Simply answering the question of whether abortion should be permissible in cases of rape can get a candidate into enough trouble. Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin found a creative way to really boost the negative reactions:
While explaining his position, Akin claimed that pregnancy only rarely results from “legitimate rape.”
“Well you know, people always want to make it as one of those things where how do you slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question,” he replied. “It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But, let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
The thing is, I don't think he really did "explain his position." We know Akin has some unsupportable ideas about women's bodies, and his casual use of "legitimate" rape raises a lot of troubling questions. But we don't know whether his brand of pro-life grants an exception for cases of rape or incest, which seems to be the mainstream conservative position these days.
And it's an exception I can't quite fathom, because it represents a major inconsistency in pro-life advocacy. The pro-life position is that the unborn child is a legitimate (if I may borrow a phrase from Akin), unique human being as much entitled to the protection of the law as any other human being. Furthermore, those unborn children, being more vulnerable (or "innocent") than the adults who conceived them, deserve even an extra measure of protection.
If that is true for one unborn child, isn't it true for all of them? Why make an exception for those conceived by rape or incest? Does that make them any less vulnerable and deserving of rights? Why make them pay for circumstances that they had no control over? If I say abortion is murder, how can I say it's not always murder and still be credible?
If someone can explain this inconsistency in terms that make both logical and ethical sense, I'd love to hear it.