I Feel Like a Number

I was reading an article a friend posted on Facebook about women who become pregnant after being raped. A group of women formed a committee to speak out for women pregnant by sexual assault. Steve Ertelt writes:

A group called the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault (WPSA) is responding to the national debate about rape and abortion. The debate re-started thanks to controversial comments Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made about “forcible rape.”

Heather Wilson, Deana Schroeder and other members of The Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant By Sexual Assault have penned a column in response. They are demanding that their voices be heard and upset that many assume women who became pregnant after rape want an abortion.

The women talk about the assumption that everyone who is raped wants an abortion, and how very wrong this is. Statistics vary widely on just how many women abort if they do become pregnant after being raped, but this doesn’t matter, they say.

On one side are those who argue that pregnancies resulting from rape and incest occur so rarely that we shouldn’t let it impact public policy on abortion. This is hurtful to women who do become pregnant from rape or incest and who need support. It can also lead to questioning as to whether a woman or girl is telling the truth about being raped.

On the other side are those who perpetuate the myth that women and girls who become pregnant from sexual assault overwhelmingly want, need and benefit from having abortions. This also hurts women and fans the flames of prejudice toward those who do not want to have an abortion, even leading some to question whether a woman or girl who wishes not to abort has “really” been raped. And it can lead to strong pressure to abort by those who think the woman or girl does not know what is really best for her.

Despite the belief that most women in such circumstances would want an abortion, a national study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that only half of those who became pregnant from rape had an abortion. Another survey of pregnant sexual assault victims found that only 30 percent had abortions.

Whether the true number is closer to 30 or 50 percent doesn’t matter. What matters is that women and girls who become pregnant from rape or incest need real support and resources that meet their needs. In many cases, however, these needs are not met because most people assume that abortion will solve the problem. [emphasis added]

This got me thinking. And hard. It’s true that many pro-lifers, frustrated by straw-man tactics of abortion supporters, tend to blow off that small number of women who get pregnant after rape. I’ve been guilty of it myself. When it’s such a small percentage, it’s frustrating to have people say that the other 98% of abortions can be justified by that alone.

But these are not simply numbers. What we’re talking about here are real women, who have really been raped. They’re not just some statistic, some percentage.

And when I really thought about it, I realized that our tendency to gather data on everything in the world is dehumanizing our fellow man. And it’s not just Republicans or Democrats. It’s everyone.

Statistics … There are statistics for everything

How many times do you hear “35 million without insurance” or “23 million unemployed or underemployed” or “8% unemployment”? How often do you think about what those numbers really mean? When you hear about sequestration, about cutting defense heavily, do you think, “They’re talking about actual human beings. There are military families whose entire income might go away because the breadwinner cannot re-enlist. There are defense contractors who are going to have to lay off men and women whose families might not be able to make their mortgage because of it.”

When you hear about underemployed people, folks who took a lower-paying job just to start having some kind of income again, is there a face to go with that figure?

Unemployed men line up outside a soup kitchen in Chicago during the Great Depression

When you hear about the latest first-time unemployment benefits numbers, do you see in your mind a family whose father lost his job and is trying to pay college tuition for half his kids?

These aren’t just numbers. These aren’t just statistics.

These are people.


From now until the election, I have a challenge for you:

When you hear those numbers, any numbers or statistics about bad news, instead of just letting the figures wash over you or expressing outrage at whoever you think is responsible for the problem, pray for those people who are behind the numbers. Say a prayer for their families. Put a face with the numbers – at this point, I’m pretty sure every one of us has a face for the economic statistics we have. Pray for them, put their face to it.

Stop being angry about the numbers, and start praying for the people behind them.

Here’s a bit of music to go along with the idea. Lyrics are here.

One thought on “I Feel Like a Number

  1. Pingback: Seven Quick Takes: #7for7 Edition | Domestic Vocation

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