Rape and abortion, a Catholic view, Part 1

(See part 2.) I have a friend who is beginning RCIA (taking “convert classes”) soon. A few days ago she thrust a magazine in my face, exclaiming, Have you heard about this? Is this right? The story before me was about the little nine-year old in Brazil who had been sexually abused by her stepfather, resulting in her pregnancy with twins. The bishop excommunicated the girl’s mother and also her doctor after they aborted the babies who were a few months old. My friend, who is just beginning to learn about the Church’s moral teachings, was frankly disturbed, confronting me with a barrage of questions. Wouldn’t giving birth to these babies kill the girl? Wasn’t abortion the right thing to do? And how would she raise them if she and they survived? Wasn’t the bishop wrong to excommunicate the mother and the doctor?

Now, I am not the Catholic Church and I don’t (nor can I) speak for her. But I am a Catholic and one who is reasonably aware of what the Church teaches, so please allow me to shed some Catholic (some Gospel) light on this disturbing story and answer my friend’s questions, questions that many other people are asking as well. There’s a summary of the story at the end of this post, if you aren’t familiar with it, and links to read more on the web.

Q: Wouldn’t giving birth to these babies kill the girl?

A: The unspoken assumption here is that she would have to carry them to to term and then give birth to them. But prenatal medical science and care has advanced tremendously in our time. Babies born prematurely have a much higher rate of survival than in days past. So the young girl wouldn’t have to carry them for the full nine months.

Q: Wasn’t abortion the right thing to do?
A: Abortion is murder, the shedding of innocent blood. It is never the right thing to do. Abortion gives babies no chance at all and robs them of life, life they already have, not life they will have in the future, but already have; they are alive already. Abortion kills that life and adds to the horrific violence already committed in this terrible case, violence against the twins and their young mother who had already suffered abuse at the hands of her stepfather. We need to keep all of these people in our prayers.

Q: How would she raise them if they (and she) survived?
A: Another unspoken assumption underlies this question, that she would have to raise them herself if she managed to carry them to term. I’ve already pointed out that she would not have had to carry them to term but would only need to carry them as long as she could. But, of course, she would not have to raise them herself. She’s only nine years old, for heaven’s sake. The twins could be adopted. I really don’t see that the question of who would raise them can be answered by resorting to abortion. Plenty of children are being raised in doubtful and precarious circumstances. Should they have been terminated in the womb? Should they be rounded up now and terminated? (These suggestions are absurd but I had to bring them up, given the current political situation. We simply have to look at what we are saying, identify our unspoken assumptions, and see where our ideas lead us if carried out to their logical conclusions.)

Q: Wasn’t the bishop wrong to excommunicate the mother and her doctor?

A: Since the mother and doctor are Catholic, they should know what the Church teaches about abortion. The priest and the bishop worked to make sure that they did, in fact, know those teachings and informed them of the consequences of their plan of action. And the mother, if she knew what her husband was doing to her daughter, should have done her motherly duty, protecting her and putting a stop to the abuse. The doctor should have done his duty, which is to serve life, the life of the innocent young girl and the life she carried within her. Life is life, no matter how that life was conceived. The child conceived in rape is a child nonetheless and has as much right to life as anyone else. That the pregnancy involved two lives meant that perhaps he should have worked twice as hard to serve them. Three times as hard, since he would also have to serve their mother, too.

Q: What about the stepfather?
A: As to the stepfather, I have yet to read anywhere that the he was excommunicated, but then I also have yet to read anywhere that he was Catholic. He was arrested and thrown in jail. He committed monstrous acts of violence to his stepdaughter and I leave him to the justice system in Brazil. God will take care of him in the next life and that’s between them.

This story brings up other issues as well…

Since this is an important story and brings up important issues, and since this post is already fairly long, I’m going to write more about it in another post. Thank you for reading and discussion is welcome.

Summary of the background story

  • The stepfather abused the child and got away with it for years. Is that the fault of the parish priest? The bishop? No. I’m inclined to think that the mother should have protected her child, but I don’t know enough facts here to say more.
  • His stepdaughter gets pregnant–no, that’s a ridiculous way to phrase that. The stepfather fathers a child upon his stepchild–two children, actually. She is pregnant with twins. The twins exist, they are living in her womb, though her womb be that of a nine-year old child.
  • The mother (finally!) discovers what has happened (I’m assuming she didn’t know all along) and takes her daughter to the doctor (probably, though I don’t know for a fact, to see “what can be done”).
  • The doctor tells the mother that her daughter must have an abortion; the chances of her being able to carry her babies to term are slim to none.
  • The twins living in their nine-year old mother’s womb are two more innocent victims. They are real, they are alive, they know nothing of how they came to be, they are awaiting further development and birth. But they are real, they are alive and they are human. Already. From the moment they were conceived. This is not a matter of religion or opinion but medical fact. And these twins were four months old when they were discovered, not tiny embryos that some could accuse of not being human and not being worthy of considering or saving. (I won’t even go into how illogical that argument is. Not here, anyway.)

See part 2 of this post.

Notes and Links

Read the story at CNA: Brazilian priests detail role of Church in case of 9 year-old girl who underwent abortion and Archbishop explains excommunications in abortion case involving 9 year-old

Copyright: All original material on Catholic Heart and Mind is Copyright © 2009-2023 Lee Lancaster. All rights reserved. Read more.

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