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Coming to terms with Abortion

Hi All--

While no expert, at one time or another, I have held both positions, currently out there, regarding abortion, being (in my 20s and single) a "pro choice" advocate (mainly to keep Govt out of people's private lives and not recognizing a fetus as a human being), but later became a parent and, once I heard with my own stethoscope ears, a beating fetal heartbeat at the doctors' office, a fetus never again was not "human life" to me. You could call me "Pro Life" from that point on, and my particular religious allegiance at the time (Anglicanism) was not of much help as it tried hard to sidestep the issue entirely.

I certainly qualify as "new" Buddhist, having 'converted' not quite two years ago (I can move on to "Intermediate Buddhist", if there were such a site, later on!) and applied my new teachings and doctrines (I embrace all sides of the Dharma but my particular Center is Mahayana) to the issue, mediated on it and came up with the following:

a. first of all, Abortion exists, it simply "is"; we have it now, we have always had it and it will always be an issue.

b. applying strong emotions to the issue is merely another form of attachment, bound to make us miserable (if we come to let it define us), as neither side will ever prevail absolutely.

c. all schools of Buddhism teach us to avoid the trap of dualism, that everything must be black or white, good or bad, when the correct answer is usually "none of the above", or "either/or"; Dualism would have our minds fall back to the trap that if we are pro-abortion, all anti-abortion people are wrong (and vice versa) and to be avoided; neither side is "right" or "wrong".

d. In my twenties, I was firm that "life" began with the birth of the baby; later on (don't want to give my age away, but a long time!!), I was just as firm that "life" began at conception. Like most dualistic ideas, both absolutes are incorrect as, as Mahayanan, I have come to know that our lives do not begin at either birth or conception, but---

e. Our lives have ALWAYS existed. There was no point in time where our mindstreams did not exist, and we have been reborn (our mindstreams) eon after eon, hopefully in ever advancing life forms and we will continue to be reborn (and its not a "reward", its the samsara of reliving the same birth and death cycle again and again) until we reach Enlightenment when the cycle may end (or may not.....the saints of us out there continue to be reborn anyway so they can help others).

f. Abortion, however, remains an evil way to end this cycle of existence, but that does sort of work together with our notions of Karma. A person or creature that has built up substantial negative Karma over their life or lives can be "reborn" as a human fetus only to meet their end, not 80 years from now, but in a matter of days or weeks, killed by an abortion procedure or other pregnancy-termination means; thus the perpetrator of bad Karma is forced, in just a short time, to seek rebirth still again, perhaps this time unable to find Human rebirth--who knows?. The act of the abortion can thus be thought of as a furtherance of the Law Of Karma.

g. When I hear of an abortion, I still wish it had not happened, but have come to realize that it is the Dharma "at work", that the fetus may have accumulated such bad karmic chains from prior lives that 'they got what was coming to them". Old habits are hard to break and I still think the involved parents have created some negative Karma for themselves, but far be it for me to "demonize" them. They have done what they have done, the laws of dependent origination and Karma will run their course and it is not for me to either praise nor condemn them.

Just my take on the issue and no one person out there will probably agree, uniformly, with (a) through (g) in their entirety. What I hope you can take from this is that my study of the Dharma, the teachings of The Buddha, and Meditation have worked together to make what was once a harsh and bitter issue and have smoothed it out (at least in my mind) to a very simple summary: abortion is neither good nor bad, it just "is". My mind is calmer, my readiness to get upset over the issue is much tempered and I feel that I am a happier and calmer and more abiding person, now as ready to extend my hand of friendship to anybody on any side of the issue and for this I credit the Dharma and the Buddha and the eternal wisdom of following The Middle Way.

Craig
ZeroJeffreyBunks

Comments

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    You have no idea just how many times this discussion has come up.
    It's akin to the rebirth/vegetarianism/karma/is self-defence legitimate subjects that also appear from time to time.

    keep it civil, please members, and let's not veer off topic.

    Thanks.
    zombiegirl
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    In Buddhism life is at conception, according to the suttas. So that debate is pretty settled in that aspect.

