How Rape and "Pro-Life" Politics Are Intimately Connected

Victim of domestic violence
Victim of domestic violence

Several months ago, I had a dream that I was raped and became pregnant. In my dream, I wept. When I awoke, I wept again, because even though that nightmare was not my reality, it is a reality for too many women. It is a reality for too many children.

Rape is one of the things that keeps me awake at night. But what makes my insomnia so bad that I have to pace the room is forced motherhood--particularly for rape victims, particularly for rape victims who are children.

The story of a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay who was forced to give birth after being raped by her stepfather made headlines in the post-industrial world. Failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee then made headlines by declaring that denying her an abortion was the right decision. His justification: "Let nobody be misled, a 10-year-old girl being raped is horrible, but does it solve a problem by taking the life of an innocent child?"

I try to be tolerant of other people's viewpoints, but this one bewilders me. Huckabee and other anti-abortion politicians think pregnancies from rape are "gifts from god." But if you honestly believe that your god would condemn a 10-year-old child rape victim to motherhood, your god is a cruel, spiteful being who is not worthy of your devotion.

This 10-year-old rape victim seemed like an isolated case, but the reality is that the media could report dozens of these stories every day. In 2012, there were 60,690 births to girls under the age of 14 in 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Worldwide, the number of births to girls under 15 is about two million per year.

And I suspect that in the coming years, with states passing more and more restrictive abortion laws, the United States will see an increase in young girls giving birth. Arbitrary requirements about hallway lengths, anesthesia, and waiting periods are forcing abortion clinics to close and making it more difficult for women and children to get abortions. John Oliver recently highlighted the case of a Texas clinic that had to turn away a 13-year-old rape victim because of these laws, and the next closest clinic was impossibly far away--in New Mexico. Of course, these restrictions have no exceptions for rape cases because they're supposed to be about protecting women's "health."

The anti-abortion lobbyists who write these laws think they're protecting the lives of "unborn children," but they have no regard for the lives of the child rape victims whom they are re-raping by forcing them to deliver their abusers' children. They claim that the cause of the pregnancy--the rape--is irrelevant to the "unborn child's" status as a "human being."

I'm going to make a radical assertion: the rape has everything to do with the "unborn child's" status as a "human being." Rape and pro-life ideology are both methods of dehumanizing women, and both are caused by the same sick flaw of society--the need for dominance.

In her book, Sacred Pleasure, historian Riane Eisler argues that all of the world's problems can be traced to a single source: we live in a society that values dominance rather than partnership. Eisler argues that the first human societies lived by the partnership model, as she calls it, where there was very little violence, much cooperation, no hierarchy, and sex was holy. This way of life was replaced with the dominance model, where violence (including sexual violence) is rampant, hierarchies subordinate women and people of color, and sexuality is demonized.

Rape does not exist in a partnership society. The dominance model is what breeds rape. The dominance model is also what reduces women to birthing machines. Both are methods of control--methods of maintaining the hierarchy. Both are limbs of the same demon. How does that demon ensure that women remain nothing but birthing machines? Label a cluster of undifferentiated cells an "unborn child" and say it needs to be "saved."

The anti-choice lobbyists do not force children to give birth despite their rapes; they force them to give birth because they were raped. In a world where rape didn't exist--where women had full and complete control over their bodies--we wouldn't need abortion.

So to answer your question, Mr. Huckabee: Yes, giving a 10-year-old rape victim an abortion does help solve the problem of her rape. It cuts off one arm of the demon which caused her rape in the first place, in an effort to weaken the entire beast and end its destructive reign of terror. You say the tragedy would be compounded by "taking the life of an innocent child." In fact, you compound the tragedy by sticking your power-hungry hands into the living child's body. Your "pro-life" politics only give life to her trauma and her pain.

Every time I see a headline like "Oklahoma passes bill banning all abortions," I want to scream because I feel those power-hungry hands inside my body too, caressing my internal organs and saying they care, like an abuser embracing and professing his love to his partner after beating her. The only thing they both want is control. Dominance.

The demon of dominance does not discriminate when claiming its victims. Even white, straight, able-bodied men, who are at the top of the hierarchy, are not immune. Baby boys' genitals are mutilated. Young boys are abused by powerful men. Men are raped. Men and their children are murdered in mass shootings.

This way of life that we are currently living will consume all of us. It is difficult to find someone who has not experienced some kind of trauma because of dominance. Politicians say these traumas (rape, gun violence) are "horrible" and then get back to their agenda of preserving dominance with "pro-life" and pro-gun politics, thereby ensuring that the traumas will happen again and again.

We, as a society, can choose to prevent these tragedies. We can reject dominance, reject the hierarchy, and live by the partnership model.

In fact, we must. Otherwise, we will destroy ourselves.



Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.