Featured Image
 Lev Radin /

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 27, 2015 ( — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, has some harsh words for Catholic politicians who claim Church teaching justifies their support for exceptions in cases of rape and incest in abortion legislation.

In an interview with pro-life activist Rebecca Kiessling, who was herself conceived in rape, for his SiriusXM radio show, Dolan called the idea of allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest “preposterous” and agreed with Kiessling that such exceptions are government-sanctioned discrimination against an entire subset of humanity.


Kiessling, founder of Save the 1, a group representing the estimated one percent of all Americans who were conceived in rape, appeared on Dolan’s radio show on January 22, the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal nationwide.

The attorney and activist took to task politicians who make exceptions for rape and incest in pro-life legislation, pointing out that the Supreme Court forbids the death penalty for rapists and even child molesters on the grounds that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

“Politicians should say, ‘Well, I certainly don’t believe that the innocent child deserves the death penalty for [the rapist’s] crime,’” Kiessling said.

Dolan agreed wholeheartedly.  “Way to go, alleluia,” the cardinal said.  “It seems so clean, doesn’t it?  It seems so clear.”

Kiessling went on to single out Catholic politicians who compromise on the rape and incest issue, arguing that they unfairly twist Church teaching to justify their position.

“Here’s the thing, is that in the pro-life movement, the majority voice for the last four decades has been that of compromise,” said Kiessling. 

Kiessling explained that to justify their support for rape and incest exceptions many self-professed pro-life Catholic leaders point to paragraph 73 of Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, which states: “When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.  This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” 

Some pro-life politicians argue that without exceptions for rape and incest, most pro-life legislation would be dead in the water, so in their eyes, it’s better to sacrifice the relatively small number of babies conceived during criminal acts in order to save the rest.

“There’s no way that’s what was intended [by Evangelium Vitae], to discriminate against a whole class of person,” Kiessling argued.  “There’s a difference between supporting abortion regulations and allowing discrimination against a whole class of persons.”

Kiessling drew a comparison between exceptions for rape and incest and exceptions for things like religion or race.  “You’re telling me that a Catholic politician would be okay in supporting a bill that [forbade abortion] ‘except in cases of Catholic babies’?” she asked.  “Would that be okay?”

“Or just change the ‘p’ to a ‘c,’ – ‘except in cases of race,’” Kiessling added.  “Would it be okay?”

“Preposterous,” scoffed Cardinal Dolan. 

Kiessling then brought up the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, when medical experts say unborn babies are developed enough to feel pain.

“It was introduced with the rape exception this time around, and the pro-life movement at large, majority voice, did not cry foul,” Kiessling said, to which Dolan replied with a disapproving groan.

Dolan also objected to the very idea of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, echoing some pro-life activists’ concerns that the ability to feel pain should be irrelevant when considering the value of a human life. 

“Does that make it okay to stab somebody in the back when they’re sleeping, because they can’t feel pain?” Dolan wondered.

“Absolutely not,” he concluded.  “That’s ridiculous!”