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Different Strategies

In the closing to my 2006 book, The Liberal Case Against Abortion, I wrote:

"I am struck by how knee-jerk the liberal/progressive community is on the necessity of legal abortions," writes Timothy Shipe of Westerville, Ohio, in the June 2003 issue of The Progressive.  "On every other issue, the progressive community looks at the parties involved, assesses the humanity, the vulnerability, the justice, the balance of power, and then weighs in on the side of the underdog.  Every issue, that is, except for abortion.

"The day I accept as 'progressive' the anti-human practice of willful abortion is the day I say OK to unjust war, unfettered capitalist exploitation of people and the environment, capital punishment, ethnic cleansing, and so forth."

Opposition to abortion can be found across the political spectrum.  A national poll by Wirthlin Worldwide on the evening of the 1998 elections found that 38 percent of all Democrats (and 40 percent of Democrat women) oppose abortion.  A national poll released by the Center for Gender Equality (a women's think tank headed by former Planned Parenthood executive director Faye Wattleton), in January 1999, found that a majority of American women do not support legalized abortion on demand.  53 percent of female respondents to the poll said abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, to save a mother's life or not at all, up from 45 percent in 1996.

A Zogby International poll in August 1999 found that the majority of Americans recognize that abortion destroys a new individual human life (52 percent versus 36 percent), oppose partial-birth abortions (56.4 percent versus 32 percent), are opposed to tax-funded partial-birth abortions (71 percent to 23 percent), and think parents should be notified if their minor child seeks an abortion (78 percent).

The abortion controversy is analogous to the Vietnam War.  By the late 1960s, both the right and the left came to agree that the war was wrong; they merely advocated different strategies for ending it.  The real losers on this issue are the 1.5 million annual victims of prenatal homicide, and the spineless politicians afraid to speak out against the madness.

On secular, human rights grounds, the American Left should take a stand against abortion.

****

The abortion controversy is analogous to the Vietnam War.  By the late 1960s, both the right and the left came to agree that the war was wrong; they merely advocated different strategies for ending it.

Abortion and war are the collective karma for killing animals. The reincarnationist strategy for ending the abortion crisis is that we cease to kill animals.

Pythagoras warned: "Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men."

Thomas Tryon's lengthy The Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness was published in 1691. Tryon defended vegetarianism as a physically and spiritually superior way of life. He came to this conclusion from his interpretation of the Bible as well as his understanding of Christianity.

Tryon, a Christian mystic, wrote against "that depraved custom of eating flesh and blood." The opening pages of his book begin with an eloquent plea for mercy towards the animals:

"Refrain at all times such foods as cannot be procured without violence and oppression, for know, that all the inferior creatures when hurt do cry and fend forth their complaints to their Maker...

"Be not insensible that every creature doth bear the image of the great Creator according to the nature of each, and that He is the vital power in all things. Therefore, let none take pleasure to offer violence to that life, lest he awaken the fierce wrath, and bring danger to his own soul.

"But let mercy and compassion dwell plentifully in your hearts, that you may be comprehended in the friendly principle of God's love and holy light. Be a friend to everything that's good, and then everything will be a friend to thee, and co-operate for thy good and welfare."

In The Way, Tryon (1634-1703) also condemned "Hunting, hawking, shooting, and all violent oppressive exercises..." On a separate occasion, he warned the first Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania that their "holy experiment" in peaceful living would fail unless they extended their Christian precepts of nonviolence to the animal kingdom:

"Does not bounteous Mother Earth furnish us with all sorts of food necessary for life?" he asked. "Though you will not fight with and kill those of your own species, yet I must be bold to tell you, that these lesser violences (as you call them) do proceed from the same root of wrath and bitterness as the greater do."

George T. Angell, founder of the Massachuse­tts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, “I am sometimes asked, ‘Why do you spend time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is cruelty to men?’ I answer: ‘I am working at the roots.’”

"The vegetarian movement," wrote Count Leo Tolstoy, "ought to fill with gladness the souls of all those who have at their heart the realization of God's Kingdom on earth."

"When we turn to the protection of animals, we sometimes hear it said that we ought to protect men first and animals afterwards... By condoning cruelty to animals, we perpetuate the very spirit which condones cruelty to men."

---Henry Salt

"Although I may disagree with some of its underlying principles," writes pro-life activist Karen Swallow Prior, "there is much for me, an anti-abortion activist, to respect in the animal rights movement. 

"Animal rights activists, like me, have risked personal safety and reputation for the sake of other living beings.  Animal rights activists, like me, are viewed by many in the mainstream as fanatical wackos, ironically exhorted by irritated passerby to 'Get a Life!' 

"Animal rights activists, like me, place a higher value on life than on personal comfort and convenience, and in balancing the sometimes competing interests of rights and responsibilities, choose to err on the side of compassion and nonviolence."

