Should 11-year-old girls have to bear their rapists’ babies? Ohio says yes.

Eric Zorn

Eric Zorn

An 11-year-old rape victim in northwestern Ohio is pregnant, according to news reports, and a highly restrictive state law on abortion signed last month says a girl in her position must carry and deliver her rapist’s baby.

In arguing the abortion issue I used to test the zealotry of my anti-choice opponents with a hypothetical question with similar facts, and was often told such a situation was too far-fetched to be probative. But now the hypothetical is real.

A barely pubescent girl has been impregnated, allegedly, by a 26-year-old man who had sex with her on multiple occasions, and the pure anti-abortion position is that the law should prevent her from terminating her pregnancy unless it’s to save her life or spare her grave bodily harm.

Ohio’s Human Rights Protection Act, signed April 11 by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, is one of those “heartbeat” laws that ban abortion as soon as doctors can detect fetal cardiac activity, which starts at about six weeks of gestation, even before some women know they’re pregnant.

Such laws, passed recently by five other states, are among the extreme measures designed to bait the increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court into overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to an abortion in most circumstances.

Ohio’s new law doesn’t grant exceptions for rape and incest — exceptions favored by more than 70 percent of the population in numerous polls. And although local news outlets haven’t reported the estimated duration of this particular rape victim’s pregnancy, inevitably girls in her position will be legally compelled to endure the physical and emotional burdens of pregnancy and childbirth.

She won’t be. The new restrictions aren’t scheduled to go into effect until mid-July and will almost certainly be stayed by federal judges as challenges to such brazen violations of Roe make their way up the appeals process. If the girl decides to end her pregnancy, she will be able to.

Forcing such a victim to remain pregnant is inherent in anti-abortion logic, which says that even a microscopic embryo has full human rights — rights that can’t be abrogated by the sins of the biological father.

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But the logic falls apart for those who allow for exceptions in the most grim, pitiable cases imaginable — impregnated children. Those who say those children along with other victims of rape and incest should be able to obtain abortions, as even some “heartbeat” laws permit, have revealed their opposition to abortion as merely a proxy for their opposition to non-procreational sex — a different moral judgment altogether.

When hardliners try to keep on the high ground, the results are disturbing.

A follow-up anti-abortion bill in the legislative hopper in Ohio would, among other things, ban “drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum,” which includes several popular forms of birth control.

The Alabama legislature on Thursday tabled the consideration of a proposal to make the performing of an abortion a felony punishable by as many as 99 years in prison unless it is to prevent serious health risks to the mother.

Earlier this year in Argentina, a country with strong prohibitions against abortion, a 12-year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl, both impregnated by men in their 60s, were denied abortions and ultimately underwent Caesarean deliveries at 24 and 23 weeks, respectively. Both babies died.

The case of the 11-year-old girl, known in the press by the pseudonym “Lucia,” was particularly disturbing. She discovered she was pregnant by her grandmother’s boyfriend at 17 weeks, according to the Guardian, and even though the law allowed her get an abortion as a rape victim, government, health and religious officials along with anti-abortion activists in her home province strove to delay her family’s request for an abortion until the fetus was deemed viable and it was too late for an abortion.

Hospital nurses reportedly gave Lucia steroid shots to help the fetus’ lungs mature but told her they were vitamin shots, while lawyers swamped the family with paperwork.

Those who think such coercion and violations of personal autonomy couldn’t happen here are failing to take the measure of those determined to strip women and girls of their reproductive freedoms.

Opponents’ most recent ploy has been to put forth the grotesque lie, amplified by our grotesquely dishonest president, that abortion-rights logic allows for post-birth infanticide at the parents’ whim. It’s the most insincere manifestation yet of arguments rooted in the false notion that women with healthy babies are waddling into clinics during their third trimester to end their inconvenient pregnancies.

Meanwhile, the efforts to deny even the most vulnerable victims of sex crimes the right not to bear their rapists’ babies are real. And if abortion-rights supporters don’t rise up to stop them at every level, they will succeed.

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Eric Zorn writes for the

Chicago Tribune.


(7) comments


Why the Anti-Abortion Movement Stopped Making Allowances for Rape and Incest (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/05/anti-abortion-movement-rape-incest-exceptions.html)


If the woman (or girl) is prior to third trimester, it should be allowed. If it takes >6 months to decide, it should not.


I wonder if there is a middle between "no abortions ever" and "abortion at any time for any reason".

For those who will attempt to charge me with being some sort of anti-abortion religious zealot (you know who you are), I am not against abortion and I am an atheist. FWIW: I believe the Ohio law, as written, is wrong. I also believe the new NY law, as written, is wrong.


Well, good for you, crank. You are on board for a sensible approach to abortion. I am puzzled, however, as I think we already are living in a situation that you describe as ideal, one in which we do not outright ban abortions, but we do not allow it as a procedure to be used at any time for any reason. See? You live in a more enlightened time than you seem to have realized in regard to this issue.


Not terribly enlightened times given the extreme positions people on both left and right still hold regarding abortion. Extreme left, no limits on abortion ever and extreme right, no abortion ever.


Is there ever a time when it is appropriate for the government to step in between a man and his urologist? Is there ever a time when it is appropriate for the government to step in when a man wants to get a prescription for Viagra?


Ohio didn't say yes to this. republicans who gerrymandered their way into power said yes.

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