Monday, October 3, 2011

Laughing at dead babies and the avenging conscience

A few weeks ago, I read a disturbing blog post by Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic and author of the book, UnPlanned.

She recounts her early experiences in the clinic:
It took a few weeks before I got the alarm code to our clinic. I guess it takes that long for them to trust you. I remember getting the code and feeling shocked. The code was 2229. That seems innocent…until they told me what it spelled out…BABY. Really. Wow. We were really joking about that…our alarm code was mocking the murder of children. 
A few weeks later I was introduced to our freezer in the POC (products of conception) lab. This was the freezer that held the fetal tissue until the biohazard truck came for disposal. I found out the name for that freezer…the nursery. Again, that was a joke. How had that become a joke? 
A few days later I learned the password to our phone system…2229…BABY. 
A couple years later I remember walking in on my supervisor making jokes with the abortionist and another employee in that same POC lab. They were joking about how the fetal tissue floating in this dish looked like bar-b-que. Did I hear that right? Did they really just say that? Then one of them said, “I actually think this part looks like strawberry jam.” I turned around and walked out without saying a word. I felt sick to my stomach. How did that conversation begin? How could they say that? Was it enough to make me leave? No. I was one of them now. I am drenched in the evil of this place.
Later, she joined in their ghoulish humor:
About a year before I left, the Coalition for Life group had moved in next door to our clinic. We joked about sending them a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift. Maybe we should send them cookies in the shape of babies with red icing on them that resembles blood. We laughed. We thought we were so witty. It was not wit. 
I could go on and on. I look back now and wonder how I could let my mind become so numb to something so terrible.
Abby's post was remarkable to me, because just days earlier I had read an eerily similar account from another former abortion clinic worker, Jewels Green:
Even the macabre became commonplace. The gallows humor I’d seen in movies about medical staff that work around disease and death day in and day out was right at home in an abortion clinic. 
I vividly remember the cleaning lady who quit after finding a foot in the drain of the one of the sinks in the autoclave room (where the medical instruments were cleaned and sterilized after abortions) and how we all laughed and joked about it in the staff lounge for days and weeks afterward. 
When the power went out one time for hours and we were all explicitly instructed NOT to open the freezer where all of the medical waste was stored (read: dead baby parts in bio-hazard bags) but inevitably, someone did open that freezer and I will never, ever forget the stench of decaying human flesh for as long as I live —but we all laughed as we gagged and joked how at least “they” had it better in that non-functioning freezer because at least they couldn’t smell it. 
[I]n my heart I always knew it was wrong. All of it was wrong….
Horrifying as their stories are, it makes sense that they joked about what they were doing, to the point of mocking the dead babies themselves. For one to cooperate in an unthinkable evil, one must assuage the avenging conscience in some way or another.

Professor J. Budziszewski discusses the conscience -- and the revenge of conscience -- in his book, What We Can't Not Know (which I reviewed here).

The human conscience operates in three modes:

In the cautionary mode, the conscience acts as teacher:  "I shouldn't do that; it's wrong."
In the accusatory mode, the conscience acts as judge: "I should never have done that; it was wrong."
In the avenging mode, the conscience acts as executioner. We shall see how that works in a moment.

The "Five Furies" of conscience that come into play when we transgress the natural law (i.e., the universal moral law) are something we can all grasp:

1. Remorse
2. Confession
3. Atonement
4. Reconciliation
5. Justification

Professor B describes the rightly ordered way that the guilty conscience responds to the Five Furies (emphases mine):
The normal outlet of remorse is to flee from wrong; of the need for confession, to admit what one has done; of atonement, to pay the debt; of reconciliation, to restore the bonds one has broken; and of justification, to get back in the right.
However, if the guilty party does not respond to the Furies in rightly ordered ways and return to moral goodness, the Furies don't just suddenly go away (emphases mine):
But if the furies are denied their payment in wonted coin, they exact it in whatever coin comes nearest, driving the wrongdoer's life yet further out of kilter. We flee not from wrong, but from thinking about it. We compulsively confess every detail of our story, except the moral. We punish ourselves again and again, offering every sacrifice except the one demanded. We simulate the restoration of broken intimacy, by seeking companions as guilty as ourselves. And we seek not to become just, but to justify ourselves.
All the furies collude. Each reinforces the others, not only in the individual, but in the social group.    (pp. 150- 151)
In the buildings where women's wombs were forcibly opened and their living babies were shredded and dismembered and thrown out with the trash:

"We laughed. We thought we were so witty."
"We all laughed and joked about it for days and weeks afterward."
"We all laughed as we gagged and joked."

