Rape is about power and control of one person over another. It is a violation. To use the law, personal coercion, or any other means to force a woman to carry a child conceived in rape is a second violation. It is violence compounded upon violence. It is immoral and inconsistent with the values of following Jesus.
I have spent my adult life working with, working among, and advocating for children. I risked breaking state regulations to enroll an infant living in a crack house, in an early childhood center of which I was the director. I cared for a sick preschooler that would’ve been better off at home, to save her mother’s job. I lied by omission to a father to prevent a two-year-old from being beaten for wetting herself during nap time. I snapped ferociously at my own children out of fatigue and stress more times than I’d like to admit because I was overworked.
There was no easy, simple solution in any of these situations. Each of these is a case in which, in my human frailty, I tried to respond to others lovingly. I doubt that my children had warm fuzzy feelings when I screamed at them so loudly that I gave myself a sore throat.
Contemporary life is complicated. The most loving response is often veiled between two or more imperfect and confusing choices. In the end we each do the best that we can. This is why I am begrudgingly pro-choice despite my passion for children and children’s rights.
I would like to live in a world in which women only became pregnant when they yearned for a baby. I wish we did everything possible to support mothers and fathers before and after the birth of a child. I’d be happier if men spent less time thinking it was our responsibility to tell women how to lead their lives.
Let’s face it, if patriarchy was dead, if misogyny was a distant ancestral memory, positions of power would be more evenly distributed between women and men. Western culture — and Christianity — still has anti-women elements that are far from gone.
Jesus, on the other hand, pushed those boundaries according to the gospels. He worried less about being touched by an unclean woman than about healing her (Mark 5: 25-34). He opposed men haphazardly divorcing their wives to protect women. In the culture of the time, being thrown out to fend for herself would mean poverty or worse (Matthew 19: 1-12). Jesus challenged the social conventions of his time to expand the rights of women.
Despite the patriarchy that chose what was included in our Bible, the broad strokes of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) includes many examples of powerful women as well as limits on male domination. God created male and female equally and simultaneously in the first creation story (Genesis 1:26-28). Though a marriage arranged by men, Rebekah had the final word on whether she would marry Isaac (Genesis 24). The prophet Deborah led men into battle (Judges 4). Esther herself is the heroine of an entire book of the Bible.
The biblical writers’ implication is clear: God trusts both women and men to respond lovingly to the Divine coaxing.
God of Wisdom and love, The world in which we live is confusing and filled with many sadnesses and evils. Open our ears as you whisper to us. Encourage us to hear and trust your still, small voice so that we might be a part of your unfolding realm. Remind us that you whisper in the ears of every man and every woman pushing us to respond with love. In the name of the One who breathed you into his very lungs and breathed out your love and respect for both women and men. Amen.