Feminist, prolife and atheist.
"Why Do You Care?"
Many people think that opposition to abortion is a religious stance, and for many people this is true. For me it is not. I decided when I was thirteen that I was both an atheist ATHEIST. One who denies the existence of God.
2. As atheists have not any religion that can bind their consciences to speak the truth, they are excluded from being witnesses. Bull. N. P. 292; 1 Atk. 40; Gilb. Ev. 129; 1 Phil. Ev. 19. See also, Co. Litt. 6 b. and prolife. I became an atheist because I had no belief in a spiritual reality. I became prolife because my biology class taught a section about the development of the human embryo and fetus. I saw a human life as beginning at conception and stretching in one continuum until the death of that being. I saw that the inclusion of a child into society after birth (but not before) was nothing but a human convention.
When I attended college and studied anthropology, I saw this convention as part of a larger phenomenon: the practice of defining who is and who is not human. This practice is found in all cultures and though the choice of outcast out·cast
One that has been excluded from a society or system.
outcast is variable, it seems inevitable that someone who is biologically human will be excluded from the social definition of humanity. It is commonly known that those who are excluded are treated in ways that would be considered unthinkable otherwise. I suspect that this tendency is a perpetual weed in the garden of human society. I am not saying that this weed cannot be removed, but people who care will probably have to spend their Saturdays well into eternity walking out in their overalls to hoe hoe, usually a flat blade, variously shaped, set in a long wooden handle and used primarily for weeding and for loosening the soil. It was the first distinctly agricultural implement. The earliest hoes were forked sticks. if they want to keep it from choking out everything else in the garden.
It has been a constant surprise to me that other prolifers view me with distaste or distrust because of my atheism atheism (ā`thē-ĭz'əm), denial of the existence of God or gods and of any supernatural existence, to be distinguished from agnosticism, which holds that the existence cannot be proved. . I once attended a demonstration where my companion and I were watched suspiciously after we chose not to participate in a prayer session. "Why do you care?" both religious and non-religious people ask me. "Why should you feel that life is precious if you feel that life is meaningless and without divine purpose?" In all honesty, I can say that I have a completely rational explanation for this. I simply know that I am horrified hor·ri·fy
tr.v. hor·ri·fied, hor·ri·fy·ing, hor·ri·fies
1. To cause to feel horror. See Synonyms at dismay.
2. To cause unpleasant surprise to; shock. by violence and I fail to see the long-term efficacy of violent means.
Possibly, the root of my reaction against abortion is one of self-interest and of self-identification. Aren't there many in this world who see me as less than human because I am a woman? Aren't there people who would deem me to be politically, socially, or ideologically "degenerate" and "undesirable" because of my atheism, bisexuality bisexuality /bi·sex·u·al·i·ty/ (-sek?shoo-al´i-te)
1. sexual attraction to persons of both sexes; exhibition of both homosexual and heterosexual behavior.
2. true hermaphroditism.
3. androgyny (1). , desire not to be a mother, pacifism pacifism, advocacy of opposition to war through individual or collective action against militarism. Although complete, enduring peace is the goal of all pacifism, the methods of achieving it differ. , or other personal characteristics? How can I demand my inclusion in humanity and yet deny humanity to another? What kind of gamble would I be taking if I allowed a dehumanizing custom to persist in Verb 1. persist in - do something repeatedly and showing no intention to stop; "We continued our research into the cause of the illness"; "The landlord persists in asking us to move"
continue my society without questioning it? If I tolerate the redefinition of what is human according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. someone's desire for power and control, don't I make myself vulnerable to someone's determination that I am not worthy of the designation "human"?