"In my heart I always knew it was wrong. All of it was wrong."
"I look back now and wonder how I could let my mind become so numb to something so terrible."
Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down.    -- G.K. Chesterton
Praise God for the gift of the avenging conscience. For to be pursued by the Five Furies, even to the very edge of the pit of hell itself, is a severe mercy given by a loving God Who will use drastic means to call us back to Himself.



  1. Reminds me of stories I've heard, movies I've seen and articles I've read about the holocaust. The soldiers and killers made jokes about the furnaces, made fun of the dying and managed to find quite a bit of humor in the macabre. After all, they needed to harden their hearts and make light of what they do in order to keep their sanity from the holocaust they are participating in.

  2. DD, that was my first thought as I read this. But it's essentially the same with any moral wrong: murder, premarital sex, stealing, etc. To one degree or another, we need to make light of what we've done to avoid facing the fact that it was wrong. I feel sorry for the people who feel the need to do that, because their souls are weighed down more than they know, and what they need is forgiveness, more than anything.

  3. God's mercy is endless. There is so much for hope for all those still participating in abortions!

  4. This one had to be tough to write. So sad. I watched the 180 video finally, yesterday. Tears.

  5. Powerful! I don't know how someone "pro-choice" can read that and still think abortion is even remotely good.

  6. @Stacy - Presumably they are under the impression that no one would ever do such a thing without some kind of incredibly special circumstances, and that the procedure is extremely rare.

    I doubt the average "person on the street" not involved with the issue understands the incredible scale.

  7. I should add that readers should click on Jewels Green's article and read the account of the baby, "Charlie", the perfectly formed baby that they kept in the freezer. That little one worked on her conscience, too, and she thinks of him and prays for him even today….

  8. Fantastic Leila. I am sharing. Over and over and over, all I can think is Praise God I am on His side. Praise God for His mercies.

  9. This post reminded me... an old high school classmate of mine posted a pro-Planned Parenthood image on her Facebook a few days ago, to which I replied to along the lines of, "Well, to me, all the alleged 'good' PP does is outweighed by all of the children they've killed."

    Now, my friend was upset because she actually works for the Planned Parenthood in her city, although the center she works at doesn't do abortions (yet, she said with some chagrin, the patients are still "harassed" by protesters!)

    She went on a long spiel about how the PP she works at is the ONLY place in her city where low-income women can get health care, including mammograms (I kind of doubt that as her city is quite large - for example, they have a Mayo Clinic, so I'm thinking they have to have at least one other clinic at which low-income women can get free or reduced-cost health care).

    I went to the PP website, located the clinic at which she works, and scanned their "services we offer" page... in which it clearly states that their center does not perform mammograms, but only manual breast exams. So I posted the link in the discussion, and asked, "If your PP clinic is the ONLY place in [City] for low-income women to get mammograms, why does its website state that they don't do mammograms?"

    Crickets. She never responded (and she also ignored my additional question about how exactly the protesters "harass" the clinic's patients -- apparently standing on the public sidewalk in silent prayer is harassment?).

    It just boggles my mind that someone who works at the clinic itself could still believe and parrot the lie that PP does mammograms! The self-deception some people go through to justify their actions is unbelievable.

  10. Prof B nailed it. I have been there, though not in the examples above, but in other kinds of behavior, conversation, and choices that endorsed sin. Birds of a feather, boy did we flock together.

    And when that searing light hit, first came the recoiling from the glare on my soul, my grappling with the effects of sin on my conscience. Then the recoiling at self. Then the joy over repentance. And finally that blissful ocean if mercy.

    Great post, Leila.

  11. What a fantastic post! I will never understand the lack of respect some people have for human life. May God have mercy on them!

  12. Leila, your comment about baby "Charlie" in the freezer reminds me of the baby that I saw in the morgue when I worked at the hospital...kind of a different situation as this baby was a stillborn, but I remember thinking, why is he in a pickle jar? Shouldn't he be buried?

