Allowing abortion in cases of rape not only puts unborn children at risk but also sends a message that the life of those conceived by rape is worth less, according to a victim’s daughter.
“It tells us: you should not even be here, you were not worthy of protection,” Rebecca Kiessling told Times of Malta.
Swapping out “people born out of rape” with some other group of people, such as Jews, made you realise how horribly discriminatory this was, the 47-year-old American lawyer argued.
“Can you imagine proposing an exception for abortion in cases of Jewish babies? Can you imagine the outrage: how dare you target this group of people?
“The message sent to every Jewish person is that their life is not worth living and that they’re worth less than everybody else. And this is the message that is sent to my people group (born to rape victims): that we don’t deserve to be living.”
Pro-life campaigner Dr Kiessling is in Malta as a guest of the Life Network Foundation and she was speaking to Times of Malta ahead of a candle-lit vigil which will be held in Valletta tomorrow.
Dr Kiessling, adopted from birth in Michigan, learnt when she was 18 that she was conceived out of a brutal rape at knife-point.
She had petitioned the court for non-identifying information about her birth family, and while there were several details about her mother, the only information about her father was that he was Caucasian and of large build.
It sounded like a police description, so she called her adoption case worker and asked her straight out whether her mum had been raped. The reply was in the affirmative and the news left her “devastated”.
She met her birth mother Joann a year later, who told her that when she discovered she was pregnant, she had seen a rape counsellor, who advised her to terminate the pregnancy.
I’m not advocating for people to be created out of rape. I’m advocating for people not to be killed
She actually booked an appointment at two back-alley clinics, but backed out both times because she was worried about her safety.
Had abortion been legal in Michigan back then, she would have gone through with it, she told Dr Kiessling.
“There is a documentary called Back Alley Detroit. I can watch this documentary and see the men who were going to take my life. I know the place, time, manner and how much money was on my head. I know all the details of my impending death.
“For some people their near-death experience is waking up from a coma. For me this was my near-death experience. I owe my birth to the law that protected me.”
Dr Kiessling insists that just because she values her life, it does not mean she is pro-rape, something she has been accused of.
“I’m not advocating for people to be created out of rape. I’m advocating for people not to be killed.”
Dr Kiessling has also been confronted with the argument that keeping the baby is not fair as not all children born out of rape have a good upbringing.
But she insists that no one is guaranteed a good life. People assumed she spoke that way as she had a good childhood.
“My adoptive father beat me up and my adoptive mother had undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder. Just because I didn’t have a great childhood doesn’t mean that I think my life didn’t have value.”
The woman had wanted to be a lawyer since she was 10, and one of her missions nowadays is to push for legislation that gives rapists no paternal rights over children conceived of their abuse.
Such legislation was signed into US federal law last year by President Barack Obama, making it more attractive for the individual states to legislate similarly.
She has met several women whose rapist used child visitation rights as an opportunity to continue raping the mother, or even start abusing the children themselves.
The rape victims, and their child, should be legally protected from the rapist and Dr Kiessling is drafting a proposal for Maltese legislators, following similar efforts in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The rapists often gain access to the child when they are sued for child support, especially if the mother is on State benefits.
Asked whether this could be abused by mothers who have consensual sex but want to cut ties with the father, Dr Kiessling noted that women who cry wolf do a disservice to actual victims as even one false claim could increase the belief that women exaggerate abuse allegations.
Just because there was potential for abuse of the system it did not mean that children and rape victims should not be protected, she insisted.
The candle-lit vigil will start at 5.30pm in front of the Auberge de Castille tomorrow and end in front of Parliament, where Dr Kiessling is expected to deliver a keynote speech.
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