27 December 2007

Abortion

    When the soul of a child finds a parent and joins with a new body, there is much joy.

    When the soul of the child finds that its joy is met with pain and anguish, there is confusion and sorrow.

    When the soul departs - perhaps to find another parent, perhaps to return to the ether from whence it came, much sorrow is left behind amidst the relief.

The end result was a miscarry, not a medically induced abortion - but we had to wrangle with the questions just the same. In an ideal world, nobody would want to kill their own children. Unfortunately we don't live in that world, and sometimes you have to choose the least bad option. It's good to have as many options as possible to choose from during those times, including triage. And that's how I came to be pro-choice.


My views have shifted a lot in the decade and a half since then. More recently, someone asked me:
    How can you allow abortion if you believe it to be extinguishing an innocent human life?

My reply:

a) Life is precious. However, each individual living thing is not.
b) Human life is not more precious than other life.
c) My own children are precious to me. However, my children aren't necessarily precious to others, nor are others' children necessarily precious to me.

We are all part of the cycle of life - birth, growth, reproduction, death. Some living things eat other living things to live. Some of them hijack other living things to their own ends (disease-causing microbes, parasites). Living things fight over resources all the time - plants try to outgrow each other, ants have territorial wars, etc. Humans are part of the cycle too and no different.

So while an unborn child is a fully valid living thing from the moment of conception, it isn't inherently precious just by the fact that it's alive. It's mainly precious only to its parents and close relatives (and sometimes only its mother). Many other non-human living things would see it more as a resource to exploit (to eat, to hijack, etc.). And sometimes things go wrong all on their own while it's trying to form - and no amount of preciousness (inherent or otherwise) will save it then.

Also, an unborn child is not more precious than a human at another stage of their life cycle. Every stage is important in different ways. Sometimes it's necessary to find the most optimal outcome among many lives, and sometimes this means individual sacrifices.

And finally, there's one more side to it that many people seem to ignore. People seem to want to place the emphasis on physical life as the precious part. But life isn't just the physical body. The physical body is just a vehicle to carry the soul, which joins the body at conception. If the body dies, the soul is not destroyed - it just goes elsewhere. The loss of life is not so great when the soul barely began before the parting, and can begin anew.


The discussion from which the above excerpt came is well worth reading, as it's quite possibly the only civilized abortion discussion anywhere that represents the whole range of viewpoints. Go read and think. Then, for more, I also recommend Jim Wright's opinions on how to move forward.

6 comments:

Jim Wright said...

MWT,

Well stated. I think some would interpret your post as a bit cold blooded, but nature is indeed cold blooded when it comes to survival. Me, I say your post is clear headed, spoken like a scientist, and yet clearly personal and emotional.

What I get from your post is this: it is personal. It's different for each person, male or female. And as much as we may disagree with another's decision or viewpoint - we must acknowledge that it's personal for them too, and therefor just as private of a decision. As Americans we have a right to disagree, but no right to force others to comply with our viewpoints.

Again, well stated and thanks for the link.

bakho said...

Now that Jim cleared that one for me...I can only say: me too! I completely and definitely agree with you. I agree to such extent that I find when politicians discuss such subjects with their 'politically correct standpoints' at the very least irritating. Abortion is not about politics or correctness. It's about a choice a woman (and, hopefully, her man/husband/boyfriend) want or don't want to make. For me, everything else is hypocrisy.

Michelle K said...

I skipped the discussion on Whateveresque, because I've been trying to avoid things that upset me, but I do appreciate people who are willing to discuss such a difficult subject calmly and without getting personal.

That said, I'd like to say two things, from my differing opinion.

First, I'm not fully convinced that we have souls, which means that this is all we get, and so we have to make do with what we have. Which may go some to explain my second point.

Second, I agree with your point that an unborn child is not more precious than a human at any other point in the life cycle, but for me that simply means that life must be respected upon the entire continuum. I personally believe that taking a life, be it the life of an unborn child, the life of an elderly or sick individual, or the life of a convicted criminal is morally wrong.

To me, life is precious, and I don't believe that we have the right to determine what life is worth living and what life should be terminated. I simply don't think humans are evolved enough to make that decision.

However, I remain at a loss as to what we as a society should legally do about these issues. I strongly agree with Jim Wright's assertion that the proper way to deal with abortion is to make certain that there are no unwanted pregnancies.

Which is what steams my shorts about the religious right--if abortion is such a sin (their term not mine) then we should take all actions possible to ensure that such sins don't happen. If that means making condoms available in elementary schools than so be it. Isn't the minor evil of premarital sex (NOTE: I don't think premarital sex is evil) far better than the greater evil of taking a life?

The question is what do we do in the meantime, and that's where I'm stumped. I know two girls in college who would have been disowned (quite literally) by their parents for their pregnancies (one because her parents were racist, the other because premarital sex was an unacceptable behavior--for her the shit hit the fan later when her mother found she was on the pill, and they forced her to move back home for the rest of her school career.) When adults behave in such a manner towards their children, what choice do these daughters have?

