On July 2, 2014, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would extend the 24-hour waiting period to obtain an abortion to 72 hours, which would be the third such law in the nation, after Utah and South Dakota.  The bill is up for an override vote in the Missouri legislature this week.  Gov. Nixon issued a statement saying the bill “is a disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women. . . .  This glaring omission is wholly insensitive to women who find themselves in horrific circumstances, and demonstrates a callous disregard for their wellbeing.”

He went on: “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare. . . .  For her, mandating a longer delay is punitive, not contemplative. . . .  No woman should be further victimized by a government that forces her to endure even longer the horror that is the crime of rape.”


He continued: “Underlying this bill . . . is a paternalistic presumption that rape and incest victims are somehow unable to grasp the horror that has befallen them, and that the government must force them to take more time to come to grips with their plight.  That misplaced paternalism defies logic.  It is patently unreasonable to presuppose that rape and incest victims would need to take more time to think about the reality, and the horror, of their heartbreaking situation.”

He then went on to state that he would veto the bill even if it had a rape and incest exception.

For those of us who were conceived in rape, are mothers from rape, birthmothers from rape, or post-abortive from rape, his statements are extremely disconcerting.  It presumes that a child “prolongs the suffering” of rape survivors and that the child is actually jeopardizing her health and wellbeing, when this simply is not the case.  According to Dr. David C. Reardon of The Elliott Institute and co-editor of Victims and Victors Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault:

The welfare of a mother and her child are never at odds, even in sexual assault cases. As the stories of many women confirm, both the mother and the child are helped by preserving life, not by perpetuating violence. Sadly, however, the testimonies of women who have actually been pregnant through sexual assault are routinely left out of this public debate. Many people, including sexual assault victims who have never been pregnant, may be forming opinions based on their own prejudices and fears rather than the real life experiences of those people who have been in this difficult situation and reality.

Reardon’s book features the stories of 192 women who became pregnant by rape.

As a member of a large international support group of hundreds who were conceived in rape and women who became pregnant by rape, and as the founder and president of Save The 1 — an organization of people who represent “the hard cases” — I regularly hear the same sentiments from actual women who became pregnant by rape. As painful as I knew it would be to share Gov. Nixon's outrageous remarks with these women, I sent his statement to dozens this morning, and below I share their reactions.  As you'll see, these women all advocate for the 72-hour waiting period, and either deeply regret aborting their child after the rape, or deeply love the child they now have as a result of the rape.  Here are their compelling voices in response to Governor Nixon's veto.

Angela Grogg from Missouri: “Our grandson's life saved our 14 year old daughter's life.  Noah gave her something to fight for and a reason not to give up.  Noah's life is as worthy as any other child. The manner of conception should not mean a death sentence. He is just as much of a victim as his mother.”  But Angela's own abortion still brings her pain: “Had there been a 72 hour wait for abortion 20 years ago when I had mine, I know my son would be here today. I would not mourn his life each day for the past 20 years.”

Ginny: “I have to say, that as a survivor of a rapist father, being forced to have an abortion was NOT better than having the baby. My father performed an abortion on me with a coat hanger the first time he made me pregnant, and my twins were forever taken from me and denied life.  He did that to cover his crimes.  He continued to violently abuse me and I had my first son when I was 12 years old.  I love my son, who is now 47.”

A.M.: “Any traumatic experience can bring you to your knees, but rape is something different, it adds on layers of confusion to an already horrifying situation.  72 hours of well informed material and counseling would have given me time to process and make a more sound decision instead of being forced into a decision I would later regret.  Rape and incest are scary enough — we must STOP compounding the pain and provide adequate compassionate care.”

Sherry Neuenschwander: “In 1986 I had 2 abortions within a 6 month time span. The first abortion was the result of rape. If there had been a 72 hour mandatory waiting period in place at the time of my decision, I would have had time to clearly understand all options and risks involved with abortion and would have chosen life for myself and my children.”

Irene van der Wende, Silent No More Netherlands: “The life-death decision to kill a baby conceived in rape is extremely heart-wrenching, with all the emotions of surviving our own death and in turn contemplating killing another.  The father (the rapist) harmed me, but I harmed the baby. My baby didn’t do anything wrong. We need extra time to think clearly through the maze of emotions of panic and shock, to consider all options logically. Wanting different laws for children conceived in rape is hateful, discriminatory and cold hearted from where I stand. You think three days is long? Here in liberal Netherlands we have a 5 day waiting period.”

R.B.: “I was raped in the state of Missouri and when my rapist discovered I was pregnant, he took me to a park and punched me in the stomach, hoping it would cause a miscarriage. When that did not work, he came into my work and physically pinned me to a table and told me I had to set up an abortion. The only reason I would have stepped foot into an abortion clinic during that pregnancy would have been because of pressure and coercion. Thankfully, I was able to leave the state and get away from my rapist.  Going into a clinic and having them end my child's life, when I was being coerced, would have stolen the joy I have been blessed with by this child.”

Maria, birthmother from rape: “A 72 hour waiting period would enable women to get a second opinion. An abortionist is hardly an unbiased expert.”

Caroline: “I went into the clinic with the intent to have an abortion. They sent me home with a sonogram picture of my baby and an appointment in two more days. I am forever grateful to them for sending me home with that picture because, not only did it change my mind, but it changed my life in a way that I never could've imagined . . . forever.”

Eva Marie Godoy: “After I was raped and I learned I was pregnant, I chose to keep my child.  A woman should not be forced into an abortion. The child is innocent, and the rapist should not have any rights as sex was forced.”

Tiffany from Missouri: “After I got pregnant from being raped, I had three different appointments to have an abortion. I just couldn't do it. I now have a beautiful daughter who will turn 21 in December.”

