Sunday, June 8, 2014
Kevin Williamson discusses the case of Miss Pennsylvania USA, Valerie Gatto, who was conceived following the rape of her mother. In the article, Williamson offers a startling personal revelation.
There are many kinds of courage in the world, of which a mother’s courage is a very specific and demanding variety. Rape is a special kind of cruelty in that it transforms the life-giving act into an act of torture. To suffer the crime and yet cherish the life is an act of transcendence, a perfection of generosity rarely if ever equaled by the merely human.
My own view is that those in the pro-life camp who wish to carve out legal exceptions for cases of rape are undermining their own position. If our desire is to protect the lives of the innocent unborn, then the circumstances of their conception, no matter how horrible, cannot be allowed to overrule their standing as members of the human family. But that is not to say that the circumstances do not matter. We should be fully cognizant of exactly what our position implies, and of the extraordinary burden such a standard would impose on women who have suffered a particularly heinous kind of assault.
But set aside, for the moment, the question of the legal status of abortion. The fact is that abortion is at the moment legal and widely available. Miss Gatto was born in 1989, well into the age of the universal abortion license. Her mother could have terminated her pregnancy easily, and the matter could have remained entirely private. She chose to do otherwise, and then took the additional step of taking on the burdens and difficulties of raising the child rather than giving her to adoptive parents. This is by no means to denigrate the decisions of women who do give up their children for adoption — I myself am grateful that such a decision was made in my own case, and that abortion remained illegal in Texas in 1972. I have no idea whether my biological mother, whom I have not met, would have been tempted by the availability of legal abortion; still, I object to the notion that my own life should be optional under the law. Miss Gatto’s mother must have known that she was not choosing an easy road, even with the support and assistance of her parents.
The remarkable fact is that a not insignificant number of women who become pregnant through rape do not choose to terminate their pregnancies, deciding instead to forgo adding to the sum of violence in the world, even though a portion of it has been cruelly visited upon their own persons. In a culture that treats abortion as barely if at all distinguishable from mere contraception, that is heroic. And it is heroic regardless of our specific political differences on the issue of the legal standing of abortion, important — fundamentally important — as that question is.
It should be noted that Williamson's position on rape and abortion mirrors that of Richard Mourdock, who, though heavily favored, lost the 2012 Indiana race for the U.S. Senate because he made the comment, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen.” It's unclear whether Mourdock would have lost had he not foolishly associated rape with God's will. Had he presented the case as eloquently as Williamson does (in the first two excerpted paragraphs above), the election result may have been different.
Or not. The subject of rape and abortion is a third rail for pro-life politicians. Republicans would probably do well to heed Ann Coulter's advice --
I...think all Republican candidates should be trained with shock collars and cattle prods to automatically respond, upon hearing some combination of the words "abortion," "rape" and "incest": "Yes, of course there should be exceptions in the case of rape or incest, and I also support giving rapists the death penalty, unlike my Democratic opponent, who wants to give rapists the right to vote. Now, back to what I was saying about Obamacare ..."
One more thing -- Given the current cultural mood, Valerie Gatto has no chance to win the 2014 Miss USA contest.