    (Yes, it was one of those huge pickle jars.)

    It's possible that his parents signed over the right for the hospital to use the baby for an autopsy, I'm not really sure what was going on there. I was also not yet in a place in my life that it had occurred to me that maybe this should be checked out or not if it was morally right to keep the baby like this.
    (Again, this was a teaching hospital, and so I hesitate to try to imply that they were doing anything morally wrong since I really don't know.)

    All I know is that it really made an impression on me in all sorts of ways--how detailed and formed this baby was--still small enough to fit inside a jar, yet formed enough to look like a human baby. And the impression was also shocking, again, because this baby was so causally put into a pickle jar. Experimental or not, it just seemed that the end of life could have been treated more respectfully.

    I came back to visit this baby often, as weird as that may sound. Yes, I was drawn enough to go to the morgue to the awful smell of chemicals and dead bodies to go look at a baby in a pickle jar. I was concerned that it was going to stay in a jar forever. (It was many weeks until finally, the baby was buried. I'm hoping he was anyway.)

    To this day, I can't pass by those big pickle jars at the store, thinking about that baby.

  13. Becky, I understand about the "being drawn" to the baby… When I went to NYC (I think it was) as a teen, I saw a museum display with human fetuses at varying stages of development. I was so compelled. They were so clearly human babies, and I wondered where they obtained them. I hope they were simply miscarried babies who were donated to the museum for teaching purposes. Beautiful babies.

    Also, it reminds me that when I was in elementary school in the mid- to late-1970s, the "dead baby" jokes were suddenly all the rage ("a baby in a blender", etc. were the punch lines). Years later some social commenter posited that the rise in popularity of the dead baby jokes coincided with our societal guilt as Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, and the slicing and dicing of real babies commenced with a vengeance.

    So many dead babies, so much blood on our hands = the rise of the dead, bloody baby "jokes". Just like the joking in the abortion mills.

  14. I would say there is also a difference between the kind of spectacle that baby "Charlie" was in the story in the link, and legitimate and respectful uses of cadavers (even fetal cadavers) in reasonable use for teaching medicine.

  15. Nicholas, yes, exactly. Those are two different moral situations.

  16. I think as someone who has previously probably been a fairly typical example of the liberal "Well I don't like the idea but it is probably best to keep legal for those rare situations" type mindset, I think that a large chunk of people do not comprehend the incredible scale of this travesty.

  17. Nicholas, you are right. I don't think the average American (sort of in the mushy middle) knows that 50+ million babies have been aborted since 1973, most all of them totally healthy, and that abortion is legal in America up till the moment of birth (with some state restrictions, but those are gotten around). I'm always suprised at what people don't know. Imagine if the major media reported on abortion accurately and showed the true scale and horror of it? But the media (and academia and Hollywood) are pro-"choice" and so citizens just don't really get it.

  18. Are there no pro-choice rebuttals to this post? I am shocked...

    Again, you hit the nail on the head, Leila. You're so good at pointing out the obvious that somehow never seems so obvious.

  19. I remember the audio that someone posted on fb from a conference of abortionists. One of the speakers (an abortionist herself) told a story of how one of the pro-choice leaders of the community said to her, "If I believed that that was a baby, I could never be pro-choice." The abortionist said she thought to herself, "Well, then, you better never look at an ultrasound!" and there was laughter from the crowd in attendance. It was one of several stories on that audio that was very shocking.

  20. My husband says that there is a kind of unwritten rule on the internet and in comment boxes that the person who links abortion with the holocaust (or slavery), their creds kind of go down the tubes.

    At the risk of doing exactly that, (because I'm coming at it more from a literary perspective), I am awestruck in a terrifying way at the similar imagery used in both the accounts above and the imagery used by Elie Wiesel in Night. In particular in the scenes leading up to and including the hanging of the child.

  21. Bethany, yep. The avenging conscience. It's there, no matter what the evil. People have to try to make their evil palatable.

  22. Complicated Life said "The abortionist said she thought to herself, "Well, then, you better never look at an ultrasound!""

    This reminds me of the conversion of Bernard Nathanson. He had a profound effect on me. I wish I could have known him. He was very brave to come out and so publicly do an about-face.

