Pro-lifers tried to force 9-year-old rape victim to give birth to twins

(Richard mentioned this as an intro to a post earlier this week, but I thought the event needed a post of its own).

From Time, and via Scott, who describes this as “the moral low ground.”

Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well.[...]

The case has caused a furor. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger, both of which apply in this case. (The girl’s immature hips would have made labor dangerous; the Catholic opinion was that she could have had a cesarean section.) When the incident came to light in local newspapers, the Church first asked a judge to halt the process and then condemned those involved, including the 9-year-old’s distraught mother. Even Catholic Brazilians were shocked at the harshness of the archbishop’s actions.

Cara says that as far as she can tell the rapist hasn’t been excommunicated.

Brazil is a pro-lifer’s paradise in many ways; the country, which is 75% Catholic, has strict abortion bans. So how well has that worked out for them? Has making abortion illegal caused it to become rare? Not exactly:

Although abortion is illegal, an estimated 1 million women each year have one. The poor are forced into clandestine clinics or take medication, while the better-off are treated by qualified physicians at well-appointed surgeries known to anyone with money and overlooked by colluding authorities.

That secrecy has a price. More than 200,000 women each year are treated in public hospitals for complications arising from illegal abortions, according to Health Ministry figures.

This is the dirty little secret of the pro-life movement: Their policies don’t reduce abortion much.

It’s not a secret which countries in the world have the lowest abortion rates — and it’s not Brazil, or any of the other countries where pro-lifers have gotten the laws they want. The exceptionally low abortion rates are in countries like Belgium, where demand for abortion has been driven down by a combination of a strong social welfare state for single mothers, excellent sex ed, and lots and lots and lots of contraception.

We could have it both ways. We can have the reproductive freedom pro-choicers want; and we can also have the low abortion rate pro-lifers say they want. (I once figured out, in a back-of-the-envelope calculation, that if the US’s abortion rates were as low as Belgium’s, that would mean 700,000 fewer abortions a year.) This is truly an issue where both sides could get what they want. But this grand compromise won’t work and will never happen, because although pro-lifers may want low abortion rates, they don’t want them nearly as much as they want to control women’s bodies — and the bodies of nine-year-old girls.

(The article also mentions a Protestant church which has been running pro-choice ads, by the way. So yay for them.)

UPDATE: From Elkins and others in comments:

The unrepentant archbishop said overnight the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the Church.

Although the man allegedly committed, “a heinous crime, the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious.”

Thank goodness we have the Church to provide us with moral leadership. Otherwise we might think that raping a child was somehow worse than giving an 80-pound nine-year-old a possibly lifesaving abortion.

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, In the news. Bookmark the permalink. 

27 Responses to Pro-lifers tried to force 9-year-old rape victim to give birth to twins

  1. 1
    Harold says:

    Hi Ampersand,

    To add further proof here is an article that focuses on Canada, and compares Canada to the United States and Western Europe http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/action/dont-need-abortion-law.html. While the stats are a bit different that yours it indicates that the for each 1000 women of childbearing age the United States has an abortion rate of 20, Canada is 14.1 and Western Europe is 12.

    Here is an interesting item about the Criminal Code of Canada

    A fetus does not become a human being until it has completely exited the birth canal, alive

    Canadian abortion rate has been falling since 1999 when abortion rights were reaffirmed eg.

    The Supreme Court of Canada stated in Dobson vs Dobson (1999, 2 SCR 753) that the physical unity of a woman and her fetus precludes the imposition of a duty of care on her, because that would be a profound compromise of her privacy and autonomy.

    Also by having non-restrictive abortion laws it appear that abortion is much safer…

    Canada enjoys the lowest maternal mortality rate from abortion in the world

    In addition according to the 2001 Census about 72% Canadians are Christian with 43% being Catholic and 29% protestant http://www.religioustolerance.org/can_rel0.htm.

    Of course, the Belgians and many other European countries are doing much better, but considering the geographical locations of the US and Canada and extreme cultural similarities, there is still a very large difference.

