bill ended up in the trash just like the gasping, writhing babies it would have otherwise protected.