  23. Mary, I loved Dr. Nathanson, too! I remember reading his book, The Hand of God, shortly after my reversion. For those unfamiliar, he was responsible for the legalization of abortion in New York, using tactics which included deliberate lies about the Catholic Church and also fudging illegal abortion numbers. He was a founder of what is now NARAL. He committed or oversaw the abortions of over 75,000 babies. And he even aborted his own child, with his own hand, without batting an eyelash.

    He was still an atheist when he became pro-life (mostly due to the viewing of the child in the womb as ultrasonography came on the scene), which sort of puts the lie to the idea that pro-life is a religious position only. He was an atheist pro-lifer for quite some time, and talks about his attendance at pro-life dinners and workshops -- he was uncomfortable with the prayers. But eventually God grabbed his heart and soul, and he became redeemed and forgiven in baptism, and spent the rest of his life fighting for the pro-life cause. He was an amazing, brilliant man and may he rest in peace.

  24. Have any of you ever heard of Nat Hentoff? He's a civil libertarian, pro-life (formerly pro-choice) Jewish atheist, and also a former longtime columnist of the Village Voice (50 years, before he was laid off in 2008), among many other things.

    Here's a link to a page with links to articles written by and about him regarding his pro-choice to pro-life switch, the fallout he experienced from it, and other issues related to abortion:

  25. Very powerfully written post, Leila. These two lines especially stood out to me,
    "We simulate the restoration of broken intimacy, by seeking companions as guilty as ourselves. And we seek not to become just, but to justify ourselves."

  26. GIrl from NY, my husband (formerly an agnostic, Jewish, pro-"choicer" himself) admires Nat Hentoff!

    Colleen, I agree about those lines from Prof. B!!

  27. This was horrifying but thank goodness that those little souls in the "nursery" have, through God's grace, redeemed some souls.

  28. Maureen could not get her comment to post, so I am posting for her:

    Just like those who staffed the room where they did abortions at the large public hospital I used to work at. In the lunch room they called it "birthday party day" on abortion days. The cases were booked as "d&c etop" so I would correct them and say "no, it's death and carnage day". They didn't like being in the lunch room with me.

    (There is something soul-achingly mournful about a baby being "born" by being aborted, and calling it "birthday party day". I cannot imagine the minds and hearts of those who would say it.)

  29. they called it "birthday party day" on abortion days.

    Truly, does it get any darker?

  30. Deep thought post; hard to read, yet so necessary! Thank you Leila!

  31. I simply don't believe most of these anecdotal accounts. In Canada, abortions are mostly done in hospitals as part of the public health care system. I have known people -- both doctors and nurses -- who have worked in this field and without exception, they have been gentle and genteel and sensitive. They would never use such crude and vulgar methods of expressing themselves.

    In fact, I have known people who worked in US clinics as well and they were nothing but compassionate health care providers.

    I'm amazed that so many people continue to believe everything Abby Johnson says although, with journalistic investigation, so much of what she has said has been found to be untrue.

  32. First, Lily, care providers who appear to be "genteel and compassionate" to the patients might have an entirely different side once they're alone in the break room -- which is what we're talking about.

    Secondly, why should we believe your anecdotal evidence if ours is so shoddy?

    Lastly, I'd love to see this alleged "proof" that Abby Johnson's allegations are false. It seems odd to me that Planned Parenthood would have attempted to enact a gag order against her if everything she said was so easily proven to be a lie.

  33. JoAnna, I was just about to ask Lily the same provide this "investigative proof" of Abby Johnson's lies. PP tried to get a gag order against her when she first left and they had to drop it because they couldn't prove that anything she was saying was false. Sooo...I'll need to see some proof otherwise to ever believe she's lying.

  34. Abby addresses that accusation in the comment section of her blog post. I'd love to see your evidence that these two unrelated women (and Maureen, our commenter whom I know) are lying.