  2. 2
    Schala says:

    In addition according to the 2001 Census about 72% Canadians are Christian with 43% being Catholic and 29% protestant http://www.religioustolerance.org/can_rel0.htm.

    From my experience in Quebec province, though most are Catholics, few are practicing. I was “raised Catholic”, which basically meant I learned the basic bible stuff, the story of Jesus, etc. I also went to church about once a year…until I was 8 or so. Then I never went back. It wasn’t me rebelling against church, but my parents deciding it was time better spent elsewhere.

    We don’t pray, or say graces, or consider swears to be anything but something you shout when you’re angry or have acute pain (as in, its fine to swear).

  3. 3
    Jeff Fecke says:

    The step-father/rapist has not been excommunicated; the church’s comment was that while rape is bad, murder is worse.

    Of course, I’m guessing there are plenty of murderers in Brazilian prisons who haven’t been excommunicated, either.

    This is why my daughter’s mom told me early on that she’d never get married in a Catholic church — because she would not, under any circumstances, promise to raise her children Catholic. She herself had grown up Catholic, but she could not countenance the misogyny that suffuses that church, and she was determined not to raise her daughter in that milieu.

  4. 4
    Harold says:

    HI Schala,

    I agree with you that the United States probably has a higher percentage of regular churchgoers than in Canada.
    However, we have a lot of public funds that go to Catholic schools, so there must be a reason why people do not remain regular churchgoers and/or less like to consider abortion as a serious issue.
    I attended Conservative Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod from 10 to 14, which from my understanding is closer to Catholic that most protestant churches. The thing is I do remember getting taught the literal creationism (did not believe it, which obviously has nothing to do with my intelligence:), but because it was opposite from what I was taught in public school). I was also taught the Ten Commandments, Jesus stories, and Paul’s ideas about Christ and Christianity, and the idea of hell, which still seems to be the most frightening and irrational idea ever conceived. The thing is I cannot remember any discussions on abortion, or being explicitly taught that men should be the head of women, or life beginning at conception or anything like that even though the latter is part of the church doctrine.

    Perhaps those ideas, though that was largely offset because my parents are politically liberal and pro-choice. In addition, I do recall be taught to write in Gender neutral language and being taught of discrimation faced by Women in public school.

    I currently attend a Church that is prochoice.

  5. 5
    james says:

    The step-father/rapist has not been excommunicated; the church’s comment was that while rape is bad, murder is worse.

    That’s not true. The rapist is excommunicated. It is obvious that raping kids seperates you from faithful and the Catholic communion. Cara’s statement that as far as she can tell the rapist hasn’t been excommunicated is just a reflection of her intellectual limitations.

    The church doesn’t excommunicate people. They excommunicate themselves, the church simply announces it. The church simply hasn’t formally announced the excommunication of the rapist. The reason for this is that there’s no need for them to make formal statements of the blindingly obvious everytime someone does something evil. If they spent all their time doing this they wouldn’t get anything else done.

    There’s dispute about whether abortion is a good idea and consistant with Catholicism – hence the need for the statement of excommunication. Nobody thinks raping 9 year olds is a moral thing to do, so no statement. But he’s still excommunicated.

  6. 6
    PG says:

    james,

    I think you’re exhibiting the limitations here, not Cara. Try reading the article before you comment:

    ‘He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed “a heinous crime … the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious.”‘

    It is obvious that raping kids seperates you from faithful and the Catholic communion.

    Really? So all those priests who molested kids have been excommunicated? If I look up their names, I’ll find that none were ever allowed communion after the church discovered their molestations?

  7. 7
    Elkins says:

    The unrepentant archbishop said overnight the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the Church.

    Although the man allegedly committed, “a heinous crime, the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious.”

    (from here)

    So yes, perhaps theologically speaking the rapist is in a state of excommunication until he repents and is absolved by his local priest, or whomever. Technically, I suppose this is so.

