By The Rev. Madison Shockley
The last 10 weeks of this election season have made me sick and tired of ignorant men pontificating on the reproductive lives of women. And I’m a man! I can only imagine how women feel. Todd Akin says that in a “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body can “shut that whole thing down” and prevent pregnancy. Joe Walsh suggests that medical technology makes it so that women don’t die in childbirth anymore. And now Richard Mourdock tells us that a pregnancy resulting from a rape is “a gift of God” and something that “God intended to happen.”
Akin and Walsh have been shot down for their poor biology with sound science and hard facts. But Mourdock’s remarks are in the realm of religion and are not susceptible to contradiction by logic or evidence. This is why Mitt Romney and the Republicans have not repudiated Mourdock—it’s against their religion. Romney has carefully parsed a rejection of Mourdock’s position that offers no abortion exception for rape while silently affirming the theology behind that policy. Romney never discusses his Mormon theology and won’t describe his beliefs that support his position that there should be an abortion exception for rape. But voters have a right to know not only what but why candidates hold the positions that they do. This is just one more area where Romney displays a disqualifying lack of transparency.
Richard Mourdock, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana, has stated that he believes that a pregnancy that results from rape is, nonetheless, “a gift of God” and something “God intended to happen.” Therefore, he opposes abortion care access to victims of rape. By invoking the divine, he has made his argument a matter of his religious faith and in America he is entitled to his beliefs. What is so tragic about Mourdock’s statement is that he intends to deny the hundreds of thousands of women who are raped and fear pregnancy and the tens of thousands of women who actually become pregnant from rape, their right to religious freedom.
Each of the women who face this horrible experience should be free to seek in her faith the solace and comfort of a loving and compassionate God who has gifted her with the moral agency to make her own decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy begun in violence. And she should be able to exercise that faith by seeking abortion care. The rapist has already robbed her of her free will in the moments that her body was being violated. It is reprehensible that Mourdock would now inflict spiritual violence upon rape victims by suggesting that God was in any way participating in their rape.
Denying women access to abortion care is to rob them not only of control of their bodies, but of their freedom to worship according to religious beliefs not tolerated by Richard Mourdock. We live in a nation that not only gives each of us freedom to express our religion but also protects us from the imposition of another’s religion upon us. Mourdock is running for the U.S. Senate and, should he prevail, the freedom of religion and the civil rights to privacy and security of every woman’s body will be seriously compromised.
However, criticism of Mourdock’s statement from the left has been careless on some very important points. Many have bewailed the idea that a woman should be forced to carry “the rapist’s baby.” This is a horrible way of phrasing our outrage. If we truly believe in the bodily integrity of women, then we cannot even imagine that the fetus incubating within her “belongs” to the rapist. We assert that her body and everything in it belongs to the woman and the woman alone.
Secondly, we should tread carefully regarding the condemnation of another person’s faith. Our commitment is to freedom of and from religion for every person. However, Mourdock can be held responsible for his public proclamations of his faith because of the emotional and spiritual harm they do to the women who hear them. He can be held accountable for seeking to codify his personal beliefs into public policies for the physical harm they would do to women restricted by them. If his comments were in reference to how he would react if he were raped and impregnated, then I would not feel compelled to respond.
In fact, there are many among those women who do become pregnant through rape who indeed choose to carry their pregnancies to term. That is the free exercise of their religion and their civil rights. Those on the left who infer that no woman should make such a choice tread very near the same offense that Mourdock commits by infringing upon the choices that each woman should be able to make without coercion—theological, legal or emotional. Our ultimate goal is individual liberty, freedom of and from religion and that every pregnancy be a wanted and welcome experience.
Akin, Walsh and Mourdock remind me of the nursery rhyme:
Three blind mice, three blind mice.
See how they run, see how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife.
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?
AP/ Michael Conroy
Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate nominee from Indiana.