    As for bizarre behavior in abortion clinics, and strange jokes and disconnects from reality and social norms, I suggest you read my series of exchanges with a local abortionist. It's in five parts, but well worth the time. If you need "proof" that I am not lying, I do have the originals, with the letterhead and signatures:

  35. Lily, Maureen is still having posting trouble, so she facebook messaged her response to you. I am posting it for her:

    my response to Lily:
    The people I reference above in the "birthday party day" comment Leila posted for me are nice people, normally very caring and giving. That's why I think they use such foul humor in reference to abortions. It's a cognitive dissonance to assist in the killing of nascent human life all day long and to have a personality that is drawn to the healthcare field. In fact, on days that abortions weren't performed, they had no problems sitting at the lunch table with me.

    One more thought that people who aren't Catholic may not understand. It's a common accusation to say that faithful Catholics are "lying" about things to make their case. The thing you don't realize is that faithful Catholics do not have a "guarantee of salvation" and they are well aware that lying is a sin. And lying seriously is a mortal sin. And lying about others is the sin of calumny. So, none of the Catholics who say these things are lying, because we spend our lives trying to be virtuous, and trying not to sin. We avail ourselves of the confessional when we do slip, and then we are only absolved if we have the intention not to sin again. So, the idea that we flippantly decide to lie and to tell lies about others is really not something on the radar. You'll just have to trust me on that, but I promise you, we do not take our eternal destiny lightly.


  36. Quoting JoAnna: "Secondly, why should we believe your anecdotal evidence if ours is so shoddy?"

    I guess I have a more positive view of humanity. :-)

    I worked in the health care system for many years and more recently, I'm a journalist. I have much first-hand experience with health care workers, both in the break-room and outside.

    I don't think of what I described as "anecdotal" necessarily as lies. More like gossip.

    The story about Abby Johnson from the Texas Monthly seemed credible and careful to me.

    I am Catholic, by the way.

  37. Lily, do you follow Church teaching?

    Also, what the ladies said was very specific, not gossip. Please re-read the accounts. They are either lying outright (which is evil) or they are speaking the truth. Not simple "gossip".

  38. I don't want to register to get the article. Can you give us the gist? Or cut and paste?

  39. Wow. That is one old article, now that I look at the date. Was this before or after the lawsuit? It was way before the book came out.

  40. Lily, I read that article. Every single alleged "discrepancy" Mr. Blakeslee brings up (and he has no hard proof whatsoever, just opinions) is fully explained by Abby in her book "Unplanned." Have you read it yet?

    He seems to think that because Abby didn't chronicle her journey on her Facebook page, it wasn't authentic. Well, Abby knew that her co-workers and employers read her FB page -- do you really think she would have aired her feelings publicly knowing that they'd be reported to her supervisors?

    In her book she discusses how hurt and shocked she was by the false testimony of her co-workers. She also talks about how hard she tried to stifle her conscience, hence whey she gave a pro-choice radio interview the day after the abortion that changed her life. Abby's journey didn't happen overnight. It was a process that finally brought her to her breaking point one day, when she walked out and never returned.

    So, sorry, still not seeing why the anecdotal evidence of the pro-abortion camp is stellar and beyond reproach, whereas the the anecdotal evidence of those in the pro-life camp is suspect and full of lies.

    Regarding this excerpt from the article: At my request, the staff at the Bryan clinic examined patient records from September 26, the day Johnson claims to have had her conversion experience, and spoke with the physician who performed abortions on that date. According to Planned Parenthood, there is no record of an ultrasound-guided abortion performed on September 26. The physician on duty told the organization that he did not use an ultrasound that day, nor did Johnson assist on any abortion procedure. “Planned Parenthood can assure you that no abortion patients underwent an ultrasound-guided abortion on September 26,” said a spokesperson.

    Oh, and of course Planned Parenthood would have no reason to lie or alter records about this abortion in order to discredit Abby's story. None at all. (That's sarcasm, by the way.)

    Perhaps the woman in question was an underage rape victim and her records were destroyed; that's a common PP tactic (see

    So, sorry, not convinced. You'd think if Blakeslee's story was so airtight, the MSM would have blasted it from coast to coast. PP would have trumpeted it across the airwaves. However, they haven't done so. I wonder why?

    If you're indeed Catholic, why do you remain a Church that, in your opinion, teaches error?

  41. Okay, I apologize for using the expression, "I simply don't believe. . ." There are times one reads something that just doesn't ring true and this is one of those times for me. I can't imagine people talking like that but maybe they do.

    The Texas Monthly article is quite long -- too long to cut and paste. I'll see if I get a chance later to summarize it.

