Abortion, morality and the law

July 14, 2022 11:55 am
Protestors hold signs during an abortion-rights rally June 25, 2022, outside the Dimond Courthouse in Juneau, Alaska.

Protestors hold signs during an abortion-rights rally outside the Dimond Courthouse in Juneau, Alaska on June 25, 2022, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Morality is not simple. It’s easy to hold absolute positions in the abstract, but when human realities intrude, what seems straightforward becomes complex. For instance, the Ten Commandments state, “Thou shalt not kill.” No exceptions. Yet the Bible is littered with exceptions, because it isn’t that simple. Our modern laws reflect this. Killing others is forbidden, but we make allowances for self-defense, warfare, and public safety. Self-defense is key, because to prosecute a person for defending themself against another is to victimize the victim. There is neither justice nor morality in this.

Days after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, we are seeing this concept play out against an impregnated 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio. She was denied an abortion because the state had a trigger law take effect banning the procedure regardless of reason. A fifth-grade girl, who could easily die or be permanently maimed as a result of pregnancy, has been barred from receiving proper medical care in her state. A child not yet out of puberty has been told she must endure a forced pregnancy. Under the legal implications of Ohio’s law, the moment she was impregnated by a rapist, her body effectively became state property. Without leaving Ohio, neither she nor her caretaker have any say in the matter.

Having first been forced to submit her body to the criminal, we now have the law, in a fashion precisely mirroring the mentality of her rapist, telling this girl she must submit her body to its authority. She has been sexually assaulted twice. First by the rapist and then by the state. Both assailants forcibly penetrated her body. One did it legally.

This is inhuman.

When a policy makes no allowances for the vagaries of human life, it invariably leaves a trail of victims. Victims such as this child, still learning her multiplication tables, having to travel beyond Ohio for an abortion to avoid being forced into motherhood by both her rapist and the state. In the coming weeks, even this option will grow more difficult as other states move to deny juvenile rape victims medical care and discuss monitoring out-of-state travel of pregnant females.

This is not pro-life.

When the pro-life movement began in the 1980s, many activists believed deeply in the moral good. Thus it was a given among them that exceptions be made for rape, incest, endangerment of the mother, fetal inviability, and especially impregnated children. It was understood that moral choices are complex and sometimes abortion is the least bad of the available options.

Since then, however, the movement has morphed into a monster focused on absolute political victory and absolute authority over every pregnancy in America. It went from pro-life to pro-power. That’s when moral judgment was abandoned. This led to a traumatized 10-year-old girl traveling far from home to deal with the results of a crime committed on her body, a crime today’s anti-abortion activists would tell her she has been blessed by.

Alaskan women suffer the highest incidence of rape in the nation. They aren’t safe. But under our state constitution, rape victims, including postpubescent children, can terminate forced pregnancies. Anti-abortion fanatics – and at this point, their movement is wholly fanatical – are calling for a “yes” vote on the state constitutional convention ballot measure so they can change this. They want to ban abortion under all circumstances, including sexual violation. They would strip traumatized rape victims of medical options. These activists are hoping to add language to the document governing our state that will allow them to force 10-year-old rape victims in Alaska to carry pregnancies to term, or until such pregnancy kills them, whichever comes first.

This not pro-life. It’s an authoritarian nightmare. It’s the most grotesque form of child abuse imaginable. It is morally equivalent to rape itself. And if these activists win, young girls in Alaska will pay with their bodies and lives. This is neither moral nor just.

Moral people know life is complicated, that we can only hope to do our best, and that there are few absolutes. This is why those seeking what’s best for Alaska’s children will vote “no” on calling a constitutional convention on November’s ballot. Because those demanding a convention wish to weaponize Alaska’s laws against rape victims. They would make Alaska, like Ohio, an accessory to rape. Including the rape of 10-year-old children.

Moral people will not allow this.


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David A. James
David A. James

David A. James is a freelance writer in Fairbanks and the editor of "Writing on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Alaskan Stories."