Earlier this month, I found myself in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) interviewing Esperanza, a teenage rape victim in what the UN has called the “rape capital of the world” due to its infamous reputation for widespread sexual violence. Esperanza was raped by two rebels in a village in eastern Congo when she was 14. In the weeks that followed, she discovered that she was pregnant.
Currently, the U.S. government provides millions of dollars in global aid every year to export what the West calls “reproductive freedom” including, most controversially, abortion. The effect of Roe v. Wade has been felt far beyond the borders of the United States since 1973. Many developing nations, including the DRC, continue to resist the legalization of abortion. Nonetheless, it proves to be a “right” that progressive Western NGOs insist that women in developing nations must have, whether they desire it or not.
In countries where abortion is currently prohibited, pro-abortion advocates seek to change perceptions with programs aimed at “values clarification” through which women in developing nations are instructed about contraceptive and abortion from a pro-choice bias.
One prominent NGO with such a mission, Pathfinder International, receives approximately 78 percent of its yearly budget of $107 million from the U.S. government. Sixty-three percent of these funds are spent in Africa, a continent known for the strict abortion restrictions in a number of its countries.
Additionally, international pro-choice advocates have now initiated a new strategy of lobbying the U.S. and the European Union to permit aid money to fund abortions for women who have experienced rape in conflict areas. The Global Justice Center (GJC), a New York-based advocacy organization, has helped lead this movement by claiming to the EU that not providing abortions for conflict rape victims constitutes torture as well as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Susan Yoshihara, with the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), notes that this line of reasoning from pro-abortion advocates rests upon the false presuppositions that, one, pregnancy meets the definition of a war wound under the Geneva Convention and, two, that abortion is a means of healing.
However, Yoshihara cites a 2011 investigation on behalf of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which sought to discover the “most pressings needs” of victims of sexual violence in the DRC. Most interviewed women remarked that peace and security, medical care, education, and housing were among their personal needs. Legalized abortion was absent from their list of requests. Similarly, a 2002 Human Rights Watch report found that most unmarried girls chose to give birth, indicating the strong desire of women to give birth despite the possibility of rejection from their families and social stigma.
As elements within the U.S. seek to use the plight of war rape to export abortion overseas, actual victims of rape in the DRC by and large reject the offer. The Western movement to introduce abortion into developing nations harkens back to the eugenics movement of the early 20th century in which Western elites sought to limit populations, especially among individuals whose lives were considered less desirable. Similarly, children born of rape in the DRC are seemingly considered by American pro-abortion advocates as being in a category of persons whose lives should be susceptible to abortion funded by U.S. aid.
Instead of abortion, victims of rape in conflict areas like the Congo need policy change that better promotes justice and peace in these regions. The numbers of actual rape convictions fall appallingly short from the numbers of victims, and diplomatic efforts should focus on advancing the justice systems in places like the DRC. Forcing abortion into these countries will not prevent a single rape. On the contrary, legalized abortion might enable rapists to hide their abuse and thus repeat it more easily.
It was difficult hearing many of the details of Esperanza’s rape. However, one of the great moments of the interview came when I asked her to describe her daughter, Silvia, now three. Cracking a smile, she affectionately remarked that Silvia was “the same as” her and how Silvia brings tremendous happiness to her.
I asked if at any point she has ever wished she had had an abortion. Her response was one of shock, grief, and even offense as she remarked that such a thing is inconceivable to her. She didn’t even want to think about it. Her reaction caused me to realize just how desensitized my culture has become towards a topic that by its very nature should shock the conscience.
As we observe the anniversary of legalized abortion in America this month, let us not forget how simply unnatural and inhumane it is to destroy life in the womb. Let us remember that all lives are of equal worth no matter the circumstances of conception or the sins of one’s past. Let us remember that it is the power of the gospel that is the only ultimate source of peace and healing, and it is a remedy that is offered to all freely.