This Is Not an Essay
This is not an essay, and my reasons for this are almost as important to me as are my reasons for being prolife. This is not an essay because I cannot present my thoughts in a linear fashion. They do not form that way. I fear adjusting them into the pattern of an argument because I do not want to warp my ideas into something they are not merely for the sake of being more coherent or compelling. I do not even wish to be compelling. That is, if I am compelling, I want to be so because someone else can connect directly with something I express, not because I have used rhetorical tricks. I wish to develop the genuine art of communication, which involves listening as much as it does speaking. Most essays are meant to travel in one direction solely: outwards. How can I hope to ever be an artist (or a pacifist, or a decent human being) if I do not fight the message inherent in the genre of persuasive writing Persuasive writing is used to convince the reader of the writer’s argument. This may involve persuading the reader to perform an action, or simply consist of an argument convincing the reader of the writer’s point of view. ?
I have always worked within a sales environment and so I have an intimate knowledge of all the techniques used to manipulate someone into doing something they would not do otherwise. Because these sales methods are highly successful, they are broadly applied throughout the world and for a variety of ends. I have seen salespeople hawking cars, insurance, lawn care, food, religion, politics, and morality in precisely the same way. Some of the practitioners even acknowledge this fact. Take as an example the salesperson who says, "I spoke the truth to her," or "I made him believe," in comparison to the proselytizer pros·e·ly·tize
v. pros·e·ly·tized, pros·e·ly·tiz·ing, pros·e·ly·tiz·es
1. To induce someone to convert to one's own religious faith.
2. who approaches converts in the same manner that he or she once approached potential customers.
While I admit that these methods are practical and successful, I still think that there is something intrinsically immoral about pressuring someone into denying his or her own view of the world in favor of your own. Furthermore, I believe that the treatment of ideas as merchandise does irreparable ir·rep·a·ra·ble
Impossible to repair, rectify, or amend: irreparable harm; irreparable damages.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin damage to the ideas themselves. In order to sell, one must package. Successful marketing means simplification because complex thought is difficult to relate. All inconsistencies must be eliminated even if it means losing the original spirit of one's ethical impulse. Complexity opens oneself up to question, to debate, to internal contradictions. A salesperson cannot tolerate this kind of vulnerability because it causes inefficiency in the transmission of ideas.
This is not an essay, because I think the genre of rhetoric has done much to unnecessarily polarize po·lar·ize
v. po·lar·ized, po·lar·iz·ing, po·lar·iz·es
1. To induce polarization in; impart polarity to.
2. To cause to concentrate about two conflicting or contrasting positions. the debate over abortion. Rhetoric seeks to deny the importance or even the reality of another's perspective. Rhetoric is a dehumanizing tool used to gain power. It is hard to set rhetoric aside because abortion is at the crux of many emotionally charged issues. People want the upper hand in advocating their point of view because this is a topic that deals with large themes: life and death, freedom and pain, and society's uncertainty about what rights to accord the weak and unprotected. But for all its usefulness, rhetoric sets those who differ in opinion into irreconcilable opposition. In the process, we lose too much that is vital.
When I was younger I sought to construct ironclad ironclad, mid-19th-century wooden warship protected from gunfire by iron armor. The success of the ironclad when first employed by the French in the Crimean War sparked a naval armor and armaments race between France and Great Britain. arguments by which I could change minds. This led to arguments, which caused a great deal of anger and frustration. I once had a violent argument over dinner with a friend of mine who was a vegetarian, which I was not at the time. How could she champion the rights of animals rights of animals
see animal rights. and yet claim to be proabortion? She countered by asking how I could champion the rights of humans and yet deny those of animals (a question that stuck with me for years until I saw the sense in it and gave up meat myself). The argument escalated childishly into a shouting match shouting match n (col) → discusión f a voz en grito
shouting match n (inf) → engueulade f, empoignade f and I ended up walking away after delivering some petty parting shot parting shot
An act of aggression or retaliation, such as a retort or threat, that is made upon one's departure or at the end of a heated discussion. which made us both burst into tears. Fortunately, my friend followed me outside and screamed at me to stop. I suddenly thought to myself, "Am I really going to ruin a good friendship because of some idea?" This was the first time in my life that I really believed in the superiority of human relationship over abstract principle. Did I have to stop loving her just because she wouldn't agree with me? This seems terribly obvious now, but to me then it was a forceful revelation.