    That being said I take a very agnostic view on this issue. It is part of the dukkha of life. Is it harming life? Pretty much. Would I ever want my child aborted? Nope, but each person has to make their own choices(kamma) and deal with those decisions(vipaka). It is not my place to judge anyone else's actions.
    FoibleFullMaryAnne
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `   South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited February 2013
    I think it's always unfortunate when certain sins are put out there for the populace to focus on, when the sin is not exploitative of the lives, hopes, and living conditions of others. It's too bad we can't focus on the causes of a loveless world rather than on some of its symptoms over which it is difficult, if not impossible, to take control.

    To me, mindfulness of the great beauty and majesty of life would be better served by focussing on widespread promulgation of the old music of the greats. Without one having really heard the piano sonatas of Beethoven or the ancient organ music of Couperin and Bach, life may very well be a mistake, afterall. The music I hear booming in deep, dark, shaking tones through closed car windows makes me shudder at the demonic forces lurking in the hearts in our midst.
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    I have always liked the words, "Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help."
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I also have evolved in my thinking. I don't believe abortion should be illegal, and have felt that way for as long as I can remember (at least back to my teens). I do think abortion is generally undesirable, and that people should be more responsible in advance. Ultimately, it should be a personal choice, but I am sometimes dismayed that, within marriage, it seems like the father often has no part in the decision.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I am pro-choice socially and politically. I am "pro life" for myself. However, what I feel is right for me, doesn't mean it is ok for me to tell someone else it should be right for them. Also, there are circumstances in which I might elect abortion, and those need to stay open legally no matter what. I have a husband, and 3 children. We have taken supposedly permanent measures to prevent having more, both for personal and financial reasons as well as world population reasons. But I absolutely would retain the right to have an abortion if I were raped, if my health were in danger or other possibilities I might not be able to think of at the moment. Not that it would be an easy decision to make in any matter. As crazy as it sounds, I believe there was recently a study done that shows with the increase in availability and affordability of birth control, abortions have decreased. Go figure.
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    edited February 2013
    I would also like to remind everyone that there are members on this forum who have HAD abortions, so please, think before you post! We don't need this to turn into another shame game.

    So anyways, in a nutshell: I'm pro-choice

    I have known 4 women who have had abortions and only one was actually "used as birth control" as they say. It bothers me when people insinuate that women are out there having these willy-nilly. I think it's a great disservice to try and boil it down to either rape/life-threatening/incest or convenience. Life is complicated. All of the women I've known had a very hard time with the decision and did not make it lightly.

    The first situation involves a woman who had supposedly just had an IUD removed. She became pregnant and at some point they realized that something was wrong and that part of the IUD had actually been left in. It now left her in danger as well as putting the fetus in danger and a heightened risk of birth defects. She decided to have an abortion. I also know another woman who had a serious problem with an IUD and had she become pregnant, she would have been in the same situation. I do think that these things happen more than people think...

    And the other 3?

    1 was rape,
    2 could be said that they were of "convenience" but 1 was a drug addict and 1 was young and in high school (she was the class president/cheer squad captain with the boy's grandmother pushing her very heavily to have an abortion)... so there are other matters to consider.

    Just a statistic to make you think... 1 out of 6 US women have been raped. People don't talk about it, they pretend it isn't as prevalent as it is, but the fact is... this statistic is only the ones people REPORT. Most people don't even report it... I didn't report my sexual assault.
    So, we're not just talking about some unlikely event. This is a horrible statistic and you better believe that if I became pregnant from rape, I would like to have the option. Having experienced sexual assault, I just cannot imaging having to carry a child to term from that. This is why, no matter how you feel about the act itself, I don't understand why anyone would try to take away the right. You clearly have no idea how that situation feels.
    And in the event of it becoming outlawed? Women will find another, more dangerous, way anyways... I've known girls in high school who did that: drank/drugged themselves into miscarriage. It's not safe for anyone, but if abortion was outlawed, we could expect to see a huge rise in that behavior. I also know one girl who attempted this and had the baby anyway (she was surprisingly born birth defect free, btw, so she was very lucky).
    BunksMaryAnne
  • I am in favor of birth control. But past that I don't believe the government should be involved. Perhaps for third trimester abortions. I find factory farming more abhorent than an abortion if it is earlier in the pregnancy. I'm no expert of course but I hope Roe v. Wade is not struck down for a lot of the reasons Jason gave.
    Nirvanazombiegirl
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `   South Carolina, USA Veteran
    Jeffrey said:

    I find factory farming more abhorent than an abortion if it is earlier in the pregnancy.

