Christianity,  Politics

Illegitimate Responses to Illegitimate Rape Remarks

I have been out of pocket this week and until now unable to comment on the controversy surrounding Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks about rape. As a result, much of what needs to be said in response to this enormous gaffe has already been said by others. Nevertheless, I would add one observation to the discussion that has been bugging me all week.

I have been disappointed by Republican responses to Akin that are driven more by politics than by pro-life principles. Over and over, I have seen politicos trying to dissociate the Republican presidential nominee from Akin’s “illegitimate rape” remarks by emphasizing that Mitt Romney supports abortion rights for women who become pregnant through rape. This is, of course, Mitt Romney’s position, but it is not a pro-life position. Nor is it a Christian perspective on life.

Christian pro-lifers weep with those who are victims of sexual violence. We name it as an unspeakable evil and condemn it in no uncertain terms (see Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s helpful piece in CT). We also believe that children conceived as a result of rape are precious human beings created in the image of God. One cannot erase the evil or the trauma of sexual assault by killing these children.

If one is willing to deny the humanity of children conceived through violence, one cannot consistently defend the humanity of children conceived through consensual sex. To deny the humanity of the one is to deny the humanity of the other. That is why pro-lifers support the right to life of all unborn children. It’s not how children are conceived that makes them image-bearers. It’s that they are conceived that makes them members of the human community whose lives deserve to be protected in law.

I am concerned that these pro-life principles not be cast aside in the rush to defend the Republican nominee for president. Those who do cast them aside are profoundly wrong and are giving up the grounds upon which to defend any unborn human life. Legitimate pro-lifers respond out of principle, not out of political expediency.


Here are three helpful articles on this topic that have appeared this week followed by two older pieces:

Andrew Napolitano, “Akin absurdity aside, rape never justifies abortion” (Washington Times)

Trevin Wax, “What Todd Akin Should Have Said about Abortion and Rape” (Kingdom People)

Timothy Carney, “When a horrific rape leads to an innocent life” (Washington Examiner)

Scott Klusendorf, “The Hard Cases Objection: Does Rape Justify Abortion?” (Life Training Institute)

Olivia Gans and Mary Spaulding Balch, “Rape, Incest, Fetal Abnormality” (National Right to Life Committee)


  • LaNeisa Jackson

    This story is yet another example of why Republican and Christian are not synonyms as the media seems to think. And why Democrat and Christian are not antonyms as the press also believes. You have nailed the true Christian definition.

    • Ralph W. Davis

      Surely Republican and Christian are NOT synonyms, and never have been. However, more and more Democrat and Christian are indeed antonyms, in as much as the Democrats at the national level fanatically support abortion, and are increasingly devoted to sexual perversion. This cannot be more antithetical to Christianity.

      • LaNeisa Jackson

        Antithetical to Christianity is also my point regarding this matter as it relates to politics. The whole point of this blog post is to point out that the Republican leadership position is not speaking for the Christian members of its party. My thinking is that even Republican Christians have seperated themselves by calling themselves by another name, ie. Tea Party.

        See this post today from the Baptist Press on the same matter. Prolife Democratic group criticizes platform

        Thanks for the discussion.

        • Paul Abella

          1st sentence: spot on.
          2nd sentence: spot on.
          3rd sentence: seriously? The Tea Party started off as a purely economic entity, and in 2010, plenty of people talking about the tea party were talking about the need to separate the social issues from the economic ones. At this point, the Tea Party has become the extremist wing of the Republican party, both in fiscal matters and in social ones. But come on, is it too much to ask to know what you’re talking about before you start?

          • LaNeisa Jackson

            You say -the Tea Party has become the extremist wing of the Republican party, both in fiscal matters and in social ones – Is that ‘fact’ because you say it or the Republican establishment is distancing itself?

            You’re the expert, I’m sure. I bow before your snark.

  • Greg Cochran

    Thank you for the reminder. It is easy to become pragmatic on the issue. A report was recently released which said that abortions related to rape are rare (less than 1% of total). Thus, the argument is made that a rape exclusion would still effectively end abortion. You are right to remind us that the issue is not abortion per se; it is the value of a human being created in the image of God. (I’m sure this issue is all the more dear to your heart this week!)

  • Jeanie Schwagerman

    Yours is the best response to this that I have seen. I live in Missouri so it has been on the news daily. The thing is Akin is always been opposed to any abortion, his remark was out line, however, there are woman who falsely claim rape. What is not good is that woman who have been raped, are mostly afraid that no one will believe what happened, that they are at fault some how. If anything, I hope this brings attention to help those who have been victimized by this terrible crime. All victims including the most innocent.

  • Jay Ryder

    While I agree that the Christian position would prefer to counsel a woman not to abort even when raped, I don’t agree that in the case of rape it is legally or ethically defensible to require the woman to not abort the child.

    Hypothetical: If an agent of the FBI decided to force himself into your house to live there for nine months, eating all of your food and using all of your facilities for free, DO you or DON’T you have the right to kick him out of your house, even though you knew with 100% certainty that his enemy was standing right outside and the agent would meet his with immediate death?

