On Rethinking the Problem of Abortion

January 13th, 2019

The pregnant vet
Said "she was pregnant."
Life only ends when life is ended

I have long felt a tension over whether to classify myself as “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” Certain spirits would have us decide between the two even if we are aware the dichotomy is false.

But when the above happened to me I felt released from trying to pick a side. The undeniable fact as I see it is that life does not end unless it is ended (as if by another force, though that force invariably is also life).

What we are talking about is ending life, and when that is acceptable. It is a distasteful subject, one that no one should ever have to discuss. But in reality we deal with this on a daily basis. Those of us who eat meat deal with it in a very visceral manner, but so do those of us who eat plants. We have caused by our will something to die. The further that life seems from us the easier it is to justify. I suppose that is why many of us construct an imaginary separation, a special place for humanity in our minds - so that we may consider ourselves necessarily different than all other life.

But that is not the case. Our clothes were once living, our furniture was once living, even the petrol in our cars and in our plastics was once living. In each case we have made the decision to use what was once living because we believe our own life demands that use. We have developed huge systems to divorce ourselves from that reality: farms, grocery stores, factories. Are we divorced from the killing which we inflict? Of course not. We are just less aware of it. We use terms like “fixing” and speak unconsciously of atrocities in passive terms like “she was pregnant.”

While we are on this earth it seems inescapable that we should live without also taking life. And to try and define when life begins is an exercise in futility. Life has begun; we know that much. It ends when it passes to a new form. To the extent that we cause that transition we should consider it deeply. Why are we taking life? For what reason? To what end? From what are we taking it? Who gives it to us? Most importantly; most practically; are we grateful for that life? Do we receive the life that we take in all its fullness?