A Pregnant Ten-Year-Old: What Then?
The first hard case and a possible response.
UPDATE 11 July 2022: The story that directly inspired this post appears to have been made up. In retrospect, it was sourced to a single abortionist with strong motivation to lie, several people like Michael Brendan-Dougherty immediately cast doubt on it after it (finally) started to circulate in the pro-life world, and I feel fairly stupid for having fallen for it. Nevertheless, there are enough preteen pregnancies in the United States each year—some of them legitimately reported by the news, most of them hidden by the curtain of abortion—that I still stubbornly think we must legislate to help in these cases. What a relief, however, to learn that we weren’t actually too late to help the (apparently fictional) person in this case.
UPDATE 14 July 2022: No, wait, hold up, looks like the original story was true after all. Original article follows:
The pro-choice side of the Internet has been lit up for nearly two full days with this horrifying story out of Ohio:
On Monday… Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio.
Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant.
…[F]or now, the procedure still is legal in Indiana. And so the girl soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard's care.
By any definition, legal or moral, a pregnant ten-year-old is a victim of rape.
I’ve seen very little discussion of this story on the pro-life side of the Internet. This surprises me, a little bit. We are still celebrating the fall of Roe, yes. Unfortunately, the world does not stop after a great life-affirming victory, and there are more lives to save.
We failed to save two lives here. We simply weren’t ready for it. (We should have been, shouldn’t we?) Now one child is dead, another deeply wounded, and the pro-choice side is using the incident as an argument against protecting life in general.
The problem, of course, is Roe allowed our society to solve a lot of extremely serious problems by killing a child. In fact, we got used to solving our problems that way. Even in generally pro-life red states, Roe was ubiquitous, and there was only so much we could do about that. So we structured big, important things—things like the modern welfare state!—around the assumption that some Really Big Problems would “take care of themselves,” as parents would scramble to find an abortionist and the rest of us wouldn’t have to deal with it.
The fall of Roe means we are now going to see those problems rise to the surface. All of them. Simultaneously. And, oh yes, the intensely pro-choice media will be very eager to point them all out. We are extremely fortunate to have passed trigger bans on abortion in 13 states, several of which make exceptions only when taking unborn life is necessary to preserving the life of the mother. But the voters will take those bans away if they decide that we are unable to deal humanely with hard cases like abortion in cases of rape or incest.
This demands quick, nimble problem-solving by pro-lifers… especially because the other side will be saying, “Why don't we just kill the kid? It's worked for the past fifty years, hasn't it?" Our traditional response, "Love them both!" is a good start, but it's not an adequate answer to a horrifying case like this 10-year-old (!) rape victim.
So what’s our solution to this one?
Obviously, nothing—nothing—can fix the crime the father committed against this child. There is no way to repair the trauma that has already happened. There is no way to avoid more trauma. (An abortion neither repairs trauma nor avoids it. Jesus, can you imagine giving a 10-year-old the abortion pill, misoprostol, and telling her to go home and brace for pain?) The father’s crime is heinous in part because we can never make the victim whole again.
Nevertheless, we must have something better than “let’s just kill the new baby quick as we can and pretend this never happened.”
My Proposal: Blue-Ticket Laws
Any person under the age of thirteen with a confirmed pregnancy is by definition the innocent victim of a serious crime.The State should do whatever is in its power to undo that damage, just as it would do whatever is in its power to restore stolen property to its rightful owner.
Any pregnant girl under the age of thirteen should therefore be issued a state “blue ticket” card upon confirmation of pregnancy. This would function like a Social Security card, and it would entitle the victim to all of the following state benefits:
Free medical care until the age of 65.
Free mental health care until the age of 65.
Free child care for the duration of the child’s childhood.
Free adoption services, if she / her family chooses. (I assume that they mostly will make this choice.)
Obviously a ten-year-old is not capable of raising a child. If the ten-year-old does not wish to put the baby up for adoption, and her family is unwilling / unsuited to raising a child (remember: there’s a good chance the ten-year-old’s abuser was a family member), then the State should provide a surrogate foster home that can support this difficult situation.
Free college for the victim at any state school (or any school in another state that establishes blue-ticket reciprocity).
Free college for the victim’s child, under the same terms.
Free medical care for the victim’s child until age 26.
An old-school, no-strings attached cash welfare payment of generous size.
When this says “free” it means “absolutely free.” No co-pays, no student fees, nothing. This kid’s life is wrecked, and her child is starting off on the back foot, too. Let’s help them put the pieces back together by giving them what support we can.