    What should you be legally required to do for that man? Should the federal government REQUIRE you legally to feed and house the FBI agent for 9 months?

    I would say that, yes, it would be a very “Christianly” and hospitable thing to do, to protect and care for the innocent victim. But the question is: should we be legally transposing our conscience in a matter such as rape onto the society at large? Just a few thoughts…. and questions…

    • Denny Burk

      Jay, I don’t think your analogy works. The issue is whether or not the unborn child is a person. If he is, then on what basis would you deprive him of his right to life? It’s always wrong to kill innocent humans, no matter what the circumstances of their conception.

      • Jay Ryder

        “The issue is whether or not the unborn child is a person”
        No, actually, in the case of rape, that is not the issue.

        I am pro-life and believe that the unborn child IS a person (just like I believe that an FBI agent is a person).

        My issue is what is our legal responsiblity to one another?
        I simply brought in the scenario where a person is already grown to illustrate how we think about rights and what we owe one another as citizens, because THAT is the question at stake when it comes ot the issue of rape.

        I guess the FBI agent analogy isn’t the best… maybe I’ll come up with another.
        Meanwhile, I wonder how you’d respond to the above?

      • Jay Ryder

        “The issue is whether or not the unborn child is a person”
        No, actually, in the case of rape, that is not the issue.

        I am pro-life and believe that the unborn child IS a person (just like I believe that an FBI agent is a person).

        Among pro-lifers, the issue is what is our legal responsiblity to one another? How do we decide that?

        I simply brought in the scenario where a person is already grown to illustrate how we think about rights and what we owe one another as citizens, because THAT is the question at stake when it comes ot the issue of rape.

    • Ralph W. Davis

      Jay, the analogy is more like, if that same FBI agent–taking refuge and living in your house, without threatening you, or doing you any violence, were to be KILLED by you, would it still be murder? Yes of course–even though, of course you were inconvenienced–but willingly killing another human–who is in no way threatening you with death–is always murder, no matter what the circumstances.

      A child is an inconvenience (and yes a VERY big one) to her mother for only 9 months–she doesn’t risk her mother’s life, or threaten her. Given the problem of sterility today, there are MANY couples, ready, willing and able to adopt–but even if their were not, killing a baby because of the sin of one (or both) of her parents is never the answer.

      Two wrongs never make a right. Very basic–though difficult to follow–ethics here.

        • Stephen Beck

          Actually, a more compelling analogy would be if you lived in northern Canada and an FBI agent came to you and beat you up violently, and then as he was leaving he left a little kid in your house, a child who happens to have a high susceptibility to pneumonia. If you kick the kid out of your house he dies from the harsh climate, but if you wait a few months, you can pay for transportation into a more suitable living space in the US.

          • Jay Ryder

            Yes, that’s fair. Let’s use that.

            So, what would you say ought to be legally required of me in such a situation? Convince me. Thanks.

  • Ryan Rickard

    Your expectations are waaaaaay too high if you think that the GOP has any idea about what it means to be principled over political expediency. Look no further than their current Presidential Nominee-his spine is made from N.E.R.F. The GOP will not save the day, they never have, they never will. They cry about Obamacare and forcing people to buy into it, yet they love their Medicare, which does the exact same thing.

  • Jay Ryder

    Hi Denny,
    Here is a better analogy – not mine, but one that has been used in ethics classes called “The Famous Violinist”. It is highly relevant in the case of rape victims:

    “..imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore *kidnapped you*, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, ‘Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.’

    “Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it legally? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. ‘Tough luck. I agree, but now you’ve got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you… Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot be unplugged from him.’ I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago.'”

    • John Klink

      Better yet . . . what if the disease was likely going to overload your kidneys, and you very well may die as a result of not pulling the plug.

      In other words, it’s your life or the violinists life? Your choice.

      How much is the violinists life worth?
      Is he worth 9 months of your time?
      9 years?
      Is he worth your very life?

      How much is that unborn baby’s life worth? 9 months? 18 years? Your very life?
      How much did Jesus deem your Eternal life worth?

      • Jay Ryder

        John, those are all great questions. Questions that could very easily lead the Christian to make the decision in their conscience to support the violinist or the unborn baby. But as I said, it is a very Christianly thing to do and one that we should not impose our own conscience upon other people.
        Good Christian people could come to different conclusions on the matter of rape and what to do with an unborn child from the rape, I believe. The monolithic, insensitive pat answers are not very helpful in difficult situations like these.

    • Chris Wulfgeat

      Analogies break down pretty quickly. This is a bad analgoy because one person is deemed more important than another.

      In the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape, both people are equally important. I do not want to see the child killed, neither would I want to see the mother killed

      You can play word tricks and mental gymnastics, but you are still arguing that it is ok to kill a person.

      If you want to argue that an unborn child or fertilized egg is not a person, then that is a different argument than you are currently making. Your analogies are built on the child being a person. You cannot justify killing a person.

