When I Was Raped, I Became Pregnant: A Christian Perspective on Abortion Bans
Tread lightly—the content in this narrative may be triggering to some. To continue, choose “continue reading”, or click “explore narratives” to read something else.
At 2 a.m., my 7-year-old son shook me gently.
“Mom, I heard a noise in the kitchen.”
“It’s probably one of the neighbor’s dogs,” I said and pulled back the covers. “Get in bed with me.”
My 2-year-old daughter was asleep in her room. The bathroom light that I left on sent a sliver of light into the hallway. I covered my son with my quilt, and, just as I was closing my eyes, I saw a shadow intersecting the light beam. Thinking my eyes were playing tricks on me, I sat up. A black figure was moving toward me. My eyes adjusted to the dim light. I saw the outline of the knife he held in his hands and the open zipper of his pants.
“Take a blanket into the living room,” he said. “Tell the boy to stay in bed.”
“Stay here,” I said to my trembling child.
I wanted to scream, but I knew a terrorized scream might wake my daughter. I stifled any sound, except the pounding in my chest. Heart attack. Scared to death. I could hardly breathe. Faint. And then what? Have this monster be so angry, he’d go after my kids?
“Spread the blanket on the floor and lay down.”
Silently, I made a “good act of contrition” to meet my god. I begged god to spare my children.
When he was done, he told me to lay still. I heard the back door close. He didn’t have to tell me not to move. I was paralyzed.
I looked up and saw my son standing in the doorway. What had he seen? He was never obedient. He saw it all.
I Never Received Any Compassion—From Law Enforcement or My Mother
The cops should have called an ambulance. A rape specialist. SVU. All of that. They didn’t. It was 1972. I waited four hours alone in the police station hallway waiting on a medical examiner. They’d called my mother to come get the kids. There was a small pile of laundry in the hall.
“You couldn’t have cleaned up?” she said as she passed by the sofa where I was sitting holding my sleepy-eyed daughter. My son was at her side. As dawn was breaking, a man in his 50s led me to an examining room.
“At least you had enough sense not to wash away the evidence. You’ll need a VD test. He ejaculated. Do you take the pill?”
“No. I just recently got divorced.”
“You’ll need to know if you’re pregnant too. Get to a doctor. Soon.”
My children had medical coverage through covered welfare. I didn’t. “Alright.”
Waves of nausea, anger, disgust and shame surged and ebbed as a young cop drove me home. “A sex crimes investigator will contact you. Tell the truth.” The truth was, if I was pregnant, I’d either have an illegal abortion or kill the child. And I wouldn’t have to see a doctor for a test. I’d birthed three children, one a stillborn, and if I was pregnant, I’d be throwing up by this time tomorrow.
The Assault Put My Life on Hold and Beliefs Into Question
I needed a shower. His sperm was beginning to smell as bad as the vodka on his breath. My mother handed me a mop. “The dishes are done. But you need to get these floors clean. The detectives already talked to Steve,” she said. It was her way of telling me she’d changed her mind about watching my kids while I went to school. Yesterday, I’d gone to orientation at San Diego State. After years of navigating the system, Chicano EOP agreed to help a white woman with expenses.
“You mean you’re actually going?” Mother had said. It meant two days a week, she would have the kids for the afternoon. “Do you think you can do the work?”
At her feet was a bucket that smelled of Pine-Sol. “I’ll mop after I shower.”
“I hope you don’t think this is going to bring your husband back. He doesn’t love you. Get that through your head.” My ex was already living with a girlfriend.
But college would now have to wait. My spirit had been murdered. I needed someone, and there was no one to call. “Get out of my house,” I told her. “And don’t come back.” She knew I never pulled stunts. She chose to believe otherwise, to ignore reality as people always do when you’re not important to them. With the testimony of the detective assigned to the case, welfare agreed to move me into another apartment. Upstairs. Clean. Safe.
Until I threw up.
I phoned the OB-GYN who delivered my kids. “I need a pregnancy test. I was raped,” I told the nurse. Silence. “Are you there?”