    @Jeffrey, you're a man after my own heart on this. Abortion can only be a moral issue in the strict sense for a Buddhist, I think. In the long view of the well-being of sentient beings, what makes the human animal intrinsically more valuable than other beings, which society has no qualms about killing for food? For the nonBuddhist, it is a moral issue only in a very narrow region: the human part of the biosphere.

    What I am trying to say is that the issue of abortion is largely a political one, bound up with emotions on both sides. It's all so unfortunate when we argue over this, I think, because the mother who has had to resort to an abortion is the only one who really has to carry the emotional baggage around (no matter how light it may be in some cases) for the rest of her life.

    I think people who get out on the bandwagon in condemnation of abortion as murder are really not interested in the truth; I maintain that they're just talking code and communicating with themselves. It's just a cause that energizes them; it feels good to get angry at all those people who don't think or act like us!!!!! Human societies do tend to see murder as a sin and/or crime, although often not when these murders are perpetrated on a member of another tribe; however, due process usually enters into the equation, before a sentence is passed. The Roe V Wade decision, in invoking a penumbra of privacy property in the Bill of Rights, ruled, in effect, that there are some matters that are just too private to bring before the courts to ask permission for beforehand.

    It's so easy to talk about how people should conduct their lives. But I suspect one might take a wider view and think about walking in their shoes.


    zombiegirlJeffreyInvincible_summerMaryAnne
  • I think each possible abortion and its surrounding circumstances are all very different that each abortion should be taken in account on a case-by-case basis. Making sweeping policies and judgments seem very inadequate.

    There are no absolutes in life. Abortions are going to happen whether they are made legal or not. It makes more sense to me to make it legal so it can be monitored/regulated properly.
    Nirvana
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    My apologies if my last sentence was offensive, was not meant to be. It was based on my own experience with the issue, and every single person I know (6 of them) who has had an abortion has been because of convenience. Several of them because they weren't in serious relationships and didn't want to deal with the fall out of pregnancy and a baby. One because she had just started college. 1 of them because she had cheated on her husband and got pregnant. I don't blame them in any sense for their decision. It is their life and their decision, which is why I'd never take that decision away from any of them. But of those 6, only one was using a form of birth control beyond condoms, and had they there is a good chance they would have prevented pregnancy to begin with. But, I also know that sometimes, poop just happens. I didn't exactly plan on having a baby when I was 20 (my birth control failed) and I don't blame anyone who can't, or doesn't want, to take on a baby.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    I have always been pro-choice.
    And always thankful that I made it past my reproductive age without ever having to face, myself, the decision of whether or not to abort. I truly could not say (pre-Buddhism) what my choice would have been.
    But I make no attempts to tell others who to lie their own life. Which is why I am pro-choice.
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    @karasti It's interesting to compare those you know who have had abortions vs. those I know who have had them. Of course, you also have to take into consideration that perhaps because you are straight, the conversation comes up more and people are more honest? (Being a lesbian, abortion is extremely unlikely for me for obvious reasons.) Abortion is definitely one of those things that you will never know unless the person chooses to divulge.
  • craigpoff said:




    my study of the Dharma, the teachings of The Buddha, and Meditation have worked together to make what was once a harsh and bitter issue and have smoothed it out (at least in my mind) to a very simple summary:

    abortion is neither good nor bad, it just "is".


    killing is killing
    abotion is killing
    killing is not a wholesome deed
    to come to that poin ( to kill) one has to have greed or hate with delusion



    My mind is calmer, my readiness to get upset over the issue is much tempered and I feel that I am a happier and calmer and more abiding person, now as ready to extend my hand of friendship to anybody on any side of the issue and for this I credit the Dharma and the Buddha and the eternal wisdom of following The Middle Way.

