Most of my columns are meant to expose the hypocrisy of self-described liberals who have taken over our institutions of higher learning. However, on some occasions, I attempt to address misguided thinking among self-described conservatives. An example is my recent column “Romney and the Rapist,” which was described by many readers as either “weird” or “convoluted” or both. Those descriptions are indeed accurate and reflect the intention behind the controversial essay. It was my intention to write a column that would identify absurd arguments as a means of drawing out the flawed reasoning of those who would support Romney’s proposed rape exception to a law banning abortion. I elaborate on each flaw below:
1. Viability and Humanity. Many of my readers were upset by my suggestion that the idea of killing the innocent product of rape because it reminded the victim of rape could also be used to justify killing an innocent man who bore a physical resemblance to the rapist. Readers stated that the “obvious” difference was that the product of rape was attached to the woman and dependent upon her for survival (whereas the rapist’s double was unattached to the victim). That is nothing more than a restatement of the viability argument used to deny the humanity of the unborn and, therefore, provide abortion on demand, not just in instances of rape. It is wholly irrelevant to the issue of whether the product of rape is an innocent human being. Once again, those who seek to justify the rape exception undermine the initial rule against abortion, without which no exception could exist. That rule is predicated upon the simple principle that killing innocent human beings is wrong. Once we abandon the rule and fashion an exception we enter dangerous territory.
Those who raise the issue of viability must remain focused of the issue of innocence. That will lead to the correct conclusion that killing someone to assuage the painful memory of rape is only justifiable if that person is also responsible for the rape. Once again, my position is simple: execute the guilty perpetrator of rape, not the innocent product of rape. Although both are human beings, regardless of “viability,” one is guilty and the other is innocent. No other distinction matters.
2. Consent and Punishments. Some readers responded by saying that the rule against abortion was justified only if the woman consented to the sex and that an exception is justified only because she did not. Such reasoning is both dangerous and irrelevant to the central issue in the abortion debate.
To say that a woman must carry a baby to term only if she consented to sex is to equate the baby with punishment. Those who focus on consent are suggesting that the woman must be held accountable for her consensual sex acts but that she cannot be held accountable if she did not consent. This is the kind of moral reasoning that leads even presidents to say they support abortion as a means of insulating their children from punishment. It is also dangerous ammunition for those who base their support for abortion on bodily autonomy. The bodily autonomy argument often relies on a distinction between consensual sex and consensual pregnancy. Proponents of this distinction say that a woman may have consented to sex but not to pregnancy and that, therefore, in the name of bodily autonomy, she is entitled to abort. Pro-lifers should not be enabling this kind of thinking by suggesting that the abortion debate centers around a woman’s consent. It does not.
The question of whether a woman consented to sex has no bearing upon whether those conceived in the act are innocent human beings deserving of punishment. It is only relevant to the question of whether the man with whom she had sex is an innocent human being who deserves punishment. Pro-lifers intent on punishing women and/or innocent babies continue to suffer from deep moral confusion leading to profound moral inconsistency.
3. Trauma and Solutions. We cannot come to a correct decision concerning the so called rape exception if we cannot draw a moral distinction between the crimes of rape and murder. A rape is a horrible thing but it is not the most horrible thing. The same Supreme Court that fashioned a right to abortion has said as much. That is why rapists are free from capital punishment, which is considered “disproportionate” punishment under the 8th Amendment. We may disagree but we may not have it both ways, which is what the defender of the status quo demands.
Many of my readers fail to understand this. They have bombarded me with “arguments” such as “obviously, you have never been raped,” “obviously your wife has never been raped,” and “obviously you do not have daughters.’ Each of these arguments can be translated into “But rape is a really horrible thing.” I know that. But the dismemberment of an innocent human being is even worse than the rape of an innocent human being. A victim of the former cannot recover and lead a useful life while a victim of the latter can.
Once again, conservatives are applying problem/solution analysis when they should be analyzing trade-offs. Pregnancy due to rape is a serious problem. But aborting the innocent child instead of giving it up for adoption is not a solution to the problem. In fact, it will cause further emotional suffering.
The trade-off is simple: When we ask a woman to give birth to a baby conceived in rape we are asking that woman to suffer for months in the wake of a life-changing painful event. But we do so to a) avoid the murder of the innocent, to b) give life to one who bears the image of God but not the guilt of the rapist, and to c) provide adopting couples with a child they would not otherwise have.
As always, we must be guided by the simple principle that our moral lives are defined by the way we treat the innocent, not by the way the guilty have treated us.
The experience of writing “Romney and the Rapist” has taught me two things about modern conservatives. The first is that many self-described conservatives are not really conservatives at all. They are morally confused libertarians who only ask whether something is free and not whether it is good. The second is that many conservatives espouse conservatism in isolation from a comprehensive worldview. That explains their failure to understand what makes human beings valuable and why taking innocent life is never to be taken lightly.