Since senseless fights were not the effect I wished to have, I decided to let the matter rest for awhile until I could discuss the subject without creating conflict. Years later, I learned how to explain my thoughts on abortion to my friends. I invited their opinions in comparison. We explored points of agreement and difference. Once I was able to talk in this easy manner, I found that my ideas were free to evolve. I was getting somewhere. And so were my friends. Instead of trading ideological products, we were constructing areas of agreement within which we could work on our differences.
I had a friend who was for many years proabortion. I was able to talk about the issue calmly with her. I never expected her to agree with me and she never expected me to agree with her. However, we were friends and so why shouldn't we discuss such an important and relevant issue? One summer, a robin nested in a hanging basket on her balcony. She was constantly worried about her "babies." Would they hatch out all right, would the apartment cats get them, would they fall prematurely out of the basket? While voicing her concerns to her boyfriend, he imagined the horrified robin parents during a windstorm wind·storm
A storm with high winds or violent gusts but little or no rain.
A storm with high winds or violent gusts but little or no rain. forecast for that evening losing egg after egg to the concrete balcony. "Splat! Tweet! Splat! Tweet!" he joked. "That's not funny," she retorted. "Why not?" he asked mildly, "They're just eggs." "No," my friend replied, "They're babies. Oh!" My friend told me the next day that that "Oh!" signified her sudden realization that she no longer agreed with abortion. Abortion too involved babies.
Did my friend go out and become a prolife advocate in her community? Did she try to spread her convictions to everyone that she knew? No. She did nothing of the sort. But I don't think that she would ever have an abortion either, and that to me is the fact of real importance. It also showed me how a determination not to promote an idea allowed it to prosper, where the opposite behavior would only have caused it to wither away.
Theory That Becomes Grotesque
I think that it is important to admit that those who serve their theories too well or too closely can commit grotesque acts. After I informed my husband that I would be hesitant to hasten his death should he ever have a terminal illness, he related to me this chilling fantasy: he is involved in an accident that leaves him paralyzed par·a·lyze
tr.v. par·a·lyzed, par·a·lyz·ing, par·a·lyz·es
1. To affect with paralysis; cause to be paralytic.
2. To make unable to move or act: paralyzed by fear. and on a respirator respirator /res·pi·ra·tor/ (res´pi-ra?ter) ventilator (2).
cuirass respirator see under ventilator. . His existence of pain, misery, and bouts with insanity are only punctuated by my visits to the hospital bed where I intone in·tone
v. in·toned, in·ton·ing, in·tones
1. To recite in a singing tone.
2. To utter in a monotone.
1. happily, "Life is good, sweetheart! Life is good!" I cannot deny the horror of this scene and yet I also cannot deny the horror I experience at the thought of being asked to end the life of a loved one.
This reveals a fault that runs through my life ethic, a crack into which some situations fall. I could insist upon the basic validity of my theory and ignore the grotesquerie gro·tes·que·ry also gro·tes·que·rie
n. pl. gro·tes·que·ries
1. The state of being grotesque; grotesqueness.
2. Something grotesque.
Noun 1. , but I am afraid that inattention in·at·ten·tion
Lack of attention, notice, or regard.
Noun 1. inattention - lack of attention
basic cognitive process - cognitive processes involved in obtaining and storing knowledge will only exacerbate any twistedness, not diminish it. So I must learn to reconcile myself to these faults, exploring them to see if they can lead me to a deeper understanding of my ethics. And I must admit them.
Experiences That Are Ignored Because They Ruin a Good Argument
I have known many women who have had crisis pregnancies. Some of them have chosen to carry their children to term and others have chosen to abort (1) To exit a function or application without saving any data that has been changed.
(2) To stop a transmission.