    good
    this is what should happen to anyone who has done something/anything wrong before

    whatever wrong we have done before brings bad results now or future without doubt

    understand Buddha's Teaching and practice Middle Way, Noble Eightfold Path is the only exit point



  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    @zombiegirl I was a bit surprised how forthcoming these women were in talking about it. One of them is a woman who is a close friend of mine. The others were work acquaintances and 1 of them was a girl who spoke up in a college class and told her story.
  • I am pro choice... Seeing how buddhism is about the choices we make and being solely responsible for those choices. I believe a woman has the right to decide what is best for her; it should be her CHOICE and no one else's.

    cazzombiegirlVastmindMaryAnne
  • Abortion is killing your baby, there's nothing else to it. You're going to have a baby(which is a person, a human being) and you decide you don't want to, so you have it killed.

  • If it were my choice I would choose not to abort but, in nearly every case, it is not my choice to make. I respect the woman's right to choose.

  • cacto said:


    Abortion is killing your baby, there's nothing else to it.

    The mountain of posts above clearly shows there is more to it than a flippant conclusion.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    I had a friend who had an abortion once. She once asked me "Am I a good person? am I a killer, am I a murderer?" Those are never good questions to be asking of yourself. Ideally, the answer should always be an obvious "No".
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    If you cannot answer them with confidence before hand, then you shouldn't be having the abortion until you can. Or make a different decision. A life time is a long time to live with that kind of regret or even just the questions. I do think you can have an abortion and be a good person, and not be a killer/murderer though. One of my closest friends is one of the people I listed above who had an abortion. She was 17 and had been raped. She doesn't regret her decision for a moment. She has never wanted children, and at 35 is happy in her relationship, happy being a kitty mama, and still does not want children. Forcing her to go through the pregnancy to give up the baby would have been a horrible experience for a high schooler to have to suffer through, and forcing her to have and keep a baby she wouldn't have wanted or loved, wasn't going to help her or the world either. For her, it was the best decision for her and her family to make.
    DakiniMaryAnne
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    cacto said:

    Abortion is killing your baby, there's nothing else to it. You're going to have a baby(which is a person, a human being) and you decide you don't want to, so you have it killed.

    To be "at" Buddhism, one has to learn first that all things are not simply black or white.

    Brian
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited February 2013
    craigpoff said:


    a. first of all, Abortion exists, it simply "is";

    f. Abortion, however, remains an evil way

    How do you square a) with f) ?

  • I think it can be agreed upon that Abortion is a form of suffering, in that, it exists. On a personal note however, it would be a violation of the first precept. Do I believe it makes you a bad or unmindful being? Of course not! The point of the matter is, in this world, there will always be killing, and there will always be death, because death is a form of suffering. With that, Abortion can be a very touchy subject, as there is always debate as to whether the fetus is a living being or not. Though in retrospect, if you look at it, the fetus, even to those who say it has not yet been born, is still a being working through transgression. As for the karmic outcome, I can not speak to that. That's just my two cents.
    BhikkhuJayasara
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    karasti said:

    If you cannot answer them with confidence before hand, then you shouldn't be having the abortion until you can. Or make a different decision. A life time is a long time to live with that kind of regret or even just the questions. I do think you can have an abortion and be a good person, and not be a killer/murderer though. One of my closest friends is one of the people I listed above who had an abortion. She was 17 and had been raped. She doesn't regret her decision for a moment. She has never wanted children, and at 35 is happy in her relationship, happy being a kitty mama, and still does not want children. Forcing her to go through the pregnancy to give up the baby would have been a horrible experience for a high schooler to have to suffer through, and forcing her to have and keep a baby she wouldn't have wanted or loved, wasn't going to help her or the world either. For her, it was the best decision for her and her family to make.

    Great post as usual, @karasti

    The person that I mentioned that had an abortion in the case of rape... It was actually her boyfriend at the time who raped her without protection with the intent of getting her pregnant because he wanted a kid. I cannot fault her at all for her decision. You can't just do that to someone...
  • NevermindNevermind Bitter & Hateful Veteran
    edited February 2013
    seeker242 said:

    I had a friend who had an abortion once. She once asked me "Am I a good person? am I a killer, am I a murderer?" Those are never good questions to be asking of yourself. Ideally, the answer should always be an obvious "No".