    However, the archbishop seems to be making rather a public point of the idea that the rapist’s status is significantly different – and also significantly less severe – than that of the girl’s mother and doctor. So I think it is fair to point out the difference, and while “they are excommunicated, while the rapist is not” might not be a technically theologically accurate summary of the state of affairs, I think that it does nonetheless convey the overall thrust of the archbishop’s statement.

  8. 8
    Lis says:

    The problem with excommunication is that the Church is supposed to be forgiving, and welcome all penitents back to the fold. Therefore if the rapist says, “Well, what I did was wrong, and I’m really sorry,” he’s accepted back in the fold. On the other hand, I can’t imagine the parents or doctor ever saying, “Gosh! We really ought to have forced that nine-year-old to carry her pregnancy to term. How wrong we were.” Their excommunications won’t be lifted because they don’t believe what they did was a sin, so they won’t repent it. (This is why the holocaust-denying bishop got welcomed back–he repented) It really stinks, to me.

    Harold–I attended a Catholic school in Canada for eight years; we were taught about contraception and some of the teachers mentioned that while abortions were regrettable, they were in some circumstances the best option. I think that the culture of when religion enters public life, in Canada, is slightly different than in America.

  9. 9
    Mandolin says:

    Cara’s statement that as far as she can tell the rapist hasn’t been excommunicated is just a reflection of her intellectual limitations.

    You will NEVER use language like that here again. Frankly, I should ban your ass now.

  10. 10
    Lilian Nattel says:

    In Canada, Quebec is the most secular province–having liberated itself from domination by the clergy up to the mid 20th century, it protects that freedom fiercely. The reason that Catholic schools are publicly funded has nothing to do with Canadian religiosity but goes back to guarantees of rights for French Canadians prior to confederation. As for this child–what has been done to her is shameful both by the perpetrator and the church which has increased her suffering. I wonder what those people are so scared of? I agree that it’s about control, but not only control–punishment as well. I suspect that if you dig down under it, you’ll find fear of women.

  11. 11
    woland says:

    james, if you’re going to be inexcusably rude, you might try not also being wrong. Automatic excommunication (excommunication latae sententiae) is prescribed for participating in the procurement of a completed abortion (as well as for heresy, desecration of a consecrated host, use of force against the pope, and a few other “offenses”) but not for rape (or even for murder, only abortion.)

    Technically the bishop was right under Catholic doctrine that the doctors and mother excommuniated themselves by their actions but the scumbag rapist did not. That is one of the many reasons why I’m no longer a Catholic.

  12. 12
    Jeff Fecke says:

    You know, something I’ve been mulling…it may be me, but I actually view raping a child to be a more reprehensible act than murder. Certainly, the two are in the same moral universe.

    I rather suspect most people would agree.

    Even accepting arguendo the Catholic church’s position that abortion is the equivalent of murder, the fact that abortion leads to public shaming and excommunication, while the rape of a child is just a coda to the larger shaming and condemnation…that really tells you all you have to know about where the Catholic church is these days.

    And James, I’m foursquare in agreement with Mandolin. Discussions on this site are based on the idea of respect for others; you did not show that. Do that again, and you will not get another chance to post.

  13. 13
    Angiportus says:

    This insults millipedes. [I think that's what they are if there's 2 pair of legs per segment, and centipedes just 1 pair --or is it vice versa?]
    No really, I’m disgusted too. By the way, a person can have a pretty good intellect and still not know all the facts of a case.

  14. 14
    Harold says:

    Sorry for the double post

  15. 15
    Harold says:

    Hi Lilian Nattel, your right about the reason about public funding, actually all I could recall from grade nine history that it involved Quebec, so thank you for the information. The thing though, what I was try to get at is that public funding Catholic Schools does promote a degree of religious teaching in school as can be seen from The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s http://www.tcdsb.org/. Note I have no idea how many Catholic schools their actually or how many engage in religious teaching are so it could very minor.

    Thank you also Lis, for informing me about what gets taught in Catholic in terms of reproductive rights, I have very few friends so I do not know much about Catholic schools, my general impression with the local schools is whatever religious teaching got taught was not taken seriously in general, but that is probably purely based upon pure ignorance.

