The color gray

“You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind”*
———-
Of late, as I listen to the voices in the abortion debate, there are passionate voices on both sides.

“Pro-life!”
“My body my wish!”
“Fetus is a human!”
“No, it is just a bunch of cells!”

I see people’s impassioned speeches – mostly Faith based – on abortion destroying God’s creation. Some even argue that if a child was conceived of rape, then that must have been God’s will too. I have read arguments on the other side too – some compelling ones from women who have been victims of abuse, and rape….Women who had battled depression that resulted from this, and fought their way out of it. Brave women who came to tell their story.

As more and more draconian laws get enacted in the deep South, it makes it all the more difficult for women to terminate a pregnancy.
———-
One of the words flung about in the abortion debate is “pro-life”. What does it mean, philosophically speaking? Is it pro-“all life”? Only human life? Pro- human and pro-animal in the sense of protesting against the Yulin dog meat festival in China, but being fine with cows, pigs and hens in factory farms? So pro-human-and-pet life only?

Is being pro-gun pro-life? If so, isn’t the purpose of a gun to take a life? Are pro-lifers anti-gun?

Are pro-lifers okay with eating veal…..which is basically making an intelligent,  sentient animal carry its fetus for the full gestation period; then separating calf from mother soon after birth, tying up the calf in a tight pen in conditions that cause anemia so that the meat can be white and tender; then killing that calf to serve as meat, and drawing milk from the mother for human consumption. Is this pro-life?

Would pro-lifers turn vegetarian enmasse? Fat chance of that happening…..

Are pro-lifers okay with buying cosmetics that went through rounds and rounds of animal testing? Are they okay with shampoos, foundation – you name it – being sprayed into the eyes of bunnies and other animals repeatedly, to see if/when damage happened?

Are pro-life people okay with America waging wars across the globe, targeting countries rich in natural resources like Venezuela and Iraq? Is it okay to get American soldiers and civilians in other countries killed in these wars?

Are pro-life people okay with American corporate world caring little for the environment? Okay with building an oil pipeline through holy Native American sites and through a river at Standing Rock – that, if the pipeline bursts, can poison an entire river and affect all lives – human and animal, that depend on that river’s waters?

What are pro-lifers’ stand on the preservation of Earth, that sustains all life?

Would pro-lifers support a woman who was forced to have a child she could not support, and ensure she and the child have healthcare?

Is “pro-life” really slut-shaming in disguise, where the wrath is directed at the woman, when it took two to conceive a child? I have read some very cruel words from pro-lifers that make me wonder.
———-
On the other side of the debate is “pro-choice”. That word is a little easier to understand but the debates are troubling all the same. I am not convinced by arguments about abortion being about a “woman’s body”. Her body, her choice…..hmmm. I don’t know. Sounds arrogant and a little cruel. Though of course no woman is happy about having an abortion or would want to use it as a birth control method. I am sure a lot of thought went into it.

But I find it a hard sell despite being a woman, that abortion is only about a woman’s body.

I read a compelling blog by BeautyBeyondBones that turns the phrase “my body, my choice” on its head.

The blog makes a lot of sense. There is another life involved. It is not just one’s body. And one’s choice could be self-destructive even if a person is legally an adult, and legally allowed to make choices. People can get drunk – which is self-destructive but legal. But you are not allowed to drink and drive because you endanger other lives, she says (I am paraphrasing). In the same manner, abortion involves other lives and not just your own.

As I read her arguments and see their merits, I am still leery about legislating abortion away. Just legislating is not going to solve the problem. And the accounts from rape and abuse survivors are horrific – no survivor should be forced to carry a child of rape/abuse to term knowing fully well they will be incapable of loving the child, and the child will be a constant reminder of the horror they went through.

We hear about women abusing substances, getting pregnant with no awareness of what it is to be a parent, and subjecting the children to abuse, neglect, or both. We hear of children taken away by CPS, to be returned, and then die within a short time due to abuse. The stories are heart-rending. When I read them I wonder if the mother should have just terminated her pregnancy instead of the child having led such a tragic life.

Not all children get adopted. Many are in orphanages, some are in the foster care system. A friend of mine used to volunteer at a place where they mentored foster kids who would be aging out of the system soon, and had no life skills: how to write a work application, where to find work, how to make a budget, how to look for a place to live…

Some foster kids – once they become adults – can flounder without mentoring and can become homeless. So having a child come into the world unwanted has its ramifications.
———-
Many of these are gray areas. Pro-life meaning pro-“all life” may not be possible for all.

