Rape victims traveling country speaking against rape exception for abortion
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 1, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – When Ashley Sigrest was in high school, she was raped. Like most rape cases, the rapist was someone she knew and trusted. And like most rape cases, it went unreported to law enforcement - “out of fear and shame,” says Sigrest, now 32.
At the time, Sigrest didn’t even tell her family about the rape. “I had a really hard home life,” Sigrest told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN), “and I was too scared to tell my mother.”
Then she learned the assault had resulted in a pregnancy.
Still afraid to reach out to her family, Sigrest told her friends – like her, just teenagers – what had happened. Their advice was unanimous: “They all agreed that abortion was the best thing,” she said. In the end, that was exactly what she did – a choice Sigrest now says she deeply regrets.
“I told everyone at the abortion clinic what had happened … that I had been raped and I wasn’t really sure whether I wanted to have an abortion,” Sigrest told LSN. She says they rushed her through counseling – a process that consisted of the ‘counselor’ brushing off her doubts and urging her to sign the consent form.
“No one ever offered me any counseling,” Sigrest said, either about the rape or her fears about abortion.
“I was already depressed, already felt hopeless, worthless,” said Sigrest. “Looking back, I just wish someone had spoken up for me.”
She says the abortion nearly ruined her life, sending her into a spiral of drinking and depression as she came to terms with the fact that “I killed my child, my own flesh and blood.”
“For years, it plagued me that no one I told, told me not to [have the abortion],” said Sigrest. “There was no one to tell me I was strong enough, no one there to really support me.”
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Sigrest hopes to change that for other rape victims through her involvement with a new pro-life organization called Save the 1.
“I have met women like myself who were raped and chose abortion, who live in such regret,” said Sigrest, “and so many of them are so ashamed that they chose abortion that they’re too afraid to speak out. I wanted to get involved with Save the 1 to be a voice for those women.”
Given the media circus surrounding rape and issue, particularly in the wake of gaffes by male politicians who oppose the rape exception, one might think Sigrest’s would be a welcome voice.
But Sigrest’s perspective as a victim of rape who regrets her choice to abort has not been welcomed by the mainstream media. Nor has that of her colleague, Rebecca Kiessling, who was herself conceived through rape and reluctantly placed for adoption after her mother tried twice to have her aborted. Nor, indeed, has that of another member of Save the 1, Rebekah Berg, who was raped at age 18 and chose to raise her son, who is now nine years old.
These three and a growing number of others affected by rape have been traveling the country in recent weeks to launch Save the 1, an initiative against the rape exception. Their goal is to let women know there is hope after rape, even for those who conceive.
But they say that the mainstream media have been unreceptive, even hostile to their message.
“Some of these people will never learn,” said Salon commentator Irin Carmon on Monday’s edition of ‘The Al Sharpton Show,’ which focused on Rebecca Kiessling and Save the 1. “They want to talk with a complete lack of compassion for women who have been victims of sexual violence.”
Carmon complained about what she perceives as “narrow” exceptions to the ban on federal funding for abortions in cases of rape. Said Carmon, “It shows what absolute lack of compassion they have for the realities of women's lives.”
Carmon’s accusations outraged Rebecca Kiessling, who told LSN that the last thing the women of Save the 1 lack is compassion. “These women have to be given credit for their great capacity to love. They are capable of a great love for these children.” Added Kiessling, “They’re tired of having the abortion industry use them to further their abortion agenda.”
Sigrest agreed. “I did what the world says to do. I aborted my rapist’s baby,” Sigrest told LSN.
“But in turn, I ended up killing my child. It wasn’t the answer I was promised,” she said. “I didn’t get the results they told me I would.”
Because of Rebecca Kiessling’s ties to PersonhoodUSA – a movement to recognize the constitutional rights of preborn babies as human persons (Kiessling is a spokesman for the group) – many in the media have attempted to portray Save the 1 as just another front for Personhood to fight on. But Kiessling says the two groups are separate, fighting on the same front for different reasons.
“It’s important to note that Save the 1 was founded by those of us affected by this issue, not Personhood,” Kiessling told LSN.
“They're attacking us because this message is powerful,” she said. “Rape survivor mothers are the majority of the women at Save the 1. Many not only choose life, but also to raise the child.”
One of those women is Rebekah Berg, whose nine-year-old son was conceived in rape. She was raped by a friend when she was just 18, and when she became pregnant, the rapist tried to induce a miscarriage. When that failed, he tried to force her to abort, but she refused. At first, she assumed she would give the baby to another family for adoption, but as she carried her son and bonded with the tiny life within her, she decided to raise him herself.
Her family was taken aback by the decision. Berg, too, had her doubts. “I didn’t know what it would be like,” Berg told LSN.
Berg and her family worried that every time they looked at her son’s face, they would see her rapist and remember the trauma. Instead, she said, “After he was born, we found that all those questions went right out the window … it was complete love, from the time he was born and brought into our family, and since then.”
Berg takes issue with activists, politicians and media personalities who use situations like hers to argue for legal abortion. “I feel like Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups are using my story as an excuse to say that abortion is okay, when in reality, this is me … this is my story, and I hate that my son is being used as a reason for other children to be killed.”
02/05/13, 2:35 EST - Correction: This article originally mentioned the Al Franken Show, when it should have said the Al Sharpton Show. It has been updated accordingly.