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I'm always confused by the "incest" exception for abortion

BY Matthew Warner

| Posted 10/16/12 at 11:38 AM

 

We've heard the line a million times. "I'm against abortion except in the case of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother." We disappointingly heard Paul Ryan repeat it as the "Romney Administration's" position on abortion in the recent debate.

The rape part I get. I think it's wrong and illogical, but I at least understand the emotional appeal there. The idea of a woman bearing the child of her rapist is an unimaginably heart-wrenching proposition. It's something nobody should ever have to do. And in the midst of such emotional wreckage, it's easy to be fooled into thinking that if we can all look away for a moment while we snuff the baby out and pretend he/she never happened, life might be a little bit easier on everyone (except for the baby of course who loses their life and for the mother who has to live forever with the reality that she ended the life of her own innocent child — pray for these women.).

The "life of the mother" exception is surely the easiest for most people to accept. It's a foggy spot when faced with 1) allowing two innocent people to potentially die or 2) intentionally killing one person ourselves (who we haven't yet met and whom society condones killing) to hopefully save the other (whom we love and have much invested in). Again, it's still wrong to intentionally kill any innocent life, but I at least understand the emotion behind the unsound thinking.

But incest? I don't understand it.

The definition of incest is: sexual intercourse between closely related persons.

So what about a baby being concevied by two closely related persons, in itself, puts it in the category of rape and life of the mother?

Now, I realize that the situation around incest in this day and age often involves traumatic situations of abuse, rape (statutory and otherwise) and some otherwise messed up situations. But those horrible things also occur very often where no incest is involved. And if those messed up situations and abuse are what we're talking about, then the exception should be for "rape, [messed up situations] and the life of the mother." 

So why is "incest" the distinguishing factor? It seems very inconsistent to me. I'm not being flippant about this issue. Words matter. And when supposed "pro-life" people make exceptions to their position, they should be well thought-out.

There are two negative consequences directly caused by incest (sexual intercourse between two closely related persons) itself. First, social stigma. Second, higher chances of genetic abnormalities. That's it, really. Neither of which are anywhere close to on par with rape or life of the mother.

And, again, please don't confuse incest with abuse or a messed up situation. While they are often correlative, they are not the same. And incestual relationships have occurred througout history (including biblically) under all kinds of circumstances. Many of them did not involve abuse or emotionally unhealthy situations. I'm not saying we shouldn't avoid incest or forbid it in this day and age (knowing what we now know). But for the sake of this discussion, I'm just trying to make clear that I'm talking about incest in its strict sense (sexual intercourse between two closely related persons) and NOT the emotional/physical trauma many may naturally associate with it (and which happens all the time whether incest is technically involved or not).

So in that case, the fact that the parents of a child happen to be closely related, in itself, has no place along side rape and life of the mother.

And if you find yourself saying, "well what about these two young siblings who made a mistake and conceived a child" or some other unfortunate scenario, ask yourself if the situation was exactly the same except the two people conceiving the child were not "closely related," if it would really change how tragic the situation is? I think not. Which is why using "incest" as the determining factor for an exception just seems very inconsistent to me.

Finally, let's be clear. nothing truly justifies the direct and intentional killing of an innocent human life. If you support abortion under any exception at all, you're not completely pro-life. You're a pickier, more measured pro-abortionist. But maybe if we can help people think through their "exceptions" we can make some progress on this issue. And I think this incest distinction should be the first to go.