Janet A. Morana is the executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the world’s largest mobilization of women who have had abortions. A native New Yorker, she was a public school teacher before becoming involved in pro-life work. She co-hosts the Defending Life and Catholic View for Women series on EWTN, and is a frequent guest on other TV and radio programs. She is the recipient of Legatus’ Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-life Hall of Fame Award. Her first book, Recall Abortion, was published by Saint Benedict Press.
The Alabama abortion ban is prompting hysteria in the U.S. and as usual, it’s being misconstrued by the mainstream media.
Much of the coverage focuses on two things: That abortionists can be subject to 99 years in prison for illegally performing abortion, and that there is no exception for rape and incest. The only exceptions built into the law that was signed May 15 by Alabama Gov. Kate Ivey are if the life of the mother would be imperiled by continuing the pregnancy or if the baby has been diagnosed with a “lethal anomaly.”
The mental health exception that has been used since 1973 to allow abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy has been narrowed in the Alabama law. Now only a mother who has a “diagnosed serious mental illness” and is examined by a psychiatrist licensed in the state who concurs with the woman’s physician will be able to end the life of her child.
Children conceived in rape or incest have won back their right to life, and that’s not sitting well with feminists, Democrats and even some Republicans and evangelicals.
But having worked with women who aborted their children conceived in rape, and those who chose life for those innocent babies, I applaud Alabama lawmakers for their courage in protecting this small population of innocents who, despite the circumstances of their conception, are every bit as human as you and I.
Rape is evil. It is an inexcusable and horrific crime that permanently damages and scars its victims. But abortion does not “cure” rape; it merely answers one evil with another evil. Rape is a grave injustice, but killing an innocent child is also a grave injustice. A mother who aborts her child conceived in rape has not avenged the crime but might come to discover that her physical and mental anguish is made worse by the abortion.
Far from freeing a rape victim from the physical and psychological scars, abortion can bring with it its own set of suffering, damage and regrets.
As I wrote about in my 2013 book, Recall Abortion, Dr. David Reardon of the Elliott Institute studied 192 women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Of the respondents, 164 were victims of rape and 28 were victims of incest. Overall, 69 percent continued the pregnancy and either raised the child or made an adoption plan; 29 percent had abortions, and 1.5 percent had miscarriages. Nearly 80 percent of the women who aborted their children reported that abortion had been the wrong solution.
Most of the women who had abortions said it only increased the trauma they were experiencing. Reardon found that in many cases, the victim faced strong pressure or demands to abort. Forty-three percent of rape victims who aborted said they felt pressured or were strongly directed by family members or health workers to abort. In almost every case where an incest victim had an abortion, according to Reardon, the parents or the perpetrator made the decision, not the woman herself.
Angelina Steenstra is one of my dearest friends and is the national coordinator for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign in Canada. She was the victim of a date rape and chose abortion for her child. She would get pregnant just one more time. She lost that child, too, to an ectopic pregnancy.
Here’s part of what Angelina said at the March for Life Canada this month:
My regret began on the table as I watched the bottle next to my right foot fill up with the remains of my child. In the midst of the excruciating pain, all my senses were seared. I was traumatized. The date rape did not destroy me but it did lead to the ‘legal abortion’ that not only killed my child but set me on a course of self-destruction and infertility.
While writing Recall Abortion, I spoke to many women who had been raped and chose life. One woman, Liz Carl, was a teenager when she conceived in rape and made an adoption plan for her son. The photos she receives of the boy do not remind her of the rapist; she sees only the “beautiful boy” being raised in a loving home.
Another woman, Cindy, was raped by a neighbor and went through hell once she decided to keep the baby. Her daughter, Jennifer, is now a mother herself, a devout Catholic who has worked with victims of Bosnian war crimes and with children in the notorious Romanian orphanages. She had a chance to meet Pope John Paul II and she counsels women against abortion.
Jennifer said that as she grew up and encountered the argument, “We have to keep abortion legal because of rape,” she would simply tell people: “That is how I came to be. I have been continually confirmed that God has turned something awful into something redemptive, as is His way, and that part of God’s plan for me is to change hearts just by simply being who He has created me to be.”