The Question of Abortion: it Brings out the Hypocrite in All of Us

Via Tom Grasso (Gyandeva)
on Aug 26, 2011
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Today I find myself basking in the afterglow of a huge explosion.

Recently, I found myself discussing the issue of abortion with a group of conservatives.  Needless to say I felt a bit banged up over the discussion, but such figurative bruising is necessary for me to understand how someone else feels and then, hopefully, why they feel the way they do.  I put up a good front when arguing specific points, but invariably I am simply trying to better understand the viewpoints of others as well as the source of their opinions.

In this specific case, however, the answers I received only led me to more questions that others simply were not prepared to, or could not, answer.  As is usually the case when you are discussing such volatile topics with ideologues, name calling and rhetorical threats ended the discussion when nothing else seemed to work.  Fortunately, this discussion was held on an internet forum where physical violence seemed impossible.

That is how explosive the subject is.  Yet, because I could not get the fundamental question answered I figured I would write about it here in the hopes that someone, somewhere could answer it.  I have my answer, which I will share later, but I am curious to see if sans ideas and conditioning we can all arrive at the same answer or if we are just too attached to both to let go.  First, however, some clarifications are in order.

I do believe that most people on both sides of the issue are very sincere people with good hearts.  I believe that they care deeply about their perspective and that the passion shown is a testament to that caring.  For those on the left side they care about women and their freedoms as well as children who are left without in our nation.  They see abortion as stemming the tide of suffering while exercising the rights of women to choose whether or not a fetus can feed off her body.  On the right, they see it as not only an issue of personal responsibility, but also an issue that defines how our society values life.  Both sides care, both sides are exhibiting some kind of compassion, and neither side is truly “wrong” except to the other.

While I may have greatly simplified the views and the opinions presented, I believe this description accurately depicts the majorities on both sides of the issue.

For me?  Well I am a self-described “pro-choice/pro-life” kind of guy.  While I have been called “wishy-washy” by people on both sides, I see a woman’s choice as hers to make while seeing life as valuable and something to be honored.  Personally, I could never have an abortion, not only because I am male, but because I simply could not make that choice.  Yet, I know some who have and they are people whom I value as both human beings and as good, loving people.  I could not simply condemn them for their choice because I can’t see it as defining them outside of it.

That said, I have found that the question of abortion brings out the ultimate hypocrite in each of us.  For most who are “pro choice”, it seems they have no issue condemning the loss of life in other death-creating actions like war, capital punishment, and crime while appearing to embrace the loss of life abortion creates.  Life has been relegated to a matter of convenience to some and a matter of wealth (or poverty) to others while seeming to be a matter of choice to all on this side of the isle.

On the right, I find the hypocrisy seems to run a bit more deeply.  While most on the right define their opinions as “pro-life”, the majority of them seem to be nothing of the sort.  They have no issue with innocent men, women (some of whom are pregnant) and children being slaughtered in some fear-based fantasy called “the war on terror” (not-so accidentally called “collateral damage”).  They also seem to have no issue with the State killing men and women it deems guilty of something worthy of the ultimate punishment.  Conservatives conveniently add conditions to life itself, which in my mind suggests that it isn’t truly life they value, but rather some idea of the value of life that they assign based on conditions.

Regardless of my opinion of those with opinions, I do have one fundamental question of people on either side.  It is one that I would like answered, but not with the typical immediate reaction I get with questions on this subject (like the one you may me having right now!).  Rather, the answer to this question should be contemplative and rather slow in coming.  When I first asked it of myself years ago it actually took me months to come up with an answer that truly changed my perspective.  It took time to have the reactions, understand them and their source, and then see if they truly represented my answer.

Warning: an image I am using below is a bit graphic, but necessary in order to properly ask the question.  Please do not look if injury offends you as it does me.

So here goes with the question I find gets to the heart of this issue once and for all.

What makes this life:

More or less valuable than this life:

or more or less valuable than this life?

I can only assume, and I hope you will all clarify this, that the value we truly have on life belongs to the ideas we have created around it.  I came to that understanding while pondering this very question for months until I arrived at an answer that made TOTAL sense to me.  It didn’t just have to make sense to my mind, or my soul, or my conditioning.  No, to me it had to make complete sense to my wholeness.  It could not sit wrongly with one while making sense to the others.  It had to be an unanimous decision, not a majority one.