      • Jay Ryder

        Chris, I don’t think you point completely misses the mark. No one is saying that one person is more important than the other in the analogy. But even if that was implied (by the music society), the person who is more important is equated with the unborn. And even with that implication, no one would require me legally to allow him to use my kidneys to keep him alive.

        I think the analogy works perfectly to draw out the ethical implications. If I disconnect the violinist, I kill him. But there are ethically supportable reasons why I am allowed to make that choice.

          • Jay Ryder

            The issue actually has nothing to do with retribution.

            I would change your baseline question to something like:
            “Since I unwillingly and maliciously was plugged into the violinist, should I be *legally required* to bare the full cost to my body, my life, and my well-being in order to sustain the life of the violinist?”

            Unplugging the violinist has nothing to do with paying a retribution.

        • John Klink

          The story of the violinist is purely hypothetical (and has no medical realtiy – that I’m aware of) So it really isn’t a fair comparison, but rather a sensational story designed to ignite the emotions about the ‘unfairness’ of the event.
          The baseline question is: Since I unfairly and maliciously was plugged into the violinist, is it fair to cause the death of the volinist?

          Comparing the story to rape, we then ask the same baseline question: Since the woman was unfairly and malicously impregnated through rape, is it fair for her to cause the death of the baby?

          Both scenarios attempt to create excuse for murder on the premiss of “I was hurt, therefore I have a right to cause hurt.” You could argue ‘let the punishment fit the crime’ and talk about retribution. But the violinist, nor the baby, are the ones who did the crime! They are the innocent bystanders who get caught in the crossfire of mankind’s sinful actions. How is it ever ethical or fair to punish someone else for a crime they didn’t commit?

          • Jay Ryder

            The issue has nothing to do with retribution.

            I would change your baseline question to something like:
            “Since I unwillingly and maliciously was plugged into the violinist, should I be *legally required* to bare the full cost to my body, my life, and my well-being in order to sustain the life of the violinist?”

            Unplugging the violinist has nothing to do with paying a retribution.

    • Ralph W. Davis

      The plugged in violinist is also relying on a very exotic, unlikely, unnatural situation–one that people naturally find repellent. Pregnancy is a very unexotic, normal, natural situation, that all people everywhere participate in–at least once in their life.

      I would venture to say too that the only moral choice too–if you alone must stay 9 months in a particularly inconvenient situation to save a human life– is to do so…sorry. Fortunately pregnancy doesn’t mean staying in bed artificially hooked up to another adult stranger–hence the illustration is bogus.

      If anything the plugged in violinist illustrates it is the need for the strongest protections in law and law-enforcement situations….against rape.

      Given human nature is the way that it is too…probably all of us have some ancestor back there somewhere, over the last 5000 years….who was conceived via rape.

      • Jay Ryder

        Pregnancy as a result of a rape is quite unnatural, exotic, repellant and abnormal. The fact that the violinist is an adult is completely relevant because no one can argue about his or her legal ‘right to life’ as some do with the unborn child. And I don’t see how the other details factor into the ethics of the decision at all.

        • Johnny Mason


          Lets say the pregnancy is in the third-trimester or the 9th month. Would you allow abortion in this case for rape or incest?

          • Jay Ryder

            Johnny, typically, the woman knows right away that she has been raped, so I’m not sure how this would apply. I don’t see any reason why someone would to wait 9 months to decide, especially after the full term of her sacrifice has already been made.

        • Adam Omelianchuk


          The only thing Thomson’s paper defends is that the woman has a right to expel the unborn child from her body. It does not give her (or her Dr.) the right to kill the unborn child. At the end of her famous paper, Thomson admits as much: her argument does not entail that the fetus must die. Thus, if there were an artificial womb available for the fetus to be transfered to, there would be a way resolve the conflict between the rights of the unborn and the woman. If you are willing to grant that the fetus is a person who has the right to life (as Thomson does) and there is no artificial womb available, then the conflict between the right to life and the right to expel remain. How do we resolve that conflict? This is a question Thomson’s paper doesn’t address, which is too bad, because this the question that matters. All this is moot, however, if the fetus isn’t a rights-bearer and that is really what matters.

          • Jay Ryder

            Adam, but most commentators have taken Thomson’s argument as legitmate for defending the case of pregnancy thru rape. Her argument doesn’t prove the right to expel the unborn church only when she collaborated in the original decision making process which brought her into the predicament in the first place. Against the woman’s will, there does not appear to be a basis for legally enforceable compliance, but rather an allowance for the woman’s choice.

            • David Thomas

              Jay, at the risk of being as “one who graps a dog by the ears” (meddling in a discussion not my own), I would suggest that this particular scenario, i.e., a woman bearing the imago Dei who carries within her body a little boy or girl who also bears the imago Dei–though tragically and traumatically through the violence of rape–defies the use of metaphor. It is simply unique and transcendent, and must be treated directly.

