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You Can’t Have it Both Ways

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas. When she exited the freeway, Officer Friendly pulled her over. He glanced in the car and asked where the second passenger was. She pointed to her womb. The officer said that didn’t count because the baby wasn’t born yet, and she countered that, according to the Texas Heartbeat Law, the baby she was carrying was definitely a person even though it wasn’t due until August 3.

The Catholic Church, ever present in the abortion debate, maintains that life begins at conception. Yet a stillborn child cannot be baptized because “baptism is only for the living.” Baptism initiates the individual into the sacramental life of the Church. However, since the baby has died, it cannot “live out the Gospel,” and the Church essentially abandons it and the family. At the most vulnerable, devastated moment of their lives, when parents need the hope and comfort that their child is with God, the Church offers vague reassurances that He is merciful.

So let me get this straight. According to the Church, when that baby is the size of a blueberry, it’s a person. But when it dies just before being born, it loses the simplest rites and privileges of its humanity?

A 10-year old Ohio girl had to travel to Indiana to have an abortion after being raped by a 27-year old man because Ohio’s draconian heartbeat law bans abortions after six weeks. She missed the deadline by three days. The only exceptions are ectopic pregnancy, imminent death of the mother, or serious risk of substantial, irreversible impairment to a major bodily function of the mother.

Does not forcing a 10-year old to carry to term constitute “a serious risk of substantial, irreversible impairment to a major bodily function of the mother”? Did Ohio lawmakers consider the damage to this child’s mental health if she had to carry her rapist’s baby to term? According to Kellie Copeland, director of Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights group, “under that definition, the 10-year-old’s condition wouldn’t have risen to the threshold of an emergency.”

Echoing the tropes of a rape culture that re-victimizes the victim, prominent Republicans doubted the veracity of the report by the Indiana doctor who performed the abortion. Because the case hadn’t crossed his desk yet, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost affirmed it didn’t exist. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan tweeted, “another lie. Anyone surprised?” When the rapist confessed to his crime, Jordan tweeted that he “should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Jordan has since been unavailable for comment.

Some doubted the story because the victim was not identified! In what galaxy should a 10-year old rape victim be identified? Some doubted the story because they didn’t believe a 10-year old could get pregnant, while others asserted that abortions in girls that young were “pretty rare.” In fact, there were 52 abortions among children 15 or younger in Ohio in 2020. That’s one per week. The 10-year old rape victim had her abortion on June 30. Between May 9 and July 15, there have been at least 50 police reports of rape or sexual abuse involving a girl 15 years or younger in Columbus. Just  Columbus. About seven of 10 sexual assaults go unreported, precisely because of the additional trauma victims endure from naysayers.

Jim Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life, argues that the 10-year old victim should have had the baby: “we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.” What exactly is the reason and the benefit of putting any rape victim, let alone a 10-year old girl, through this hell?  Exceptions for rape are “not our ideal position … As heart wrenching as those circumstances are, we don’t think we should devalue the life of the baby because of the sins of the father.” What about the rape victim, Mr. Bopp? How valuable is her life?

At around the same time of Bopp’s interview, Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, told the House Judiciary Committee, “if a 10-year-old with her parents made the decision not to have a baby that was a result of a rape, if a 10-year-old became pregnant as a result of rape, and it was threatening her life, then that’s not an abortion.” What about the 18-year old, Ms. Foster? The 27-year old? The 35-year old? What would you call it then?

The 10-year old rape victim at the center of this argument is the same age as the children murdered in Uvalde. We called them babies and are outraged that they were not better protected. Why does this child not deserve the same?

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