A hoard of angry abortion supporters—one wonders if there are other kinds—succeeded in removing Celeste Greig from her post as president of the state’s Republican Assembly. Greig’s thought crime? In March she said:
The percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized.
I wrote about this earlier in A New Row Over Pregnancy Caused by Rape at Crisis Magazine.
The spectacle of folk who ran screaming in horror from Greig resembled residents of Tokyo fleeing Godzilla. No, strike that. Godzilla is scary and should be fled (fleed?). It’s more accurate to say that the politicians who shunned Greig were like kindergartners shrieking over the belief one of their classmates had cooties.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Aaron Park, a prominent California Republican, called Greig’s comments “embarrassing.” This flak worried that the party—The party is mother, The party is father—would suffer were it known to consort with Grieg: “You cannot put faith in someone who’s talking about the virtue of saving babies but looks like they don’t care about women who are sexually assaulted.”
That this apparatchik thought his non sequitur applicable reveals what everybody already knows: that (most) politicians care more about attaining and maintaining power than in speaking truth.
What comes of examining Greig’s comment dispassionately? Is it true or false that “The percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized”?
The best answer is that nobody knows, not for certain or with anything approaching certainty, whether pregnancy rates are higher, lower, or identical in women who are raped and in those who were not. There are plenty of theories, conjectures, and surmises about the subject, but little concrete knowledge. There has been no systematic or convincing collection of data and therefore no definitive study (see link above for more detail).
And then it doesn’t sound “outrageous” to suggest that a body undergoing trauma will not operate as efficiently as a body swimming in more placid waters. Surely it isn’t beyond the realm of reasonable possibility to suggest that, ceteris paribus, a woman purposely aiming for motherhood has a greater chance to conceive than a woman who was brutalized. Greig’s only real error lay in asserting this most plausible supposition was a certainty.
“Insensitive!” said the activists, a group to whom any trace of any whisper of any glimmer of any hint that abortion is morally wrong is met with squalls, squeals, spit, and specious squabbling. Unless the subject is the emotional state of a person, the charge of insensitivity is always a fallacy. I ask you to draw the obvious inference about the class of people who so eagerly and so often embrace it.
Suppose, arguendo, that the rate of conception for raped woman was higher than for similar women who were purposely trying to conceive (or where not “purposely”, but in those who took no steps to prevent conception; see the link). That is, assume Greig’s comment is false. Now what?
Does it follow that rape is therefore morally acceptable? Surely not, and only a mind deranged by passion would claim anybody would make such an inference (see the commentors at this page for examples).
Maybe it follows that abortion should more accessible if rape-conception rates were higher? Well, no. If a woman conceived other than by rape, it cannot matter to her about her abortion whether some other woman was raped. She would still have to decide whether her abortion was morally acceptable or not.
But what about a woman who was raped contemplating abortion? Again, it does not follow that because other women were raped and conceived that therefore her abortion is morally acceptable. If abortion is allowable in cases of rape-conception, it does not matter how many rape-influenced abortions there are. If abortion is morally wrong in cases rape-conception, then hers is morally wrong too, even if the rape-conception rate is high.
Logically speaking, then, and granting the wholesale slaughter of reason so common on moral questions, why the flap? Because many people find abortion agreeable in cases of rape-conception, but far fewer folk find abortion acceptable for the sake of convenience (which are the vast majority of abortions). Abortion cheerleaders worry that if rape-conception rates were low, the populace might ban abortions altogether. And that is anathema to them.