These benefits should follow both the ten-year-old and her child, even if the child is given up for adoption, even if something happens to one of them. The reality is that a lot of pregnant ten-year-olds are going to naturally miscarry, or will face a medical emergency requiring immediate delivery—even before the fetus is viable. That’s unfortunate, but not victim’s fault, and the victim will still deserve to be made whole.
The one exception to this would be if the victim procured an elective abortion. This program exists to help heal the wounds of a crime of violence against an innocent. If the victim’s family chooses to heal those wounds instead by committing another crime of violence against another innocent, then they have opted out of the program’s objectives.
Otherwise, though, the blue ticket should be inalienable. Ideally, each state would have its own version of the blue-ticket law, and the blue ticket would thus be able to follow the victim and her child throughout the country.
The victim’s rapist, of course, deserves to be executed.
If you recoil at the idea of the State putting someone to death, good for you! I, too, think we should abolish the death penalty. However, some of you out there who are hesitant about the death penalty for the rapist think it’s imperative to give the death penalty to the rapist’s child (who had nothing to to with the rape!). A lot of very good people were the children of rape. Don’t kill them!
Since I’d rather not execute the father, I propose instead that he receive an appropriately lengthy term of imprisonment.During his imprisonment, he may be able to work for wages, but 95% of his wages will be given up as child support. If and when he is released, his child support obligations should remain unusually onerous, and his victim and child should become mandatory beneficiaries of his estate. This way, the rapist at least contributes to restitution for his crime, and his victim and her child may receive some benefit from the continuation of his miserable life.
Now, there are four reasons conservatives are usually shy about welfare programs as generous as this one. Three of the reasons are generally sensible and the last is not:
Expense. Giving people a lot of stuff for free is very expensive. Lots of people need help. If the State meets the needs of some, that means it can’t meet the needs of others. It therefore must be cautious before committing itself to being too generous.
Fraud. Giving people a lot of stuff for free means some people will try to lie their way into the program to get the free stuff, even though they don’t qualify.
Perverse incentives. Giving people in need a lot of stuff for free can encourage people to get needy and stay needy, so that they can continue getting the free stuff. The classic example of this is people who are on welfare choosing not to work, because they can live comfortably on welfare and working stinks. (This led to the end of cash welfare in the 1990s.)
Resentment. It is, unfortunately, all too human for us to resent giving people free stuff when we all have problems of our own.
None of these should be problems for this proposal.
Expense is not a concern here. These cases are extremely rare. Every single one of them is about to be a headline in every newspaper, but they are still very rare.
Roughly 75 Ohioans under the age of 15 receive abortions each year. (They do not report numbers for under-13s specifically.) Most of those 75 Ohioans are presumably not under the age of 13, and so would not qualify for the “blue-ticket” program as I’ve laid it out here. This seems pretty normal. In Minnesota, with half the population, it’s closer to 20 under-15 Minnesotans aborting per year, with some smaller number being under the age of 13.
We couldn’t afford this program for 75,000 people per year. Probably not even 7,500. But less than 75? Ohio’s state budget is $95 billion. They can pay for free health care, child care, and college for 75 (probably less) of Ohio’s daughters and their babies.
Fraud is not a concern here—or, at least, I haven’t figure out a way to scam the program. It may be possible for an Evil Parent to fake a pregnancy (and subsequent miscarriage) in a ten-year-old to get the ten-year-old enrolled in this program… but that’s going to automatically bring down a whole army of sex abuse investigators. Either they will find out what’s going on and arrest you for fraud… or they won’t find out what’s going on and arrest you for rape! Seems like a bad time.
Perverse incentives seem like a moot point for similar reasons. I know people have often said things like, “Nobody would ever deliberately have a baby out of wedlock just to get an extra welfare payment!” and those people have often turned out to be wrong… but there is a line people actually won’t cross, and I think raping a ten-year-old to get her enrolled in a special welfare program that benefits only her and the child (and then going to prison because, y’know, rape) is actually beyond that line.
Resentment is not a concern because the pro-life movement simply has to be better than that if we’re going to build a culture of life. Resenting welfare recipients can’t be part of what we’re about—and, to be fair, I don’t think it is a problem in the core pro-life movement. It’s more of an issue in the wider circle of right-leaning voters who consider themselves pro-life but aren’t activists about it, and this is just something we’re going to have to fix now that the post-Roe era has arrived.
One last question:
Why “Blue Ticket”?