Jacquelyn: “I gave birth to a baby who was conceived in incestuous rape.  Many like me will tell you that baby was the best thing that ever happened to them. That child helps you to get past the rape, to move on in life, to have compassion for others in troubling situations in life.  Killing my unborn child would not have made the rape go away, it would only mean I was raped and I am now the mother of a dead child . . . dead by my own hand. That would put me in a worse emotional situation, not a better one.  It is time to stop the 'compassion' we visit on women who conceive in rape by telling them they are weak and cannot move on in life unless they kill their child. It is time to stop seeing children conceived in rape as the least deserving of life and start seeing them as people with value! These women are strong and resilient and can cope with distress in their life. Their children are of worth and are a gift to mankind. My daughter was the single bright light in a terrible situation.  She rescued me from despair.  She gave me hope for a future.  Stop saying she should have been killed — it is demoralizing and demeaning to her and to me.”

Karyn Liechty: “I never considered abortion, but did consider adoption.  I'm so glad I kept my beautiful boy!!  He is so glad I kept him and didn't abort him!!!”

Crystal A. Blount: “Pregnant by rape at age 14, the Planned Parenthood clinic and the liberal state I lived in rolled out the red carpet for me to get an abortion, to hide the shame from my parents, to sweep ‘it’ under the rug.  If it weren’t for the high school nurse who forced me to wait, and the adoption counselor that empowered me with options, ‘it’ wouldn’t be alive today — my gorgeous birth-daughter, a 16 year old senior and straight-A student pursuing medical school.”

Lisa: “When I found out I was pregnant after being raped, I instantly called Planned Parenthood. I was two hours away from the nearest clinic with no car and no one I could even think of asking to help me.  If I had found a way to get there or lived closer I would have had an abortion.  Now that my son is here, I am so thankful I did not have immediate access to an abortion! I would have deeply regretted that decision.  I placed my son in an open adoption with an amazing family.  This whole experience was not easy and it will always be a part of my life. Abortion would not have changed that.  My pregnancy was never the crisis, it was that I had been raped.”

Danni Mayah: “The rapist tried to force me into an abortion against my will. A longer waiting period would help to prevent women from being again forced into something against their conscience, especially in domestic violence/abuse cases.  Keeping my baby was what healed me by giving me my power back.  She is the most stunningly beautiful girl, and yes she looks just like him, and she is gorgeous! By raising her to be a good person, I conquered the evil done to me with good.”

Robyn McLean: “A 72-hour waiting period would've allowed me the opportunity to get the help, advice, and healing I truly needed if I were to have ever considered abortion. I would've been able to think through my decision, rather than to act on a whim. My son is so precious to me, and with or without him, I would've had to heal from the same wounds from the abuser. My son was part of my healing. To have had him aborted, would've doubled my pain and problems.”

Doreen, mother from date-rape: “I believe that choosing life, whether through adoption or motherhood, is always the right decision. This time-window is crucial to helping all women realize the pain does not trump the precious gift of life.”

“I'm so glad I had you.”  — My birthmom Joann, on my 44th birthday, after two “back-alley” abortion attempts after having been abducted and raped at knifepoint by a serial rapist.  I'm so glad we were both protected by the law that saved my life!

And here's a short video montage of women who became pregnant by rape and openly discuss having initially contemplated abortion.  Did they not deserve time to make their decision? 

As you can see, the voices of these survivors of rape have been completely ignored by Gov. Nixon.  He is clearly the one with the misplaced paternalism.   And a child is not a “punishment,” as he said, but the death penalty for the child certainly is!  According to the U.S. Supreme Court, rapists and even child molesters do not deserve the death penalty — the Court said it would be “cruel and unusual punishment” for rapists and child molesters.  But their innocent children deserve it?  Our justice system does not punish innocent people for someone else's crime — that's extreme and it's un-American.

Here's the voice of Nicholas C. D'Angelo, a young man who was raised by his mother after she was date-raped: “The Governor fails to recognize that the situation, tough as it may be, does not ever justify murder. If the child is human, the termination of the life is wholly against the justice paradigm; the child has done nothing wrong. The only undeniable facet of personhood is genetic makeup, and this is established upon conception. The denial of life for any reason is a subjective and arbitrary valuation that ultimately denies rights instead of affording them.”

Dr. Reardon's research backs up what these women have expressed:

In our survey of women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest, many women who underwent abortions indicated that they felt pressured or were strongly directed by family members or health care workers to have abortions. The abortion came about not because of the woman’s desire to abort but as a response to the suggestions or demands of others. In many cases, resources such as health workers, counselors and others who are normally there to help women after sexual assault pushed for abortion. Family pressure, withholding of support and resources that the woman needed to continue the pregnancy, manipulative an inadequate counseling and other problems all played a role into pushing women into abortions, even though abortion was often not what the woman really wanted.

Further, in almost every case involving incest, it was the girl’s parents or the perpetrator who made the decision and arrangements for the abortion, not the girl herself. (See Accomplices in Incest for an example.)  None of these women reported having any input into the decision.  Each was simply expected to comply with the choice of others. In several cases, the abortion was carried out over the objections of the girl, who clearly told others that wanted to continue the pregnancy. In a few cases, victim was not even clearly aware that she was pregnant or that the abortion was being carried out.

So Gov. Nixon was completely wrong in singling out pregnancy by rape and thereby demeaning the lives of every child who has been conceived as a result of sexual assault.  We urge the Missouri House and Senate to override the Governor's veto this week.  See you there!

Rebecca Kiessling, conceived in rape, is an attorney and pro-life speaker.  She is the founder and president of Save The 1, co-founder and board member of Hope After Rape Conception.  Her own website is www.rebeccakiessling.com.