You can’t put a price on your life, can you? The question of what your life is worth quickly takes you out of valuations measured in money or in terms of any material good. Your life, in every meaning of the term, is priceless, isn’t it?
Does it matter at all — does it enter into the equation at all — where you come from, or who your ancestors are? Is there anything that some person – related to you — did before you were born, that could in any way diminish the value of your life?
Certainly that seems like an easy question. “Of course not!” you are probably thinking.
But what if the thing that someone did before you were born was really, really bad? Was just out and out evil? Would that diminish the value of your life?
No? Not even that?
This must seem like a strange line of questioning, but for men and women who were conceived as a result of rape or incest, it is not an unusual concern. Instead it is one they face nearly every time the topic of abortion comes up.
You see, according to many people there is a “moderate” stance on abortion. An abortion moderate really does think that abortion is serious business, that it shouldn’t be “used as birth control” and that for the most part, adoption is preferable — except. The recounting of exceptions has become a political mantra. You know it well: “Except for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
We can get “life of the mother” out of the way very easily by pointing out that a medical procedure required to save the mother’s life has never been considered an abortion, even when abortion was illegal — and will not be considered abortion if abortion is made illegal again. The Catholic Church has raised to the honor of sainthood a mother who choose to forego cancer treatment so that her baby might live, and recently that same choice was made by a heroic young English woman. But Catholic teaching does not demand this. A woman who is pregnant and who is diagnosed with cancer may indeed go ahead with life-saving treatment for herself, even if it is known that the “double effect” of the treatment will be the baby’s death. An abortion is the intentional taking of the baby’s life in the womb. In the case of medical treatment, the intention is to save the woman, not to murder the baby.
Okay, our moderate insists, “But that still leaves rape and incest. In case of rape or incest, the option of abortion should be available to women — out of compassion.” That is what men and women who were conceived from rape or incest hear over and over. And what message do they hear behind the “compassionate” words? “You should not exist. Your life is not worth anything because of how you came to be.”
That is why Veronica Diego has decided to make it her business to collect the stories of people who were conceived as a result of rape and incest. Inspired by the story of her own granddaughter, conceived in rape, her message is that all these lives are precious and their value is not diminished by something done by their fathers before they were born.
But if we really think this through, there is a sense in which we could, every one of us, put our story on Veronica’s website; for we all, every one of us, owe our existence to a rapist. It is just that some of us know it because the crime was recent, while for the rest of us it lies in the past — a few or many generations.
Just consider the sweep of human history — the wars, conquests and pillages. Think about the millennia of slavery and the almost universal chattel status of women in so many ancient cultures. Consider the movements and migrations and how mixed up most of our bloodlines are. Can any of us imagine that nowhere in our ancestry does there lurk a rapist or is there buried an act of incest?
To deny the value of any life because it was conceived in that kind of sin, ultimately is to deny the value of your own life.
What is your life worth?