Many people assume that pregnant rape victims want abortions, and that if they aren’t able to get them, their lives are ruined, and their babies become a constant reminder of the rape. However, no less than three studies have found otherwise.
David Reardon, Amy Sobie, and Julie Makimaa1 found that 73% of pregnant rape victims chose life. 64% raised their children, and 36% placed their babies for adoption. An older series of two studies by Dr. Sandra Mahkorn2 found similar results – 75% of the women in her studies chose against abortion. Mahkorn gave the reasons why women chose not to abort:
Beliefs that abortion involves violence, killing, or was immoral were the reasons most frequently reported for clients’ decisions against abortion. Client viewpoints such as abortion is a “violent way of ending a human life” or abortion is “killing” were noted. Others expressed the belief in an intrinsic meaning to human life, reflected in opinions such as “all life has meaning” or “this child can bring love and happiness into someone’s life.” One pregnant victim related that she felt she would suffer more mental anguish by taking the life of the child.2
Reardon and his co-authors also wrote about the reasons why more women in their study did not abort:
First, approximately 70% of all women believe abortion is immoral, although many may also feel it should be a legal choice for others. Approximately the same percentage of pregnant rape victims believe abortion would be a further act of violence…
Second, many of these women believe that their children’s lives may have some intrinsic meaning or purpose which they do not yet understand. …
Third, victims of assault often become introspective. Their sense of the value of life and respect for others is heightened. Since they have been victimized, the thought that they in turn might victimize their own innocent children through abortion is repulsive.
Fourth, the victim may sense, at least at a subconscious level, that if she can get through the pregnancy, she will have conquered the rape… Giving birth, especially when conception was not desired, is a totally selfless act, a generous act, a display of courage, strength, and honor. It is proof that she is better than the rapist. … While he destroyed, she can nurture.1
How did these women fare after they had their babies? Mahkorn interviewed therapists who worked with mothers from rape. She had them measure women’s self-esteem, anxiety, fear, satisfaction with present life situation, loneliness, depression, and contentedness. They were asked to rate the intensity of these feelings. A measurement was done when a woman first contacted the counselor and again later in therapy. Universally, women’s scores showed improvements in positive traits and decreases in negative ones. This indicated that the women were healing and adjusting. According to Mahkorn:
[This study illustrates] that pregnancy need not impede the victim’s resolution of the trauma… rather, with loving support, nonjudgmental attitudes, and emphatic communication, healthy emotional and psychological responses are possible despite the added burden of pregnancy.2
The Reardon study compared women who aborted with women who carried to term. It found that 88% of women who aborted regretted their abortions and felt they made the wrong choice. Only one woman felt positive about her abortion. The remaining women were ambivalent, feeling they may have made the right decision but acknowledging that the abortion was traumatic for them. They said things like, “It bothers me a lot but maybe it was for the best.”1
READ: Women who conceived through rape: ‘My baby was part of my healing’
93% of the rape victims who aborted said they would not recommend abortion to someone in the same situation. Only 7% felt that abortion was a good solution in cases of rape. In addition, 43% said that they felt pressured to choose abortion by their family and/or by abortion workers.
Of the women who carried to term, not one regretted having her baby or wished she had aborted instead. Over 80% explicitly expressed happiness about their child and their situation. Only four out of 82 women who carried to term said that abortion “might” be a good solution to a pregnancy that occurs during rape. 94% said abortion was not a good solution in these instances.
These studies show that the claim that all women who become pregnant from rape want to have abortions is a myth, and that most women who abort later regret having done so. In contrast, the women in the studies who chose life were happy they had their babies. Pro-lifers can know that when they oppose abortions in cases of rape and encourage rape survivors to choose life, they are not hurting these women, but empowering them.
- David C Reardon, Julie Makimaa, and Amy Sobie Victims and Victors: Speaking out about Their Pregnancies, Abortions, and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault (Springfield, Illinois: Acorn Books, 2000)
- Sandra Kathleen Mahkorn, MD and William V Dolan, MD “Sexual Assault in Pregnancy” Thomas Hilgers, Dennis Horan, and David Mall Eds. New Perspectives on Human Abortion (Frederick, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1981); Sandra Kathleen Mahkorn “Pregnancy and Sexual Assault” David Mall and Walter Watts, Eds. The Psychological Aspects of Abortion (Washington DC: University Publications of America, 1979)
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