June 30, 2013

Rick Perry vs. Wendy Davis: Can We Bring Compassion to the Abortion Debate?

Despite what some would have us believe, women who have abortions aren’t evil.

On Thursday Governor Rick Perry made a follow-up statement to Tuesday’s filibuster by Texas Senator Wendy Davis. Davis stood on her feet and spoke for 11 hours, successfully stopping the vote on a controversial bill that would shut down all but five abortion clinics in Texas.

In his comments, Perry mentioned Davis’ own upbringing with a single mother and her teenage pregnancy and then questioned why she didn’t learn from her own life experiences that “every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.” Perry also said that “The ideal world is a world without abortion.”

Agreed. But it’s not an ideal world.

It’s a world in which:

>> the same people who want to stop abortion also want to stop access to birth control.

>> those same individuals don’t want to pay for the education or healthcare of the children who are born.

>> we don’t think twice about the lives of the men, women and children we take overseas every day.

>> we slaughter animals so we can have a moment of pleasure.

>> we refuse to regulate the very weapons that take the same so-called valuable life.

>> we proclaim the value of life, while simultaneously taking it. See: Rick Perry.

How is this a world in which “every life matters?” As a nation, we are a lot of things, but we aren’t pro-life.

Perry and individuals like him aren’t actually working to end abortion. Instead, they are just taking away a woman’s ability to choose her own best path.

Closing clinics and making abortion illegal isn’t going to stop abortion—we already know this. It will just take it underground and will force women to take other, unsafe actions toward terminating a pregnancy. Keeping abortion clinics open does not condone abortion nor does it promote it—it simply keeps it safe for those undergoing the procedure.

So what then can we do?

What if we arrived at this debate from a different place—one that isn’t black and white, pro-life and pro-choice—but one that reflects the vast complication that is the abortion issue?

When we realize that no one is pro-abortion, and that no one actually wants to make that kind of choice, much less go through with it, the entire argument disappears. And once that happens we realize we are all on the same side.

Living the mindful life and “waking up” means paying attention to and meeting what is. And “what is” is the fact that for a variety of reasons, some babies aren’t wanted. It’s overwhelmingly sad and awful.

But it’s the truth.

Pretending that we can change that fact does nothing to help us diminish it.

But forcing a woman to have an unwanted child doesn’t further our path toward an enlightened society either; motherhood is difficult enough when you want to have a child. What kind of world would it be if it were full of resented children and resentful mothers, or a world with more hungry and neglected children?

Despite what some would have us believe, women who have abortions aren’t evil. They are people who are faced with an impossible choice. It doesn’t matter how they got there or what anyone else believes they should do.

The point is they are there, and they have to make the choice and live with it—no matter which way it goes. Rick Perry doesn’t have to live with it, nor does anyone else.

As mindful individuals, we know that we each walk our own path, and that the magnitude and beauty of life is too vast and mysterious for us to comprehend. None of us actually knows, in the greater scheme of things, what it means to have an abortion.

Some believe it’s a one-way ticket to hell. Others think it’s a karmic debt. Others think it’s not really a big deal. But who can really say?

It’s personal and intimate and between only a woman and whomever she decides to share with. It’s not a debate that belongs in politics or something that can be decided by someone with no personal experience of it. It’s a choice that can only be made by those going through it.

If every life matters, as Perry says, then that includes the life of the mother. And only she can decide what is right for her. Perry can’t, you can’t, I can’t.

Once we acknowledge that everyone is on their own path, we can suspend judgement.

Whether we agree or disagree, these women, their partners, and the unborn are all worthy of and needing compassion. Their difficulties are our difficulties. Our connectedness ensures that.

No matter what we believe, we are supposed to love each other and support each other. It’s part of the path. We aren’t supposed to demonize an entire segment of the population for doing what they believe to be the right thing.

We are supposed to soften and listen.

When we do, we might remember that these are actual people—our neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members—facing a difficult choice. We might see that in all of our shouting and our convictions we aren’t living from a place where “every life matters.”

We are living in fear and hate, and in platitudes of right and wrong. If we worked as hard at working with our own stuff—being kinder, more open, more compassionate—as we do trying to fix what we think is wrong with everyone else, maybe we could create a world in which every life truly does matter.





