Don’t Women Need Access to Abortion for Rape?


“You don’t have the right to tell my fourteen-year-old daughter she has to carry her rapist’s baby.” That’s what Joe Rogan, the most popular podcaster in the world, recently argued when he interviewed Seth Dillon, owner and CEO of the satire website The Babylon Bee.

How would you respond to that argument? Here are three arguments to consider:

1. Appealing to Rape Is Often a Smokescreen to Justify Abortion on Demand

In their new book Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing, Ryan T. Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis systematically and clinically show why abortion is utterly harmful. In the case of rape, they explain,

The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute’s research has shown that only 1 percent of abortions are obtained in cases of rape—a percentage that holds steady across decades of data. . . . Abortion supporters most often point to pregnancies resulting from rape not because they believe that abortion should be limited to these truly hard cases but to use these difficult examples to justify abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. (pp. 40, 42)

Some studies estimate that .06 of 1 percent of all abortions occur for cases of rape.[1] You can clear away the smoke by asking, “For the sake of argument, let’s say that abortion is legal in the case of rape. Would you support banning abortions that people choose for other reasons such as socio-economic ones?”

1. Cf. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 127.

2. What Makes a Human Valuable Is That God Creates Each Human in His Image

Rape is highhanded wickedness, and we should have compassion on women who are the victims of rape. But does it follow that a woman who becomes pregnant from rape may righteously kill the baby in her womb?

No, what makes a human valuable is not one’s size or age or abilities or paternal origin or whether one is wanted. What makes a human valuable is that God creates each human in his image.

What exactly does it mean that God made humans in his image? As I explain in an article on what the Bible teaches about ethnic harmony, Christian theologians hold to one of four basic views of the image of God:

  1. It is what humans are—characteristics that makes humans like God, such as reason or will or conscience.
  2. It is what humans do—exercise dominion over creation (cf. Ps. 8:3–8).
  3. It is how humans relate to God and to others.
  4. It is some combination of the previous three views.

The fourth view seems most persuasive to me—a definition like this: The image of God in humans is that humans resemble and represent God, which entails what they should do and how they should relate to others. Humans are like God in various ways (nature) and represent God (status and purpose), so we have the potential to manifest that image by how we exercise dominion over creation and by how we relate to God and others.

Four truths follow:

  1. Humans are the only earthly creatures whom God created in his image (Gen. 1:26–27).
  2. All humans without exception are created in God’s image (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9).
  3. God’s creating humans in his image is the basis for the sanctity of human life. It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human life because God created all humans in his image. God permits humans to kill animals for food, but he forbids humans to murder fellow humans: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. . . . Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:3, 6).
  4. God’s creating humans in his image is the basis for human dignity (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Every single human—from embryo to elderly, of every skin color, regardless of whether the mother wanted to conceive that person—is worthy of respect. An unborn baby is intrinsically valuable because God created that baby in his image.

3. Murdering an Unborn Baby Is Unjust

In his book Christian Ethics, Wayne Grudem helpfully frames the issue:

Would we think it right to kill a baby conceived through rape or incest after it is born? Most people would say certainly not. Such a child does not lose its right to live because of the circumstances of its conception. Therefore, we should not think it right to kill the child before it is born either. The rape that occurred was not the fault of the child, and the child should not be put to death because of someone else’s crime. (p. 575, italics original)

The circumstance in which a baby is conceived may be wicked, but that does not make the unborn baby less valuable. Murdering an unborn baby who is conceived by rape does not righteously fix a situation but only adds crime upon crime. Punish the rapist—not the baby.

Justice is getting what you deserve and giving others what they deserve. Murdering an unborn baby is unjust because an unborn baby does not deserve to die. It is also unjust for a woman to be impregnated by rape, but a righteous solution is not to compound injustices. The injustice of killing an innocent baby compounds the injustice of rape.

The person conceived by rape will likely remind the mother of that painful event, but we don’t have the right to murder an innocent human because we think it will help us feel better. It’s better to let others adopt the child than to kill the child.

Some people are alive today who were conceived by rape. If they are in their right mind, then they are grateful to be alive. See some testimonies in the three-minute video “The Pro-Life Reply to: ‘Abortion in Cases of Rape.’” See also longer interviews with the executive director of “Hope After Rape Conception” and the founder of “Save the 1.” It’s unjust to murder an unborn baby.

So How Did Seth Dillon Reply to Joe Rogan’s Argument?

Joe Rogan argued, “You don’t have the right to tell my fourteen-year-old daughter she has to carry her rapist’s baby.”

Dillon replied, “I don’t think murder fixes a rape. . . . It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human life. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human life. Therefore, abortion is wrong.”

That’s a good answer.



Andy Naselli

Andy Naselli

Andrew David Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of systematic theology and New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and one of the pastors of The North Church.