When Indiana Senate candidate, Republican Richard Mourdock, said that pregnancy from rape “…is something that God intended to happen…”, I doubt the observation arose from his deep understanding of what it really means for God to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, as Judeo-Christian theology provides are God’s attributes. More likely, it was just a shot across the bow in the culture wars over female reproductive rights (and female reproductive obligations, except for those who believe life is all rights and no responsibilities, such as liberal feminists generally seem to believe). Mourdock is a Tea Party favorite son, and curiously, the same Tea Party folks who lament the relentlessly expanding writ of the US government generally also believe that there is no such thing as too much government when it comes to governing a woman’s womb.
But Mourdock (what an unfortunate name for a politician, especially one who stakes a political claim as a fringe antagonist in the procreation wars–“mour” rhymes with “sour” and “dock” rhymes with, well, you know…) does an exceptional job applying his theology’s catechism to the poignant issue of pregnancy resulting from rape, an occurrence so rare that as a practical matter his position has the importance of St. Aquinas’ views on whether or not a person who was a cannibal all his life could have his body reconstituted at the Second Coming since his body would consist of nothing but the bodies of others, who would presumably need theirs back so they could be reconstituted as well. (Maybe the cannibal ate only heathens and heretics. Maybe the rapists will all be sterile.)
If God is just as the Abrahamic religions claim, that is, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present, then it is obviously the case that nothing can happen without which God “intends” it to happen. Mourdock’s observation amounts theologically to stating that grass is green. Of course, God intended it to happen when a rapist impregnates his victim. God intended even that the rape occur. There is nothing in the universe that happens which God does not intend to happen, else God isn’t as God is claimed to be. God can’t have those omni powers without which God is, as my favorite 17th century Jewish heretic philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, explained, the immanent, not merely transitive, cause of everything that happens.
Spinoza also explained that viewed from God’s perspective, everything that happens, including rape, including rape-caused pregnancy, including every little and large thing that happens–is good from the perspective of God. Else the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God, good in all times and circumstances, has somehow acted against himself, which makes no sense. If God were to subvert his own will to allow something to happen that he didn’t intend, he would be something else than Abrahamic theology claims of God.
By the same token, Roe v. Wade is also God’s will. All those late-term fetuses thrown in the abortionist’s garbage pail because some women carelessly reject the responsibilities that come with power of procreation is a part of God’s will. Which is why God’s will is better left out of the political arena. What God intends by mankind’s routine slaughter of his fellows is a mystery that no mere human politician could ever decipher. Better that the social ethic be derived from something less encompassing than God’s will. But at least Mourdock sort of understands his own theology. How refreshing.
My personal ethic in matters like these is somewhat Hippocratic: first, do no harm. If choosing to have sex produces, or might produce, harm to another, i.e., an unwanted pregnancy, then you are morally obligated to either abstain from having sex, or be fastidious in your preventative measures, and/or be willing to suffer the consequences for your actions. In my ethic, you ought not kill a burgeoning life just because you failed to take preventative precautions, or couldn’t bridle your lust until you were ready to have a baby. Promiscuous women who act as though they are too stupid to understand how babies are made should not consider extinguishing a potential life as a fail-safe for their promiscuity and stupidity. Thus is the responsibility that comes with the great power of the womb. But a woman who becomes pregnant because of rape should have every right to decide what to do about the pregnancy, and without shame. And a woman who would die if she carried a fetus to term, regardless the circumstances of its conception, should also have the right to decide, without shame or social impediment, what she should do. Abortion as a birth control method is an abomination. Abortion that saves a life or prevents a rapist from destroying one permanently is not.
Nothing of my ethic requires invoking the will of God in any particular way. Neither does any of it require invoking the vast machinery and power of the state. The state (i.e., all levels of governance) has no innate interest in the wombs of its female citizens. How to treat an unwanted pregnancy is a moral decision which should be left to the one most affected by it.
If abortion as a birth control method is generally a bad thing, i.e., something that impairs the survival and propagation imperatives of the individuals treating it as such, then abortion as birth control will be eventually bred out of the human population, as those who don’t use abortion as a birth control method survive and reproduce in numbers greater than those who do. The harsh realities of natural selection will operate far more effectively to eventually eliminate the practice than any government directives aimed at the purpose. In fact, attempting to eliminate via government fiat abortion as a birth control method will have little effect except to impede nature’s selection process, which is to say, prohibiting abortion would accomplish, like practically all government imperatives, the exact opposite of its intent. Let the women have all the abortions they want. While I find abortion used as birth control to be a morally repugnant means of balancing promiscuity against its consequences, if it truly is bad, if it truly impairs the survival and propagation prospects of those who engage in it, it will soon enough disappear. The tenets of evolution by natural selection are good enough for anti-government scolds when it concerns participants in the commercial marketplace. The principles of natural selection should also be good enough for them when it comes to the boudoir.