Rick Perry recently announced that he has become pro-life in cases of rape and incest, a change that he attributes to a conversation with a woman who was conceived in rape:
Perry said his change of heart came after meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, a pro-life attorney who was born after her birthmother was a victim of sexual assault.
“This is something that is relatively new and it goes back to a meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, who was at the The Gift of Life,” Perry said about meeting her at a recent showing of the new movie. “We had a fairly lengthy and heartfelt conversation about how she was conceived in rape. Looking in her eyes, I couldn’t come up with an answer to defend exceptions for rape and incest.”
“Over the course of the last few weeks, the Christmas holiday, reflecting on that – I would suggest that my pro-life position has been rather strong as the Governor of Texas. But she made a statement to me that was really strong and pierced my heart. As I signed that document, I will suggest to you that all I can tell you is God was working on my heart,” he said.
Whether or not you believe that God was at work behind the scenes, this is a fairly typical example of a crucial influence on one’s stance on abortion: personal experience. One study that attempted to quantify influences on pro- and anti-abortion opinion found that personal experiences have a major impact, nearly equal to the impact of religion and education. Knowing someone who was a “poster child” for abortion– someone who was conceived in rape, in incest, in poverty, or with a genetic illness– is extremely powerful ammunition against the propaganda that death is in the best interest of certain “unwanted” babies. The victims of abortion are usually invisible, incinerated as medical waste; but the survivors remain with us, putting a face to the issue. In a similar vein, numerous commentators have suggested that a survivor mentality (“It could have been me”) is at least partially responsible for the stronger pro-life beliefs in Americans under the age of 30; about one third of that generation was killed before birth.
Long before her conversation with Rick Perry, Rebecca Kiessling brought her message to thousands of college students with this secular advertisement for Feminists for Life of America that really brings the point home:
|Did I deserve the death penalty? My “crime” was being
conceived through rape. So the next time you hear
people talking about “exceptions” to abortion for
rape and incest, think of me. My name is Rebecca.
I am that exception.