Abortion

Abortion

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Abortion is a subject of heated debate; proponents demand, "Pro-choice!" while critics shout, "Pro-life!" But without being "pro-understanding"—of the self, the body, and the science of consciousness—how can we be properly equipped to make choices on such life and death matters?

Krishna begins His teachings in the Bhagavad-gita by explaining the difference between the self and the material body; the body has life as long as the spirit self is inside. As soon as the soul leaves, the body loses all symptoms of consciousness.

The embryo develops in the womb according to the same principle; it develops to maturity and exhibits consciousness because of the presence of a spiritual spark. Without the soul, the body would have no life at all. The idea that we have consciousness only at a certain stage of physical maturity is not accepted anywhere in Vedic literature. Consciousness may not be fully exhibited in early stages of pregnancy, but the ancient teachings fully describe not only the physical stages of the embryo's development but also the mental life of an unborn child.

Taking the life of an unborn child is considered the same as taking any life, and there are grave karmic repercussions. Abortion may nowadays be considered an acceptable way to avoid the responsibility of childbirth and child-raising, but this is a tragic symptom of the widespread lack of spiritual understanding in the world.

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The soul is eternal—it can never be killed (Bhagavad-gita 2.17). At the same time, the Vedas also tell us, "Don't commit violence to anyone." Every living being—plant, animal, and human—comes from the supreme living being, Krishna, and has a right to live.

The language used to define abortion is remarkably different from that used to describe similar actions. For example, one common definition of abortion is "the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy." However, the deliberate termination of the life of a human being—homicide—is defined as "the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another." Infanticide—the deliberate termination of a human baby's life—is "the crime of a mother killing her child within a year of birth."

In both those cases, the word "killing" is used (italics added), but in the case of abortion the word "termination" is used. The underlying assumption seems to be that the unborn aren't really "alive"; their inexplicable growth and development have nothing at all to do with the presence of consciousness, so "terminating" them doesn't involve "killing"—any more than removing a tumor does.

Curiously, abortion is also defined as "the expulsion of a nonviable fetus" in the same dictionary that defines "nonviable" as "not capable of living, growing, or developing and functioning successfully"; yet all evidence indicates that fetuses have always lived, grown, developed and functioned quite successfully within the womb.

SOURCE NOTES:

We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Bhagavad-gita, 2.13:

    "As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.31.1:

    "The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body."

  • Science of Self Realization, 7:

    "Our bodies are created at a certain moment by sexual intercourse. The semen of the father emulsifies and takes a pea form, and the living entity, or soul, takes shelter in that form, and because it takes shelter, it develops hands, legs, eyes, etc. This development is complete in the seventh month, and in the ninth month the human being comes out of the womb. It is because the soul is present that the child develops. If the soul is not present, there is no development, and the child is born dead. We can take this dead body and preserve it in chemicals, but it will not develop."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 5.17.12, purport:

    " In this sinful age of Kali, people have even taken to the process of killing the child in the womb. This is the most degraded practice; it can only perpetuate the miserable material conditions of those who perform it."

  • Teachings of Lord Kapiladeva, 17:

    "People are thinking that they can relieve suffering through abortion, by killing the child within the womb. In this way they are committing one sin after another and becoming more and more entangled. Consequently the aborted living entity will have to enter into the womb of another mother in order to undergo the birth that he is destined to take. Then, when he enters the womb of another mother, he may again be killed, and for many years he may not be allowed to see the light of the sun."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.16.14, purport:

    "The practice of killing children has existed in human society for a long time—since time immemorial—but in the days of yore it was very rarely performed. At the present moment, however, in this age of Kali, abortion—killing of the child within the womb—has become very common, and sometimes a child is even killed after birth. If a woman performs such an abominable act, she gradually loses all her bodily luster . . . Any woman who has ever performed such an infamously sinful act must atone for it, but no one now is doing that. Under the circumstances, the women responsible must suffer in this life and the next. Those who are sincere souls, after hearing this incident, should refrain from such child-killing and should atone for their sinful activities by taking to Krishna consciousness very seriously. If one chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra without offenses, all of one's sinful actions are surely atoned for immediately, but one should not commit such deeds again, for that is an offense."

ARTICLES:

Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness

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In Politics and the English Language, an essay published in 1946, George Orwell showed how political writing and speech, which, he said, are “largely the defense of the indefensible,” corrupt language through wordiness, hackneyed expressions, vagueness, ambiguity, and euphemisms. The intent of the writer or speaker, Orwell said, is to conceal what he is actually saying—even from himself. For example: “Defense-less villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

Orwell’s essay has become famous, but that did not inhibit American officials from using these very euphemisms during the Vietnam War.

More recently, the American public was given a dramatization of Orwell’s lesson in the widely-viewed television show Holocaust. A leading character in the story was one Eric Dorf, a bright young lawyer who rose to prominence in the S.S. chiefly because of his talent for manufacturing euphemisms. Dorf named the ghettos in which Jews were confined “Autonomous Jewish Territories”; the removal of Jews to death camps he called “resettlement” and “relocation”; the murder of Jews en masse he named “special handling.” Thus Dorf provided the S.S. a way to talk about their activities without making themselves and their listeners unduly conscious of what they were actually doing.

“Political language,” wrote Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.” But neither Orwell’s essay nor the popularization of his lesson in Holocaust seems to have deterred people from using political language. It continues to fulfill a great need. One particular contemporary American instance is very revealing.

The political issue here is abortion. But abortion is an ugly and brutal word because what it names is ugly and brutal. A billboard advertising ABORTION in yard-high letters would shock our sensibilities. But we are not made needlessly conscious of the service offered when we read PREGNANCY TERMINATION. Here is political language at its finest. A clumsy cluster of polysyllables is substituted for a short, direct word. The new expression slyly sidesteps the fact that a life is ended by suggesting only that a pregnancy is. The phrase, to use Orwell’s words, “falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and coveringup all the details.”

Moreover, when the mother comes to have her pregnancy terminated—that is, her fetus aborted—she never hears that anything so crude and offensive as the killing of a child will take place. Rather, she hears that the tissue will be removed, an expression that puts the operation comfortably on the level of the cutting out of an ingrown toenail or the lifting off of a wart.

Obviously some anonymous Eric Dorf has been diligently at work, doing a necessary service.