  42. Lily, thanks. Did you read UnPlanned? Like JoAnna said, all this was addressed in the very public book, which came later. And the lawsuit was dismissed. It is such an old article.

    And, are you a practicing Catholic?

  43. Well, I'll leave it at that. This will quickly deteriorate into a "he said, she said" discussion and that's never helpful.

    I'm guessing it wouldn't matter what anyone said; the visceral negative feelings about Planned Parenthood are so strong that it really precludes discussion.

    I have to admit, it was your headline that brought me out of the woodwork. "Laughing at dead babies. . ." So provocative.

  44. Lily, why not stay and talk? Forget the he said/she said part. Are you a practicing Catholic? Did you read UnPlanned? I can get a copy to you if you haven't.

    And, what do you think of the rest of the post, regarding the conscience?


  45. @Kaitlin : You are so right. My fervent prayer is that as time goes on, more and more people begin to see that abortion is a violation of human rights and refuse to take part in it. A while back, I used to feel that the prayer "May God change their hearts" was a really weak and almost lazy prayer, but my opinion on that has changed. I think that we can see from this article that people's sense of rectitude about what they're doing in abortion clinics is actually hanging by a thread, ready for something to come and push them back into grace. Maybe it will be something one of us says, peacefully, to them, or maybe it will be Holy Spirit moving in their hearts. I believe it can happen, though, one at a time. Thanks for reminding me to hope, as well as feel sorrow for what has been done.

  46. "I can't imagine people talking like that but maybe they do."


    Have you watched the short film, 180 yet? The Germans who cooperated in the Holocaust were not evil, terrible people. They were no different from you or me. But they had to convince themselves that what they were doing was ok, and there are many films and pictures which portray them acting very lighthearted and carefree, joking with one another as Jews were being gassed and burned on the same grounds.

  47. I was reading through the comments thinking about my recent debate with a Planned Parenthood employee and how brainwashed she is. It's sad they think they're actually helping women.

    Also, I just KNEW that someone would pop up claiming that they all must be lying or exaggerating. I've heard it in every single debate I've ever been in. Dr. Nathanson MUST have been lying, or their whole argument for abortion being legal in order to be safe is thrown out the window. Abby Johnson and the other clinic workers' stories must all be lies, or their arguments of the abortion industry being compassionate, caring, and the best thing for women, wouldn't stand a chance.

    Their arguments are getting old. Either prove it or start to think logically as to why you CAN'T prove it.

  48. The question people should ask themselves is, Why would Dr. Nathanson lie? Why would Abby Johnson lie? Why would Jewels Green and others lie? What do they have to gain by going public with such a horrible thing? To make others look bad? They were doing the same thing once. So it doesn't make them look very good. If they are telling the truth, it seems it would bring shame on themselves. And if they are lying, why did they choose to change their lives so drastically and start fighting on the pro-life side?

    This lying accusation sort of reminds me of the Atheists on John C. Wrights blog who are arguing with him over his own conversion story. "That was in your head. That did not really happen. That was a chemical reaction or a dream or a hallucination." John C. Wright had no original intention of converting or believing in God. He was a DEVOUT Atheist. So if he is lying, or suffered hallucinations, etc., they must have been pretty powerful to make such a change that he is now a faithful Catholic.

  49. Regarding this implication toward John C. Wright:
    "That was in your head. That did not really happen. That was a chemical reaction or a dream or a hallucination."

    Ridiculous. I challenge anyone to read Wright's excellent post Euthyphro’s Dilemma and the Paradox of Paternity and tell me he's unreasonable.

  50. The question people should ask themselves is, Why would Dr. Nathanson lie? Why would Abby Johnson lie? Why would Jewels Green and others lie?

    Why, for all the wealth and glamor that comes from being involved with the pro-life movement, of course. There's so much money to be had in the pro-life industry. *eyeroll*

  51. I'm really confused about what exactly is the point in defending the mindset of abortion providers. Is it somehow better for them to be disturbed by dead babies and baby parts, and to know better than to joke about it? Or is the point that they would supposedly never refer to the humanity of a fetus?