(programming) abort - To terminate a program or process abnormally and usually suddenly, with or without diagnostic information. . What I have observed is that on one side of the abortion debate The abortion debate refers to discussion and controversy surrounding the moral and legal status of abortion. The two main groups involved in the abortion debate are the pro-choice movement, which generally supports access to abortion and regards it as morally permissible, and the or another, the suffering these women have endured has been denied or ignored because it threatens the coherence of a good argument.
Melissa (a pseudonym pseudonym (s`dənĭm) [Gr.,=false name], name assumed, particularly by writers, to conceal identity. A writer's pseudonym is also referred to as a nom de plume (pen name). , like the names of all the women whose stories follow) thought that she was incapable of having an abortion and then found herself pregnant. At the time, she was involved with an abusive man and had no money. She regrets that she did not conform to Verb 1. conform to - satisfy a condition or restriction; "Does this paper meet the requirements for the degree?"
coordinate - be co-ordinated; "These activities coordinate well" her ideas of right and wrong, but she is glad that she escaped the situation in which she found herself.
Stacy was a longtime advocate of abortion when she became pregnant. She too was involved with an abusive man and had no money. Though she found herself horrified at the thought of aborting her child, she did so because she felt that she had no choice under the circumstances. Driven by feelings of guilt and self-hatred, she then entered into an even greater cycle of self-abuse and pain.
Linda stood up to her family when she was young and carried to term a baby conceived through an incestuous in·ces·tu·ous
1. Of, involving, or suggestive of incest.
2. Having committed incest. relationship. She now lives in daily pain, honoring the birthdays of a son she has not seen since the day he was born. Seven years later, she once again found herself pregnant. This time she chose to abort because she did not want to relive re·live
v. re·lived, re·liv·ing, re·lives
To undergo or experience again, especially in the imagination.
To live again. the trauma of giving up her child for adoption. She also lacked the ally of her mother, by then dead, who had supported her through the stigma of her first pregnancy. Now, when asked how many children she has, Linda replies, "Two. The first was adopted, and the second died violently."
How many prolifers would want to admit that Melissa's life is conceivably better now because of the choice she made four years ago? How many prolifers would calculate Linda's feelings of loss when they advocate that young women give their children up for adoption? At the same time, how many prochoicers would be willing to concede the reality of Linda's or Stacy's grief or their feelings of helplessness at the time of their crises? Stacy did not experience the abortion as a choice, but as the only option made to her by her lover, by her job, and by her financial situation.
Let me give another example. I once worked in a large office with a single woman who became pregnant and who decided to place her child for adoption. Because she was pregnant unintentionally and out of wedlock wed·lock
The state of being married; matrimony.
out of wedlock
Of parents not legally married to each other: born out of wedlock. , she became an object of scornful humor humor, according to ancient theory, any of four bodily fluids that determined man's health and temperament. Hippocrates postulated that an imbalance among the humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) resulted in pain and disease, and that good health was and office gossip Office Gossip is a short-lived British sitcom starring Pauline Quirke that lasted only one series in 2001. It was written by Paul Mayhew-Archer, who co-wrote The Vicar of Dibley, and George Pritchett. . This kind of public upset is death to one's career in corporate America. By choosing life for her child this woman offended management and her co-workers and thereby limited her potential for economic growth. This was no small consequence because she already had a child to support. I commend her for her courage and her commitment to her ideals, but I will admit that she paid a high price for her integrity.
I learned so much from these women. They have shown me much through their strength and their integrity. And once I was able to accept the complexity of their experiences, they taught me how ideological and intensely heated the abortion debate has become--to the point that women who need help are forgotten by many. Too many.
