What is Forced Pregnancy?
We have heard the word forced pregnancy tossed about. But what does that mean? Some people are equating the lack of abortion access to forced pregnancy. Equality Now says it this way:
- “Forced pregnancy is defined as when a woman or girl becomes pregnant without having sought or desired it, and abortion is denied, hindered, delayed or made difficult.
Some of these pregnancies are caused by a lack of sexual education, access to contraception or mistake. Still, many of them, especially among young girls, are caused by sexual violence, often perpetrated by relatives or acquaintances.”
The ACLU writes it this way,
- “Laws that prevent people from making their own decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy or have an abortion amount to forced pregnancy.”
Both of those definitions are vague and arbitrary. If a woman didn’t expect to get pregnant but is happy in the end to give birth—does that equal forced pregnancy? Or is it only for women who never wanted pregnancy? (Studies show that 96% of women who could not get an abortion after giving birth no longer wanted one.) Also, what constitutes if abortion is hindered or delayed? Was that a long drive to the abortion clinic or a long wait in the lobby? What about the reference to pregnancy because of a mistake? We must look for a clear definition rather than vaguely throwing around alarming terms.
Abortion Bans Are Not Forced Pregnancy
The International Criminal Court (ICC) defines forced pregnancy as “unlawful confinement of a woman who has been forcibly impregnated, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law.”
In the Rome statute of the ICC, forced pregnancy is among specific terms found in Article 7, Crimes Against Humanity: “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.” Also, according to Verify, “state abortion bans in the U.S. aren’t considered ‘forced pregnancy’ by the International Criminal Court.” This is a very different definition than the ones stated earlier.
Examples of Forced Pregnancy in History
According to the ICC, some examples of forced pregnancy in history include “…in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where soldiers raped women until they became pregnant and then continued to imprison them. Although not as well publicized, forced pregnancy occurred in Rwanda where thousands of women were raped and then bore children as a result of those rapes.” To compare having a lack of access to an abortion clinic to forced pregnancy is to misguide people. It compares an actual victim to someone in a difficult situation. It is like complaining about having to heat my tap water to make tea compared to people who lack access to clean water. There are not the same, and to act like they are is dishonest.
Is Forced Pregnancy the Same as Rape?
Rape is not the same as forced pregnancy. The ICC makes it clear that rape and forced confinement are present when defining forced pregnancy. Also, ICC clarifies that forced pregnancy is not a lack of access to abortion. “It seems that no state or non-governmental organization (NGO) argued that the crime of ‘forced pregnancy’ should cover any situation where a pregnant woman is denied access to safe and legal abortion, regardless of the circumstances of conception.”
Those who say lack of access to abortion is forced pregnancy are dishonoring the women who were victimized in this way. Let’s not add to the confusion by using the alarming term in this incorrect manner.
Rape and Abortion
Often when talking about forced pregnancy, people equate it to rape. Equality Now uses the term “sexual violence.” We know that forced pregnancy does have an element of sexual violence. But again, it is not rape alone or lack of access to abortion.
Yet, people are understandably concerned about rape. A common statement that has been said is, “Are you really going to make a 13-year-old carry her rapist’s baby?” We recoil from such a thought. A poor girl has experienced severe trauma and letting her continue the pregnancy seems cruel. But is that really the case? Is abortion the best way to end the pain of rape?
Rape Question Answered by Someone Who Has Been There
Serena Dyksen, a 13-year-old rape victim herself, answers the question in her book She Found His Grace. “Performing an abortion on a woman after rape is like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound. It will never fix it.” Mother and child are connected. They are impacted by each other. And rape trauma doesn’t go away just because the child is gone.
Serena explains further, “The 1 percent ‘rape exception’ is often used to justify all abortions. But to be transparent, it is important for people to understand that my abortion was worse than my rape… Rape was an act of violence done to me. But abortion is also an act of violence.” Serena did not find healing after getting an abortion. In fact, she found just the opposite. It took over 20 years of counseling to work through the trauma of her abortion.
Abortion Rape Statistics
It seems odd that people use the words “rape” and “forced pregnancy” to argue for reasons to make abortion legal in all states. According to Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization, the number of women seeking abortion from rape or incest is 1.5% of all abortions. It is the least likely reason for a woman to seek an abortion. Making laws based on an exception is faulty logic. Scott Klusendorf likens this faulty logic to saying we need to get rid of all traffic laws because a few people have raced to the hospital due to an injury that needed immediate attention.
The Elliot Institute surveyed 192 women who conceived during a rape or incest. Of those victims, 70% carried the baby to term, and either raised the child or made an adoption plan. 29% had an abortion and 1.5% had a miscarriage.