Anyway, that's how I see things.

(And as a data point, I supported both of my friends after their abortions; one friend ended up in my arms crying her heart out over what she felt she had to do, because despite--or perhaps because of--my beliefs, she thought I would understand her grief. That's where I developed my disdain for parents who do not accept their daughters unconditionally.)

MWT said...

First, I'm not fully convinced that we have souls, which means that this is all we get, and so we have to make do with what we have.

To me, the one isn't necessarily related to the other. It might be useful to keep in mind that I don't come from a Christian background, which means that I don't think of "going to Heaven" as being more important than living fully in the here and now. I've seen a few souls firsthand, I know they exist - but that has nothing to do with whether or not we "make do with what we have." I think of souls without bodies as just being further extensions of the same continuum, with life as a stage and other states of existence as other stages.

Second, I agree with your point that an unborn child is not more precious than a human at any other point in the life cycle, but for me that simply means that life must be respected upon the entire continuum.

Yes. That was what I meant too.

I personally believe that taking a life, be it the life of an unborn child, the life of an elderly or sick individual, or the life of a convicted criminal is morally wrong.

And yet sometimes it must be done. I mention triage for that reason. I took out my references to war in my rewrite here - the original thing I posted also included the following example:

"We send people to war with the understanding that they are going to kill people. We also understand that they might get killed. Why do pro-lifers not argue vociferously in preserving their lives (all of them, both sides) as much as the lives of fetuses?"

In retrospect perhaps I should've left it in.

Also, keeping in mind my "human life is not more precious than other life" - it makes me ponder Vegan philosophies as well. My ending opinion on that topic was that humans are part of the same life cycle as everything else, and
it's unrealistic to get so caught up in the preciousness of life that we must cease to exist ourselves in order to not harm it.

On the rest, I agree. It'd be nice if the Religious Right were more sensible, and also nice if more parents were mature enough to let go trying to control their adult children.

Jeri said...

I think you hit on a really important point... and one that's difficult to express well.

Our society makes an assumption that women's maternal instinct kicks in and that they love their unborn baby - and there is something really wrong with them if they don't.

In reality, we can't love unless we have been taught how to by our own parents and environment, and have our basic survival needs met.

And even then - it's not automatic, nor does that connection begin at the moment of conception. For me, it started to grow sometime in the middle of the night, after my first was born.

Very excellent analysis. Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts.

As a side note - the very best piece of fictional work on abortion and reproductive rights, it's very perception-changing, is Gibbon's Decline and Fall by Shari Tepper.

Michelle K said...

Regarding souls, I'm not saying I discount them entirely, I guess I'm trying to say that how people live in this life is far more important than any possible eternity. So it's our moral imperative to treat life with respect.

Re your mention of triage... To me there is a tremendous difference between deciding who to help first and taking action to end a life.

Regarding end of life care (and this was often the subject of my semester projects for most of my public health classes), I do not believe that means treatment should be applied even when circumstances are hopeless. I strongly support DNR orders and hospice care, where medicine is used to provide comfort as opposed to attempting to treat a terminal illness. But I also see that is significantly different from taking action to end a life. (I also support terminal sedation FWIW).

"We send people to war with the understanding that they are going to kill people. We also understand that they might get killed. Why do pro-lifers not argue vociferously in preserving their lives (all of them, both sides) as much as the lives of fetuses?"

Oh, did I forget to mention that I'm a pacifist? :)

Although I do not believe that I personally should raise a hand to harm another (and trust me, sometimes it's tempting) I understand that a military is required for self-defense. I just have a hard time justifying striking first as self-defense. So I was strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, but understood and agreed that as a nation we needed to remove al Quaeda from Afghanistan, and that meant taking out the Taliban who supported al Quaeda.

Also, keeping in mind my "human life is not more precious than other life" - it makes me ponder Vegan philosophies as well. My ending opinion on that topic was that humans are part of the same life cycle as everything else, and
it's unrealistic to get so caught up in the preciousness of life that we must cease to exist ourselves in order to not harm it.


(laugh) I also removed something from my original comment, and that is that I haven't eaten mammals for about 16 years. I'm not a vegetarian, because I eat seafood and will eat poultry if it's organic, but I gave up red meat when I in college because I am strongly opposed to how animals are treated in large farms and slaughterhouses. I purchase organic poultry, eggs and milk, and look also for the treatment of the animals as well as farming practices.

However, I have considered the fact that I would probably eat halal or kosher meat if it was organically raised, because both halal and kosher require humane slaughtering, and organic should require humane treatment while the animal is alive.

So maybe that clarifies my beliefs a bit more. I believe that all mammals should be treated humanely.

And FWIW, I also refuse to shop at Walmart (I desperately wish there were a Costco in this area) and will not go fast food restaurants unless they have a reputation for treating their employees well, and I also try to go to restaurants where good servers stick around for years, which is a sign of decent treatment.

So my belief for respecting life does attempt to cover the full spectrum. Do I succeed? No. But I believe that I have to try.