Meet Rebecca Kiessling. Kiessling was conceived in horrific circumstances: her birth mother was brutally raped at knifepoint. Her mother sought an abortion, and, because it was illegal, ended up giving the baby for adoption. It is a very sad story for both the unnamed woman, and for Kiessling herself.
In her struggle to process the circumstances surrounding her birth, Kiessling has become a vocal spokesperson for the anti-choice movement, speaking out to make abortion illegal, in particular attacking “the rape exception”, a watered-down anti-choice position which suggests that abortion should be available for rape survivors. She uses the following rhetorical device to make her point:
Please understand that whenever you identify yourself as being “pro-choice,” or whenever you make that exception for rape, what that really translates into is you being able to stand before me, look me in the eye, and say to me, “I think your mother should have been able to abort you.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. I would never say anything like that to someone. I would say never to someone, “If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.”
It is a very emotive argument, and thoroughly fallacious. To counter it, I am going to use as ludicrous an example. In the following scenario, I have travelled back through time to late 1984, and my mother–who, by the way, is a happily married woman impregnanted by the conventional means of happily married monogamous couples by my lovely father–is considering an abortion, because she doesn’t want a kid right now. The embryo inside my mother will become me, and I know this. So what would I do? Would I look her in the eye and say, “go on, mum, kill me, you big killy murderer”? Would I wave around pictures of foetuses and pray aggressively in her face? Would I ask Margaret Thatcher to ban abortion?
No. I am pro-choice, so I would respect that choice the woman who could have been my mother made, and I would respect it as I dissipated into the time-void. I wouldn’t be dead. I’d have never existed at all.
Because that’s how choice works. I don’t want Rebecca Kiessling dead. I want a world wherein any woman can make the choice to terminate a pregnancy. I do think Kiessling’s mother should have been able to abort her, just as I think my mother should have been able to abort me if that was the choice she made.
It must be horrible for people like Kiessling to find out that their existence is the result of a brutal attack. Nobody should have to go through it. Not Kiessling, and certainly not the woman who gave birth to her. Yet Kiessling’s proposed solution–banning abortion–would lead to the suffering of millions more women, forced to carry pregnancies or endure dangerous illegal abortions. The violence inherent in taking away a safe option for women is stark: with what she is proposing, Kiessling endorses a different kind of invasion of women’s bodies. She would be better placed throwing her energies into building a world where rape is not possible.