    To tell you the truth when I read the main story for Ampersand’s post I had no idea what to say in regards to it. It seems like many horrible and outrageous acts are continually committed through the world whether it be in the name of religion this one being Christianity, governments and world leaders, and business men (stated that way because they are almost always men, of course the other two usually men are the leaders). The problem is what do we do?

    Finally, I not sure anyone will find this interesting or not, but one of the principle players in advocating abortion rights in Canada was/is Henry Morgentaler. His wikipedia entry states that he is a holcoust surviour who is a Jewish Humanist that is strongly opposed Zionism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Morgentaler

  16. 16
    PG says:

    You know, something I’ve been mulling…it may be me, but I actually view raping a child to be a more reprehensible act than murder. Certainly, the two are in the same moral universe.

    I rather suspect most people would agree.

    That would be the principle behind Louisiana’s prescribing the death penalty for child rape (although it was overridden by the Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Louisiana, a decision with which Obama said he disagreed).

  17. 17
    Lexie says:

    Two things, as a mom of twins and a mom who knows several other moms of twins (its a club) a multiple pregnancy is full of danger for an adult healthy woman. It has to be life-threatening for a nine-year-old. What the fuck? I was on bedrest, I had pre-eclampsia, I lost a lot of my vision, I suffered hemorrhaging and bell’s palsy, I went from 145 to 205 pounds both from baby weight and from my kidneys slowing down, my kids were born premature. I know that many moms have easier multiple pregnancies than I did, but it is not uncommon at all to hear horror stories like mine and worse from moms of multiples. To force a nine year old to go through a twin pregnancy that resulted from rape and not consider it life threatening? That is just fucking evil.

    Second, and apologies for the off-topicness of this. What IS it with Canada and supporting the catholic schools? Do they fund other religious schools? Is there any kind of separation between church and state there? How does that work. A friend of mine and I were just arguing about this the other day. He said Canada does have sep of church and state, and I was all, “how can you even pretend that?” Any Canadians that can give me some insight?

  18. 18
    Lis says:

    What IS it with Canada and supporting the catholic schools? Do they fund other religious schools? Is there any kind of separation between church and state there?

    It’s long and fraught with Canadian history, but essentially, part of being multicultural in Canada means that the government supports and funds your right to be educated in your own language/culture/religion (so long as there are enough of you to build a school/program for, and you lobby for it). That I know of/have seen, there are publicly-funded Jewish schools, Protestant schools, as well as schools with a variety of languages of both primary and secondary instruction. On the other hand, it means that religious schools have to hew to a government-approved curriculum and don’t get out of teaching things they find morally objectionable, like evolution or birth control.

    “Separation of church and state” in Canada is… different*. By no means should funding religious schools be taken to mean that churches get to dictate government policy. IM (admittedly limited) E, current policy actually means the government can be more restrictive of the crap a church can spew because they hold the purse-strings. I’ve heard it claimed that that’s going too far in the other direction, but as a Canadian Catholic, I’m pretty grateful for it, because the Church can’t get as much political traction with what I believe are incorrect and damaging beliefs.

    *Honestly, we’re a Commonwealth country–we have a state religion. We’re not a secularist society, even though we do a passable imitation of it.

  19. 19
    Glenn's Cult says:

    To Harold:

    I too attended (and still do attend when work permits) Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. As a child I attended various types of churches (Southern Baptist, Evangelical, Non-Denominational, Nazarene, Methodist) and I finally settled on Lutheran as an adult. I too agree with your perception that nothing was taught about those issues at our church (and I have attended several of the Missouri Synod Lutheran churches).

    I also recall nothing being taught about divorce, male head of house, etc. as a child attending Lutheran churches. In fact when I went to the church I am currently a member of and spoke of my impending divorce and the issues surrounding it (abuse), my pastor was very forgiving and showed me in the bible (I knew of these verses already – in Corinthians) that spoke of leaving a spouse. I thought that I was unworthy due to divorce and all that hullabaloo. I now know I am not a bad person.

