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Politics and the Issues of Rape and Abortion

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

There is a furor over a comment made by Republican congressional candidate Todd Aiken that the female body shuts down and cannot get pregnant during “legitimate rape.” The two comments that outraged everyone was that the woman’s body cannot become pregnant during rape and that there is something called “legitimate rape.” The implication is that some rapes are not legitimate. Unknown to many people is the fact that the conservative wing of the Republican Party used the identical terminology as Representative Aiken when they stated that abortion is acceptable when there is a “forcible rape.” Is there anything other than a forcible rape? Doesn’t the word rape automatically imply force and violence? By definition, rape means sex without consent. The simple fact is that rape is real, forcible legitimate and without consent. In addition, a woman’s body does not shut down during a rape so that pregnancy can be prevented. Statistics show that 32,000 rape victims per year become pregnant as a direct result of the rape. This is according to the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.”

Religious faith and conviction is part of the reason why the issue of abortion is so very heated. Practicing Catholics, Christians and Jews all oppose abortion. Protection of life is seen as something that is sacred. On the other hand, those who advocate women’s rights firmly believe that each woman should have control over her life and body and that deciding for or against abortion is the woman’s decision and not the government. Added to the argument is the question of when life truly begins. There are those who state that life begins at the moment of conception and that it must be protected from that moment onward. Others believe that life does not begin until the fetus becomes more developed and viable so that it feels pain and is somewhat aware. Of course, the advocates for a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion point out that it’s the woman’s life that is most important. For the anti abortionists, allowing such an act is a sin that cannot be forgiven because it is an act of murder.

These are difficult and complicated issues just because people become so passionate about them. It is the kind of situation that allows politicians to manipulate people not because they truly believe in one side or the other. Rather, unscrupulous politicians choose a side simply because they want to seem attractive to the largest number of voters so that they can win elections.

It’s important to look at the psychological aspect of this debate. Many people incorrectly believe that psychologists and psychiatrists fall along just one side and that is being pro women’s rights and therefore, pro abortion. However, these professionals are just people like the rest of us and have opinions just as varied as everyone else.

Whichever side you take it’s important to be aware of the concept of misogyny. The concept refers to hatred and distrust of women. These feelings can be held by men or women. To what extent are some people involved in this debate because of their negative feelings about women more than any religious feelings?

From a psychological point of view, rape is a major trauma that often leads to the victim experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In cases of rape, PTSD is complicated by the fact that victims often doubt themselves, thinking or believing that they may have done something to encourage the rape. This attitude, in my opinion, is the result of the misogynist view that women cannot be trusted and that they must have caused the rape. In other words, everyone blames the victim, even the victim herself. Many women feel so shamed by the rape that they would rather keep it secret than report it to the police.

The fact is that rape is a crime. It is an act of hostility and violence perpetrated against women in order to control and humiliate them. From my perspective, it is difficult to see how a victim of rape can be required to remain pregnant when she had no choice in what happened to her.

what are your opinions on abortion, women’s rights, religion, life and pregnancy resulting from rape?

This is a controversial issue. As such, I invite everyone to share their opinions and views. I only ask that the discussion be kept within the bounds of mutual respect of dignity. Disagreement does not have to be harmful.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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