I can see that human beings are omnivores. Not all can be vegan or vegetarian. While respecting the rights of meat eaters, we can find common ground in saying no to factory farms that just do not allow animals to live natural lives. Being imprisoned from birth in filthy and cramped conditions and dying just to be someone’s meat is horrific and unspeakable cruelty towards a sentient being. I still cannot think about veal as meat – that is just cruelty.

I can see gun ownership being necessary in some areas – such as farms where people live isolated, surrounded by acres of land. They need protection from wildlife, thieves, you name it. But unchecked gun ownership – with no background or mental health checks – and no restrictions leads to shooting in places where children go to study. “Thoughts and prayers” are not enough to stop the shootings. Here is an area where America could use more legislation.

———-
Some months ago, I befriended a kitten that kept visiting my backyard. It was a cute tuxedo kitten who was at first shy, then warmed up to me. This was back in August, when it was warm. It would sniff my hand, then retreat to a safe distance, a little wary. Gradually, I earned its trust, and figured out it was a female kitten. She had a bite mark in one of her ears that was bleeding. I put some coconut oil on it, and it healed within a couple of days.

After a few months of trying to find an owner – taking her to Petsmart to look for a microchip, posting on Nextdoor, asking around and following leads, learning from a neighbor that a lady down the street owned the cat and planned to spay and vaccinate her “in a week’s time”, learning from another neighbor’s son that she was his cat (which his mother denied outright), I decided to take her to the vet myself. My fear was about the cat – herself homeless – having kittens that would freeze in the winter. A few tomcats were making the rounds already, with poor Tux (as I named her) cowering in fear and hiding when one of them came around. I’m guessing he must have bitten her.

I was in two minds – whether or not to get her spayed. Who am I pluck another being out of the street, and interfere in her natural way of living? Who am I to decide whether or not she has children? Am I not being arrogant?

She got vaccinated on the first day, and the vet ran some tests. She was heartworm negative, did not have feline leukemia. The bad news was that she was FIV+. In other words, she had gotten a virus that compromised her immune system. This virus is generally transmitted through bites, or through sex; rarely, from a FIV+ mother to her kittens.

That settled the question for me – spaying was the compassionate thing to do. No need to put other cats at risk of catching the virus from her, and if she had babies, there was a risk of them getting the virus too.

To cut a long story short, Tux became my pet and we have adapted to each other. She goes on her outdoor rounds, the toms leave her alone, and her vaccinations are up to date.
———-
On the topic of abortion, the solution is not black or white. Maybe the way forward is pro-choice where the choice is on the grounds of compassion. Caring for a living being – human or animal – is a responsibility not to be undertaken lightly. One has to enter into this sacred contract of being responsible for another living being consciously and with full commitment.

No child deserves to be born in a loveless place. No child deserves to be born to irresponsible, addicted parents who conceived the child by mistake and would subject the child to abuse, neglect or both.

No woman who survived horrific abuse and/or rape should be forced to have a child conceived through abuse or rape.

There are other gray areas. Some women have written about an accidental pregnancy at an advanced – nearly menopausal – maternal age. They had concerns about their own health, about babies born unhealthy or with birth defects. Some younger mothers already had children and were barely making ends meet. Some became pregnant when they were teenagers, or young adults who didn’t have the means to support a child – the pregnancy was accidental. In all these cases, some had the strength – and the support from family and community – to make things work, and they carried the child to term. Some didn’t.

So the debate to me is not about “pro-life” or “anti-life”. Rather, it is each person deciding for themselves what would be the compassionate thing to do. Can they stretch their resources – mental, emotional, financial – to care for one more child when they are barely making ends meet? Can an almost-menopausal mother find it in her to carry the child to term? Some can, and have supportive partners. Some may choose not to – for compassionate reasons. Compassion towards their aging bodies, compassion towards their existing family responsibilities…some maybe caring for their aging parents too. Can a young teenager just starting out in life, and with no means and no support, realistically care for a child she accidentally conceived? Will the child have a good life in this setting? What about her own life, that is just starting?

Legislation does not prevent abortions, just drives them underground and causes women to use unsafe methods.

So pro-choice it is. Not the cringe-worthy slogan of “my body, my life, my choice”. But because choice is the compassionate way.
———-
* From the song “Colors of the Wind” from the Disney film “Pocahontas”
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