I knew this would happen! I predicted that Republican party apologists would blame Richard Mourdoch and Todd Akin’s losses on the fact that they are 100% pro-life, instead of acknowledging that the losses were due to how poorly they expressed their positions. And sure enough, the day after the election, Ann Coulter did just that. In her article entitled, “Don’t Blame Romney,” she spent half of the article blaming these two Senate candidates for daring to defend the life of every pre-born child. Her exact words were, “because these two idiots decided to come out against abortion in the case of rape and incest,” calling them “pro-life badasses,” “purist grandstanders,” with “insane positions,” who were “showing off.” Unfortunately, Coulter has a huge following and will surely influence many uninformed readers with her misstatement of the facts and her flawed reasoning. I have great concern that these Senate losses will have a chilling effect on pro-life legislators and voters. Hence, a swift and thorough response is in order.
Ann Coulter referenced “all the hard work intelligent pro-lifers . . . in the trenches” and what they have accomplished, as if she was one of them. Well, I’ve been in the trenches since 1995, and I must point out that Ann Coulter has been missing in action. I’ve never once seen her in here, so I can’t comprehend how she could possibly include herself in this group. I’m a hard-working intelligent pro-life activist, and I’m 100% pro-life – for good reason. I was not only conceived in rape, but nearly aborted at two back-alley abortionists. The only reason I wasn’t killed through a brutal abortion is because I was legally protected. My heroes are those pro-life legislators and activists who were hard-working and intelligent enough to understand that mine was a life worth saving.
Coulter went on to erroneously write that Mourdoch and Akin lost because they had “abortion positions that less than 1 percent of the nation agrees with.” Her figure is way off, and she has totally ignored the fact that their abortion position adheres to the Republican party platform! All she’s doing is further alienating the base. Mitt Romney alienated the base – not only by making the rape exception, but also by his own gaffes, such as when he said, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Pro-life leaders were left to mop up that mess, from which he never recovered. Many pro-lifers who were already skeptical either voted third-party or stayed home. Three million Republicans stayed home, compared to 2008. Making matters worse, Romney ran ads in battleground states suggesting that it’s extreme to be 100% pro-life. How could anyone deny that such ads hurt Senate candidates like Akin in Missouri, Mourdoch in Indiana, and Smith in Pennsylvania (as well as congressional candidates like Koster in Washington and Bachmann in Minnesota?) And let’s not forget how the party leadership threw these candidates under the bus – something Democrats do not do to their own.
Additionally, the 1% figure Coulter threw out there is just not even close to being true. Polls in the last few years have consistently shown that the number is between 20 to 24% of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in cases of rape. The other 31%+ of Americans who are pro-life with exceptions are 99% of the way there, and only need to be nudged another 1%. My experience shows that this is easy to achieve – if you try, just as how my story changed the heart of Gov. Rick Perry during his presidential campaign. And that’s the key. Who has really tried? I know that the number of 100% pro-life Americans would be much higher if the pro-life movement as a whole actually went after this ground. Instead, Coulter is right in pointing out where the effort has been focused – on things like parental notification laws and efforts to ban partial birth abortion. The lives of children conceived in rape are often minimized with the standard dismissive language of: “Well, it’s only 1%.” Why continue to minimize? Why not stand up and really defend our lives? We need to try to gain ground on this issue by educating the public, by equipping candidates and legislators on how to most effectively respond to the rape question, by making ads with children conceived in rape available for anyone who wishes to utilize them, and by removing rape exceptions from the law, beginning with the Hyde Amendment.
My response to people like Ann Coulter is – WE ARE NOT CANNON FODDER! You do not get to put us out on the front lines and then take a giant step back. The “burning building” analogy fails because you have no interest in working to save all. You do not get to call yourself pro-life by shutting off the water and sending the fire trucks home, while you stand there watching the building burn down with the 1 inside of it. If you want to see who the real extremist is, Ann Coulter, come on Fox News with me, look me in the eyes, and tell me how you think my birth-mother should have been able to abort me. Tell me that my life was not worthy of protection and that I don’t deserve to be living, and I’ll show you the one who is extreme.
