Learn the Facts

Shouldn’t abortion be legal in cases of rape or incest?

The simple answer to this question—which is the one pro-choice people raise more often than any other—is that a child conceived through rape or incest does not deserve the death penalty for her father’s crime. However, the fully pro-life response to this question must also convey sympathy for the victims of rape and incest, whom research shows are likely to suffer more if they resort to abortion.

One large-scale study of pregnant rape victims found that approximately 70 percent chose to give birth. Many sexual assault victims see giving birth as a selfless, loving act that helps bring healing from the horrific experience of the rape itself. Women who abort children conceived through rape often report that they didn’t feel that they had any other choice, since everyone around them assumed that they would not want to give birth to a rapist’s baby.

The case against abortion for pregnant victims of incest is even stronger. Incest victims hardly ever voluntarily consent to an abortion. Rather than viewing the pregnancy as unwanted, the victim of incest is more likely to see the pregnancy as a way to get out of the incestuous relationship because it exposes the abusive sexual activity that family
members are either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge. The pregnancy poses a threat to the perpetrator, who frequently attempts to coerce his incest victim to have an unwanted abortion.

The idea that the violent act of abortion is beneficial to victims of rape and incest is simply unfounded. On the contrary, evidence shows that abortion in such cases compounds the unspeakable pain that victims experience.

Moreover, given that one-third of one percent of abortions are performed under such circumstances, we might ask why this question is so frequently raised. Do these extremely rare cases justify tolerating the other 99.67% of abortions?
Would those who raise this objection really be willing to ban abortion if exceptions were made for rape and incest?


Johnston, Wm. Robert. “Reasons given for having abortions in the United States.” Johnston’s Archive. Last modified August 16, 2012. http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html.

Mahkorn, Sandra. “Pregnancy and Sexual Assault.” In The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, edited by David Mall and Walter F. Watts, 55-69. Washington: University Publications of America, 1979.

Maloof, George E. “The Consequences of Incest: Giving and Taking Life.” In The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, edited by David Mall and Walter F. Watts, 84-85. Washington: University Publications of America, 1979.

Reardon, David, PhD, Julie Makimaa, and Amy Sobie. Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions, and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault. Battle Creek: Acorn Publishing, 2000.

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