I think the program needs a physical sign of registration. This is partly because trying to coordinate benefits through all these different programs is really hard. (Ask anyone who’s tried signing up for unemployment and WIC and TANF; it’s exhausting.) A physical card that says “nope, I’m not jumping through the hoops to apply for each specific program, I’m eligible for all them and here’s the proof” can cut through a lot of red tape.
The physical blue ticket is also partly because a vague constellation of available benefits is not always intelligible to the people who need to receive them—or to the public, which needs to see and understand this program so they understand that there is a coherent alternative to an abortion. Think of what a strong psychological bond the American people make with Social Security, and how much of that is simply because you get an actual physical card at birth.
So don’t just enact the program; give the beneficiaries a blue ticket. Call it the blue-ticket program.Let people know that’s how you’re trying to address these crisis cases.
The blue-ticket concept could work. It’s an answer to a disastrous situation that doesn’t fix everything (nothing can) but which can at least help, in a way that doesn’t destroy any more lives, and which seems to do a better job of helping than abortion does.
What is it missing? What other needs can we meet that aren’t being met in this proposal? Remember, these cases are very rare, so we can afford to be generous—and people have needs other than financial needs as well.
And, more urgently: what other proposals are on the table? Surely I’m not the only pro-lifer talking about this. The pro-choicers aren’t going to let us forget about it: here’s Gov. Kristi Noem giving a correct but clearly inadequate reply when pressed about it on CNN.
Will pro-life leaders be able to do something (with this proposal or some other one), so that our society finally (fifty years late) has a workable, humane alternative to getting an abortion and trying to memory-hole the rape? I believe that there are a few pro-life legislators and lobbyists who read De Civitate, at least occasionally. If you’re one of them, I’d love to hear from you.
I know it seems unfair to return to the battlefield so soon after the exhausting work that brought us this far. On the other hand, we did have decades to do something about this, and we are all out of runway. We’re now at the point where, if we don’t act now, ten-year-olds will suffer without support, the voters will not let us keep our hard-won gains, and a whole lot more people will die.
So let’s get cracking, as we always do.
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UPDATE 4 July 2022: In the comments, Harmon Dow suggests purple, the color that has come to represent looking past partisanship to mutually agreeable solutions. I have to agree that’s a great idea.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photograph by Lesley Show entitled “Ten Year Old Climbing Tree.” Shared without changes (other than resizing) under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Some states say 14. Some say 12. Some have a close-in-age exception where, for example, if two 14-year-olds have “consensual” sex, neither has committed a crime. Others do not.
I picked 13 here because that’s Ohio’s lowest age limit. All sex below that age is criminal, even if the offender did not know the victim’s age, although the law is not always enforceable if both victim and perpetrator are below the line.
This is complicated in rare cases where the person who impregnates the underage victim is also a child—for example, when a twelve-year-old girl conceives the child of a thirteen-year-old boy… or even an eleven-year-old boy. The father in these cases may or may not be a rapist, depending on circumstances, and can’t be tried like an adult. That doesn’t generally change the need to provide for the mother and her child, however, which is one reason why this plan doesn’t actually depend on the rapist’s wages but can merely be supplemented by them.
It’s tempting to make it 100%, but, if you do that, the rapist may not work at all. People need incentives to work, even in prison.
There are some states where rapists still have parental rights. Naturally, these should be terminated, but that’s a separate topic I’ve actually been meaning to write about for years.
You can’t use green (even though it’s the obvious choice: the ticket “green-lights” you for benefits), because green is currently associated with the abortion-rights movement. You can’t use yellow or gold because it’s too close to the “golden ticket” prize in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and the idea that a child rape victim has won some kind of prize is abhorrent. You don’t want to use red or pink because both have pretty negative connotations “red tape,” “pink slip”). Blue seems fine. Hence, blue ticket.
I love your proposal. You have my vote.
I would like to rant a little bit about the underlying argument that this is based off of from the proponents of abortion: that pro-lifers don't care about the baby beyond birth. That trash is so ridiculous given the amount of nonprofit organizations I know that are, and have been for decades, working towards taking care of the mother and child. Most are religious based (most charities are if I am not mistaken). So to say we aren't doing anything is disingenuous.
Even if we were though, the argument is still for murder. So yes, I am completely okay with Roe being struck down for being incorrect even without those provisions in place. Even in this extreme edge case. It's hard, but the alternative is worse.
The ticket should be purple. It gets away from the Blue/Red political divide. We need Purple solutions for many of our problems.