    And you are also correct about Lutheran (Missouri Synod) being the closest to Catholicism. There are various “types” of Lutheran churches out there also. One is Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

    In commenting on this article I am saddened that this has happened to this young girl. Where are the laws to protect the children? Was the father of these babies arrested? What was his stand on the abortion? Did he want the 9 yr old to have these children? Was he going to fight for custody of these chidlren should they be born? Does the church not realize that whiel c-sections are safer now than they were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, it is still major surgery and no surgery is without risks? There are so many questions running through my head, I am glad that the mother stood up for her child.

    I am going to do more research on this so I can see if anything else is mentioned about the perp. This saddens and disgusts me, much like the recent father led murder suicides of recent weeks has.

    ADDITION: I went and read up on this and saw what is happening. He (the rapist) is in protective custody and “might” face up to 15 years?!?!?!?!?! It says he also raped the girl’s older handicapped sister as well?!?!?!?!?! I am just floored. Although nothing should surprise me anymore :-(

  20. 20
    woland says:

    @Lexie -

    Canada has very strict separation of church and state – Canadians are more secular, on the whole than Americans, religion has very little influence on politics, and the Charter of Rights contains provisions prohibiting religious discrimination. Our candidates for high office very, very rarely talk about religion, and I doubt an atheist would have any trouble being elected PM (I’m sure we wouldn’t even know s/he was an atheist.) While we have a religious right, it’s not that influential. We have no criminal prohibitions on abortion, we have same sex marriage, and politicians have invoked the separation of church and state when challenged by religious officials (including Catholic politicians the church has tried to bully on abortion and gay rights.)

    But yes some – not all – provinces fund separate Catholic schools. This is the result of a provision entered into the constitution at Confederation. When Canada was formed in 1867, religious schooling was a major point of conflict between the French-speaking Catholic population and the largely Protestant English-speaking majority. So the constitution preserved the rights of the minority religious school boards – Catholic in Upper Canada, Protestant in Quebec – that existed prior to confederation. (The Charter came into effect in 1982 and doesn’t supercede the earlier constitutional provision mandating funding, so the Supreme Court has said funding of Catholic schools is not unconstitutional.) Some provinces also provide partial funding for private schools, including Sikh, Jewish, Muslim, etc. denominational schools, so long as they meet strict provincial requirements, while other provinces do not fund religious schools at all.

    Several provinces have gotten rid of the separate public/Catholic school board system, and lots of people would like to get rid of it in the most populous province, Ontario, as well. However, this would require a constitutional amendment (though this wouldn’t be that difficult to get, as this type of amendment only requires agreement between the provincial and federal parliaments.) Because it would be politically controversial, political parties have avoided raising the issue. When the Ontario Conservative Party proposed ending discrimination in favour of Catholics by extending funding to other religious schools in the 2007 election, it was royally smacked by the voters for it.

    Basically Catholic school funding is a constitutional anachronism and definitely shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Canada has no separation of church and state any more than “in God we Trust” on the currency does for the US (it’s really quite the opposite – Americans would be pretty shocked by the secularism of “Catholic” Quebec.) The Catholic schools aren’t particularly conservative, either, though they’ll sometimes make the news when a court orders them to let a gay student take a same-sex date to the prom or something like that. They don’t teach abstinence-only, either – they’ll generally say something like “the Church says sex is for within marriage and contraception other than natural family planning is wrong. Now, here’s how you put on a condom.” The debates around the teaching of evolution that you have just don’t occur in Canada at all. Other than including religious instruction, Catholic schools teach the provincial curriculum. When I went to publicly-funded Catholic school in Quebec, non-Catholic students could even opt out of religion classes (basically all the French-language schools were Catholic at the time, so non-Catholics often went to Catholic school. The Quebec school system is now non-denominational.) I’d like to get rid of the funding because I really object to paying for a school system that’s allowed to discriminate and because funding parallel systems is incredibly wasteful, but I’m not holding my breath for it to happen any time soon.

