A Pagan Mother's Take on Abortion

by Linda

I was six weeks pregnant when I observed blood spotting my underwear. Terrified, I called my midwife, who immediately arranged an ultrasound at the hospital. My husband met me, and off we went, both of us tight and pale with worry.

The good news is that everything was fine; in fact, she's at home, being tucked in for her nap as I write this. Yet, on that morning in early May of 2002, I was reminding myself to breathe in the face of the gnawing worry that I would lose the child who was conceived in so much love.

At six weeks' gestation, she wasn't much to look at. Roughly resembling a tadpole, the clearest indicator of her developing life was the fierce, hummingbird rhythm of her beating heart. She wasn't a baby, per se; not yet. Without reservation, I'm compelled to declare that I nevertheless fell in love; then, and every day since.

The bleeding, as it turns out, was merely from my cervix. A recent examination had irritated it. However, since the ultrasound tech spotted something that might be a cyst on the lining of my uterus, dangerously close to my child's developing umbilical cord, they scheduled another ultrasound for thirteen weeks' gestation.

At thirteen weeks, I saw a baby. Very tiny, to be sure, and utterly incapable of surviving outside my body, but she had defined limbs and appendages. I saw her skull. Her tiny face turned toward me. I saw her reacting to stimuli. I poked myself in the belly to see what would happen. She jumped and spun in her fluid-filled cave.

Seven weeks after that, halfway through the pregnancy, we saw that she was even better-developed, and were even able to discern gender. From that point forward, we ceased referring to her affectionately as "Tadpole", and instead used her name, which we'd picked out long before we ever conceived her.

This anecdote has a purpose. I mean to really pop the top on the proverbial can o'worms and discuss abortion.

Everyone has an opinion on the matter. What it comes down to, at the red-faced end of every debate, is the question not of when life begins, but whether or not a child in utero possesses a soul.

Really, that is the crux of the argument: when does life begin? Can an embryo feel pain? Is it sentient? All of those questions revolve around soul; the undefinable quality that's had scholars of philosophy and theology tied up in knots since mankind first discovered something called self-awareness.

Anyone can go out on the internet, walk into a bookstore, or take a stroll through a student union building, and see all kinds of arguments for and against abortion. So, let's pause for a moment while I make my position perfectly clear: I would never choose to have an abortion, yet I think that the choice should be available.

In other words, I'm pro-Choice. Dictionary.com defines the word "choice" thusly:

1. The act of choosing; selection.
2. The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.

3. One that is chosen.
4. A number or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of styles and colors.
5. The best or most preferable part.
6. Care in choosing.
7. An alternative.
(Em. mine--L.)

So, in other words, I am in favor of the individual's right to make the decision whether or not to bear a child. Since I embrace the notion that a person has the God-given liberty to make that very difficult decision, that means that the less government interferes with that agonizing quandary, the better.

Now, let me explain why I subscribe to the Right to choose.

First, there is my political philosophy, which is tied directly into my religious beliefs. Namely, I adhere to a libertarian philosophy, as defined (again) by Dictionary.com:

lib·er·tar·i·an n.
1. One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.
2. One who believes in free will.

Therefore, since I believe in minimizing the role of the state, and also because the exercise of free will is a notion that is sacred to me, I want the government to stay out of the personal lives of the people. Yes, that includes the current bullshit surrounding the proposed marriage Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, but that issue has already been tackled on this blog in Loren's most recent and excellent post.

Next, as a Pagan, I believe that all life has a vital essence; soul. I accept the argument that a soul is energy. Since energy cannot be destroyed, only transmuted, I believe that "soul" is indestructible. Since it is indestructible, it must be eternal, and if it is eternal, then the energy must be contained somewhere between transmutations.

Christians call this receptacle "Heaven". Pagans of my particular stripe call it "The Summerlands". Whatever moniker you prefer, it's generally agreed that it's a blissful place.