    If you've ever been through the experience that answer may not seem so obvious. I don't think anyone should pretend that it is.
    MaryAnnefederica
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    cacto said:

    Abortion is killing your baby, there's nothing else to it. You're going to have a baby(which is a person, a human being) and you decide you don't want to, so you have it killed.

    @cacto, I see your opinion, and get where you're coming from - but sometimes, you need to measure the weight of your words, and assess the consideration and sensitivity.
    There are women here who have been through this. Your comment may be valid. Your forthright manner is not appreciated. Please be more mindful.

  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `   South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited February 2013
    cacto said:

    Abortion is killing your baby, there's nothing else to it.

    I giss frum the anti fossil fuel lobby driving your car is burning fuel, there's Nothing Gelse 2 It.
    Plain and simple, don't enquire about what might be going on when it's frankly easier and quicker just to dismiss with judgment! Why bother? Ya already know that you're right.
    - - - - - - - -
    But such judgment is just political swagger! The issues involved are simply not crystalline. Indeed, I'd argue that it's all code-speak: People growing up in a tradition handing down traditions and morae through their language. It makes sense to them since that's the way they've always communicated, but it cannot stand entirely on its own in any sheerly objective way. Politics is what happens "in the city (polis)," where people come together to make civic decisions. Unfortunately, though, what results is "squabbling," which is my English translation of the Greek-based word, politics.

    But I'd argue that it is just simply unfair and undiscerning to refer to abortion in the unthinking kind of way that we might refer to, say, an orange, a murder, a hammer, or an idea --unless we be strictly speaking of a single medical procedure itself. IMO, it should always be in the singular, "AN Abortion;" that is because each case is so very different and has its own psychological and emotional baggage attending the situation. What I'm trying to say is that saying abortion is wrong is like saying taking a hammer to an idea is wrong. Who can say, the idea may be even harder than the hammer!

    Oh, what I am trying, rather unsuccessfully, to say is that IT DOES HAPPEN that sometimes the end does justify the means. And, yes, some bad karma is involved, but you cannot live without taking on some of that; indeed most human beings need to accrue some bad karma to accomplish good in this world. Lumping all abortions together categorically as murders, to me, is akin to lumping all nonChristians or nonMuslims together as Heathens. Abortions, like amputations, I'd argue, are more likely to be harder on those operated on than on those viewing the results.

    Therefore the kindhearted would choose not to pile more coal on the fire.

    MaryAnnekarastizombiegirl
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `   South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited February 2013
    Please pardon the double post, but I left something unsaid above.

    By Karma I mean work or energy (in the Sanskrit sense of the word), and that work relates to me more in my present incarnation than in any other. Thus, when I speak of people having to choose actions to which some bad karma may accrue, I am not worrying too much about any possible afterlife. It's usually politicians in this life that get heaps of blame for side effects of their deliberations; that seems enough negative karma for them. The denizens of the country are saddled with the collective karma that flows from their decisions.

    A woman who is saddled with the decision as to whether or not to have an abortion is put under great stress. I'd argue that battling that decision out, no matter what choice is arrived at, creates some positive karma (energy) which could be harnessed to surmount other obstacles down the road in addition to the stressor that any problematic pregnancy most surely is.

    It is karma (work) to be conscientious and thorough, but it is also karma (good work) not to be so hard on oneself as to be dispirited and made low so as not to be able to be at ones best for others. We are all entangled in karma of all kinds, and being compassionate and considerate towards ourselves and others is a good anchor.

    I'm not sure I could call what is essentially a medical procedure an act of unkindness, but I cannot conceive of the killing of a live animal as kind. It would follow, that I cannot be emotionally swayed by the abortion as killing argument. Those samskaras (entangled thoughts), as it were, are lacking in me.

    I say let computers be computers and let people be people --with their own genuine dharmas.
  • cacto said:

    Abortion is killing your baby, there's nothing else to it.

    Not if there's no fetus yet. If you can catch it in the first couple of weeks, it's just a zygote, still, and the procedure isn't even called an abortion, it's a "menstrual extraction".

    trendybuddha
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