  21. 21
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Fecke

    Okay, mark me in the “disagree” column about your moral scale (I put murder as worse than any other crime, no exceptions), but either way the point is made – the Church does not excommunicate all catholic murderers, so it makes it obvious that they’re going out of their way for this one.

    Because of that, I tend to think that the “death penalty for kid-rapers” is utterly barbaric, because to me it just seems insane that there are people who think that “an eye for an eye” isn’t good enough.

    We’re just culturally desensitized to murder. We still, fortunately, display the appropriate level of outrage for child-molestors though.

  22. 22
    Dianne says:

    Does the church not realize that while c-sections are safer now than they were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, it is still major surgery and no surgery is without risks?

    Assuming that she could get to the point where the mode of delivery was the issue safely. She might die of preclampsia before that. Or her uterus might rupture from the stress of expanding to accomodate two fetuses without the benefit of being completely through puberty. Or she might get disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) from the physiological stress and die of bleeding or of the blood clotting while still in her veins and arteries. Even if she doesn’t develop DIC, she might die gasping for breath because she got a blood clot to her lungs (blood clots being more common in pregnancy and particularly if she ended up on bed rest). Or she might die gasping for breath because her heart failed from the stress. Or she might have a stroke and live for 50 years in a persistant vegetative state. Or…you get the picture. Pregnancy is safer than it was 100 years ago, but it’s not safe. Especially for a 9 year old. And I’m not even counting the inevitable psychological damage.

  23. 23
    PG says:

    I wonder how the whole repentance thing works from sort of a criminal law perspective. Like, if you have to admit you did wrong in this particular way — that is, confession requiring that you have to confess the specific sin, not just “Oh Father, I’ve been bad, probably about 20 Hail Marys worth” — I would think that the stepfather would have his own reason for remaining outside the communion. Admittedly under U.S. law there’s some priest-penitent confidentiality so the criminal probably doesn’t have to worry about the priest testifying against him (and anyway such a confession would be hearsay), but it creates an interesting catch-22 similar to that faced by people being told to plead guilty so they can get a lesser sentence: what if you didn’t do it, but everyone thinks you did and won’t forgive you until you admit it? Or if the stepfather steadfastly denies having committed the crime, will the Church presume that he’s innocent and never require any confession of it?

  24. 24
    Schala says:

    The debates around the teaching of evolution that you have just don’t occur in Canada at all. Other than including religious instruction, Catholic schools teach the provincial curriculum. When I went to publicly-funded Catholic school in Quebec, non-Catholic students could even opt out of religion classes (basically all the French-language schools were Catholic at the time, so non-Catholics often went to Catholic school. The Quebec school system is now non-denominational.)

    It’s been my experience too.

    There was catholic teaching, and moral and religious teaching (which was very general, not religious – moral as a philosophical notion, like helping others etc).

    Now in Quebec they changed it. They don’t teach Catholic religion now. It’s something like world religions, and it’s become an option rather than a compulsory course (either that or moral, you had to pick one back then). That’s what I heard anyway.

  25. 25
    Glenn's Cult says:

    Dianne I agree with you completely!! I would be horrified if one of my daughter’s came home, had been raped and was pregnant at 9! Even just the mere fact of becoming pregnant at that young age – I would think that could cause issues further down the road.

    And for nothing to be said about the rapist at this church? There are simply no words for this. I pray this child will come through this and to the other end. I pray that she will never hurt like this again. I pray this monster goes down for more than the supposed 15 years he will get.

  26. 26
    Harold Hussey says:

    Hi Glenn’s Cult, thanks for the information and the kind words,

    The thing is that I cannot understand the church’s position. By taking on a very extreme position that lacks empathy for the child, they are going to drive more people away from the Church. I remember in a discussion from a very intelligent strong willed woman indicating that, if she had become pregnant through rape and had been force to carry to term that she would go insane. Trying to influence a child to carry to term would, especially under these circumstances, make it appear that they do not care about the child’s life at all (perhaps they don’t).

  27. Pingback: Links « Stuff