              If you believe the child within the violated woman is fully human, her trauma doesn’t make it less so. In fact, in the wake of Akin’s remarks many liberal pundits rushed to hire medical experts to testify that conception through rape is precisely the same as conception through consensual lovemaking–inadvertantly proving Akin’s point better than he did!

              What the legal world looks for is an easy out, a lesser evil. But God’s design doesn’t always allow that, and, in fact, rarely allows that. God doesn’t let us “off the hook.” As it turns out, statistically some 50% of raped women who conceive choose to bear the child. This means they either identify the unborn life within them with God, or with themselves (or both), /more/ than they identify it with their violator. It also means they felt that aborting would create a greater trauma in the larger scheme of things than daily looking at a child whose biological father raped her (i.e., if she doesn’t adopt the baby away; many women choose to not only have but also keep the child).

              What the law does, it will do. As Christians I believe we must make a stand. For me, to agree that killing an unborn child is “legitimate” (to use the term in question) is to distort the image of God we have been entursted with. And as Paul says, we cannot do anythign against the truth, but only for the truth.

              • Jay Ryder

                It seems you’ve hung your hat exclusively on the imago-Dei argument, while ignoring all of the other factors that are involved in such a decision.

                Do not both the violinist and the FBI agent also qualify as bearing the imago-Dei? Yet there is no justifiable reason to legally require all citizens everywhere to make such a prefunctory decision.

                Yes, it would be a very Christianly thing to do to voluntarily permit the use of our bodies and personal property for the honorable and noble purpose of saving another person’s life. However, to legally mandate citizens to do so is a usurpation of power – imo.

                • John Klink

                  Jay, if I undestand right, you’re basically questioning why a Christian’s moral absolutes (imago Dei) should be forced on society at large by denying the legal right to abort in cases of rape.

                  To support this you suggest two scenarios which have are not just exotic, they simply have zero basis in reality to compare a rape situation to.

                  The FBI agent scenario fails the comparison because the agent represents both rapist and baby. There is no equality here.

                  The Violinist scenario is also unequal to rape because the Violinist’s music society did their crime to save a life. The rapist has no concern for life inspite of the fact he may create it as a result of his crime.

                  So, rather than confuse the issue with analogies which simply cannot compare to a rape, why not just discuss the dilemma of when biblical morality and civil legality should (or should not) be the same standard.

                  • John Klink

                    Edit and re-edit, and still miss stuff. The second paragraph should read: “To support this you suggest two scenarios which are not just exotic, they simply have zero basis in reality to compare a rape situation to.”

                  • Jay Ryder

                    “why not just discuss the dilemma of when biblical morality and civil legality should (or should not) be the same standard” ?

                    John, that would be an excellent discussion, since I am decidedly not a theonomist.

                    However, we would first have to establish whether the Bible’s teaching is 100% clear that a woman who has become pregnant by rape is required by God;s law to carry the baby to full term and give birth to him/her.

                    I don’t think this can be established explicitly in God’s Word. In fact, the OT has an allowance for infidelity in Numbers 5:22,28 with which most Christians probably have never considered.

                    • John Klink

                      Jay, First, Numbers 5 says nothing about a child from an affair. To suggest the drink and resulting curse is somehow a priest administered abortifacient is quite a stretch.

                      Second, if something is morally biblically right, and the civil legal code says otherwise, we obey God over the legal code.

                      Third, In the case of the unborn, God’s word repeatedly states that the child is a person. God includes punishment for someone who accidently causes a woman to miscarry. (ie abortion). God’s word is 100% clear on how God views the status and value of the unborn child. Because of this, it is better to assume abortion in cases of rape are no different, since God does not directly address such an exception. So the onus is on you to show that God allows the exception in cases of rape.

                      Fourth, should Christians vote for and support policy that protects the life of the unborn in all cases including rape? I think Denny Burk’s answer in the above article is a clear, “Yes”. And I would agree whole heartedly. If you disagree, then you must prove the exception, not we who must prove the exception is ruled out.

                    • Jay Ryder

                      John, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I have done the most I can to try to help you understand that while I believe in the value of the life of the unborn (just as I would value the life of other people like the violinist and the FBI agent),

                      For you and others to keep going back to the same argument while ignoring the issue in its entirity shows that you are not interested in an honest dialog.

                      (Numbers 5 is pretty clear about what it says about a woman who becomes pregnant by a man other than her husband. I didn’t read anything into it.)

                • David Thomas

                  I have indeed. And so have you, far more than you think.

                  Once we begin mitigating the idea that human beings have absolute value /because/ we are created in God’s image, it is merely a question of time before your “usurpation of power” comes knocking in ways, times, and places you had not anticipated.

                  Imago Dei means we all belong to God before we belong to anyone or anything else–including ourselves. The paradox of truth is that in recognizing we are not our own we find the path to both freedom and true self-awareness–both as individuals and a society. But if we say we /are/ our own (what George MacDonald calls “the first principle of hell”), then we lose freedom, and become less our own than ever before.

