Three awful things that go terribly together. Regarding my tolerance of legal abortion in cases of rape and incest, Paul Hsieh from GeekPress asks the question some other readers brought up as well:

If you don't mind me putting you on the spot, I'm wondering how the rape-and-incest exception fits in with the rest of your views on the fetus being a human life worthy of legal protection.

I understand those pro-choicers who don't view the fetus as worthy of legal protection and hence allow unrestricted abortion through the end of 2nd trimester.

I understand those pro-lifers who view the fetus as worthy of legal protection, and would therefore forbid all abortions.

But I've never understood the position (which I know that some conservatives take) which would ban abortions except in the case of rape/incest. (For the sake of discussion, assuming that the fetus is healthy and would grow up to be a fully functioning adult). Is there something about the way the fetus was conceived that makes it murder to abort if the mother was not raped, but makes it not murder if the mother were raped? After all, the fetus is equally human and equally innocent (or equally not human/innocent depending on one's ideology) in both cases.

Good question. First off, many pro-lifers wouldn't make the exception, and I'm not sure if my position is in the majority or not. That said, the reason I would tolerate the abortion of healthy babies conceived through rape or incest is that unlike in the vast majority of pregnancies, in such cases the mother bears no responsibility for the conception. Whenever sex is voluntary there is a chance of pregnancy, no matter how remote, and by making the decision to have sex a woman is implicitly accepting the responsibility of handling whatever consequences may result; it isn't morally acceptable to kill another human being to spare yourself inconvenience brought about by your own actions. However, in cases of rape or incest where the woman does not consent, she does not bear any responsibility for the pregnancy and should not be legally required to carry the baby to term.

An imperfect analogy is the difference between finding someone tied to a train track and actually tying someone there yourself. If you find someone tied to a track you have no legal duty to untie them before they get hit. On the other hand, if you tie someone down and they get killed then you are a murderer.

Now, this sets aside the question of moral responsibility -- but the law and morality are different matters. I think abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, but I don't necessarily think such abortions are desirable or morally acceptable. That's a more difficult question, and in general I think it would be best to tolerate the unasked-for inconvenience (and risk) of pregnancy in order to protect the life of the baby. However, I wouldn't force a woman to make that decision.

Update 041220 6:36pm
Many people don't get it. Forcing a hypothetical raped woman to carry her baby to term is akin to the police arbitrarily taking your wallet and giving it to the nearest homeless guy. You aren't responsible for him; if you choose to give him charity it may be noble, but society has no business forcing you to do so. In the case of the raped woman, society can't even do much to share the burden of the painful, traumatic, and difficult service she must render -- there is no one else capable of bearing her child but her, whereas the general populace can be taxed collectively to help a homeless man, thus reducing the burden on any specific person.

Is it morally right to help homeless people? Yes. Should you be forced at gunpoint to help homeless people? No. Is it morally right for a mother to carry to term a baby conceived through rape or incest? Yes. Should she be forced to do so at gunpoint? No. (And all laws are essentially coercive threats to enforce compliance with deadly force.)

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Michael Williams had a post in which he stated his position as being in opposition to abortion on a moral basis, but accepting of the legality of it in cases of rape and/or incest. Basically, his premise is that the harm done to the woman justifies her Read More

Mike Williams is getting married- Congratulations! While he is busy with things more important than blogging, he has taken to reposting previously visited issues. When he first posted about Abortion,Rape and Incest a year ago, the comments of my response Read More

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