I can’t claim to be an expert on this topic, but I’ve long wondered what my decision would and should be if I should find myself suddenly, unexpectedly pregnant and unsure in which way I should choose to dramatically change my life. The decision to end the pregnancy, keep the baby or put it up for adoption is in any case a heart wrenching one; but what should the decision be when the pregnancy is brought about by a violent, unwarranted sexual assault?
The traumatic memories of an incidence of rape may remain with the victim for the rest of their lives, however with help and support they have a good chance of moving on and leaving the incident behind them, in some cases they may even be able to forgive the perpetrator; but when the invasion of the victims body extends beyond the incident itself and produces a rape-conceived pregnancy, is it even possible to heal yourself when the natural changes of your pregnant body are a constant reminder of the loss of control experienced during the rape itself? Republican senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock (defeated in the November Congressional elections) recently stated that “rape babies are a gift from God” and that the conception and even the rape was intended by God himself; obviously Mourdock has no respect for women and their rights, and is a sexist bigoted dolt who would likely have victims marry their attackers as if we were in the dark ages. This is a completely unacceptable view to force upon women who have been violated in the worst manner possible, and thank God – or his/her secular counterpart, not sure who else to thank – that American women are safe from Mourdock’s anti-abortion, anti-choice agenda. The implications of carrying and raising a rape-conceived child are many; being pregnant means the mother has to explain the circumstances of conception, or lie about them as if she were at fault. Even those closest to her may not be understanding and make her feel ashamed of her condition; doctors may not know how to handle the situation, and the invasive medical examinations of pregnancy may be disturbing. For the mother, the most difficult aspect of bringing up a rape conceived-child is trying to get over the trauma of the rape, whilst doing her best to raise a child who through no fault of their own is a product and a reminder of the trauma itself. Some will try to block out their memories because bringing them to the surface to deal with them could make raising the child harder, even making it more difficult to love the child; but suppressing painful memories is destructive and can leave unresolved issues that resurface with a vengeance in the future. I doubt the men who share Mourdock’s views will ever have to face a similar event in their lives, so simply aren’t qualified to make such a decision on behalf of a woman who has.
For most parents one of the greatest parts of raising their child is seeing their partner’s features develop in the child, but this is disturbing when the child’s biological father created them by a violent, despicable act. One woman who conceived and raised her rapist’s child decided to take control of her pregnancy – initially she felt her body had betrayed her, but over time realised that pregnancy is simply what a fertile woman’s body naturally does. She says that although men can produce sperm at any time, a woman produces an egg only once a month for 24–48 hours at a time. Therefore it was primarily her body and not his that was in control of creating her child.
If a woman makes the bold decision to keep her rape-conceived child, she undoubtedly thinks to the future with an element of fear. The fear that the child could share some violent characteristic of their father, although I believe is largely unfounded, especially if the child is raised in love. The dilemma of whether or not to tell the child of their origin; tell them and they may question their own character and goodness or feel they have betrayed or hurt their mother, don’t tell them and they may find out accidently. Fear even that the rapist may try to get access to or custody of the child, for example the case of a convicted rapist from Massachussetts in September 2012; he was ordered to pay child support to the teenage girl he raped and conceived a child with. He argued that as he was forced to pay child support he had the right to see the child. This doesn’t happen often and if the rape was reported with evidence it is very unlikely that the rapist would be granted any form of access, but it is a terrible thing for a mother to face.
Some may think it would be easier and less painful to end the pregnancy or put the child up for adoption, and remove the permanent reminder that a rape-conceived child may be to the mother, but in my opinion – and I am a strong believer in a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body – the joy and love that any child brings can outweigh the terrible memories associated with their conception. The guilt and turmoil abortion can bring can only have a detrimental effect on the woman. A rape-conceived child need not be thought of in those terms, the child doesn’t need to be a link between the mother and her attacker, but can be a source of healing and support, and help the mother to turn the most negative event into a positive direction for the future.