                  The simple truth is that no man or woman belongs to themselves. Numerous laws have, in the past, been based on this truth (including laws against suicide). A society that asserts that a person belongs to themselves, not just relatively in respect to other citizens in the reasonable sense, but absolutely in the moral sense over against the Creator, well, that society is doomed.

                  • Jay Ryder

                    David, If we use the imago-Dei argument as our veritable trump card for all political and legal issues, then we must all become pacificists and deny the right to self-defense.

                    We are all endowed with certain inalienable rights, which is a self-evident truth upon which our great country was built. Without tthe believe in protection of individual rights, on what basis should we even expect to advance the right to life of the unborn in the first place?

                    Certainly, as Christians, Jesus Christ’s claim on our lives calls us to a much higher standard (ie, sermon on the mount). However, that is for the Church to dispense — via the sacraments, the preaching of the word, and church discipline, not for the government, imo.

                    • David Thomas

                      Jay, I’m not following your “Christian worldview”/”Government polity” dichotomy. I agree with John Klink that the onus is on you to prove that civil law has no basis in or connection to biblical morality. If I can come up with even one example where it does, your argument is toast. You seem to be engaging in quite a bit of selective thought, and have ignored my statements about respect for imago Dei in current “secular” legal code.

                      What you are suggesting is that as Christians we speak one way in church, and another way in the public square. There is no basis for this in either Scripture or church history.

                    • Jay Ryder

                      You must not have read my previous comments, because I did directly respond to your imago Dei argument. It is YOU who have not answered my concern. Are you a pacificist? Do you support the legal right to self defense? Liberal Christians use that argument to negate everything from just war to capital punishment. I have answered you on that.

                      With regard to imposing Christian practice and faith on civic government, it is pretty plain to me (as a non-theonomist) that we would not do this (see above comments). I do not think that rabbit trail belongs here.

                      In addition, I have addressed above the concern that no one has shown where the Bible explicitly states that a woman who has been raped must carry the child to birth, should she become pregnant. It is incumbant upon someone to prove that, and I doubth that you can directly from scritpure (see Numbers 5).

                    • David Thomas

                      Jay (In response to your 8/17 comment, below),

                      You have responded in barest form, but not substance, and your arguments are terribly, terribly thin and are filled with non-sequiturs. You are skirmishing with a lot of dust raised, but winning no one but yourself, both on the imago Dei issue and the matter of morality in civil law.

                      Nothing else to be said.

                    • Jay Ryder

                      David, I’m not trying to convince you. I’ve asked you to convince me, but you have not done so. I’ve answered your imago-dei question fully. You perhaps have not formulated your position in full or as you have wished to. But don’t blame me for your lack of communication.

            • Adam Omelianchuk


              Choice for what, exactly? I don’t know which commentators you are talking about, but they are wrong if you mean to say that her argument defends the right to secure the death of the fetus (even in cases of rape). It does not defend abortion in that sense. Again, read the end of her paper and see for yourself. Her defense of abortion can only be taken in the sense of evacuating the fetus from the womb.

              It’s also worth noting that Thomson, Mary Anne Warren, and David Boonin–all ardent abortion supporters–have written that if an abortion were to be performed without killing the fetus, then the woman would not have the right to terminate the life the fetus. See Kaczor, 2011:216-27 for the relevant quotes.

              • Jay Ryder

                Adam, re-read what I wrote. Thomson’s argument supports a woman’s right to evacuate the unborn child from the womb in the case of rape. period. And I never, ever said that a woman should kill the baby herself.
                I’m not sure what point you are exactly trying to make, but it would be helpful if we try to understand each other.

                As stated: I’m pro-life, but believe that a woman who has been raped has a choice of what to do, should she become pregnant. There are extenuating factors involved and the famous violinist analogy helps to show (in an imperfect way) why such a decision is more than a knee-jerk, political solution.

                • Adam Omelianchuk

                  No need to re-read what you wrote. I understood you perfectly the first time. You are missing my point that I’ve made twice now: There is a distinction between having the right to expel the fetus from the womb and the right to kill the fetus. Thomson’s argument only establishes the latter. That’s not much of a ‘defense of abortion’ as it is currently practiced, don’t you think?

                  I am not interested in Akin or Republican politics. I am interested in your application of Thomson’s argument and how you are using it to claim that a woman “has a right to choose.” But that doesn’t tell us what she can rightly choose, which is why I made the distinction above.

                  • Jay Ryder

                    Wrong. Thomson’s argument is for the former (not the latter), as the woman would never actually be the one to kill the unborn baby. And Thomson grants that it is in fact an “unborn baby” – not a fetus. That is the whole thrust of the ethical dilemma she presents and why I used it.

                    Thomson’s argument is that the woman has the right to decide whether her body should be used to continue to support the life of the violinist, given the fact that the situation was violently forced upon her thru the illegal act of kidnapping and the unwillful attachment of the violinist’s organs. She may, if she is very kind, permit the violinist to continue to use her body. However, if she does not wish to do so, Thomson makes it clear that there should not be a legally enforceable requirement for her to have to do so, especially in the case where the mode is parallel to that of rape.