The very fact that proabortionists take refuge in political language is itself a strong argument against their case. There would be no need for euphemism if there were nothing to hide. The transparency of the deception only shows how desperate people are to become unconscious of their acts. Although at heart they recognize the self-deception, they carry on the ruse, for the clarity of consciousness would be unbearable.

Orwell saw that when language is corrupted, thought is corrupted, consciousness is corrupted—people are corrupted. To improve language is to improve human beings. Yet the appearance of political language among abortion advocates especially shows how difficult the problem is. For most proabortionists are liberals and, as such, claim to be sensitive to the kind of language needed for the totalitarian bureaucratization of evil. They, above all, listened to Orwell. Yet they are sadly susceptible to the same corruption. Pregnancy termination and removal of the tissue must be added to pacification, elimination of unreliable elements, and special handling as part of the particular contribution of our time to the corruption of human life.

I suspect, however, that an advocate of abortion would charge that my case is question-begging and assert that I must deal with tissues more substantive than language. Pregnancy termination and removal of the tissue, the proabortionist might say, are somewhat euphemistic, but they are more than that. The mother seeking an abortion has made a difficult choice, and much of her difficulty is due to her conditioning by a specious outlook that regards the fetus as a person and its destruction as homicide. This view is based on the unscientific idea that the fetus is a person by virtue of a “soul.” Calling the fetus “tissue” only emphasizes that tissue is all the fetus, in fact, is, and tissue is all that is destroyed. My argument presupposes that the fetus is a person, but that assumption is precisely what is in question.

Here, then, abortion is justified by a view of the world that (appealing to the authority of science) sees everything in existence, human beings included, as arising out of ultimately accidental combinations of blind and lifeless matter. Everyone is familiar with this position. As a justification for abortion, however, it has problems. According to this view, a fertilized ovum becomes a human being through a gradually increasing complexity in organic structure. Yet the point in this process at which the entity is complex enough to be called “human” is acknowledged to be arbitrary. Any number of different criteria can be picked for any number of reasons. Granting the principle that reduces human beings to complexities of matter, a strong case has been made that a child becomes human only well after birth—for example, when it has developed the neural connections associated with language. The point is that we decide, arbitrarily, whether or not we want to recognize some being as human. After all, the same reductionistic philosophy that decrees a fetus to be tissue also decrees you and I to be tissue. We are, all of us, nothing but tissue. But because we have chosen to kill the unborn child, we now make a point of calling it “tissue.” If we chose to kill others, we could classify them as “tissue” well. Are the mentally retarded “tissue?" Are the old and infirm “tissue”? Of course they are, and if we decide that it is too expensive and bothersome to take care them (or, in political language, that it involves “too high a social cost”), we will start calling them “tissue” and beg “terminating” them.

We are back to language. It makes easier for us to kill people if we don’t think of them as such. By word magic, we make them less than human: “scum,” “gooks “pigs,” and, in this case, “tissue.” That we have a philosophical justification for this procedure only makes it worse. Certain Eric Dorf’s language was based on the philosophy that Jews were not human and killing them not murder—but only “special handling,” like disposing of unwanted warehouse stock.

The linguistic issue and the substantial issue really come to the same point: depersonalization. Historically, depersonalization began with nature. Before nature could be conquered and exploited, it had to be depersonalized. As long as nature was thought to be controlled by person forces, one had to placate and satisfy the through propitiation and sacrifice. The powers were stronger than men and easily offended; one had to be careful and subservient; at best, control was indirect and precarious. But the mechanistic view the world as nothing but structures of dead matter shoved about by unvarying impersonal forces made possible a technology for the direct human domination and control over nature.

This depersonalization, however, has already begun with Christianity, which banished the pagan gods and the myriad local spirits of woods and streams and mountains. Christianity recognized a single transcendent Deity entirely separate from His creation. Thus nature lost both its personal and its sacred character. In fact, with Christianity, the nonhuman part of creation became something of an anomaly; it had no significance in itself but was merely the backdrop for the central human drama of redemption. Humans alone had immortal souls, and all the excess of furious and intricate life that otherwise fills the world was an unintelligible addendum, meaningful only when it serve some human end. The world, thus depersonalized and desacralized, could now be regarded entirely as a thing, as a object for detached study and the mechanical manipulations of an impersonal, science.

There was some success in this endeavour, and naturally the question arose, Why should humanity itself be unique, categorically different from the rest of creation? If laws are universal and nature a unity, why shouldn’t human beings be subject to the same categories of explanation that cover everything else? And as for God—God was already seen as essentially disconnected from the creation, so transcendent that we can properly form no positive idea of Him at all, and the vision of the world as a field of impersonal forces operating according to unchangeable laws made Him even more remote and finally irrelevant. God went into eclipse, and humanity was no longer unique.

That human life itself is now becoming more and more impersonal and mechanistic is simply-the latest stage in this historical development. We depersonalized nature; we depersonalized God; now we are busy depersonalizing ourselves. The domination of the mechanistic and reductionistic view of the world in our culture insures that the process will continue. Although people continually complain about being treated as things, these same people fully accept a view of the world that makes them into things. This is why the nightmare vision of society turned into a numbered robotized collective enslaved to mindless routines by an inscrutable bureaucracy or a remote, omnipotent leader haunts us with such persistent force.It is genuinely prophetic, for the future is already in us. We have accepted all the conditions for it, and now we fearfully await the manifestation.

The establishment of abortion brings the nightmare closer to reality. We may fear the growing depersonalization of life, but to justify the killing of an unborn child because it is nothing but tissue is to advance that depersonalization one terrifying step further.

Depersonalization means the deadening of life, the transformation of what is vital into something inert and mechanical. It signifies a loss of consciousness. This is important to realize, because it brings to light the fact that no one can depersonalize others without at the same time depersonalizing himself. The people who make an unborn child less than human thereby make themselves less than human, and they unwittingly reveal this by adopting language that is designed to foster unconsciousness. Orwell himself particularly observed that a speaker of political language is more like a “dummy” than a live human being: he “has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine” and entered into “a reduced state of consciousness.” Reduction of consciousness precisely defines the regression of the human race.

A progressive human life is a continuing struggle against unconsciousness. Unconsciousness characterizes the dead, the inert to be fully alive is to be fully conscious. The enhancement of consciousness is the triumph of life over death, of spirit over matter. Depersonalization, unconsciousness, threatens everything of value human life can achieve. Yet we have for some time already been reduced in consciousness. The depersonalization of God and of nature were significant steps toward our own depersonalization; seeing God and nature as insentient is a function of our own reduced sentience.