The fate of the animals and the fate of man are interconnected.  (Ecclesiastes 3:19)  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said in 1974:

"We simply request, 'Don't kill. Don't maintain slaughterhouses.'  That is very sinful.  It brings a very awkward karmic reaction upon society.  Stop these slaughterhouses.  We don't say, 'Stop eating meat.'  You can eat meat, but don't take it from the slaughterhouse, by killing.  Simply wait (until the animal dies of natural causes) and you'll get the carcasses.

"You are killing innocent cows and other animals--nature will take revenge.  Just wait.  As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them.  Finished.  They'll fight among themselves--Protestants and Catholics, Russia and America, this one and that one.  It is going on.  Why?  This is nature's law.  Tit for tat.  'You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.'

"They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse, and now they'll create their own slaughterhouse.  You see?  Just take Belfast.  The Roman Catholics are killing the Protestants, and the Protestants are killing the Catholics.  This is nature's law.  It is not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse.  You'll make a slaughterhouse at home.  You'll kill your own child--abortion.  This is nature's law.

"Who are these children being killed?  They are these meat-eaters.  They enjoyed themselves when so many animals were killed and now they're being killed by their own mothers.  People do not know how nature is working.  If you kill you must be killed.  If you kill the cow, who is your mother, then in some future lifetime your mother will kill you.  Yes.  The mother becomes the child, and the child becomes the mother.

"We don't want to stop trade, or the production of grains and vegetables and fruit.  But we want to stop these killing houses.  It is very, very sinful.  That is why all over the world they have so many wars.  Every ten or fifteen years there is a big war--a wholesale slaughterhouse for humankind.  But these rascals--they do not see it, that by the law of karma, every action must have its reaction." 

In a 1979 essay entitled "Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness," contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler) explains Srila Prabhupada's words in terms of a secular slippery slope argument, familiar to pro-lifers:

"A (spiritually) 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."

In the March 1982 issue of Back to Godhead, another contemporary Hindu spiritual master, Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami (Dr. Howard Resnick), comments on this shortcoming of the anti-abortion movement: 

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....

"If the pro-life movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life...then undoubtedly it will attain great success."

No lay practitioner of bhakti-yoga nor ordained (initiated) with lifelong vows can take a stand against the killing of the unborn without simultaneously taking a stand against the killing of animals for food, clothing, sport, etc.

****

In his 1987 booklet, The New Abolitionists: Animal Rights and Human Liberation, subtitled, "An introduction to the ascendant animal rights movement, framed in the historical context of human emancipation and explained in the terminology of progressive thought and politics," B.R. Boyd similarly writes:

"With more and more people sensing connections between the looming global violence of environmental collapse and thermonuclear war, on the one hand, and our various 'localized' or specific violences of child abuse, sexual assault, class exploitation, etc., on the other, the message of the animal rights movement echoes an ancient Chinese Buddhist saying:

"If you wish to know "Why there are disasters  "Of armies and weapons in the world "Listen to the piteous cries "From the slaughterhouse at midnight"

"Whether viewed spiritually as karma or in secular, psychological terms as the natural result of our individual and collective psychic numbing to the suffering we inflict, it does seem that our violence comes back to haunt us -- as we have sown, so are we reaping -- and that the roots of our ecological and nuclear dilemma reach deep into our history and our psychology.

"It seems increasingly clear that a thoroughgoing solution to the big problems we face will require a radical change in many of our ways of thinking and feeling and being in the world. Radical ecofeminism and some other wholistic perspectives are teaching us that an integral part of that change lies in learning to balance our intellect -- including clear-headed analysis, which is essential -- with our emotions, integrating head and heart, and developing circular and complete relationships with the earth and her creatures, as contrasted with the separated, linear patterns and the absolute primacy of intellect over feeling and intuition that seem to typify Western patriarchal thinking."

In the April 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a peace and justice periodic on the religious left, Catholic civil rights activist Bernard Broussard similarly concludes:

"...our definition of war is much too limited and narrow. Wars and conflicts in the human kingdom will never be abolished or diminished until, as a pure matter of logic, it includes the cessation of war between the human and animal kingdoms.

"For, if we be eaters of flesh, or wearers of fur, or participants in hunting animals, or in any way use our might against weakness, we are promoting, in no matter how seemingly insignificant a fashion, the spirit of war.'"

The "might makes right" mentality that makes abortion possible begins with what we humans do to other animals.

Animals are like children. If you can't see toddlers as persons, how will you ever see zygotes and embryos as persons?

A quote attributed to Ingrid Newkirk, Executive Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is: "I don't care about abortion. I only care about sentient life."

The abortion controversy is analogous to the Vietnam War.  By the late 1960s, both the right and the left came to agree that the war was wrong; they merely advocated different strategies for ending it.

Unlike Republicans, pro-life liberals advocate real social support for pregnant women and mothers.  In Pro-Life Feminism:  Different Voices, editor Gail Grenier Sweet calls for:

...easy access to contraception, sufficient maternity and paternity leaves, job protection, job-sharing and flex-time, aids to women who wish to stay home to raise young children, tax breaks and subsidies for women caring for elderly relatives at home, community based shelters for pregnant single women to learn parenting skills and finish their education, upgraded pension plans to alleviate the poverty faced by many elderly women, humane care of the handicapped and elderly in nursing homes, hospices for the terminally ill, medical care for infants born with handicaps, shelters for battered women, childcare programs, etc...

