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.





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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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