You are a staunch opponent of abortion rights. Many have argued, even members of your own party, that your position is too extreme for most Americans and could hurt your chances in the General Election. Would you really tell a rape victim that she must carry to term a child that was forced upon her by an act of such cruelty?

That’s a hard question, but I am going to answer it, because anyone running for President of the United States must be willing to answer hard questions. And I trust that my opponents who support unfettered access to abortion will also be made to answer hard questions.

  • Someone should ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle if they oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion–the practice whereby a child half-way through the birth canal is stabbed at the base of the skull and then the brain is extracted with a suction device.
  • Someone should ask if they believe that abortion should be legal at any time in pregnancy, and for any reason–which is what Roe v. Wade mandated in all 50 states–or if they agree with 93% of Americans who do not hold this view.
  • Someone should ask if they believe their position constitutes a war on women, since 53% of women in this country believe abortion is too easy to get and 58% of women believe abortion is morally wrong in most cases.
  • Someone should ask if they’ve watched the Planned Parenthood videos and if they think selling baby parts for cash is in keeping with the values of this great nation.
  • Someone should ask when they consider a child becomes a full human person, endowed with certain unalienable rights, chief among them the right not to be killed.

So, yes, I’ll answer your hard question. But I hope all the hard questions will be asked.

Should abortion be legal in the case of rape? Let me make three points.

Number one, it’s tragic. The question is sometimes asked as a gotcha question for conservatives, but I know for those women in this situation, or who have been in this situation, the question is intensely painful and personal. Sexual assault is a terrible evil and a heinous crime. I can’t say that strongly enough. And I really mean it. I have a wife. I have sisters. I have daughters. For a man to abuse a woman or force himself upon a woman is always wrong. It is despicable and deplorable. There are few things more traumatic or more painful.

Number two, it’s rare. I don’t say this to minimize anyone experience, only to put into perspective what we are talking about. 99.5% of abortions are performed on pregnancies resulting from consensual sex. I have a suspicion that this hard question comes up every election cycle not so much because of the media’s great compassion for women, but because it seems like an easy way to shame pro-lifers. Let’s be clear: when we talk about abortion, we are virtually always talking about a pregnancy that came about because a man and a woman chose to have sex.

Number three, it’s a life. This the most important point and why, despite the very real physical and emotional pain that I don’t want to minimize, I cannot support abortion on demand. Not for any reason, not even this one. The leading textbooks are clear: life begins at conception. That’s not a religious belief. That’s a scientific fact. We all started out as a microscopic zygote loaded with all the genetic information it will ever need. That’s where you came from. That was you. Your life started at that moment. I don’t believe life is less valuable because of its size, or its level of intelligence, or because of its relative dependence or independence, or because of where it it lives. Every life is precious. Every life is a gift from God. A child’s life is not less deserving of protection just because it was conceived through the sins of another.

I know this is a real struggle for some people. Let me just say in closing that I haven’t come to this conclusion lightly. It’s based on the testimony of science and the testimony of my own conscience. The child in the womb is a human being, and, from very early in the pregnancy, he or she has finger nails, a beating heart, and the capacity to feel pain. We do not become human persons by traveling a few inches down the birth canal. Every innocent life deserves a chance to live.