For Mourdock to invoke God’s will was not merely a political mistake. Pro-life Christians and Jews do not believe that God has told us explicitly that unborn children have the same right not to be killed that newborns, toddlers, adolescents, and adults do. We believe that God has given us the power of reason, the ability to acquire knowledge, and the obligation to do justice. Science tells us that human lives begin at conception. Reason persuades us that it is wrong to will the death of human beings, regardless of their age, location, or state of dependency; and wrong, as well, to withhold legal protection on such bases. Our argument does not, that is, proceed from any claim to special access to the mind of God.

It is reasoning, as well, that persuades us that the innocent human beings created through rape deserve protection. We recognize that most people — even most people who believe that abortion should generally be prohibited — do not share this view. There are very few places in the country where a ban on abortion in cases of rape is even a remote possibility. What, then, should pro-lifers who believe that justice requires this ban do? What they have already been doing: Working first toward legal protection for the other 99 percent of unborn children, while seeking to change minds on this question toward the goal of more complete legal protection.

Mourdock has hurt himself by bringing attention, clumsily, to a position he holds that places him in a distinct minority. That position is, however, more than defensible, and it follows logically from very widely shared pro-life premises.