The one I arrived at many years ago was such a unanimous answer.  There was no difference.  Each life held exactly the same value regardless of my ideas about it.  If I removed the ideas I had about the person I was looking at, their life held the exact same meaning as my own.

Now I won’t lie to you.  Getting my mind to agree was the hardest part of the meditation.  I had backed it into a corner where it could not truly justify its answers when presented with the power of Love, Compassion, and Being.  Each time it came up with an idea as to why a guilty man should be executed along came Love to say, “turn the other cheek”.  Each time it suggested that the “war on terror” was necessary to protect my own family, Being suggested, “blessed are the meek and the peacemakers”.  Once my mind silenced the ego that called out in fear the answer came to it quite easily.

So, is the “pro-life” movement truly “pro-LIFE”?  Or is it simply in pro-“ideas about life”?  When we make a choice to end a life unnaturally, whether in utero, in war or in an execution chamber, aren’t we making a statement that suggests we value the IDEAS we have about life more than the life itself?

Is that right?

I leave the answers up to the individual in the full knowledge that, without the ego’s reaction it is a very simple one to answer.  I also leave the answers up to the individual to choose what is the right answer for them in the full knowledge that the answer they arrive at now may not be the one they find later.  It’s an expression of liberty, it’s an expression of freedom, and it’s an assumption of responsibility.  A responsibility not just for you to use, but also for me to allow you the chance to use it.

It appears that in this society we have lost the process to obtain wisdom while become slaves to the conditioning and ideas of others.  We don’t exercise the inherent values that are a gift to each of us.  It’s why we suffer under the weight of ideologues and why we inspire fear in those who believe we are mad with insanity.  We look to political and religious leaders to fill the void left by our inability to sit still long enough to contemplate and formulate, giving them complete power over us.  We rely on the conditioning of our parents for ideas that we ourselves have the power to create.  We abdicate our responsibility to not only wake up to the experience, but allow it to set in long enough to understand its value and then act accordingly.  In doing so, we often try mightily to keep others from having the experience that they wish to have in order to not threaten our own sense of “self” and attachment to the ideas we did not formulate on our own.

I truly trust that we will find our way.  After all, a great man once said (as the story goes) that “the meek shall inherit the Earth.”  I believe him, and although I know it will take time I know that after the entirety of the human “contemplation” we will arrive at not only the right answer, but the unanimous one.



About Tom Grasso (Gyandeva)

Tom Grasso is a Colorado-based seeker, meditator, blogger (new site), and creative wordsmith. More importantly, he is a father of three (meaning he is also a lecturer, teacher, chef, order taker, taxi driver, coach, mentor and aspirin addict) and has found great joy in sharing his life experience to the benefit of others. Tom is an abuse survivor and a reformed (though unapologetic) bad ass warrior who bares the scars of his adventures and the power of transformation in every word he writes. As a former firefighter and rescue tech, Tom understands the fragility of life and the impermanence of each moment. You can follow Tom on Tumblr , and can find his books on Amazon. You will soon be able to purchase Tom's short stories (and erotica) at Don't forget to like his "blog page" at Tom Grasso, Writer on Facebook.  


30 Responses to “The Question of Abortion: it Brings out the Hypocrite in All of Us”

  1. Jen says:

    Very interesting. I am a liberal, pro life, anti war, pro animal rights activist. My thought process behind veganism, for example, is that the animals we use for food have no quality of life. I am pro choice because most women who have abortions do so out of compassion. If someone is not capable of caring for a child, it is probably better that the woman in question does not have a child because her child would not have a good quality of life.

  2. Krishnabrodhi says:

    I have asked these very same questions so many times…. and I applaud you for putting it out there in such a public, positive and brave way. Bravo!!!

  3. Personally, I'm religiously opposed to taking part in arguments about abortion.
    Nonetheless…a bigger contradiction on the right, it seems to me, is opposing birth control and services for the poor. When the pope travels around third world countries telling people not to use birth control, he is guaranteeing that there will be more abortions in those countries , and the same will be true if the American "pro-life" movement is successful in shutting down Planned Parenthood. Sainted conservative Ronald Reagan opposed abortion while calling poor women with children "welfare queens." Apparently, the sacred value of motherhood and human life dissolves away once the babies are actually born. Thus, these "pro-lifers" are actively working to create a world with more unwanted pregnancies, and fewer services for poor mothers, which, inevitably, will mean more abortions, whether those abortions are legal or not. How's that for "pro-life?"