In the spring of 1998, I saw a PBS PBS
in full Public Broadcasting Service
Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural, "Frontline" documentary about women who had abortions in the years before Roe v. Wade Roe v. Wade, case decided in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Along with Doe v. Bolton, this decision legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. . The stories of these women argued eloquently and in no uncertain terms that their abortions were godsends. Why? Because they were young and feared retaliation RETALIATION. The act by which a nation or individual treats another in the same manner that the latter has treated them. For example, if a nation should lay a very heavy tariff on American goods, the United States would be justified in return in laying heavy duties on the manufactures and from their family or small communities; because they did not want to be thrown out of school; because they could not bear the pain of giving another child up for adoption; because they wanted to conceal the fact that they had been sexually abused or raped; because they would have lost their jobs; because they were poor.
Who can deny the reality of their desperation? The women were willing to risk future infertility, death, pain, and criminal prosecution in order to terminate their pregnancies. This is not to say that abortion held no terror for them. It is just that the terror inspired by their other options was greater. I can say that this is true of every woman I have known who chose abortion for herself. One should wonder, then, not about how to talk women out of having abortions, but how to participate in society in such a way that no one would feel that abortion is the least of several evils.
With our society the way it is, with its worship of materialism and its cult of dehumanization de·hu·man·ize
tr.v. de·hu·man·ized, de·hu·man·iz·ing, de·hu·man·iz·es
1. To deprive of human qualities such as individuality, compassion, or civility: and violence, how can anyone deny the need for the abortion clinic An abortion clinic is a medical facility that performs or specializes in abortions. Such clinics may be public medical centers or private medical practices.
Planned Parenthood, whose clinics offer abortions as well as other reproductive care and counseling, is the largest ? It is there for a reason and will remain there, legal or not, so long as we create or tolerate those conditions which send women running to them as if they were shelters. I say that to work for the illegalization of abortion is to waste energy that should be spent correcting the situations that give rise to the need for abortions. I also say that to defend abortion is to defend those who oppress op·press
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority: a people who were oppressed by tyranny.
2. women: the rapist, the abuser, the corporations, and the welfare plan that "discourages" births. I think that the best way to reduce the call for abortion is to concentrate on its causes.
The way that politicians pronounce their positions on abortion typifies how alien this approach is to the mainstream of our society. Politicians will voice whether they are for or against abortion as a principle, but they are unwilling to address the much more complicated and sensitive subject of how to remove the need for abortions in the first place.
Converting Abortion Clinics To Peacetime Use
One complaint rightly aimed at prolifers who picket "abortion clinics" is that many of the women who get harassed for attending these clinics are actually seeking reproductive services other than abortions. Listen to this complaint! Help these women and girls who want contraceptives and reproductive counseling so that they won't have to solicit the more notorious of the clinic's services. For simple economic reasons, privately owned clinics respond to the needs and demands of their clientele. What if our society no longer asked for abortions? What if, instead, we ensured that our children had a sexual education which enabled them to make intelligent and informed decisions about their reproductive health Within the framework of WHO's definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health, or sexual health/hygiene ? What if women earned as much as men in the workplace? What if young girls were raised in such a way that they were emotionally strong enough to withstand the social pressures to have sex with boys who have no interest in the consequences of their sexual activity? What if young boys were raised in such a way t hat they took an interest in the consequences of their sexual activity? What if we removed or mitigated those conditions that cause women to "choose" abortion: ignorance about sexual matters, poverty, rape, sexual abuse, businesses that deem women less valuable as workers because they can become pregnant, discrimination against the handicapped (how many have died because they were deemed "unfit"?), and social attitudes that ridicule or demean de·mean 1
tr.v. de·meaned, de·mean·ing, de·means
To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner: demeaned themselves well in class. women who carry unplanned pregnancies to term?
What if the term "prochoice" came to signify a belief--not always or necessarily a religious belief--that women should be able to choose ... life?
KATHRYN REED has a degree in anthropology but has never let that stop her from doing anything. Although she works in "the tiresome business world," she is a writer and visual artist in training who says she "one day hopes to produce a decent painting." No one owns her, with the possible exception of her dog and two cats.