An Open Response from a Law Student for Life

Sarah Gersten’s Open Letter raises several important points relevant to the conversation on abortion. A genuine pro-life perspective always includes a deep and abiding concern for every mother’s welfare as well as every child’s. Ryan Bomberger’s speech this past Tuesday sought to address the problem of disparate abortion rates within the black community, rather than the problem of sexual violence, but the Law Students for Life would agree that the latter merits serious discussion. We are glad to see the increase in discussion around abortion and related topics within the Law School over the course of this semester, and hope that these conversations continue into the coming academic year.

Pro-life advocates abhor sexual violence, just as advocates for legal abortion do. No statement by Mr. Bomberger suggested otherwise. We can likely find substantial common ground between the two camps regarding what should be done to reduce rates of rape and sexual assault. Indeed, the pro-life movement wants to see men held to a high moral standard regarding sex. The relevant question within the abortion debate, however, is this: does abortion serve as a legitimate way to reduce the harm done to victims of sexual assault, or does it create an additional victim without remedying the first victim’s injury? This is where pro-life and pro-legal abortion advocates will differ, based both on their different ideas concerning the rights of the conceived baby, and on their perception of how undergoing an abortion affects the mother. Pro-life advocates maintain that participating voluntarily in abortion harms women as well as ending the lives of unborn children, and we therefore see the pro-life cause as, in fact, defending the dignity of women and unborn children alike.

The vast majority of abortions, however, do not involve children conceived as a result of rape. According to the Guttmacher Institute, studies from both 1987 and 2004 showed that only 1% of abortions involve fetuses conceived as a result of rape.[1] The “self-control” flyer made available by Mr. Bomberger at Tuesday’s event referred to the great bulk of abortion decisions where the fetus in question was conceived through consensual sex. In these cases, greater self-control on the part of both men and women could indeed have prevented an unplanned pregnancy. Again, the burden is two-sided; both men and women must exercise self-control. Abortion, however, makes it easy for men to do the opposite. In a world where men presume that women can access abortions if they so choose, men have greater leeway to pressure women for sex, knowing that any resulting pregnancy can be “covered up.” This is seen most graphically in human trafficking organizations, where forced abortions are essential to continued sex work.[2] But coercion also rears its ugly head when a husband or boyfriend demands that his partner have an abortion, lest he leave the women altogether. A presumption on the part of men that abortion will not be an option actually encourages greater responsibility and decreases the risk of sexual exploitation of women.

As an organization, LSL takes no position on contraceptives in general. We affirm the dignity of human life at all stages of development and therefore oppose abortion and abortifacients. Respecting human dignity requires condemning sexual violence and coercion, whether it be rape or social pressure to have sex. LSL looks forward to further discussions about fostering this type of comprehensive pro-life approach.

By Josiah Kollmeyer, ’17, Co-Founder of Law Students for Life

[1] Lawrence B. Finer et al., Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives, 37 Sᴇxᴜᴀʟ & Rᴇᴘʀᴏᴅ. Hᴇᴀʟᴛʜ 110, 113 (2005) (Table 2), https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/journals/3711005.pdf.

[2] See Laura J. Lederer & Christopher A. Wetzel, The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities, 23 Aɴɴᴀʟꜱ ᴏꜰ Hᴇᴀʟᴛʜ Lᴀᴡ 61, 73 (2014) (“The prevalence of forced abortions is an especially disturbing trend in sex trafficking.”), http://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Health-Consequences-of-Sex-Trafficking-and-Implications-for-Identifying-Victims-Lederer.pdf.

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