The doctor answered. “Yes. I don’t see rape victims. I’ll write you a prescription for some pills to bring on your period. Take them, and if you don’t get a period after a week, the nurse will refer you for a D&C.” The thought of being dilated and scraped brought on another wave of nausea. “You’re a Catholic too, right? I try to forget my own…experience. Do the same. I can’t tell you what to tell Jesus.”
The Case Against Pro-Life Zealots
The pain in her voice led me to the same question: What would I tell Jesus? As I gleefully bought tampons, I shelved the question with a prayer of thanks for 52 years.
With the recent SCOTUS decision, however, and informed by a decade of college education, the question again demanded an answer. Not for the feminists or the pro-life zealots but for ordinary Christian women like me who firmly believed the rape and incest exception to abortion bans must become the rule for all state legislatures. To ensure that, there must be reasoned arguments that satisfy their constituents. Here are mine.
Pro-life zealots maintain that all abortions are the murder of human life. To deny that abortion does, indeed, involve human biological material would be nonsense. But even though it takes two people to create the human material, only one bears the physical burden, and to force the psychological burdens of pregnancy by rape on that same person is tantamount to torture. It’s also abetting an ongoing felony.
Be that as it may, there are situations where taking human life is not considered murder, like in self-defense, when we and/or others are in danger of imminent death or in war and capital punishment. “Aha!” zealots counter, “but babies are innocent, and it’s innocent life we must protect.”
OK. Split hairs. Regarding rape, only half of the nascent human is innocent. Consider that the weapon of the rapist is his penis, his “gun” as it were, thrust into a vagina where he deposits millions of his bullets that attack an innocent ovum. Did my rapist intend for these bullets to engender new life? It doesn’t matter.
In law, there are two forms of transferred intent. One theory asserts that if there is an underlying commission of a felony, then a succeeding felony, even if unintended, must be treated as part of the first. The second theory is that the underlying felony indicates the malice that evidences the intent to commit the second felony. In any case, we have come to understand that the result of a bad act is as bad as the act itself: Intent follows the bullet. It is much the same with court rules that say illegally obtained evidence cannot be admitted at trial, as it is the fruit of a poisonous tree. In other words, pregnancy as a result of rape makes it a poisoned one.
The fact remains that since I had the right to kill the rapist after he fired the bullets to protect myself from further harm, I have the right to remedy the harm of those bullets—the guilty part of the human life within me. Would we refuse to treat a gunshot wound and tell the victim to live with a bullet lodged in his testicles for nine months and then remove the bullet himself? Any law that punishes the victim in such a manner would be deemed an injustice.
The Right to Justice Trumps State-Imposed Virtue
The Bible is replete with references to the nature and preferences of God. For example, Isaiah 61:8 says, “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense…” And Proverbs 21:3 counsels us that “to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
It’s not enough to be or do right. We must be and do what is just. Our decisions regarding punishments and rewards must be reasoned and fair as well as what is moral and lawful. God never said it was going to be easy to mete out punishments or make rewards equitable. He does, however, hold certain categories of people as especially vulnerable and in need of special protection because of it: the poor, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow.
What would I tell Jesus? I qualified for special protection as a poor, unmarried woman of two fatherless children. I was innocent. I did not know my rapist. I didn’t drink or do drugs, hang out in bars, wear skimpy clothes or have boyfriends. I was a fatherless child, and, as it turned out, in spirit, a motherless one too. I was visited by the devil and impregnated with a demon.
I believe my case would be compelling, not just for me but for the second victim of the rape: my son. He, too, suffered nightmares, night sweats, panic attacks and depression. I slept on the floor between his bed and my daughter’s crib, a chair braced under the doorknob, the front door triple bolted. What would I have told my child as we watched my belly swell with the devil’s child inside me? He wouldn’t be helping me choose onesies and booties this time.
We both were diagnosed with PTSD. As there was no DNA bank then, the cops said the rapist would never be caught. There was never even a suspect. A thief had come in the night and stole my dignity, my safety and cruelest of all, my belief in justice. As for my mother, she went to her grave never saying what I yearned to hear: “I’m glad you lived.” It’s my private hell.
My hope is that, though rare, rape pregnancy victims understand that their right to justice trumps any state-imposed virtue. They need not surrender their right to bodily integrity to any rapist, least of all to an elected official, and Christianity supports their decision to abort the devil’s spawn.