                    Perhaps I don’t understand what you’re actually trying to say, but I’ve tried to be very clear with you (perhaps unsuccessfully).

                    • Adam Omelianchuk

                      Right, I meant to say the former. But don’t you see that that is not a defense of *abortion* as it is practiced today–that is the intentional killing of the unborn child? Thomson’s argument ultimately leaves us with a conflict between the right not to be killed (had by the unborn child) and the right of the woman to expel the unborn child. And it doesn’t matter who does the killing, because the unborn has it regardless of who does the procedure. How to resolve this conflict is not addressed by Thomson’s paper, and it is the morally relevant question that needs to be answered before we can conclude what to do in such cases.

                      To see why, extend the analogy a bit further. Granting that the violinist has a right to life and that the woman has a right to unhook him from her body, does this mean that she is allowed to take an axe to the violinist to dismember him or have his body sucked through a jet engine? Of course not. Yet this is functionally the outcome for the unborn child in the procedure of an abortion. Hence, in the end, Thomson’s argument isn’t all that helpful as a defense of abortion. Why not just deny the fetus is a person and be done with it?

                    • Jay Ryder

                      I agree with you when you stated: “how to resolve this conflict is not addressed by Thomson’s paper”. However, I Thomson’s paper is clear on the most relevant issue at hand: that she should not be legally required to sustain the life of the violinist at the expense of her own body and health primarily because the mode of the situation so closely parallels that of rape.

                      So, while it is correct that there is not a decisive and binding resolution according to Thomson’s paper, the case presents a very strong case against legally requiring the victim of rape to give birth to the child. When something like this boils down so clearly to a matter of conscience which cannot be conclusively answered with a resounding yes or no for everyone, everwhere, and in all conditions, then the only responsible thing to do is to not to make a specific, particular choice legally binding for every person in society to abibe by.

                      Finally, to answer your question: why not just deny the fetus is person? Because that’s not true and to do so would be a lie (just as the original scenario admits).

                      Thanks for this exchange here. I appreciate the opportunity to think it all thru with all of you.

  • Andy Orlovsky

    The more I look into this story, It seems like the media has completed twisted Mr. Akins words, and that Conservatives and Christians have thrown hm under the bus based on the media’s twisted words. Akin never claimed pregnancy from rape was impossible, he claimed it was rare, and he is absolutely right, less than 1% of abortions happen to rape victims. Every couple who is trying to conceive children is told that high stress in the women can prevent conception, and its hard to imagine anything more stressful than a rape.

    As for the “legitimate rape” comment, he may be referring to women who claim that were raped in order to moral justify their abortion. They do exist. “Roe” from Roe v. Wade made that very claim (she did repent and become a Christian). I’m not saying all rape victims who become pregnant are lying, but by pretending that false rape accusations don’t exist, we are doing a disservice to the real victims.

  • Ralph W. Davis

    I knew a well-spoken, well-accomplished feminist woman who was convinced to become pro-life because her office overlooked an abortion clinic parking lot. Over and over again, day-after-day, she saw men–presumably boyfriends and fathers….dragging weeping young women into the “clinic”…for “treatment.” It sure didn’t look like a “woman’s right to choose” to her. More often than not, abortion is the violence men use…to avoid their responsibilities for their own choices… The violence of rape can never be used to justify the violence of abortion.

  • JamesStanton

    The actual offensive thing that Akin suggested was that women are able to self-abort voluntarily or involuntarily any pregnancy that was the result of rape.

    Akin’s brand of moralism requires ignorance and there are plenty more where he’s coming from. Folks here are twisting this to suit themselves as much as the media and the political parties. Maybe I am too but I thought that was most objectionable of anything he said.

    I see the ostensibly pro-life Paul Ryan has subjected his own views to Mitt Romney’s position on the issue.

    Romney and the Republican elite are running away from Akin because there are a lot of moderate to socially liberal Republicans in the swing states that they don’t wish to scare off. I think that when things die down in a couple of weeks the big money and behind the scenes support will come back for Akin if he remains in the race. The Senate is in play after all.

    • David Thomas

      Actually, James, you have Akin wrong on this point, so strictly speaking you are the ignorant one–not only on Akin’s intent but on the (erroneous) statement he made.

      Akin was verbalizing the belief that a woman who had be traumatized by rape was less likely to /conceive in the first place/–a belief very distinct (for pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike) than the idea that a woman who had already conceived could (as you say) “self-abort.” The difference is the difference between contraception and abortion.

      Akin was, of course, wrong, and has said so since making the statement. But at least this part of his statement was not a matter of morality, but of biology.

      For my part, I find it disingenuous to an extreme for people to “twist” (again, your terms) what Akin said into something that he did NOT say, viz., that somehow or other he sees rape as not so bad. He’s married with two daughters, and he has made abundantly clear that he sees rape for what it is. Anyone who says or acts otherwise about Akin is lying to themselves for political gain.

