Yep, here I go. I don't have a topic tonight, so I'm leaping straight into the fray, all over one of those red-flag topics I swore I'd never address back in 2008 or whenever I started this thing. Besides, I had to address this sooner or later. Every time I turn around some idiot is pontificating about birth control or personhood or religious employer's rights not to pay for basic health care. And it's all about abortion. Of course it is. To put it even more simply, it's about punishing women for having sex. That's going to be my sign. I'll mount it on cardboard and carry it around at the next demo. But let's come back to that in a minute. Let's go back to the beginning first. Because I really am anti-abortion. And I really will fight to the death--actually, I've put my life on the line a couple of times already--for your right to have one.
Strictly speaking, Buddhists tend to be pro-life kind of critters. Pro-life in this instance means something a lot larger than being anti-abortion, though a lot of them are that, too. Pro-life in a Buddhist contexts means being against the death penalty and in favor of early childhood education. It means wanting basic health care available for everybody and not just the ones who have jobs. It also means not stomping on ants, not squishing bugs, chasing rodents out of your home using sonic aversion instead of, say, nerve gas. It's all the fault of that First Precept, which reads something along the lines of I promise to do my best not to kill living beings. (Interesting that Buddha put this one first, when thou shalt not kill barely made it to No. 6 on the parallel list that most of us are more familiar with. That just goes to show something or other, but I'm not sure what.) Buddhists want you to have life, and have it abundantly (borrowing from that other list again, or at least that tradition). And they also want not to kill things, and they'd positively love it if you didn't kill anything either.
So abortion is the killing of a living being. Whether or not it's a human being is hardly the point; it's a living being, and that's good enough. If I promise to do my best not to kill a living being, then all living beings equally qualify. But abortion has to be legal, folks. It has to take place in a sterile environment and be performed by doctors who know what the hell they're doing. I don't like abortion--hate it, actually--but there it is. Buddhists do not make choices for other people, and sometimes an abortion is the kindest possible choice.
When? I have no idea. It's none of my business. If you say that you need to have an abortion, I believe you. I wish you wouldn't have one, and I'm happy to try to talk you out of it if you want to let me, but that's up to you. I can't imagine anybody ever wants to have an abortion. If you're in a situation bad enough that you've decided to have one, well then, my friend, advice from me is not what you need. You need a hand to hold, a convenient shoulder, somebody who's going to stay calm through the whole thing and hang around afterward to help out with all that stuff that's bound to happen. I can do that.
Here's my own personal catch-22: My odds of getting pregnant are slightly lower than the temperature at absolute zero, but if I did get pregnant, I have absolutely no idea what I would do. I couldn't have the kid. The meds I'm on make my womb a toxic waste dump, and by the time I knew I was pregnant (if you can't get pregnant, you don't keep track of your cycle--or at least, I don't) the damage would already be done. I couldn't have an abortion because--well, because I wouldn't. The idea makes me a little sick. But I couldn't bring a horribly maimed kid with a hole in its heart and no limbs into the world. But I couldn't--this gives me a headache. For a while last year I thought seriously about having my tubes tied, just on that one in a million chance that a rapist got past my purple-belt karate skills and knocked me up before I killed him. (Yeah, I know, I promise to do my best--It would be an accident. Really.) My doc talked me out of it, reminding me that nature was going to take its course in a year or so anyway and that having anesthesia is Very Very Bad if it's not strictly necessary.
Anyway: What happens if abortion is illegal? Well, let's see. Obviously many women die trying to give themselves abortions, or going to unsafe non-clinics; abortion rates are actually higher in countries where abortion is illegal. Women go to jail for giving birth to a stillborn baby after attempting suicide. Hospitals go to court if a pregnant woman refuses a Caeserean section and--get this--get actual court orders requiring the woman to submit to the surgery because her baby might be harmed if she has the gall to try to deliver the child naturally. Women who have miscarriages are investigated as potential criminals. In fact, pregnant women get arrested for just about anything that might be harmful to the baby - including falling down. Oh, wait! Did I say that's what happens if abortion is illegal? All that stuff is already happening all over the United States. No matter how pro-life a Buddhist may be, I doubt very many of them would say that pregnant women are better off in jail.
So there you are. A Buddhist conundrum. I am still anti-abortion. And I'll still fight to the death against these idiots who don't think that birth control counts as health care, the "personhood" laws, the mandatory sonograms (state-sanctioned rape; thanks for that, Governor Goodhair) and all the other legal assaults on women that seem to be the color of politics this year in America.
And for your right to have an abortion.
Even though I wish you wouldn't.