Those that mock the earnest pro-life position mistake certitude for imperfect principled struggle. Surely one can appreciate the pro-lifer agonizing with the two horrible conditions of pregnancy by rape and what they perceive is murder. Often the pro-lifer concludes that the sanctity of human life narrowly outweighs - not eliminates - the other considerations. Serious thinkers must wrestle with competing principles. One wonders if those who mock this view of human life ever give credence to the internal moral struggle of the pro-lifer.
What strikes me, though, is the offense Todd Akin has given—not just to victims of rape, but to his fellow pro-lifers. The most difficult moral issue when it comes to abortion comes with cases of pregnancy due to rape and incest. (These are, relative to all live births, extraordinarily small in number.) The pregnancy in such circumstances is not only unwanted but the result of a barbaric and traumatic criminal attack. And yet consistent pro-lifers argue such pregnancies should not be ended by abortion. This is usually held up as an example of their fanaticism, or their cruelty, or their desire to punish women, or some other charge.And as an aside, how is it exactly that publicly repudiating a man and pleading with him to drop out of his race for the Senate comes to mean that Romney and Ryan are in “lockstep” with Akin?
In fact, though, it is precisely when it comes to these most difficult cases that the underlying philosophy of the pro-life movement finds its moral strength. They argue that the unborn possess an independent right to life, that one would and should not do to them in the womb what would never be done to them one second after they were born alive. Wanted or unwanted, conceived in love or in violence, they are ensouled and they are people.
This is not a conviction I share, but it is a conviction for which I have enormous respect.