Similarly, in the December 1993 issue of Harmony:  Voices for a Just Future, in an article entitled "How Will we Revere Life?," editor Rose Evans writes: 

"This editor has long been aware of the relative success of the Dutch support system for pregnant women, compared to that of the U.S.  The Dutch abortion rate is a minute fraction of the American.  I believe the rate for young women in their teens is about one-twentieth of the U.S. rate.  And this is done not so much by restrictive laws (although there are some restrictions) as by real social support for pregnant women and mothers.

"The situation for pregnant women in the U.S. who don't have assured income, family support and medical insurance is abysmal and getting worse.  Choice is a joke.  Women don't have money for decent food, decent housing, or decent medical care, nor adequate support after the child is born."

The abortion controversy is analogous to the Vietnam War.  By the late 1960s, both the right and the left came to agree that the war was wrong; they merely advocated different strategies for ending it.

My friend Chris Hull said that as a child of liberal parents living in Berkeley, CA in the late '60s, his parents would play the soundtrack to the rock musical Hair, and he overheard lyrics with references to fellatio, masturbation, etc., but was too young to understand what they meant!

“Want to Stop Abortions?” asks the June 1995 newsletter for the Colorado Peace Mission in Boulder, CO.  

“Make them unnecessary.  Provide everyone with:  A choice of whether to have sex... and with whom; Comprehensive sex education; Non-coercive family planning; Safe, affordable birth control; Open, honest talk about sex; Loving parents...”

To those of us liberal on social issues, this is just being realistic!

On September 2, 2007, I was matched online with Michelle Renee Bean, a single mother in Vancouver, WA, with three beautiful daughters. We soon found ourselves emailing and phoning each other every single day!

Michelle, who first became pregnant at age fifteen, was very sexually expressive, casually admitting for example, that she masturbates. 

She asked me: "Have you ever made out for hours on end till your lips hurt?" 

Michelle talked about "road-head" (giving a guy head while on the road, or driving), a term I'd never heard before! 

When making plans to visit me here in the SF Bay Area, she wrote on September 15, 2007: 

"Seriously I could probably talk about sex for days... Women in their thirties... You might want to look that up before we meet, and I arrive with a case of condoms!"

Michelle said since she became pregnant at such a young age, her daughters were more like siblings to her. She told me casually that all the guys at her oldest daughter's high school were saying to her about her oldest daughter, Rachel, "Ms. Bean, your daughter's hot!" 

Michelle told me when she found out Rachel (still in high school at the time) was having sex with her boyfriend, she immediately put Rachel on birth control. 

When Rachel decided to move in with her boyfriend, a month before turning eighteen, Michelle was in tears, but said: 

"Hey Rachel does not have a three year old right now, I did something right." 

If I can borrow from Alanis Morrissette's 2002 song, "Hands Clean": "Well fast forward to a few years later..."

...Recently on her FaceBook page, Michelle says she blames the Democrats for abortion... 

...even though as was pointed out by net user "jazzkonigen" on the Alternative Lifers email list in 2007 that five of the seven justices who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade were appointed by Republicans, the decision came down during the Nixon administration, and legal scholars say it was libertarian in scope.

Michelle was born on January 31, 1973... just days after Roe v. Wade came down, and is too young to remember a time when pro-life Democrats had greater visibility. With Democrats For Life, we're hoping to change all that!

And as pro-life student John Morrow of Rutgers pointed out on USENET in the late '80s, a different set of morals was in place when Roe v. Wade came down: a society that would not accept single mothers, there were homes for unwed mothers, shotgun weddings, etc.

Michelle's profile on FaceBook shows her surrounded by loving friends, relatives and immediate family.

Michelle spoke kindly on FaceBook of one of her aunts, and her aunt was genuinely touched by Michelle's kind words. 

Everyone is in love with Michelle! Michelle's youngest daughter, Hayli, was comparing herself to her mother, saying she has similar taste in music, and that she was dancing to the Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" -- a song from the early '80s -- over a decade before she was even born! 

Like Michelle, Hayli became pregnant while in high school. 

A recent photo of Michelle on FaceBook, having recently turned 40 as well, showed her beaming proudly next to her newborn grandson -- the baby wearing a t-shirt which read: 

"I (heart) Grandma." 

“Want to Stop Abortions?” asks the June 1995 newsletter for the Colorado Peace Mission in Boulder, CO.  

“Make them unnecessary.  Provide everyone with:  A choice of whether to have sex... and with whom; Comprehensive sex education; Non-coercive family planning; Safe, affordable birth control; Open, honest talk about sex; Loving parents...”

The Colorado Peace Mission is correct!

Democrats For Life of America, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, South Building, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004 (202) 220-3066

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