Before we can do anything about depersonalization, we have to understand its cause. Depersonalization is necessary for us to dominate and enjoy others. When I, a conscious subject, recognize another as a conscious subject like myself, the kinds of relationships we have are what we call personal, based on a mutual respect for each other’s subjectivity. If, however, I set out to dominate another in order to use that person as an instrument for my own enjoyment, then I change him or her into an object, a mere means. The person becomes merely a tool to be manipulated and controlled. I do not consider that the other has significance for himself, and thus I lose the consciousness of the other as a person. For example, a factory owner interested only in profit will not really consider his employees humans as such; they are merely tools of labor, factors in an economic equation, usable commodities. In a similar way, women are exploited by men when men regard them only as objects for enjoyment, mere instruments. The exploiter of workers or of women depersonalizes them, but in the process he has depersonalized himself, for he has become unconscious. Thus incapacitated, he is unable to experience personal relations and has emptied his own life of significance.

Thus, the drive to satisfy human appetites causes depersonalization and unconsciousness. All human relations in which this drive is a factor are to that extent corrupted, and the would-be enjoyer, his consciousness diminished, becomes deprived of the only real source of happiness: genuinely personal relations, which alone enhance consciousness and life itself.

For this reason, we must accept the hard but unavoidable conclusion that depersonalization and unconsciousness can be eliminated only by eliminating the desire to enjoy others. Since this desire is so deeply rooted, its eradication would seem to require a very fundamental kind of human reformation. This may seem radical but it should not be surprising. We have seen how the steady encroachment of depersonalization and unconsciousness into our lives—exemplified in our acceptance of abortion—is a function of a long- established, fundamental view of the world. Constitutional amendments, legislation, and similar superficial measures are not going to change that. Rather, the impersonal, mechanistic view of the world must be abandoned. But that will happen only if we can become free from the desire to make others instruments to our own enjoyment.

The only vision of the world I know of that is fully personal, that sees both God and all fellow living beings as irreducibly conscious and personal, is taught by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita and elaborated further in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. According to this view, not just humans—and human fetuses—are souls: all living beings are souls: The soul is a minute but eternal spiritual entity with consciousness as its essential characteristic. Souls animate bodies of matter; they are the living force. Thus, there is no living creature without significance for itself. A person who has become fully conscious by following the directions of the Bhagavad- gita sees this, and he will not exploit any creature for his enjoyment. His love is unrestricted and unimpeded.

A conscious person will not kill even animals (much less very young humans) for his pleasure or convenience. Certainly the unconsciousness and brutality that allows us to erect factories of death for animals lay the groundwork for our treating humans in the same way.

The idea that life is the property of souls is derisively referred to by mechanistic thinkers as “vitalism” or “animism.” They assert that there is no evidence for souls. Yet it has been a singular failure of materialistic science to demonstrate how out of a world composed of nothing but matter something arises that experiences matter. Moreover, the ability to apprehend souls is not possessed by everyone—it is not, in particular, possessed by those who have become unconscious because of their exploitative mentality. A society whose ideal is to reduce everything to exploitable objects will not produce many people conscious enough to see what is living and personal. That society will advance only into the increasing obscurity of unconsciousness and impersonality.

Yet it is possible to counteract this corruption of our experience, this brutalization of consciousness that annihilates our ability to enter into personal relations and condemns us to an absurd, insipid existence in a lifeless, soulless world. We do not have to be victims of the politics of unconsciousness.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, the desire to control and enjoy others is not natural in us. Desire itself is the symptom of life; desire is natural, but in its original state that desire is manifest as unrestricted love for God, Krsna, the Supreme Person—and through Him, for all other persons that come from Him and are part of Him. Only in our unconscious state have we forgotten the real object of our love and allowed our love to be transformed into lust, into the desire to exploit others for our selfish purposes. This transformation can be reversed.

The practical method that reconverts lust into love, unconsciousness into consciousness, is called bhakti- yoga. This yoga redirects the use of the senses from dominating and enjoying others to serving Krsna, who is the natural master of the senses. In the course of that devotional service, all the potentialities of the soul become manifest. We experience the true pleasure of full consciousness, of life without limitation or qualification. This advancement into complete consciousness and unimpeded personal relations is aim of human life.

Even though consciousness is a live option, the future for human society still looks bleak. The acceptance of abortion is a great victory for the politics of unconsciousness. Still, unlike the millions innocent children it has ruthlessly destroyed, we do not have to become its hapless victims. We do not have to succumb this monstrous negation of life. We still accept the invitation of Krsna and rejoin the world of the living.

Is Something Wrong in the Right-to-Life Movement?

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The abortion debate usually centers on the search for a precise determination of when life begins. Distinguished medical researchers have argued that real and unique human life begins at the moment of conception, when the male sperm and the female ovum unite, because at that point the ovum contains the forty-six chromosomes necessary to guide human development. Those favoring abortion argue that although the complete genetic code for human life is present at conception, this code is not itself a human being but only a necessary precondition for human life.

Insisting that human life begins at conception, the anti- abortion movement seeks to shock us into the awareness that abortion means killing—killing a human being rather than an animal, a bird, an insect, or a fish. Thus although the movement calls itself “pro-life,” it is really pro- human-life. Its fudging with the terms life and human life reveals a disturbing assumption: that nonhuman life is somehow not actually life at all, or, if it is, then it is somehow not as “sacred” as human life and therefore not worth protecting.

But when we study the distinctions between human life and other life, such as that of the monkeys or cows, we find that the distinction rests almost entirely on the presence of rational intelligence in the human being. Thus if we accept that only human life is sacred, we run the risk of awarding sacred status to human beings simply because they are more intelligent than lower animals. And we also admit the principle of superior legal status for the more intelligent. * (*The Supreme Court has also stated that the reason we may kill the fetus is that it is not viable before a certain number of weeks—it cannot live outside the womb. But mature animals are certainly viable, since they efficiently maintain themselves outside the womb or egg. So why does the Supreme Court allow us to kill animals?) Once we accept the principle that a more intelligent form of life may kill a less intelligent form, we may ask why more intelligent human beings may not kill those who are less intelligent.

