Richard Murdouck and Life

By now, I assume we have all heard or read Republican Senatorial candidate Richard Murdouck’s comment that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” It seems like yet another rape or pregnancy related gaffe from a Republican, coming on the heels of Todd Aikin’s and Joe Walsh’s recent comments.

However, contra Dr. Saunders, I can’t condemn his remarks the way I can the other two. Though politically-stupid, and awkwardly-worded, Mr. Murdouck’s comment is defensible. Writing in National Post, Marni Soupcoff argues:

When Mr. Mourdock made his comments about God intending to create a life “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape,” he did not appear to be trying to diminish the seriousness of rape (no hints that some kinds of rape don’t actually qualify) or to cast any blame on the female victim.

It seems he was genuinely trying to express his feeling that all children have value, even those who came to be through a reprehensible act of violence.

This seems quite on-point to me. If you believe that the unborn are people, and if you believe that all human life is a beautiful gift from God, then it does not matter how that life was conceived; it is still a beautiful gift from God. We can, and certainly will, argue about whether Mr. Murdouck is correct in his assertion that life begins at conception. We can argue about when personhood begins and whether the dignity of the unborn outweighs the autonomy of the mother or vice versa, but none of that makes Mr. Murdouck’s comments Aikin-esque.

There are ugly implications to Mr. Murdouck’s view, but valuing human life is not one of them.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Anti-abortion people have had two variations of being anti-abortion, both of which are especially disgusting. Either you oppose two of the main three exceptions, in which case you are an extremist who would force rape victims to carry the children of their perpetrators. Or you make room for the three exceptions, and therefore you are inconsistent, insincere, and all but admitting that you want to punish women for having consensual sex.

    Which, hey, as long as we’re clear on that.

    Which is unfair to the anti-anti-abortion crowd. If some pro-choicers think it’s particularly disgusting not to acknowledge the exception, and others think it’s particularly revealing when you do, then it’s all an honest discussion. But I do think it feeds into some of the more unfortunate aspects of the discussion.

  2. Amy Sullivan wrote something similar in The New Republic today.

    I should clarify that I don’t think Mourdock is saying he thinks God intended the rape to occur. While I think it’s actually rather difficult to separate a belief that God intended a child to be conceived from the means by which the child, I don’t think Mourdock was trying to thread that needle.

    But I still think it is overweening arrogance to use one’s private articles of faith to dictate to a traumatized woman what they do under circumstances like these, and that I would never vote for a man who held views such as those.

    • If we’re trying to determine when life/personhood/whatever-we-shall-call-it begins, do we have a lot to go on other than faith?

      Granted, you could believe that the unborn are people and also think they deserve no legal protection, but I can’t fault people too much for believing that the unborn are people and therefore should be afforded certain legal protections.

      • I don’t fault them for their belief. But when that belief conflicts with the real and incontrovertible interests of fully-evident human beings, then I still maintain it meets the standard to countermand them.

  3. To me, this went even deeper. There are a lot of people who believe that everything is part of God’s plan. They will usually exclaim who blessed they are when something goes right, and not talk about it much when something goes wrong. For someone with this belief, EVERYTHING is “what God intended to happen”.

    I don’t condemn him for his belief (I find it rather dumb, but don’t say anything to those I know who believe it). He just picked the dumbest time and the dumbest way to say it.

    Meanwhile, Tod Akin is again receiving GOP funds, and Pennsylvania will deny welfare benefits to a woman who claims to have been raped unless she reported it to the police:
    “Elimination of benefits under subsection (d) shall not apply to any child conceived as a result of rape or incest if the department: receives a non-notarized, signed statement from the pregnant woman stating that she was a victim of rape or incest, as the case may be, and that she reported the crime, including the identity of the offender, if known, to a law enforcement agency”

    Because women lie about being raped, donchaknow.

    No War on Women, nope, none at all…

  4. Part of what bothers me (apart from the obvious) about Mourdock’s statement is that if he believes that all babies are conceived because God wills it, what does that say about the cases where the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life?

    If someone holds the view of God that he seems to be expressing, it’s not a small leap to get from where he is to the conclusion that God intended the baby to live even if the mother has to die.

    (Of course, the kind of God gives the ‘gift’ of ectopic pregnancies, I don’t even want to imagine).

    • Welcome to the “Problem of Evil” aka “Why do bad things happen to good people (and vice versa). Theologians have been wrestling with this one for ages, without a lot of success (from what I’ve seen). If one believes that God has a plan and knows what’s “best” for us all, then it’s a logical conclusion that an ectopic pregnancy is indeed a gift from God. How can it not be?

      Then we get into Fallen World and so on and lots of twists and turns to avoid the logical outcome.

      But hopefully one of those more knowledgeable about this can jump in.

      • I’m familiar with theodicy and quite a few variants of how to explain it – none of them esp. satisfactory, but most aren’t quite as bad as this.

        I’m just always stunned when people don’t think enough about what they’re positing to realize that ‘ectopic pregnancies are a gift from God’ is the logical extension of the belief they claim to have come to after much soul-searching.

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