- 43% of these women said they felt pressured to abort by family or health workers.
- 78% of those who aborted had regrets and said that abortion was the wrong solution.
- None of the women who gave birth said they regretted their decision.
Students for Life shares this information from rape survivors:
In an open letter to the U.S. Congress, 38 rape survivors who became pregnant wrote:
“Our experiences are varied. Many of us carried our pregnancies to term. Some of us raised or are raising our children, while others placed our children in adoptive homes. Others of us had abortions. In many cases, we felt pressured to abort by family members, social workers and doctors who insisted that abortion was the “best” solution. For many, the abortion caused physical and emotional trauma equal to or exceeding the trauma of the sexual assault that our abortions were supposed to ‘cure.’”
Forced Pregnancy and Rape
So, the question – as Scott Klusendorf puts it – is, “How should we treat innocent human beings who remind us of a painful event?” Should they be punished because of the circumstances of their procreation?
Suppose a military unit is captured while in a hostile country. The group will be tortured and interrogated for information. However, the captor pulls aside the commander. If the commander helps them get information, they will spare the commander the pain of torture and interrogation. If not, the pain will be doubled for the commander. Is this a good offer?
More to the Story
We all understand wanting to avoid pain, but would we encourage a commander to abandon their team? No way! We would want the commander to stand up for their unit. Why? Because it is the right thing to do, even though the he will suffer. Sometimes the right thing to do is hard, but it is still worth it.
None of us want to diminish a woman’s pain, nor ask her to do something after sexual violence. Yet, an innocent life hangs in the balance of her brave, painful choice.
Advocate for the Real Victim
We need to declare war on sexual assault. Changes must be made as sexual assault has risen over the past years. Stop showing porn and violent videos that victimize women. Believe women who share their rape stories and help them speak with the authorities, get counseling and journey through healing. In Serena’s story, she shares, “The abortion clinic never mentioned my rape or offered my parents help for the trauma of my sexual abuse. Instead, it was just trauma after trauma, which resulted in even more trauma.”
All clinics should report suspected rape. Senator Kay O’Connor said, “If you’re younger than 14 and you’re pregnant, there’s only one way you got there – and that’s statutory rape.” Like Serena’s story, an abortion clinic performed an abortion on a 13-year-old without asking about rape or saving any evidence. They violated child rape protection. We need to help victims of sexual assault and find justice for rape.
Resources for Understanding Sexual Assault and Helping Victims:
Forced Pregnancy and Rape Answers
Where else would we solve a violent problem with a violent answer? A child is a child, regardless of the circumstances of their conception. The crazy part of this argument is that we are advocating for the hypothetical victims, not the real victim. Check in with the real victim: the woman who was raped.
Serena shared how abortion did not help. “You don’t heal a victim of sexual abuse and rape by inflicting more abuse and violence. Abortion left me empty and traumatized, and it took the life of an innocent baby—my baby. Abortion left a gaping hole in our hearts that changed my family forever.”
Stories of Hope After Rape
Other women decided to continue their pregnancy after rape. Shanti found the strength she wanted at a pregnancy resource center that offered support and love. There she was given “resources to report the assault and “find her voice” as they found a rape crisis advocate to help her. Shanti reported the assault, found healing through the center and enjoyed becoming a mother.
Mya (whose name has been changed) shared about her rape experience. She didn’t want to have a child by a rapist, but didn’t want to abort either. She shared her fears with the medical clinic staff. “What if I can’t love it, or even touch it?” The staff shared that she might feel differently with time. And with time, she did. After giving birth, she said, “I never knew I could love someone as much as I love my boy.”
Conclusion on Forced Pregnancy
Everyone is looking to care for women. To help them. However, the term “forced pregnancy” should not be used flippantly to describe a lack of access to abortion. Nor should rape be tossed around as a reason for abortion. When talking to some of the 1% of women victimized by rape and abortion, many shared they felt pressured by others to do so and regretted it.
And this did not provide the solution they were hoping for. We need to advocate for women who have been traumatized by rape to have justice and healing. As nations, we need to discourage forced pregnancy from being used by any group of people to harm another group of people. And for women who find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy, let’s be honest about what they are experiencing and offer real help and real healthcare. Don’t use alarming words such as “forced pregnancy” or “rape” as reasons for abortion access.
Serena says this, “They cloak the procedure as ‘healthcare,’ claiming it is routine, healthy and without side effects. Abortion clinics use deceptive language to normalize abortion so that a woman will think she can have her pregnancy terminated one day and then life will go back to normal the next. This couldn’t be further from the truth. On the day of my abortion, that procedure negatively affected me for the rest of my life. It took me years to not only understand this but confront it and find healing.”