We may argue that animals are not able to live at our level of awareness, communication, or consciousness. On the other hand, a genius may argue that since ordinary human beings cannot live at his level of awareness, communication, or consciousness, they may be killed and even consumed to alleviate both the population explosion and the world food shortage. The retarded, the senile, the infirm, and other wards of society would be especially eligible for this fate.

These are the ghastly conclusions we are driven to when we try to condemn abortion while defending animal slaughter.

To shed some further light on the questions the abortion issue poses, let us turn toward the East for a moment, to the world’s oldest literature, the Sanskrit Vedic literature of India. In the most important of these writings, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, we find the following statement:

karmana daiva-netrena
jantur dehopapattaye
striyah pravishta udaram
pumso retah-kanashrayah

“Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.” (Bhag. 3.31.1)

Subsequent verses go on to say. “On the first night the sperm and ovum mix, and on the fifth night the mixture ferments into a bubble. On the tenth night it develops into a form like a plum, and after that it gradually turns into a lump of flesh. In the course of a month a head is formed, and at the end of three months the nails, fingers, toes, body hair, bones, and skin appear, as do the organ of generation and the other apertures of the body, namely the eyes, nostrils, ears, mouth, and anus.” The seers of Vedic times apparently knew with great precision how the fetus develops in the womb.

The most important point mentioned here, however, is that the soul “exists within the semen of the father” (retah-kanashrayah}. Then, “the soul within the particle of male semen is injected into the womb of the mother” (striyah pravishta udaram). This all goes on “under the supervision of God” (daiva- netrena), and the result is “the generation of a new material body” (dehopapattaye). From the Vedic viewpoint, then, life is present even before the moment of conception, what to speak of afterwards.

Today there is growing interest in the doctrine of transmigration of the soul. The concept that an eternal soul has fallen into the material world and is repeatedly taking birth according to his polluted material desires, and that eventually he must go back home, back to God, is an idea that was current and popular among some Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Pythagoras, and among early Christians, such as Origen.

How does transmigration relate to abortion? According to the quotation from Srimad-Bhagavatam, it is the law of God that the eternal soul be placed within the male semen and then injected into the womb of the mother. Thus according to the wisdom of the East, the person himself, the soul, is present even before conception, and certainly after. What evolves in the womb of the mother is the outer covering of an eternal person, and no one has the right at any stage of embryonic development to mercilessly drag the soul out of the womb into which God has placed him.

In the Bhagavad-gita, an essential Vedic text written five thousand years ago, we find a simple analogy: Just as we dress ourselves in various clothes and then discard them, we, the soul or self, similarly dress ourselves in different material bodies and then discard them. Unfortunately, that the self is nothing more than the physical and chemical body is an idea that permeates all aspects of modern society and even infects the so-called religious aspects. This spiritual blindness severely weakens anti- abortion appeals to the sacredness of all life.

In fact, however, each of us is an eternal spirit soul; we are not the material body that covers us. Every life form—whether bird, insect, fish, mammal, plant, or fetus—houses an individual, eternal soul as well as the Supreme Soul, who accompanies the individual soul as he transmigrates from body to body in his ill-fated adventures throughout the material universe. Thus every form of life is sacred and should never be whimsically destroyed.

So the only spiritually consistent foundation for the pro- life movement would be the firm belief in the sacredness of all life, a belief based on the awareness of the presence of the soul in all living beings. The pro-life movement prides itself on its moral alertness and personal sacrifice for a higher principle. But if the pro-lifers do not accept the sacred status of all life, if they are unwilling to undergo the sacrifice of investigating the actual nature of the soul, then their arguments will contain the seed of atheism, which is the undoer of all morality.

Unfortunately, it seems that the prevailing view that life is nothing but a conglomeration of chemicals moving according to rigid, impersonal laws of nature has penetrated into the ranks of the pro-life movement. For example, even such a learned and moral man as Dr. J.C. Willke states in his Handbook on Abortion:

Did you come from a fertilized ovum? No, you once were a fertilized ovum who grew and developed into the child or adult you are today. Nothing has been added to the fertilized ovum you once were except nutrition. You are now more developed, larger and more mature, but you were all there at the beginning.

But Dr. Wilike is dead wrong. We have never been ova, nor will we ever become ova in the future, nor are we the gross physical body. We are eternal spiritual souls, part and parcel of God. Unfortunately, Western civilization is totally bereft of any clear understanding of thesoul and God.

The actual issue today, of which the abortion issue is the most dramatic manifestation, is the perennial debate between materialism and spiritualism, between atheism and godliness, between the saintly life and the sinful life. A saintly person, a person aware of his constitutional position as a spiritual soul, part and parcel of God, will recognize God as the true proprietor of everything. Such a person will use everything he has, including his body and mind, in the service of the Lord. Although many women foolishly state that they are the proprietors of their own bodies and may therefore kill their own babies, the fact is that none of these women created her own body, nor can any of them protect her body when, by God’s law, she is dragged out of it at death. The body is created by material nature under the supervision of God; so how can anyone claim to own his or her body?

The concept of the body’s belonging to an individual is based on the false doctrine of humanism, the hallucination of a man-centered world. Sad to say, this humanistic idea has its very roots in the traditions of most modern religions, which teach that God’s principal activity is to provide for the happiness of human beings, to watch over us and reward or punish us. Traditional Western religion thus defines God’s identity in terms of our own life. We are the subjects, we are the doers, we are the enjoyers and sufferers, and God is merely controlling our fate.

So even our so-called religious concepts are man-centered, not God-centered. We do not see God as the supreme enjoyer of everything. We do not see the universe as existing exclusively for God’s pleasure. We do not see God as the supreme proprietor of everything. And consequently even our religious traditions do not have the power to establish a truly moral society.

The Vedic literature calls this type of religion kaitava-dharma, “cheating religion.” Undoubtedly, the goal of Christianity, Judaism, and other bona fide religions is love of God. But love implies service. One who truly loves God will accept Him as the supreme proprietor and enjoyer and not foolishly think God is meant to be our order supplier. If people have a real sense of God consciousness, they can accept sacrifice and austerity, and this will eliminate most of the problem the pro-lifers are trying to combat.

This brings us to the final point of our discussion. It is obvious that the root cause of the abortion problem is widespread promiscuity, which is the result of equally widespread ignorance of even basic spiritual principles. Unless people learn the actual purpose of human life—to revive our eternal loving relationship with God—they will continue to be obsessed with illicit sex, and it will be very difficult to stop abortion.

