During Italy’s fourth annual March for Life, two women shared testimonies of being conceived in rape, and expressed hope that they can offer light to women who are pregnant through similar circumstances. Speaking of women who are currently pregnant as a result of rape, Rebecca Keissling and Mary Rathke told CNA May 4 that they wish to “give them hope, and that they wouldn’t feel alone.” The women were present in Rome for a May 3 international prolife leader’s conference, during which Kiessling gave her personal testimony and spoke of the importance of not making exceptions in one’s prolife stance. They also participated in the annual March for Life event held the following day. Both hailing from Michigan, USA, Kiessling and Rathke are International Prolife speakers, and work as part of “Save the 1,” and organization dedicated to educating society on why “all pre-born children should be protected by law and accepted by society, without exception and without compromise.” Referring to the organization’s motto, taken from the Parable of the Good shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to in search of the one who is missing, Kiessling noted that “Whenever I hear the motto in the prolife movement of ‘save the 99 for the 1,’ I always think of the parable of the lost sheep where Jesus was talking about the little children, and he made the one a priority.” “He spoke quite a bit about the least of these, and who are the least of these in today’s society? Is it not all the hard cases? Children conceived in rape, and children with special needs?” Drawing attention to the talk she gave during the leader’s conference, Kiessling observed that “all life needs to be protected without compromise,” because “As soon as you say that children conceived in rape can be compromised, you’ve basically negated your whole position that life is precious.” Speaking of how she found out that she was conceived through rape, Kiessling revealed that she always knew she had been adopted, and that when the man she had believed to be her birthfather passed away, the family told her that “he had been covering because they didn’t want anybody to know that his wife had been raped on her way home from work.” Rathke explained that she found out when she met her birthmother at the age of 19, “and she told me the whole awful story, and that she tried to kill me in two illegal abortions, so she was honest with me.” “But today she says I’m a blessing to her, I honor her and I bring her healing.” She voiced her desire that the world would come to realize that “just because your conception might have happened from something bad, or in my case my mother is schizophrenic, that just because she’s mentally ill doesn’t mean that my life doesn’t have value and that I can’t be productive and be a voice.” When asked about their personal goals in participating in Italy’s March for Life, Rathke stated her hope that “it opens the eyes of the world” and “that others will come forward.” “What we see in the United States is that there are hundreds that are coming out and emailing us and saying ‘this is my story too,’ where they felt so alone,” she continued. “And I know there are people here in Italy who have that story and I hope they’ll have the courage then to say ‘me too,’ and to not have to live with the stigma.” Keissling said that her greatest desire is to give women in the same situation hope, and recounted how she had received an email from a young woman in Germany who had decided to keep her unborn child because of her testimony on the organization’s website. “I had received an email from someone last year from someone in Germany who had Googled ‘pregnant by rape,’ and because on my website I have my story translated into many languages, it’s the first thing that came up in Germany when they Googled” it, she explained. “She said that my story had made her realize that life was the right choice. So it shows that speaking out, having the courage to share a difficult story really does make a difference.” Explaining how the use of social media has helped to make their voices heard, Kiessling noted that when people “see our pictures and hear our stories, it makes it real. It’s not just a hypothetical situation. We’re real people.”
Alan Holdren contributed to this piece.