HAVANA TIMES — In a recent post, fellow Havana Times blogger Dariela Aquique comments on the thorny issue of abortion.
The first mistake I see there is the way in which the issue is tackled. The piece focuses more on the right to abort than on the responsibility of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy, which ought to be the guiding premise – it is the natural order in which things take place and it addresses a long tradition of irresponsible practices.
Informing the public about contraceptive options isn’t the only important step we need to take. For decades, the media have been bombarding us with images that incite sex, sexual relations are portrayed as emotionally delirious acts (or mere physical pleasure) and there is no suggestion such actions involve other, potential consequences.
Such portrayals of sex may suit the dramatic requirements of a movie, may be an efficacious way of getting the most out of a sex symbol or hooking an audience, and, without a doubt, it bumps up ticket sales, but, as a message (be it subliminal or not), it is both counterproductive and false. To top things off, in male chauvinistic societies such as ours, men are exempted from the responsibility of contraception.
A pregnancy takes place in the woman’s body, and it is the woman who endures the biological changes this entails, the physical risks of an abortion or labor and almost the entire burden of childbirth if she decides to see the birth through. She therefore ought to have the immediate choice between an abortion and giving birth.
This option or alternative does not necessarily constitute a right. It describes the freedom to act in a certain way, just as one may decide to kill or let live a person that is causing us harm and isn’t growing inside our bodies.
Since people are entirely responsible for that germ of life they deposit (deliberately or unwittingly), they too have rights over its development or mutilation.
Now, the fact this being whose fate is thus decided is totally helpless deprives any law that authorizes abortion of its justness.
My Own Experience
I had an unwanted pregnancy when I was 28. This unexpected event was inconvenient for several reasons: my partner was about to leave the country (alone) and didn’t want kids (I didn’t either), I didn’t have a steady income and didn’t even have my own place to live. Most importantly, the sense of autonomy that informed my right to life made me see this pregnancy as a huge obstacle in my way, and I opted for an abortion.
I’ve always been very sensitive to the processes that take place in my body and I immediately realized something new was going on inside me: I was hyper-sensitive to smells, flavors and sensations. My breasts were swollen, I felt nauseous and, most noticeably, I felt a silent presence slowly take root inside me, gain ground in my body and my mind.
The doctor was of the opinion I wasn’t pregnant, but I was sure I was, so I insisted on a second examination (which confirmed the pregnancy, almost eight weeks into it).
The abortion consisted in ripping out the tissues that were taking root in my womb and it was a very painful procedure, but the worst was having to deal with that part of me that had become attached to that bit of my existence. That thousands of young people resort to this to get out of a tight situation and speak of it as though they were having one of their teeth out only demonstrates that they lead superficial lives.
The information about what is taking place in our bodies is processed in the brain. The developing embryo shares blood, substances and life impulses with us.
After the abortion, I bled for weeks, felt tired and suffered asthma attacks. The thing I remember most, however, is how sad I felt. In the amalgam of feelings and sensations that make up the female psyche, the identity of the budding child can become very confusing. That said, it is a fact that a being is taking shape inside us, feeding from what we eat and taking in our reactions and thoughts.
This experience led me to decide I would never go through anything similar. In the relationships I had later, I made a point of saying I didn’t want kids for the time being but that, if I became pregnant by accident, an abortion would not be an alternative.
Religion and Other Perspectives
I insist that any discussion about abortion must start from the unquestionable fact that the being whose right to life is under debate is there because two people, a man and a woman, conceived it through a voluntary act. It is not a tumor. To ignore the laws of life is as fatal as ignoring traffic laws. That women face risks during an abortion (even death if it is done at an advanced stage of the pregnancy) is proof that we are fighting against the forces of nature.
This should be enough to make us focus on the reasons behind the pregnancy, to take up a more responsible sexuality and avoid such potential and serious problems as post-abortion infections or worse complications: infertility, traumas, venereal diseases, unwanted children, children who grow up in dysfunctional families, in short, unhappiness at all levels.
I make a point of stressing this because the above could well be the cost of that initial, amorous rapture that can blind us to the fact that, unlike in bad movies, life is much more complex.
There are no prospects of a more educative television or cinema, for the interests of multi-million-dollar companies are at stake there. But not even the medical sciences seem to be able to take up the issue impartially. That it is possible to put an end to an unwanted pregnancy with a suction device or a scalpel doesn’t mean the procedure is legal from the point of view of nature.
Materialism has conditioned our view of existence to such an extent that we have become unaware of profound, invisible laws. Religion has perpetuated rites and dogmas, stagnating our living knowledge of thing. Catholicism proclaims itself against abortion and even contraceptives, but it doesn’t see that repressing sexual desire has led to improvised abortions, deaths, child rape, the murder of newborns, and so on and so forth. The story of that struggle for chastity in a mind that isn’t ready for it, that does not want it, can be told by the walls of convents and monasteries.
Mysticism suggests that repression leads to neurosis and spiritual regression. It is not a question of forcing anything. Human beings explore the kingdom of illusion through the physical and cognitive senses and develop, through their own will, the highest faculties of the intellect.
Tedium sets in once curiosity has been satisfied, an anxiety-filled search involving practices that take years to master, for it is a question of shifting our attention from the external to the internal, until consciousness reaches subtle dimensions and becomes attached to them, of its own will, as it did to physical pleasure at one point. This is when the encounter San Juan de la Cruz incomparably describes: “Oh, night that guided, oh, a night kinder than the dawn, oh, night that bound lovers together…”
It is said childbirth is a rare privilege, a journey that traverses all forms of life: unconscious, semi-conscious, conscious and even self-conscious. As such, interrupting a pregnancy destroys a soul that is ready to become incarnate, after a complicated adjustment of the network of karmic relations. It is a step back in one’s personal evolution and additional bad karma for those who prevent the birth from happening.
Neither scientists nor parents may believe this, but, the turbulent road paved by materialism, as the visible consequences of an abortion show, is neither an easy nor healthy path.
I believe the most objective thing to do is to try and present sexuality as it is: an act that ought to be strictly voluntary and undertaken with full knowledge of its potential consequences. It is possible to prevent the ecstasy of passion from turning into pangs of pain and tears.
Abortions conducted because of rape or therapeutic reasons are extreme cases that demand specific solutions. They are not the rule and resorting to these does not turn abortion into a right but into an emergency procedure.