Modern society has completely misunderstood the great responsibility of human life. Both promiscuity, which is the result of equally widespread ignorance of even basic spiritual principles. Unless people learn the actual purpose of human life—to revive our eternal loving relationship with God—they will continue to be obsessed with illicit sex, and it will be very difficult to stop abortion.

Modern society has completely misunderstood the great responsibility of human life. Both we and the animals need food, sex, sleep, and protection, but only we human beings have the intelligence to understand God and to solve the problems of life—birth, old age, disease, and death. America’s obsession with sex, and the resultant atrocities committed to get rid of unwanted fetuses, show a great degradation in human society. We are distinguished from the animals by our expanded awareness, which allows us to be religious: we can understand God. A pig or a dog cannot understand God, although a pig or a dog may have sex, eat, drink, and be merry. A pig or a dog may even defend its own kind, but a pig or a dog cannot serve God and accept Him as the supreme enjoyer of everything. If we think that religion exists to provide God’s blessings in the form of prosperity and material happiness, then we are subtly adopting the same mentality as the atheist.

If we accept the atheistic propaganda that life evolves from matter, that life does not come from the soul, then we will find it impossible to sustain a moral society. But if we do recognize that life comes from the soul, then we must recognize that all living beings must have a soul and thus be in some way sacred. The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic writings clearly explain these points.

How can materialistic men who have the enjoying spirit of monkeys and dogs be allowed to make laws that openly violate the universal laws of God? How can a nation prosper when men who are less than animals are allowed to sit on high-court benches and authorize young girls to murder their own children? Through the democratic process, men who are less than animals should be replaced by actual human beings who know God and respect His laws.

If the pro-life movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life and to preserve the special status of human society, based on the spiritual mission of the human being, then undoubtedly it will attain great success.

A Gynecologist for Bhaktivedanta Hospital

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Easy

Madhavananda Dasa, a physician and an administrator at the new Bhaktivedanta Hospital in suburban Mumbai, needed help. He sought physicians for the new multi-service hospital who were both highly competent and dedicated to the spiritual principles of the hospital's honored namesake, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

In particular, Madhavananda knew that the hospital, built on principles of the Bhagavad-gita, needed a gynecology director who would accept the sanctity of all life, including the unborn. Such a gynecologist would be a tough find in populous India, where for population control the government had for decades vigorously promoted abortion in medical colleges.

Madhavananda decided to start by determining the gynecology candidates' medical credentials. He invited Dr. Mahendra K. Patel, one of India's leading gynecologists, to assist him.

Dr. Patel, born and raised in Mumbai, had dedicated himself to gynecology early in life, when a young relative in his village died of complications from an abortion. Eventually Dr. Patel graduated first in his class of four hundred from medical school, assuring his posting to his chosen specialty.

While Dr. Patel was attending college, abortion was illegal in India. Still, many doctors in his college's gynecology department wanted to perform abortions to help mothers from large poor families who could not afford more children. The doctors also sought to save prostitutes, who sometimes lost their lives trying to abort their babies. But the department head, a Catholic, refused to allow the procedure. Then, in 1971, just as Dr. Patel was graduating, the Indian government legalized abortion. The young doctors were free to offer the procedure up to the fifth month of pregnancy.

Abortion Specialist

Abortions performed up to the third month of pregnancy are simple to perform and relatively safe for the mother. But after the third month, the procedures required increase the danger to the mother. The young, vigorous Dr. Patel became a specialist in late-term abortions. His research resulted in improved, safer methods for late-term abortions that are still used in India and surrounding countries. In recognition of his work, Dr. Patel was eventually elected general secretary of the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology Societies of India (FOGSI). With 130 branches and over 16,000 participating doctors, FOGSI is India's largest such organization. During his quarter-century career, Dr. Patel performed thirty thousand abortions and guided others in performing millions more.

When Madhavananda asked Dr. Patel to chair the committee to review gynecology candidates, Dr. Patel agreed. Besides his highly evolved medical knowledge, Dr. Patel had been studying the Bhagavad-gita with followers of Srila Prabhupada. So he was also conversant with the new hospital's spiritual principles.

Twenty-seven candidates applied for the post. As the interviews unfolded, each candidate expressed shock upon learning that the new hospital would not allow abortions. Madhavananda and other staff members patiently and frankly explained the Krsna conscious view that life comes from God alone and to take it improperly is sinful. They said the solution to poverty and disease lies in spiritual education, not in abortion, a procedure laden with karma for all involved.

A Change Of Heart

Dr. Patel was deeply impressed to see Madhavananda's firm insistence on principles often disregarded even in Catholic hospitals. After coming up with a short list of recommended candidates, Dr. Patel decided to approach Madhavananda with a different proposition.

"Why don't you ask me?" said Dr. Patel. "If you ask me, I will take the post."

Madhavananda and his staff were astonished. The post paid less and was far less prestigious than his current position. But Dr. Patel assured them he was sincere and would abide by the hospital's "no abortion and no contraception" policy in his practice both in and out of the hospital. Madhavananda gratefully agreed.

Now resigned from his position at FOGSI, Dr. Patel has successfully directed the Bhaktivedanta Hospital gynecology department for the past four years.

"At this stage of my career it is naturally difficult for me to admit it," says Dr. Patel, perhaps India's best-known abortion practitioner, "but I can no longer tolerate the destruction of the unborn. Through Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam I have come to understand that the eternal soul enters the womb to take a birth according to his past karma. Although temporary and full of suffering like other species, human life alone allows the soul a chance to understand God. One who aborts that precious birth shares in an enormous sin with those who cause the abortion to be performed.

"Given my background, I am quite blessed to serve at Bhaktivedanta Hospital. I wish to dedicate the rest of my life to promoting the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and discrediting the materialistic notion of sinless abortion."

To pursue this cause, Dr. Patel has counseled over four hundred abortion applicants at Bhaktivedanta Hospital to reconsider their decision. Many have decided to keep their babies, five of whom Dr. Patel delivered. "Five beautiful children," he declares with a smile.

Anti-Abortion Campaign

Dr. Patel has developed an anti-abortion presentation that he takes to educational institutions and service organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, and Giants International. Given his national renown and background, audiences find Dr. Patel's presentation quite persuasive. "We cannot keep all the invitations," he says modestly.