      If the stumbling block is that people feel that any fetus–whether conceived by rape or otherwise–is less than human, then so be it. Akin has taken his stand there. I agree with him. (I read a powerful article by a man who was conceived by rape, and his mother chose to have him anyway. I have yet to hear pro-choicers adequately respomnd to such people–typically they view them as one views an appartition.)

      For other reasons, I feel he should drop out of the race, as I articulate below. I don’t feel Akin is a perfect man or a saint, but if we distort truth we only cheat ourselves.

      • JamesStanton

        David, did I get Akin wrong? I thought he was simply trying to diminish any legitimate case for terminating a rape-related pregnancy through ignorance of biology. I think it’s his moralism that led him to make that statement as much as his understanding of biology.

        I don’t think he was trying to say rape is not so bad either.

        • David Thomas

          James, I’m glad to hear you say you don’t think he was saying rape might be OK, because to hear some pundits talk they almost want to pin that on him.

          Do you not recognize the difference between self-abort and self-contraconceive?

          Akin’s position on no abortion even in cases of rape is based upon one thing and one thing alone: The humanity of the unborn child. Anyone who sees the unborn child as human, who /really/ believes that, ends up where Akin is. Such is the difficulty of the human situation and the unspeakable sin of rape: If a violated woman conceives, now the child in the womb is a victim as well as the the raped woman who carries it. Akin’s position (as well as that of other pro-lifers who see unborn children as human beings) refuses the easy out of stating that the terrible trauma the woman has experienced somehow makes her unborn child somehow less than human and therefore undeserving of life.

          My question to you is, is that unborn child really human? If not, then it wouldn’t matter if it were conceived during a romatic and loving wedding night tryst. But if it is, then as horrible as rape is, that child’s humanity stares you in the face even as you are poised to kill it.

          • JamesStanton

            Well, yes of course I think the unborn child is exactly that.

            “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, uh the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

            He goes on to say…

            “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

            The second part I have zero problem with. He’s right on that.

            • David Thomas

              OK, then at the core we have no argument.

              I think the departure point is what Akin meant by a violated woman’s body “shutting that whole thing down.” You apparently take that to mean he was referring to (natural) self-abortion. But subsequent remarks made by both his detractors and his defenders, and to a common misconception, almost certainly he was referring to the idea that a raped woman’s body actually resists conception. That’s why I made my remarks.

              Of course, as I commented elsewhere in this blog, I feel Akin should drop out of the race. The implication of Akin’s remarks (whether he wants to admit it or not) is that a raped woman who conceives wasn’t “legitimately” raped. In other words, if she carries a child after claiming to have been violated, well, then maybe she wasn’t /really/ violated, or in some way was complicit. This is horrendously offensive. Akin wants to plead a combination of ignorance and sincerity, but the matter is too volatile. He is irreparably damaged, politically speaking. I don’t blame GOP leaders for being frustrated with him that he is either naive to his position or obstinate in the face of political realities. But that is another matter.

  • David Thomas

    Denny, I agree 100% that much more has been made of Akin’s remarks than warrant.

    Akin unfortunately 1) made a statement that is objectively incorrect, biologically speaking, 2) used phraseology that clumsily addressed the scourge of rape in a manner that made it appear that the crime could ever be “in bounds” (i.e., “legitimate”), and 3) made the case for the unborn child’s rights over against the trauma that a woman experiences during and after a rape.

    The perfect political storm that arose from combining these three rhetorical “weather systems” led us to where we are now. Akin blew his biology on #1, and stands corrected. He never intended #2, and everyone with half a brain knows it full well, and has clarified his intent multiple times. People in higher positions than he aspires to have done far worse and have gotten away with it for a wink; how Akin is being treated is “gotcha” politics at its worst. #3 is the “scandal” that Christians have to pout up with for *gasp* defending the defenseless.

    I believe that the unborn, irrespective of how they are conceived, should be protected, and I am willing to have rotten tomatoes thrown at me to stand by that truth.

    All that said, I am disappointed that Akin is still in the race. This may appear a paradox, but I don’t feel it is. Politics is not ministry in the biblical sense, and public office is not prophetic office. It is also a “team sport,” and anyone who pretends that it is just about them and their local constituency is doing just that–pretending. I find it a trifle disingenuous when Akin digs in his heels in the face a obvious political realities he cannot be ignorant of (and if he is, that makes him even less fit for office), and speaks of the “big, bad GOP party bosses.” Those “big, bad party bosses” are doing exactly what they have to in a toxic political climate. Does Akin really think he is the first good man to implode politically on a trifle? Does he think life is “fair”? Their actions are nothing new or other than what their jobs require–which is to /win elections/. It seems the tone of Akin’s campaign has taken on a tenor and become about something different that just representing Missouri in the Senate. It’s about making some sort of “point.” He does this during a crucial election, knowing full well that national and not merely local issues hang in the balance. Is this really a new and foreign idea to him? Again, if it is, perhaps he isn’t ready for the Senate.