  4. Deborah says:

    A brilliant article that would be a useful place to begin discussion or personal consideration on the value of a life.

    Responses also worth thorough reading…

  5. Katherine says:

    Death is a part of life. The issue in my mind is not about which life is more valuable, but in the constant argument over the evils of death. People are going to die one way or another. People are going to die at various stages in life ranging from the very young to the very old. Death is never acceptable and never comes at a "convenient" time to loved ones. The crux of the issue is that our view of death is radically malformed.

    I'm not engaging in an argument over who should die when, because I'm not the one responsible for keeping the planet in balance. However, I will tell you everyone must die at some point in their life. People need to stop trying to "control" others, and most of all need to stop trying to "control" the need for death. It's really messing up both society and the planet.

  6. Isabelle says:

    personally, i think it's about action, consequences and assuming responsibility

  7. Erin says:

    I think this was a brilliant article and completely agree all life is just as valuable, but my concern in regards to this issue is personal responsibility. In our day and age in the developed world, it is very easy and cheap to get birth control, many family planning clinics offer condoms for free and we are educated to the consequences of unprotected sex, and now there is also the morning after pill. I take offense to women who use abortion as a means of birth control in developed countries killing a fetus who already has a beating heart by week 5, when there are so many other options before the life is created then taken. Abortion is not a means of birth control.

  8. yogiclarebear says:

    What a wonderful article Tom. Really a heart opener. I felt as if I was floating in space looking down at the planet in a way, seeing all perspectives and then the Truth. I find it disappointing and kindof sad that some commenters are still jumping in with political us/them right/left liberal/conservative and labeling reactions.

  9. tomgrasso says:

    Don't be disappointed. If it is used as a jumping off point to greater perspective, wisdom and consciousness I am all for it! I will be responding to everyone when I get back, I have to run a 12 or 24 hour duty crew at the fire house in preparation for Irene. Look out for your neighbors if you can, and for pete's sake call 911 if you or anyone around you has a need!


  10. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I can't help but to think of the odds it took for each and every one of us to even be born. Thank you so much for sharing this Tom. Really beautifully written.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  11. Alyosha says:

    Your observations are inaccurate and proceed from the fundamental assumption that the abortion debate is about the value of life.

    Of course, a fetus is more than a piece of tissue or a "zygote" as one commentator above termed it. And, of course, Saddam Hussein is a human being. However, this is not the fundamental question.

    The fundamental question is whether we want the government involved in one of the most intimate, difficult and emotional decisions that a woman can make. It does not make the decision easier to leave the government out of it. And it does not mean that a woman will make the right decision. The answer to the question is not "they are all life", it is "it is not your decision."

  12. tomgrasso says:

    How can the question of "whether we want the government involved in one of the most intimate, difficult and emotional decisions that a woman can make" be THE fundamental question? See, if the value of life itself was not the core of the issue, then this would not be an intimate, nor difficult nor emotional decision. The value of life is what MAKES this decision so intimate, so difficult and so emotional Alyosha.

    Imagine if we applied that value to other decisions that effect lives of human beings. Would we find it so gratifying to hang Saddam Hussein? Would we find "shock and awe" something we FEEL when bombing other people rather than something we DO to them?

    And why isn't the killing of others in Iraq or Afghanistan an equally intimate, difficult and emotional decision?

    What makes those lives more precious or less valuable than the life of an unborn baby/fetus/zygote (or whatever you wish to call it)?

  13. tomgrasso says:

    Peace to you Linda. I wonder which "life" was valued in that decision. To me, it seemed to have little to do with "life" and more to do with appeasing the minds of some in our society.

    I wish your son, and you, well.

  14. tomgrasso says:

    Why not Erin? What is abortion a means of then?

  15. tomgrasso says:

    I could see your point Katherine. However, what is lost here is the"intentional" killing. True, we all die, but do we have a right to KILL?

  16. tomgrasso says:

    Jen, let's take what the motives of the women who have abortions are out of the equation for one moment and focus on the life (or potential for it) that is ended. Is the end of this life against your value system and do you make exceptions for it because of the IDEAS you have assigned to why women do it?

    What gives the death of an unborn baby an "exception" here where the death of an animal for food gets none?

