Saturday, February 13, 2010
Echoes of a Past Life - Pro Choice Is Pro-Life
Abortion is the cultural wedge issue that does not die. Somehow it has even managed to become one of the issues so far derailing meaningful healthcare reform as conservative lawmakers seek to prevent women from having abortions on the government's tab. I feel very strongly that abortion is, indeed, a woman's right to choose. One of the most worthy charitable organizations is the heroic Planned Parenthood, and I recommend you join me in donating to their work.
Below is a piece I wrote in for Our Pagan Times, the newsletter of New Moon New York, an open Pagan circle, back in 1992. At the time I was editor of this group's newsletter, and as editor I was eager to make the newsletter more than just a networking tool but a forum for discussion. I don't remember exactly what provoked this particular article, but I believe I was surprised to find out that not all the Pagans I met were pro-choice. The piece concludes with citations from a number of sources respected by NeoPagans; all still quite interesting to me. Yes, that's my Pagan pseudonym. Sigh.
Pro-Choice Is Pro-Life
from Our Pagan Times, Vol. 2 No. 4, April 9992 (1992)
This year may be a crucial one for women's right to abortion. Abortion was legalized in the United States by the Supreme Court's 1973 decision Roe v Wade. Now, due largely to the mobilization of Christian fundamentalists, that decision is closer than ever to possible repeal.
How do we as Pagans approach this question? Is there a contradiction between supporting abortion and our recognition that all life is sacred to the Goddess? Is this a subject to be discussed as though we have something to apologize for?
It is my belief that Pagans must support abortion rights, and do what we can to defend and extend Roe v Wade. I believe this not only because the separation of Church and State that Roe v Wade promotes helps our own freedom of religious expression, and not only because it allows women -- and not the state -- to determine the affairs of their own bodies, but because we, as proponents of the sacredness of life, and recognizing the interconnectedness of all life, should accept the termination of pregnancy as a completely natural, moral and acceptable choice for a woman to make.
Certainly abortion is less than perfect. It can be a dangerous, often dehumanizing medical procedure. It is too often a substitute for education and a symptom of blatant irresponsibility. That abortion has become a major method of birth control says volumes about the sorry state of human consciousness about our own relationship to the future of our planet and species. But all that said, it is a method for maintaining life's balance.
Abortion and infanticide (which, despite having witnessed some truly terrible "terrible twos," I do not endorse!) are natural phenomena among other species. We must confront our own "animalness" to accept that, just like animals eating their own young when their food supply becomes incapable of sustaining their survival, we can turn to abortion when the prospects of nurturing a meaningful life for a child are poor.
Indeed we need not feel a contradiction in our "life-affirming" path and a defense of abortion rights.
To contribute to an understanding of this question I conclude with quotes from several important Pagan statements on abortion:
"In a world already bursting with too many bodies, forcing a woman to bear a child under adverse circumstances shows a violent disregard for the sanctity of life and disrespect for the Goddess, women and the environment. True 'right to life' concerns the quality of existence, before and after birth, as well as the health of the overall web of life, already stressed by human over population." (from the Church of All Worlds Encyclical on Reproductive Rights, reproduced in Green Egg 1991)
"But where does it say that every little soul that manages to land in a fertilized egg is entitled to occupancy? Abortion is the prerogative of the Dark Mother; she aborts us monthly; it is called menses. The shadow of motherhood is abortion, which is also our responsibility, making the choice of life and death as much a part of the Goddess as her life-giving good nature. The Fates take into consideration woman's choice when they decide how and when we come into this life. What good is it to be born if you never have an opportunity to thrive, only to suffer?" (from "The Grandmother of Time," by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest, 1989)
"[All religions have a sacrificial nature.] The priests of Christianity..have unvaryingly sacrificed the mother rather than the child.... Artemis, while inspiring respect for animal and vegetative life, permits the hunt, provided we respect the rules and rituals that justify the human in nourishing himself by the sacrifice of animal life. The same reasoning applies to a fetus in most religions pertaining to the Mother Goddess, because it seems self-evident that she who has the power of giving life should also have the power of giving death.... [Regarding an unwanted pregnancy] if one values the integrity of life, one must sacrifice the fetus already marked by the rejection and hostility of those who should receive it with love." (from "Pagan Meditations" by Ginette Paris, 1986)
"The opposite of life is not death, but to become a mechanism. Women forced against their wills or instincts to give birth like breeding machines in the name of 'the sacred fetus,' is a travesty of life... 'Sacred beings' do not pass through breeding machines.... If the mother is not a sacred, autonomous being, then the fetus is neither sacred nor autonomous. If the mother is a sacred, autonomous being, then she makes her own choices about what she brings, or does not bring, to birth. Sacred, holy life is not born from machinery.... We must extricate ourselves from the machinery, which is not truly either life or death, but the absence and the travesty of both." (from "The Great Mother" by Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, 1987)