Recently, Dr. Patel received this letter from Dr. K. C. Aneja, one of India's leading cardiologists and president of the Bharat Vikas Parishad, an organization with five hundred branches: "It is heartening that the hospital has started an anti-abortion campaign. Dr. Patel convinced us that life is the Lord's gift. On behalf of the members and myself, we thank you and wish you success in this project to motivate the people. We extend our full cooperation." Dr. Aneja and others have encouraged Dr. Patel to take up his campaign on a national scale.

In India more than 35,000 abortions take place every day, enough to replace the population of Australia every two years. Most major religions oppose abortion, yet it goes on widely in India and throughout the world. Why? Dr. Patel explains.

"People fear overpopulation," he says, "but if God gives birth, He has made provision. Besides, if a population burden justifies murdering children, why not kill old people, retarded children, or the chronically ill? Srila Prabhupada says the earth can support many times more people than it does now. The real problem is unequal distribution of land and food. Leaders should address that problem rather than inducing people to kill their own children."

What about in cases of rape?

"Pregnancy in rape is terribly tragic," says Dr. Patel, "but does saving your shame justify sacrificing a life? Which is more important? Besides, the demand for adoption is high, even in India. On average twenty percent of married couples are infertile, including five percent who do not respond to medical help. This five percent corresponds to millions of childless couples who would gladly adopt children.

"Abortion is patently unnatural. The concept of medically aided abortion is only a hundred years old—the product of unrestricted sex in a promiscuous age. A baby killed in the womb has been murdered. To demonstrate this point, our presentation includes a graphic, shocking depiction of a late-term abortion.

"The eternal soul enters and gives life to the body at the moment of conception, not at the age of three months," Dr. Patel concludes. "Since medical science cannot duplicate the life in the body, medical science has no right to take it.

"From Srila Prabhupada's books I have learned that every child is a gift of God. Life must be respected," he says. "And I have learned the hard way that abortion is murderous and leads to disaster and unhappiness. Abortion must stop."

Plans

In the coming months Dr. Patel will continue to give talks and conduct seminars at women's organizations and youth forums. He has enlisted several doctors, nurses, medical students, and social workers as volunteers in a training program for counselors. They will spread the anti-abortion message in greater Mumbai.

Dr. Patel and his helpers are about to launch a media campaign that will include banners in city streets and colorful stickers in the crowded ladies compartments and station platforms of Mumbai's suburban railway. Also to come are press articles in the national newspapers and magazines, debates on television and radio, and a video explaining the details and ill effects of abortion.

Says Dr. Patel as we part, "We have to take this message far out to cover the entire nation. It's a mammoth job, and I'm seeking the blessings and help of all Vaishnavas everywhere."

Kalakantha Dasa (Carl Woodham), author of The Song Divine (a lyrical rendition of the Bhagavad-gita), lives in Gainesville, Florida, with his wife and children.

Abortion: Setting the Matter Straight

Complexity: 
Easy

One of today's most disturbing, confusing, and hotly debated issues is whether abortion is right or wrong. Feelings run deep, and both sides offer complex arguments. But at the heart of the controversy lies one crucial question: When does life begin within the womb? Ironically, despite so much progress in economics, education, technology, and so on, even our leaders are still unable to answer this basic question.

Take, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1973 the Court ruled that women could legally have an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. Although they lacked any relevant evidence whatsoever, the justices decided that the element of life does not enter the fetus until after the third month. In effect, the justices turned their court into a pseudoscientific laboratory and legalized an act that had been virtually outlawed throughout the United States. The result? A staggering increase in the number of known abortions—from several thousand in 1973 to over one million in 1976.

However, in a 6-to-3 decision handed down a few months ago, the Supreme Court appeared to be backtracking from its previous pro-abortion stand. Now, in an obvious reaction to grass-roots anti-abortion pressure, he Court has ruled that state and local governments can refuse to finance abortions for needy women. Although lot outlawing abortions altogether, the Court's latest ruling has made them exceedingly more difficult to obtain—and has proved beyond a doubt that even the highest judges in the land are more concerned with public opinion than with scientific fact.

After all, if the justices had had some scientific basis or their first ruling—that the fetus is not really "alive" until after the third month of pregnancy—then why should hey now reverse themselves and make abortions during he first three months more difficult to obtain? What would be the harm in getting rid of a "lifeless lump of flesh" to protect the welfare of an unwed mother, for example? On the other hand, if some new scientific evidence has recently come to light proving that life in the womb begins at the point of conception, then why won't he Supreme Court outlaw abortions altogether? Why should they continue to condone mass infanticide? Clearly, the Supreme Court has shown its ineptitude at solving the abortion issue.

So we are left still facing our basic question: When does life begin within the womb? In searching for answers to this question, we must first understand hat we are not dealing with something gross—something we can measure in a laboratory. The life principle is the subtlest substance in existence. We can't see it with the most powerful microscope or weigh it on the most sensitive scale. In fact, the Vedic Upanishads explain that the dimension of the soul, or life force, is one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair. This is even smaller than the atom! Therefore, if we want to understand this life force, we must approach authorities who are beyond the limitations that our imperfect mind and senses place upon us. In other words, the Supreme Court won't do; we must approach a transcendental source of knowledge—the revealed Vedic scriptures.

At this point the reader may object that our method of acquiring knowledge is dogmatic and blind. But think for a moment: Is there really any other way to find out about something as subtle as the soul? Suppose you want to know the identity of your father, but you've never seen him before? Can you perform some experiment to find out? No: there's only one way to know for sure who your father is—ask your mother. Only she can authoritatively say, "That man is your father."

Similarly, if we want to know about the soul—which is beyond our sensory experience, beyond our experimental knowledge—then we must accept the Vedic authority. Veda means "knowledge," and the Vedic knowledge comes from Lord Krishna, or God, and is therefore infallible. If we accept the words of the Vedic literature we can truly understand the nature of life, and when it begins in the womb. Then we can finally resolve the abortion issue.

Now, according to modern scientific theory, various chemical reactions in the body of the developing fetus produce the life force, or consciousness. Until those chemical reactions occur, the scientists say, no life is present. From this point it is easy to take our logic one step further and conclude that up to a certain age—say, three months—the child within the mother's womb is not alive, but is simply a lump of dead matter. The final grisly conclusion is that since the body of the developing child is like a tumor, what is the harm if a surgeon removes the tumor and throws it away?

