Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Richard Mourdock Was Not Wrong

On October 23rd Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock made a huge gaffe. He made an extreme and indefensible comment.
Or did he?
By some of the responses, you would think so. In response to his comments, President Obama said, "I don't get these guys (referring to Mourdock and Todd Akin, who is now famous for his 'legitimate rape' comments). Rape is rape." Actress Tina Fey said, "If I have to listen to one more grey-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I'm gonna lose my mind." Carly Fiorina, the National Senatorial Committee vice-chairwoman, said, "Richard Mourdock said a really stupid thing, and he apologized." This was in response to Meet the Press moderator David Gregory summing up Mourdock's comments by saying that Mourdock was talking about "rape, and that it could be God's will, and that pregnancy because of rape should be taken to term." His opponent in the race, Joe Donnelly, said, "I was shocked by what was said, and I think it was insulting and wrong to women, to survivors of rape and to their families. It has no place -- comments like that -- in public discussion."
Clearly Mourdock must have made an extreme and divisive statement about rape.
But he didn't.
In a debate, Mourdock was asked about his position on abortion in cases of rape and incest. Here is his response: "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."
Mourdock really made no statement at all about rape. In fact, the subject only came up because he was asked about it. The only comment he made about rape itself is that is is a "horrible situation." This hardly seems controversial, divisive, or extreme. He made no statement to which someone should respond, "Rape is rape." He made no statement that somehow tells women "what rape is."
The extreme reaction has been the way people has made him out to say that he is pro-rape or that he believes that rape is "something that God intended to happen."
Mourdock's comments were not about rape. They were about abortion and his view on when life begins. he said that life is a gift from God, and he said that life, even when it begins in horrible situations, is still something that God intended." Certainly people disagree that God is the source of life, but that a person has this belief is hardly groundbreaking.
But didn't Mourdock admit that he was wrong when he apologized?
Here is his apology: "I said that life is precious. I believe life is precious. I believe rape is a brutal act. It is something that I abhor. That anyone could come away with any meaning other than what I just said is regrettable, and for that I apologize. If they came away with any impression other than that I truly regret it, I apologize. I've certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation."
As some opponents have pointed out, Mourdock didn't really apologize. He regrets that his words were misunderstood.
His words were not about rape, but about when life begins and what we should do when life is present. No matter how many people try to make his comments about rape, they simply aren't.
More to the point, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List supported Mourdock, saying, "Richard Mourdock said that life is always a gift from God, and we couldn't agree more. To report his statement as an endorsement of rape is either willfully ignorant or malicious."
Ultimately, if anyone genuinely misunderstands Mourdock's statement, it is probably because they misunderstand the reason why many people (in fact, the majority of Americans) are pro-life. The reason is that we believe that life begins at conception, that life is precious, and that innocent life should be protected. This fact is not dependent on whether that life was conceived as a result of a devoted man and woman, a drunken one-night stand, or a horrific act of violence. My previous post walks through this reality.

In my last post I mentioned Rebecca Kiessling. She was conceived in rape and her mother gave her up for adoption. When she later reconnected with her biological mother, she said that she would have chosen abortion if it had been legal at the time. Rebecca Kiessling is alive today because she was conceived before Roe v. Wade.
Today Rebecca Kiessling is grateful for those who stood in the gap and protected her life, a life conceived in the horror of rape. I bet she is even grateful to any grey-faced men with two-dollar haircuts who fought to protect her life.

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