Therefore, in a theosophical nutshell, I believe that it is no hardship for a soul to wait in the lands of bliss until suitable parents can be found for its next body. Additionally, this thought also comforts me: if a woman is raped, or if bearing a child to term will seriously hurt, or even kill her, then it is the Grace of the Gods that allows her to choose not to carry the child in question. Let the soul wait a little; do not allow a child to come into the world if he or she will a.) potentially be repudiated thanks to the means of his/her conception, or b.) be deprived of someone who will rear him or her lovingly.

However, this is not permission to treat the idea of abortion lightly. Remember, I was there. I saw the miracle of developing life firsthand. Just this morning, she gave me Eskimo kisses and a tight hug, and then laughed up at me.

Whereas I believe that abortion is a personal decision, one to be left between the one/s making the choice, and their God, while also believing that the soul is eternal, and can find more fitting parents, I still believe that abortion is about ending a life. That decision should never be made lightly. Abortion should never be used routinely as a method of birth control.

I'm setting the thorny issues of rape, incest, and health considerations aside for a moment to address the promiscuous. If someone chooses to have sex, and they are neither mature or responsible enough to employ birth control, then they will very likely wind up with an unwanted pregnancy. This is not a good enough reason to choose abortion. (I can think of one exception. But that woman, who will eternally remain nameless, should just elect sterilization. I also think that the abusive, neglectful bitch needs to be gone over with a Louisville Slugger--and that for starters. But I won't go into any more detail.) The bottom line is that there are thousands of loving, capable couples out there who are unable to conceive for any number of reasons. Let stable, mature, responsible people rear the child you were too stupid and selfish to prevent. And next time use some type of prophylactic.

In the instance of rape, so-called "morning after" pills are routinely prescribed. If a woman chooses to take the medication, so much the better. If she does not, then she is opening herself up to the potential ramifications of that decision. She should think long and hard before refusing that pill. Yet, if she decides to do so, the ramifications -- the karma, if you will -- of that decison are hers alone to bear, up to and including abortion.

Incest is sticky, because it means that a male relative has violated the girl. Knowing that it is difficult for girls in this situation to get help -- let alone "morning after" pills -- if pregnancy results, she should be allowed to choose an abortion. She should be able to get one without parental consent. She should also be taken far away from the animal who raped her, and kept safe. But that's a rant for another day.

Facing a pregnancy that endangers the mother and/or child is a very different situation. Knowing people who have been there, it is an agonizing place to be. Ectopic pregnancy, severe toxemia, diabetes, kidney failure, severe and debilitating defects; all of these are situations that can see a pregnancy end, either through spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), or planned abortion. These women, as much as anyone else, have the right to sit down to think and pray. They should be allowed to take counsel with their mates, themselves, and their clergy, to make a decision that is ultimately between them and the Divine.

There may be those who will quibble with my stance, saying that no woman in such an emotionally extreme situation is in any place to make such an important decision. Frankly, that stripe of elitist knows nothing. Who else should make that decision? No, however distressed she may be, it is up to the woman and her partner (if he's around) to make the decision, and reap the consequences.

I know that the religious would also debate the point with me, saying the abortion is an abominaton in the eyes of God. Perhaps. But I don't think of God as a Being who creeps from house to house, peering in people's windows to see what they're doing. Nor are my Gods particularly vicious or vengeful. I believe in the ability of the Divine to look into a person's heart, and see the true motivations behind all their actions. Each case is judged individually, and damnation is applied only to those who are most deserving. I'm sorry that those people have forgotten that they have a loving God. I'm even sorrier that they nevertheless feel authorized to adjudicate the moral decisions of everyone else. Those people are well-intentioned fools.

Finally, there may be those who read this and crow that they found a conservative who wholeheartedly espouses abortion! No, my idiot child. Go back and read this screed again. I merely espouse a woman's right to choose whether or not she will have an abortion, and I do it with a heavy heart. But I am a Constitutional literalist: anything not already provided for therein is nothing that may be regulated by the government.

posted by Linda on February 26, 2004 08:40 PM

Well said, very well said, and sums up my stance precisely. :)

Posted by: Ethne at February 27, 2004 01:38 AM

While I disagree with your conclusion, your stance is very well thought out and expressed. Thanks for sharing it.

(is abortion the topic of the day in the blogosphere?)

Posted by: Greg at March 11, 2005 09:01 PM