    I am not challenging, just trying to learn where we get our notions of "right and wrong" on this issue and if those notions are contrary to our core value systems.

  17. linda buzogany says:

    Thank you Tom, for your kind words. Thanks for being a man who asks these big questions.

  18. […] Grasso at Elephant Journal wrote this piece about The Question of Abortion~It Brings Out the Hypocrite in All of Us Why I am including it in my list is because I was struck by the universality of his stance. You […]

  19. EU guest says:

    Is the life of the fetus – which could not live without its host, the mother – more important than the life of the Mother? Either psychologically or physically?

  20. Lori says:

    I had to respond to the stem cell issue on a final essay exam in a college English class of all places. Forced to come to a position with two articles expressing opposing points of view and three hours to complete the exam, needless to say, it was a kind of crucible effect. My final analysis: In general I think we are confused about what "Life Itself" really Is in contrast to the Biological Manifestations of Life…Itself, or Divine Consciousness Itself if you want to call It that. We refer to the biological manifestations of Life as if they were Life Itself, and personally, I do not think that is the case. Even more, in making that error we reduce Life to ONLY It's biological manifestations. Honestly, I think we delude ourselves believing we are destroying Life Itself when we "kill" someone or some animal (or take that even further, some plant).

    But Life Itself is not destroyed in any of these cases. It just changes form and state.

    Otherwise, A) Clearly humans are very curious and capable forms of Life that are also clearly prone to explore almost every way possible to manipulate the biological manifestations of Life, sometimes even thinking that they are "creating" It (when actually they are ONLY Manipulating Its manifestations. B) Given this incredible capacity we have to manipulate the biological manifestations of Life (and, actually Its other forms as well) I think it is high time we start being more conscious and careful in our choices. C) We especially need to become more consciously responsible for our reproductive behavior so that every child is not only a "wanted" child, but a Consciously Conceived child, and consciously parented child.

    If Conscious Conception were the "norm" of society rather than the rare exception, then the "abortion debate" would no longer be necessary or relevant.

  21. tomgrasso says:

    Lori, that is an interesting perspective. Absolutely interesting and fairly in line with my own. Yet, do you think it one that could be readily adopted given our attachment to the idea of what life is?

  22. tomgrasso says:

    Awesome reply, and thank you for it. Is there a place (online) where people with similar attitudes and ideas "meet"? If you have children, do you find it difficult to teach them non-violence and this "Conscious Conception" (which I would like to take beyond the sex act and employ in the very conception of ideas that create our condition) in light of this society's (assuming you are American) overwhelming adaptation of violence and mindless behavior?

    What process can be developed (if there isn't one already) where children can be exposed to violence and mindlessness AS A TEACHING TOOL during the psychological stage where societal conditioning is the most persuasive?

  23. Lori says:

    P.S. So I just did a search on "Conscious Conception" and there are a lot of others using that phrase and writing books on the subject. I'll stick to Adi Da's Wisdom-Teaching as my source at this point, but clearly, it is something that others have been considering and writing about.

  24. […] true with my attitude on abortion rights (I am pro-life but believe everyone has the right and should have the freedom to decide for […]

  25. […] is true with my attitude on abortion rights (I am pro-life but believe everyone has the right and should have the freedom to decide for […]

  26. […] Instead, we have blamed mothers or justified abortion outright. Whether the stress and pain in a mother’s life is found primarily in her personal relationships or in the relationships she witnesses in her society, abortion is justified in times of extreme unrest. Right now personal and societal circumstances of harm are at such extremes. Abortion is simply the only choice for many mothers who are at a loss thinking of how their children…. […]

  27. […] pro-choice in all aspects, however, that doesn’t mean I’m not pro-life. They are not mutually exclusive, except in the war between right and wrong. I respect everyone’s choice and individual opinions, even if I don’t agree with them nor they […]

  28. thank you SO much for this comment. ditto. it is like the marriage debate. no business but the business of the two considering marriage.

  29. nothing makes those lives more or less precious than the unborn. nothing. and i am in full agreement with Alyosha. abortion does not belong in politics any more than marriage does. these are personal, private decisions. the decision to potentially protect a community from someone who is dangerous to himself and others is communal business, involving the potential taking of many and using the energies of many to accomplish the task. some will say the only way is to kill this dangerous person, others will say killing this person perpetuates the fear he expresses. it's a different conversation, do you see?