Kentucky Must Respond to Hadley and Other Rape Victims by Upholding Human Dignity

Gov. Andy Beshear’s recent campaign ad features a young lady, named Hadley, explaining to the camera that she was raped and impregnated by her stepfather at the age of twelve.

As a protective father of a young daughter, I am filled with anger towards the man that carried out such an egregious attack against Hadley’s basic human dignity and those who carry out similar acts of injustice against others.

In my mind, there is nothing more egregiously evil or unjust than rape. It’s a direct attack on a fellow human being, created in the Image of God, that undercuts their most basic God-given rights.

Hadley and others suffering similar horrific acts deserve a thoughtful, compassionate, and honest response.

The Kentucky General Assembly should increase the punishment for rape to better reflect the crime’s seriousness. Let’s also do everything we can to increase enforcement of our rape laws and resolve Kentucky’s backlog in processing rape kits.

My years serving on a Citizen Foster Care Review Board have also shown me the importance of identifying the early warning signs of abusive parents and removing children before they suffer the egregious evil of rape or incest. We must identify ways we can do better.

We can and should also come alongside impregnated rape victims with significant care and assistance. That’s why the General Assembly should create a fund to assist victims of rape with trauma counseling, medical care, and the costs that go with pregnancy, birth, and raising a child.

Unless we have been the victims of a rape resulting in pregnancy, none of us can understand what Hadley or others are going through. But any conversation about additional solutions, options, or exceptions to Kentucky’s abortion laws must begin with the acknowledgement of two foundational truths.

First, the preborn child is a living human being. I’ve rejoiced at ultrasound images of my preborn children moving around in the womb and heard their heartbeats, I’ve grieved the death of a preborn child, and I’m preparing to welcome my newest child into my arms next month. What I’ve witnessed firsthand has confirmed the scientific fact that the preborn child is a living human being.

Second, every human has inherent dignity, along with equal and inalienable rights. As a Christian and former appointee to one of Kentucky’s local Human Rights Commissions, I cannot condone discrimination in any form. No human, born or preborn, should be treated as lesser or have their rights violated because of their DNA or circumstances outside of their control, including his or her conception.

Let’s have the hard conversations, make necessary reforms to Kentucky’s laws, and come alongside Hadley and other rape victims with significant emotional, mental, and physical care, along with financial support. But meaningful hope cannot be restored in the life of a rape victim or in society by undermining the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of every human. Even the Universal Declaration of Rights recognizes this as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in our world.

This op-ed was written by our senior policy advisor, Michael Johnson, and was originally published by the Courier Journal on Sep. 28, 2023. You can also read at