    If Akin wants to make his point and say the people of Missouri have chosen him, and the GOP leadership is so bad and corrupt, why not file as an independent (like Lieberman did), and take his stand there? How effective will he be for Missouri, even if elected under the GOP banner, after spitting in the face of his party leadership?

    My point is that Akin appears very much to be “playing politics” himself, even as he accuses others of doing so. Representative leadership, by defintion, is not about the representative. Akin’s political actions make me wonder if he has lost sight of that.

  • Jane Cunningham

    This is rich – a group of men discussing this issue – none of whom will ever be in a position to have to back their opinions up with their lives or their bodies.

  • June Cunningham

    This is a no-win response from me, because I don’t consider an abortion in the early term of the pregnancy to be “killing a child”. You, on the other hand do, so I say “yes”, and I’m a “baby killer”.

    I am pro-choice and I do believe that no one should be forced to endure the terror and pain of a rape and be forced to carry through a pregnancy that results. That is a special kind of horror that only a woman could know – thus my amusement about a bunch of men in a comments sections talking about it like they could have any experiential understanding of the matter.

    I am pro-choice – I do not believe that having an early term abortion is killing a child. I also believe that abortion is not a positive thing and I think that it’s sad when a woman has come down to that choice (as there are generally numerous alternatives before that point to prevent the pregnancy – accept in the case of rape or incest), but when she does (and millions of women every year do), I believe that she should have safe access to that procedure. That choice shouldn’t cost her her life.

    We definitely differ in perspective, but I hope that you can respect that like your perspective, it’s just a perspective.

    • Denny Burk

      June, I respect your right to your own views. I think it’s also fair to expect pro-choice persons to be able to justify their views. If you are going to treat the unborn person as a non-person, you ought to be able to defend that view. On your view, when do the unborn become persons? At what point should we recognize that they have an inalienable right to life as the rest of us do? Also, why is abortion a “sad” decision in your view? If the unborn are not persons, then we should regard the procedure like we do an appendectomy. It would merely be the removal of unwanted tissue. Why be sad about an abortion if it’s not a person?

  • June Cunningham

    I don’t think that a fetus that cannot survive outside of the womb is a human. I know that your argument will be that medical science is making that possible at an earlier date in the pregnancy all of the time and this is true. But I believe that at some point, there will be limits to this as well. Just from my point of view I agree that past the first trimester, the termination of a pregnancy is a medical procedure and not the termination of an actual, feasible life – I know that you’ll disagree, but again, my perspective.

    I think that in spite of the fact that the fetus is not a child, in my view, it does represent a “road not taken” for a woman, should she choose abortion. This is an enormous decision and if a woman is choosing an abortion, she’s also choosing another path. It’s much like any life altering choice – to pursue or not pursue education, to select or not select a mate. You leave another possibility behind.

    I also think that women should have access to other choices (ie. contraception) so that they can make those decisions more proactively. When a woman doesn’t have those options or doesn’t exercize those options, I think that’s sad as well.

    • LaNeisa Jackson

      Back in 1970 I felt the anguish of this decision. At that time, in order to get an abortion the girl (woman) had to have a psychiatrist attest that if she did not have an abortion the emotional and psychological trauma would be devastatingly life altering. More than my own anguish was the anguish of my mother and father about this decision.

      Sad is an appropriate description of that time.

  • David Thomas

    Jay, referencing your 9/3/2012 @ 9:54 post:

    It is difficult to respond to you because you seem to operate in your own polemical atmosphere. Example: Your “addressing” of the imago Dei question. Your response rhetorically (and hence dismissively) stated that if we were adopt such a view we’d all have to become pacifists. This is, at once, a caricature of the imago Dei argument which sets up a straw man and a coarse “end justifies the means” pragmatism that is nothing less than antithetical to any legitimate expression of the Christian worldview. It is the former because believing that humankind is created in God’s image in no way makes us pacifists–Scripture sanctions capital punishment, police actions that apply lethal force, and just warfare. Some /may/ argue that imago Dei leads to pacifism, but it is a non-sequitur of enormous theological AND historic proportions to pretend like one follows the other as morning follows night. By caricaturing a position that you don’t agree with you dispatch it quickly without dealing with its complexities, even as you claim to have “addressed” it.

    Worse, you suggest that merely because firm belief in imago Dei might make us pacifists it is therefore invalid. I am no pacifist, but if imago Dei led me to that conclusion I would choose pacifism over snuffing innocent lives that reflect God’s image over the pragmatism you seem to champion in a New York minute. You are a step away from the defendants at Nuremberg with your argument of legal and political practicalities over against spiritual convictions.

    In the end, Jay, the truth imago Dei is about the gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation history, because that image is mirrored perfectly in two men–one standing before a Tree in a Garden and Another hanging from a Tree at a crossroads. It is therefore a message that is /proclaimed/–not argued. I am proclaiming it as a revealed truth, and if you are not convinced enough to fight with all you have for innocents that bear that image–out of reverence for their Creator who gave Himself for them–then your issue is not with me but with the Holy Spirit. I’ve tried to do His work before, and it hasn’t worked out to well.

    Prayers for you,

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