In contradiction to this distorted idea, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the essence of all Vedic knowledge, declares, "Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord, and according to the result of his previous work, the living entity (the soul), dwelling within the male sperm cell, enters a woman's womb to assume a particular type of body" ( 3.31.1). This authoritative statement resolves the crucial question of when life begins in the womb. Most emphatically, life begins from the point of conception—the point at which the sperm, carrying the soul, enters the ovum.

Another important point to note is that the right to life is determined by divine law, not by our whimsical decisions. It is the law of karma, working under the supervision of the Supreme Lord, that determines when an individual spirit soul will enter a human womb. (A common-sense proof of this is that conception often occurs despite the most extensive contraceptive measures. Also, a previously sterile woman or impotent man may sometimes conceive a child.) So if, through violent abortion, we try to deny a soul a human birth due him by the laws of karma, we defy God's will in a most heinous fashion.

By that same law of karma, anyone who destroys a developing fetus must suffer severe punishment after death. "As you sow, so shall you reap," declares the Bible, and the Vedic literatures confirm that both the person performing the abortion and those sanctioning it are forced at the time of death to enter wombs where they themselves become victims of the same vicious act. Abortion is a grave transgression of the laws of nature and of God. So those who are anxious to enjoy sexual pleasure, yet wish to avoid the responsibility of rearing children, should soberly consider abortion's severe consequences. Unlike the edicts of the Supreme Court, the laws of nature and of God are always strictly enforced.

The Real Problem... and the Solution

A Comment from the BTG Staff

Behind the abortion crisis we'll find an even deeper problem: the recent vast increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies. This is another crisis—a crisis so severe that millions of Americans are resorting to murder of unborn infants as the only apparent solution. "Without legal and affordable abortion," wrote Lance Morrow in a recent Time editorial, "many lives in progress are hopelessly ruined; the unwanted children very often grow up unloved, battered... and criminal." We certainly agree that we must rectify these social conditions. But what sane person, understanding that the fetus is fully alive from the moment of conception, would then consider abortion a valid solution to unwanted pregnancy?

We seem to be caught on the horns of a cruel dilemma: the horror of abortion, or the misery of broken lives, broken homes, and masses of unwanted children. But the truth is that the crises of abortion and unwanted pregnancy, as well as those of venereal disease, child abuse, and divorce, have arisen from the same basic cause—unrestricted illicit sex life. The Vedic scriptures allow sex for only one purpose—to produce God-conscious children. Therefore sex only for pleasure is a violation of God's law, and a society of sex mongers must suffer punishment in the form of the abortion, pornography, and VD plagues, widespread child abuse, and so on.

American society is feeling the agonizing reaction to its own godlessness, and discussions about whether states should or should not help pay for abortions are like so much aimless chatter aboard a sinking ship. By ignoring the scriptural rules governing sex, we have descended to the level of animals. What good is "reasoned discussion" among the beasts? By killing more than one million unborn babies every year, Americans are committing the largest mass murder in recent history—and now they're trying to decide how to do it fairly and morally!

No. The only moral issue here is how to stop illicit sex. Everyone, from the nation's leaders on down, must understand God's purpose for sex—to produce God-conscious children. Furthermore, all government leaders must strictly adhere to this principle in their own lives and vigorously propagate it throughout society.

Unfortunately, our so-called leaders do not have the moral strength to live by God's laws. Therefore they do not care to enforce God's laws within society. The laws God presents in the revealed scriptures are meant to insure peace and prosperity, and ultimately to guide the citizens toward God consciousness. But our demonic leaders' nefarious business is to perpetrate the philosophy of unrestricted sense pleasure—especially sex pleasure. As the Bhagavad-gita explains, "The demons believe that to gratify the senses up to the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety."

Abortion, divorce, child abuse—the list of anxieties will simply increase unless we stop illicit sex. And the only way to do this is to replace the present leaders with trained Krishna conscious leaders, who will have the spiritual strength to control their own senses and turn society back from its hell-bent course.

Pro-Choice and Pro-Life and Cognitive Dissonance

Complexity: 
Medium

Someone commented that Obama doesn't condone abortions; he condones "choice." Well, if I don't condone bank robbery but I do condone a person's choice to rob a bank, that may be enough to get me arrested as an accessory to the crime.

Let's leave aside the idea that part of any leader's duty is to protect the citizens of the nation from harm (and according to the Krishna conscious philosophy, fetuses and even animals are considered citizens), whether directly (by military defense) or indirectly (by enacting and approving legislation). Just what do we mean when we say that we condone "choice," even if we don't necessarily condone the action resulting from that choice?

Someone wrote me a very polite note commenting on my status, which I am reproducing here anonymously:

"I myself am pro-choice. However that doesn't mean I agree with or condone killing fetuses. I simply feel that people deserve to make their own choice. That is NOT saying that their choice is either right, or that it will not effect [sic] others. I think a lot of people are in the same boat as me."

This comment reflects a commonly held mindset, one that is not fully integrated with truth. As the writer notes, "I think a lot of people are in the same boat as me." It's true: we all experience various cognitive dissonances, and we rationalize and justify them to some degree. However, abortion is too serious an issue from the karmic standpoint to brush aside. I write this not to make accusations against anyone; I'm addressing what I see as faulty reasoning, not character flaws. Although to hold on to faulty reasoning out of stubbornness or sentiment is a character flaw.

First, let's define our terms. If I say that it's all right for others to make a choice to act in a certain way, even if I would not act that way myself, I am in fact "condoning" their actions ("condone" means "to regard or treat (something bad or blameworthy) as acceptable, forgivable, or harmless"), even though I do not commit those actions myself. If I think that people "deserve" or have the right to make their own choice that means that I also consider what they choose to be a positive thing, a good thing, something that society and the state should allow. After all, people don't "deserve" or have a right to choose to do bad or harmful things. The choice, in the case of "pro-choice" generally means the choice to abort. After all, the other choice (in a situation where abortion is being considered) would be "unwanted pregnancy," and who's in favor of that? In other words, "pro-choice" = "pro-abortion."

