I was interested to see published this week a statement from the ‘Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault (WPSA)’. This group was formed eight years ago to petition the US Congress to hold hearings on the issue of abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.
So far, however, this petition has not been heard by political leaders on either side of the aisle, or by most in the pro-choice or pro-life communities.
The full statement from WPSA is available on the Elliot Institute website.
Here are some excerpts:
‘Many people have strong opinions about abortion in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. However, the real experiences and needs of women who have actually experienced pregnancies from sexual assault are often ignored, even though our experiences are frequently used to promote abortion on demand.
From the perspective of those of us who have actually been through a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, people on both sides of the abortion debate, and the media fanning the flames of this controversy, are getting it wrong.
On one side are those who argue that pregnancies resulting from rape and incest occur so rarely that we shouldn’t let it impact public policy on abortion. This is hurtful to women who do become pregnant from rape or incest and who need support. It can also lead to questioning as to whether a woman or girl is telling the truth about being raped.
On the other side are those who perpetuate the myth that women and girls who become pregnant from sexual assault overwhelmingly want, need and benefit from having abortions. This also hurts women and fans the flames of prejudice toward those who do not want to have an abortion, even leading some to question whether a woman or girl who wishes not to abort has “really” been raped. And it can lead to strong pressure to abort by those who think the woman or girl does not know what is really best for her.
Despite the belief that most women in such circumstances would want an abortion, a national study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that only half of those who became pregnant from rape had an abortion. Another survey of pregnant sexual assault victims found that only 30 percent had abortions.
Whether the true number is closer to 30 or 50 percent doesn’t matter. What matters is that women and girls who become pregnant from rape or incest need real support and resources that meet their needs. In many cases, however, these needs are not met because most people assume that abortion will solve the problem.
In fact, there are no studies proving that this claimed psychological benefit occurs in general, or even for certain groups of women pregnant by sexual assault. And from personal experience, many of us discovered that abortion only added to our trauma and created additional obstacles to finding healing.
Many people naturally fear themselves or someone they love being raped, or becoming pregnant as a result of rape. We have been on the other side of that fear. From our perspective the issues and emotions involved are not as straightforward as most people presume. This is why those of us who have actually been in this situation need and deserve to be heard.
Our situation is not uncommon, and our needs are worthy of public notice and discussion in terms of public policy and health care directives.’
The members of WPSA don’t claim to know all the answers to this difficult issue but are simply asking to be given the opportunity to speak about it.
The website also makes reference reference to a book titled Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault which was based on letters and survey responses from 192 women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
164 were victims of rape and 28 were victims of incest (sexual assault involving a family member). Overall, 69 percent continued the pregnancy and either raised the child or made an adoption plan, 29 percent had abortions and 1.5 percent had miscarriages.
They claim that this is the largest survey ever done of women who became pregnant through sexual assault. Victims and Victims reveals that:
* Nearly 80 percent of the women who aborted a pregnancy conceived in sexual assault reported that abortion had been the wrong solution.
* Most women who had abortions said that abortion only increased the trauma they were experiencing.
* In many cases, the victim faced strong pressure or demands to abort and in some cases, especially those involving teenage girls, was even forced to have the abortion by others.
* In cases of incest or ongoing sexual abuse, abortion was frequently used by the perpetrator to cover up the abuse, and in many cases the girl was given an abortion with no questions asked and then returned to the abusive situation.
* None of the women who gave birth to a child conceived in sexual assault expressed regret or wished they had aborted instead.