    If you participate in and support abortion, the way you think about refer to the baby's remains doesn't matter worth a damn. Being respectful of dead fetal remains is simply nonsensical if you' don't primarily respect the living fetus. Pro choicers - WHY CARE if abortion clinicians laugh about dead babies?

  52. The one final hurdle I have heard from several young woman, who agree on all other points, is: if a woman is horrifically raped, manages to survive, is found to be pregnant and feels she is carrying an evil being she should be allowed that choice. This is something not easily addressed by saying "only God has the right to decide". Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  53. Bonnie, this is my response: we don't allow people to kill other people "because she (or he) thinks they are evil." Andrea Yates used that defense when she killed her born children, and she was locked up in a mental institution for the rest of her life. So while a rape victim may think that the child she is carrying is "evil," that's objectively not true. The child is innocent of any crime and is just as much a victim as is her mother. S/he should not be punished or executed for her father's crime.

    Any mother who thinks her child is "evil" needs to be evaluated for mental illness, immediately, whether that child is born or unborn.

  54. Bonnie,

    I think abortion is acceptable in any situation, but with regards to women becoming pregnant after rape, I don't think they would necessarily regard the fetus as an ‘evil being’. It is a fetus that was conceived in her body against her will. If she does not want to continue her forced pregnancy to term and give birth, and does not view the fetus as a person with rights equal to hers, she will choose to abort. I think you are trying to frame abortion in this context as something that a woman would not ordinarily contemplate, not as a rational choice that a woman can make regarding her life, traumatised or not. You are attempting to use the rape victim's trauma to negate her capabilities and inviolable right to exercise control over her life. It is similar to the way pro-lifers allude to women's concerns over unplanned pregnancies as evidence that these anxieties negate women's ability, and therefore their right, to control their lives. Therein lies the misogyny of the anti-abortion cause.

  55. Carrie, I'm confused by your reference to "forced pregnancy," because it doesn't make any sense biologically. Do you think the baby is a moral agent who can force its way into a woman's womb?

    Do you think all trauma victims have the right to take an innocent life because of the trauma they have experienced?

  56. JoAnna, those are excellent questions that I hope Carrie will answer.

  57. You are right JoAnna, forced pregnancy doesn't make any sense biologically because the biological fertilization process is the same whether the sexual union was consensual or forced.

    Pregnancy results from sexual unions. Sexual unions can be consensual or they can be rape.

    Rape is when someone is forced to engage in sexual activity against their will. In cases we are talking about, it is when a man inserts his penis into a woman's vagina against her will. This may result in pregnancy if the man's penis, after he inserted it into the victim's vagina against her will, releases sperm that units with an egg and the resulting zygote implants in the uterus, culminating in pregnancy.

    Since the woman did not consent to the sexual union, the resulting pregnancy was forced upon her. The sexual union was against her will. The fetus was conceived in her body against her will.

    She could continue the pregnancy, give birth to the resulting child, love the child and not regret her decision, but the pregnancy was still forced. If abortion was illegal in any circumstance and women who became pregnant from rape were willing to continue such pregnancies to term, many would still agree that these pregnancies were forced, just as the sex act that conceived them was forced. That’s why Catholics, as moral and compassionate people, would feel it necessary to provide such women with appropriate health care and support.

    A fetus cannot force its way into a woman’s womb. A fetus doesn’t exist until sperm units with an egg, forming a zygote that implants in the uterus. In cases where women become pregnant through rape, a man forces his penis into a woman’s body against her will and releases the sperm that unites with an egg to form a zygote that implants in the woman’s uterus.

    I don’t think trauma victims have the right to take an innocent life because of the trauma they experienced. Do you think the trauma they experienced negates their ability to make decisions about their lives?

  58. "The fetus was conceived in her body against her will."

    I agree that this can sometimes happen after rape. However, I don't see how that makes it just to respond by killing the child, who is not a moral agent and, arguably, is also a victim in this situation.

    "I don’t think trauma victims have the right to take an innocent life because of the trauma they experienced."

    Good! If that is the case, then you should oppose abortion in all cases, even after rape.

    "Do you think the trauma they experienced negates their ability to make decisions about their lives?"

    No. But I also don't think that one should be able to decide to deliberately kill an innocent human being, for any reason. For example, we don't allow women to shoot their rapists (barring a self-defense situation at the time of the rape, of course.)


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