Rape and Abortion: What Rowling Says

David asked a challenging question here about Rowling’s views on abortion, a question that cannot be answered definitively by anyone but Rowling but which merits serious consideration by her serious readers:

Will we see JKR taking a moment to attend to Bethany and Ryan Bomberger’s new children’s book, She is She – and if so, in what terms? In a recent interview in the context of its release, Ryan Bomberger noted “I’m the 1% that’s used 100% of the time to justify abortion. I had a courageous birth mom who I’m forever grateful to, that even though she experienced the horror and the violence of rape, she did not make me a victim of the violence of abortion.”

This issue of rape and abortion is very much in the news in the United States, David, because Florida has a 15 week limit on legal abortions with no exemptions for rape, which scandalizes those who use the cause of less than 1% of abortions as justification for legalizing pre-natal infanticide in all cases for any reason. Florida’s legislature is considering a bill to lower that current limit to six weeks without removing the exemption. Texas is going even further in protecting the lives of the unborn. All that has infuriated the “pro-choice” contingent — and brought out the children of rape whose mothers chose not to make them the second victim of the rapist’s crime to testify for this protection of the defenseless unborn, however they were conceived. See here and here for voices like Bamberger’s.

Join me after the jump for a very brief review of Rowling’s position on this in her fiction and public statements.

Rowling’s public statements on this matter are unambiguous;  she has made three tweets on the subject that reveal she is a supporter of ‘woman’s rights to abort their unwanted child.’ See this post, ‘Rowling Tweets Support for Abortion and Gay Marriage in Response to Challenge,’ for those tweets and my thoughts about these statements.

You asked, David, if Rowling might someday, I assume because of her feminist resistance to trans invasion of women’s safe spaces and the absolute nature of the two sexes, tweet in support of She is She, a book that comes, because of one of the author’s public statements, with some controversy vis a vis abortion consequent to rape. My first thought is, “We can only hope she will, but it’s a great stretch to imagine that she will.” Brave as she may be and immune to cancellation as she now seems, a statement in any way complying with, not to mention supporting abortion laws not including exemptions for rape victim-mothers would create a fire-storm among her feminist supporters at least equivalent to that made by the transgender extremists in 2020.

Which is not to mention that it would mean a break both with her previous public statements about abortion and what seems all but explicit in her novels. This, in other words, seems an unbridgeable blind spot or dark hole in Rowling’s feminism and her use of a mother’s love as a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial, long-suffering, selfless love.

For Rowling’s view on rape and abortion, I think we have to take, in addition to her several tweets, the abortion mentions in Troubled Blood as our clearest indicators of what she thinks; first, the heroine-victim of the story, Margot Bamborough, aids a young woman in getting an abortion that the ‘mother,’ Gloria Conti, claims “saved her life” (the father, Niccolo Ricci, is a cipher for the devil, little better than a rapist, whose family also rape-murdered another woman) and, second, Robin’s thoughts about her rape. Ms Ellacott recalls in Strike5 the great relief she felt when she learned that she wasn’t pregnant after the assault because that would have meant an abortion, no qualifiers or doubts on her part, as well as extra suffering for her from that procedure, no mention of the dead baby. Those are in-your-face “pro-choice” statements, albeit encoded in fiction.

There is a little wiggle room here, admittedly, in the form of an embedded contrary view of this subject. Margot Bamborough’s murder was immediately subsequent to that doctor’s failing to help a woman with an ectopic pregnancy. That woman was given the name of God, Theo, which suggests an allegory reading of the murder as God’s judgment on Bamborough for the Conti abortion. See my first attempts at that reading in ‘Rowling Writes a Medieval Morality Play.’ Robin’s confusion about having children in light of her vocation, too, can be read allegorically as a pro-life position.

Those readings create a little wiggle room but not much. It’s a relative stretch compared to the reading in conformity with Rowling’s pro pre-natal infanticide statements in text and in public.

Dennis Creed, after all, was the child of incestuous rape, and his birth mother told a journalist in ‘The Demon of Paradise Park‘ that, after learning of his crimes, she wished he had been murdered at birth. This is consistent with the birth of the unwanted child of a victim-mother in the Hogwarts Saga, namely, Tom Riddle, Jr., and the contrast with the hero of the books, Harry Potter, very much the wanted child, who vanquishes him: The Boy Who Shouldn’t Have Lived and the Boy Who Lived. If Voldemort had been aborted, of course, he would have truly been “He Who Cannot Be Named.”

Again, there is an allegorical reading of Troubled Blood that suggests Rowling-Galbraith is trying to create a debate about just this subject, as she claimed in her 2008 interview with Cruz to have been making a debate about the reality of an after-life in the King’s Cross scene in Deathly Hallows. I’ve made that reading, as noted. The mysteries of Charlotte’s lost child with Cormoran, of Gloria Conti’s forty years of grief about her murdered child even though that she believed that death and Bamborough’s facilitation of it  “saved her life,” and of Strike’s conception (and Switch’s?) that is the backdrop of Leda’s death give some substance to the idea of a point-counterpoint debate embedded in Strike5 and the series a a whole.

But the surface reading remains the virulently “pro-choice” position, as contrary as that is to Rowling’s pro-innocent, voiceless child beliefs (cf., Lumos) and the Mother’s love as Christ’s love theme that runs through all her work (cf. Christmas Pig 5: The Blue Bunny. Rowling, Ring Writing, and Maternal Love, and A Key to Maternal Love in Harry Potter). That thumbs up for abortion position is evident in Harry Potter, in Cormoran Strike, and in Casual Vacancy. See the suicide of Krystall Weedon subsequent to rape (her attempt to have sex so, if pregnant from that rape she could have a father-husband for the baby, and the death of Robbie due to that plan) for the line on this subject that runs through all of Rowling’s work.

To answer your question, then, David, I think the answer is, “No, we won’t be seeing Rowling make a public statement about She is She if that involves an endorsement of legislation denying a rape victim the ‘right’ to an abortion.” I will, however, continue to follow the possibility that the embedded debate of the Strike series is about the front and back of pre-natal infanticide, namely, the relief it offers a woman with an unwanted pregnancy which simultaneously requires the murder of a helpless, innocent human being. Thanks for asking this crucial question about a subject that is something of a “third rail” in Potter studies and among Serious Strikers despite its being a through-line in Rowling’s work.

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