Like elephant enlightened society on Facebook.


Ed: Bryonie Wise


You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Ingrid Aug 13, 2013 2:11am

I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.

The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following.

unwell unquestionably come more formerly again since exactly the

same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.

Emily Jul 2, 2013 1:18am

This article has a lot of good points, but there is one part that bothers me.

“The point is they are there, and they have to make the choice and live with it—no matter which way it goes. Rick Perry doesn’t have to live with it, nor does anyone else.”

I might be misreading your intentions here, but this is something that I hear often in the abortion debate and I just can’t agree with it. I am a woman, and of course I strongly support women’s rights… But the truth is that the woman making the choice isn’t the only one who has to live with it. I have known people who have become depressed over an abortion that wasn’t their own, and it is really sad. The father of the baby has to live with the termination of his child, and even if he really wanted to keep the baby he has no real legal choice in the matter. Also, other people who are friends or family of the mother/father of the unborn child have to live with the abortion. Many people do truly believe that an aborted baby is a life lost and they mourn for him or her.

I know that the woman is the one who has to carry the child and is the person who is most affected by the pregnancy, but she is definitely not the only one who has to live with her choice. I am a woman and I am glad to have the choice, but I would never be so selfish to think that my choice would only affect me.

I’m sure your statement was more about people like Rick Perry who do not even know the women that they want to deny abortions to, but this had been something that I have always thought about during the abortion debate so I felt that I needed to say it.

Overall though, great article and I completely agree with you that we need to look at these people with compassion.

Laura S. Jul 1, 2013 1:31pm

I agree with dejah – beautifully written! I especially agree with the assertion that we are not – as we so like to believe – a "pro-life" culture. We could probably be more aptly described a pro-control-of-life culture. I've thought a lot about the abortion issue over the years, mainly because it is so frequently in the spotlight – not because I have any personal experience with it. The conclusion I have come to is that I would not, if I followed my conscience, be able to have an abortion. But that's just me, and it's just a hypothetical situation. I've been around long enough to know that we humans aren't really very good at predicting what decisions we would make, or what actions we would take, in situations that we have never experienced. It is not my place to evaluate the "rightness" or "wrongness" of another woman's decision to either abort or not abort, and it is heartbreaking to me that so many women are judged, demonized, or – worse yet – denied freedom to make their own decision. That being said, I do have one disagreement with this article: I don't believe, as the article states, that "we are all on the same side," and just as women who choose to have abortions can't realistically be demonized, neither can those who are anti-abortion. Yes, it's true that many – maybe even most – who are vocally anti-abortion have as their underlying motivation a wish to control women's reproductivity and related behavior. But I do believe that there are also people who truly believe that abortion is murder, and that it is impossible to really say whether or not all of those people are in favor of the right-wing tendency to not want to care for those children once they are born. As the author states, it is a very complicated issue. If we truly want to come to the discussion with a compassionate attitude, that requires that we respect opposing beliefs and not make package-deal assumptions about the overall beliefs or motivations of the people with whom we disagree. Respecting opposing beliefs does not mean that we sit out the debate, or accept the status quo, or not name – in individual cases – what we see as an underlying motivation that is not consistent with the argument. It does mean, though, that we not dismiss out of hand the opposition's argument as inconsequential or misguided. In the end, we are much more likely to come to agreement if we first take the time to open to opposing views and find out from the person who holds them what desires or fears motivate their perspective. And that is an absolute necessity if we want holders of opposing views to do the same for us.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Stephanie Vessely

Stephanie Vessely lives in Denver, Colorado and is somewhere in the middle of a lifelong love affair with words. She feels a little out of place a lot of the time and thinks writing about herself in third person is awkward. She is regularly saved by yoga and is searching for Truth. These are a few places she’s found it: the swaying of tree branches, the ocean, the laughter of her niece and nephew and her own heart, when she can be still enough to hear it. She’s an aspiring vegan who loves travel, hates small talk and hopes to help save the animals. Someday, she’ll learn how to tap dance. In the meantime, she keeps scribbled secret notebooks
and knows everything is as it should be, even if she has a hard time remembering it. Follow her on
Facebook or visit her website.