Some strategists will suggest that you have to accept rape exceptions in order to get candidates elected and legislation passed. This is untrue – just look at Right to Life of Michigan as the model. They have been a standard-bearer in this cause and have never accepted the rape exception. You can’t get their PAC endorsement if you make the rape exception, and they will not put their stamp of approval on legislation if it has an exception. When they didn’t have the votes to pass the ban on Medicaid funding of abortion without a rape exception, they worked on the exception-legislators to convince them to change their positions. When they still didn’t have the votes, RLM targeted them in their primaries, got them voted out, and then passed the ban without exceptions. That’s how you get it done!
Now Right to Life of Michigan has mentored many other state NRLC affiliates to go to this model of being a standard-bearer, maintaining the principle that all are worthy of protection. Since the change on their Board of Directors nearly 12 years ago, Georgia Right to Life has passed more pro-life legislation then they’d ever passed before. They were told at the time by the Republican party leaders that they were dead, irrelevant, and extremists. Now, every constitutionally-elected official – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State -are all 100% pro-life with no exceptions. The lobbyist for Georgia Right to Life, Dan Becker, wrote a book about it, titled “Personhood: A Pragmatic Guide to Prolife Victory in the 21st Century and the Return to First Principles in Politics.” Tennessee Right to Life and Alaska Right to Life are other examples of state affiliates who successfully transitioned from the compromising model of accepting the rape exception to being a standard-bearer with no exceptions.
We must not discriminate! Children conceived in rape are surely the most outcast members of our society, being unfairly demonized and portrayed as a “horrible reminder of the rape,” “the rapist’s baby,” “tainting the gene pool,” and even “demon spawn.” This not only affects the pre-born, but also those born under such circumstances. Can you imagine if a law was introduced with an exception in cases of bi-racial rape? I could hear the rationale, “Well, it’s only 1% of 1%,” and “the child would look more like the rapist and would surely be more of a reminder of the rape” – an argument which I’ve actually heard before. There would be a national outcry for such discrimination! Civil rights leaders would be outraged and demand that the exception not only be removed, but that the legislator who introduced it must immediately step down. And yet, half of pro-lifers think nothing of discriminating against children conceived in rape, and it’s wrong!
If we are going to gain ground in this effort to protect unborn children, we must maintain a standard, and we must make more of an effort to educate. I believe that the best people to do so are those of us who have been on the frontlines as pro-life speakers who were conceived in rape and who have been spending our entire adult lives defending our right to life. We’ve heard every question, every challenge, and every argument. Why not utilize us? Just to name a few, there is Ryan Bomberger, Susan Jaramillo, and Pam Stenzel. On my website, there are dozens of stories of others conceived in rape and who became pregnant by rape. We’ve publicly shared our stories for a reason – please use them! I’m partnering with Personhood Education to form Save The 1 – an organization which will implement the strategies necessary to defend the 1%, as well as the 99%. Here are three of our new ads which will be launched soon.
Back to Ann Coulter’s article – she wrote that “No law is ever going to require a woman to bear the child of her rapist.” I don’t believe that. Laws DID protect children like me, and these protections can and should be restored. She went on to add: “Yes, it’s every bit as much a life as an unborn child that is not the product of rape.” Ann, your words speak volumes as to what you really believe. A preborn child is not an “it.” He or she is a life, a human being, a person, a son or a daughter. They have a gender. This is not a mere philosophical or political exercise, but real people’s lives are at stake. When I represented the mother in Michigan’s “frozen embryo” case, the fertility doctors testified at deposition that from one cell, they are literally male and female, and ascertainably so! Just as it says in Genesis, “male and female, He created them.” Using words of gender serve to demonstrate the humanity of these children.
Lastly, Ann Coulter goes on to suggest that being 100% pro-life is not wise because too much of a good thing can harm you – like too much iron, or too much sugar in your coffee. I couldn’t help but think of the words of Mother Teresa: “How can you say there are too many children? That’s like saying there are too many flowers.” No offense, Ann, but I’d rather heed the words of a godly woman like Mother Teresa than you.
To learn more about Rebecca Kiessling, visit her website.
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