Second, is this a question of truth or of mere opinion? I say it is a question of truth. A person cannot say certain things are wrong on a moral level (such as cheating, stealing, or murder) for himself but not for others, because moral laws are universal. Morality means people as a whole recognize and acknowledge what is already true, not merely that what they decide or vote for is true. If I say that I think lying is wrong, what does that mean; that everyone can lie with impunity except for me? No, what I'm saying is that nobody ought to lie. And as for choice: everyone already has a free choice anyway, be it to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. We always have; it's what we as a society let our members get away with that's at issue. If an individual or many individuals recognize an act to be wrong (such as war, abortion, murder, terrorism, child porn, corporate cheating), that de facto means that I believe that it should not be done by anyone. How is it okay then for others to do it? Answer: we say it's not, for everything but abortion.

This way of thinking wouldn't work for any other moral issue, but millions of people have no problem wrapping their minds around such illogic when it comes to abortion. Try substituting other morally loaded words and see what happens.

Examples:

"I myself am in favor of completely free markets. However that doesn't mean I agree with or condone corporate greed and cheating. I simply feel that corporate executives deserve to make their own choice. That is NOT saying that their choice is either right, or that it will not affect others.

or

"I myself am pro-defense. However that doesn't mean I agree with or condone war. I simply feel that the President/Congress deserves to make his/their own choice. That is NOT saying that his/their choice is either right, or that it will not affect others.

or

"I myself am pro-sexual freedom. However that doesn't mean I agree with or condone child pornography or pedophilia. I simply feel that horny people deserve to make their own choice. That is NOT saying, etc. etc, etc.

The reasoning is absurd when applied to these examples because we recognize the moral issues at stake and their effects on us. Society would collapse in a day if we were to adopt the typical "I-don't-condone-it-but-I-think-people-should-have-a-choice" mentality for anything but abortion. But because karmic paybacks are complex, we don't connect the current problems of society (war, AIDS, cancer) with the ability to not have kids when we don't feel like it. But karmically speaking, there is no free lunch. The problems attending the birth of unwanted children which we seek to avoid by abortion are simply debts that accrue interest until come due, either in this life or in a future one. Srila Prabhupada makes the connection in an interview with a reporter:

Prabhupada: Well, that is also another unnatural thing. ...they use contraceptives. They kill children, abortion. ... These are all sinful activities. ... to kill child in the womb. .. One has to suffer for that.

Woman reporter: Is the social unrest in this country caused because...

Prabhupada: Because of these things. They do not know that.

Of course, we don't have to believe that Prabhupada knows what he's talking about. But perhaps he knows something we don't. Perhaps he sees an even bigger picture than what is at stake with this election. Millions of unborn children have been killed in the womb, decade after decade, legally since 1973. Anyone who thinks that that has not had a huge influence on the current state of world affairs is not thinking very deeply. The problems of this country were not caused solely by any politician or party, nor will they be solved by them. We act, as individuals and collectively, across the generations (karma), and receive the reactions (also karma), which includes the kind of leadership we get.

The chief consequential difference between lying/war/stealing/child abuse/crimes of passion and abortion is that those affected by war or theft can speak up and/or defend themselves, while fetuses cannot. No fetus is hiring a lawyer or pointing an AK-47 at us to make us think twice about it.

If I acknowledge that a fetus is a living being, and that life is the symptom of the presence of the soul (and if I don't accept the idea of the soul then there is nothing at stake but the struggle for dominance), then it is clear that abortion is murder, and no amount of inconvenience or hardship experienced by the mother because of pregnancy changes that fact. The motive does not change the nature of the act; it only makes it more understandable (to varying degree). To understand is not to condone. We may understand why a man would kill someone who molested his child, or murder an unfaithful lover in a jealous rage. It may even affect to what degree he is punished. But it does not keep him from being put on trial and judged for the crime of murder. If society were to start letting that sort of thing slide, we would soon have worse problems to worry about.

If someone really wants an abortion, she will get one regardless of anyone's approval or permission. Whether we condone it or not is of greater importance to the moral observer, the human witness (as opposed to the Supersoul), who sees the act and makes a moral judgment on it.

What's really happening when we say we condone the right to choose, even if we think abortion is bad or wrong? As long as we aren't in that situation we can take such a stand; it allows us to feel moral without any bondage to the consequences of that position. We want to be free to choose, not on the basis of truth or morality, but on whatever is expedient for us in a given situation. That we condone the right to choose gives us an escape hatch through we can duck out of a moral tight spot.

How has it become acceptable to say that something is wrong, but that people should be allowed to do it? Aside from being illogical, it's a recipe for social insanity. Are we afraid to say abortion is "wrong" for fear of being labeled "judgmental"? Have people become so conditioned to fear being "judgmental" that they don't realize that it's virtually impossible to be non-judgmental?

That's one of the things that makes us human: we're continually making judgments, deciding what's good and bad, what is to be done and what is not to be done, both individually and collectively. When the choice is between personal gratification and a burdensome relationship with a fetus, however, the cognitive dissonance gets cranked to full volume. We can't bear it, so we simply make unconscious rationalizations to keep from examining our values and living in accordance with them. Or from changing them, no matter the cost to our comfort level. We want to think we're good, so we tell ourselves we are, choosing the evidence that corresponds with our perceived self-image, and neglecting or twisting what doesn't.

If, theoretically, I supported abortion rights (even while finding the act itself repugnant), and I were going to be truthful with myself and others about it, I would express my views like this:

"Even though a fetus is an individual living entity and a member of the human race (it's not a camel fetus or a bean sprout), I reserve to myself the right to kill it should its existence in my body or my life be at all problematic for myself or others. I resent being restricted by the laws of God or nature, especially when it comes to my sexual gratification, and I'll make use of anything that frees me from those strictures, illusory though that freedom may be. In this, I am grateful for the help of modern technology, which saves me from getting my hands dirty with infanticide (or diapers) and which helps me to remain relatively unconscious of the nature and consequence of my act, which is the killing of a living entity that I ushered into being."

Ultimately, when we act on a moral principle, we don't choose only for ourselves; we choose for everyone. What we know ought to be done by us is what ought to be done by anyone. I invite anyone who reads this to examine their most cherished values—tolerance, democracy, honesty, forgiveness, rationality, humility, patriotism—and see if you don't believe that others should value and act upon them also, especially if you share a culture, society, or country with them. If you don't think abortion is a wrong choice for others, chances are, if you find yourself in a similar circumstance, you won't really think it's wrong for you either. Whether the values you hold dear are worthy is a topic for another essay.