Stop Bringing Up Rape to Discuss Abortion

A woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy has nothing to do with how she got pregnant.

It makes me uncomfortable when those defending women’s rights over their own bodies resort to using the case of rape to showcase how horrendous it is to ban abortion.

It feels like they are feeding into the arguments of the right, who would like to use the law to impose punishment on women for their desire.

A woman’s rights should not depend on her sexual decisions. Whether she was raped, or chose to have sex and had a damn good time, is irrelevant to the fact that each individual should have a choice about who sets up camp in their uterus. To suggest otherwise is to cast judgement over women’s choices, to suggest that a woman who consensually had sex and fell pregnant deserves to be punished for her choice. The question of pregnancies through rape is irrelevant to the question of abortion.

The fact that the vast majority of anti-abortion activists agree that abortion should be legal in at least some cases — often citing rape as one of those cases, is proof of the fact that their opposition to abortion is more about controlling women than protecting fetuses.

I can respect the argument that putting an end to a fetus as wrong (as a moral argument, not a legal one, since it is not based on any scientific fact, and people’s vague moral feelings should not be imposed on others when the opposite argument — that a fetus is not a life — is equally valid.) But if your moral argument is to equate abortion with murder, then the way that life was conceived shouldn’t matter. A rape doesn’t justify a murder. There are no good and bad murders, and so distinguishing between women who were raped (and supposedly deserve abortions) and other women is to suggest that there are good and bad women. The grey zone of when abortion is perceived as acceptable or not is, in reality, the space in anti-abortion activists judge and control women’s lifestyle choices.

Those fighting for women’s rights should not feed into this rhetoric by using rape as proof that women deserve a say over their bodies. It contributes to the idea that women shouldn’t really be having happy sex, and can be forgiven only if they were forced.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t talk about the trauma faced by women who fall pregnant after rape, in particular when they don’t have access to abortion. It is an important issue, which deserves attention in its own right. And yet it is only ever mentioned when we are talking about abortion rights. Survivors are not a tool to be used as a measuring tape for our humanity.

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