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Change the Dynamics

"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."

During 1986 - 1988, when I had access to USENET, a nationwide computer network linking corporations, military bases, think tanks, universities, etc., I paid close attention to the abortion debate. 
The subject of animal rights always came up, albeit indirectly.

The mentality of the pro-choicers was that the fetus wasn't human, but rather some kind of lower life form--and that lower life forms couldn't possibly have rights.

When a pro-lifer discussed the potential humanity of the unborn, a pro-choicer replied, "MY CAT has more potential than that!"

One pro-choicer said sarcastically, "Maybe the kid (the fetus) should be raised as a vegetarian. After all, don't cows have the right to life?"

Another pro-choicer, Oleg Kiselev, upon hearing the pro-life argument that brain waves can be detected in the unborn as early as six weeks, pointed out that animals also have brain waves. He then added, "Excuse me, while I eat my veal stew."

In the spring of 1988, Stephen Carrier, a grad student in Mathematics at UC Berkeley, wrote: "I don't see that life has anything to do with it. Chickens live and I eat them for dinner. And it isn't 'human life' that's the issue or every scrape of the knee would be a major tragedy."

Stephen Carrier went on to say: "The unique genetic combination possessed by the fetus is not enough to make it a person. To insist that it really is sufficient to make it a legal person is to fetishize DNA."

In a later posting, responding to Gary Samuelson (a Christian), Carrier wrote:

"I don't know what makes it okay to kill animals for meat. Many people think it's wrong and I have no logical argument that refutes them. But I don't believe it's wrong and I think abortions are analogous. Yes it's killing. No it's not murder because it's not a person... I think animals have souls too, but I eat them for dinner. I live with moral ambiguity. What's it like over there where you are?"

Carrier argued:"Unless we take a DNA fetishist position (which makes chimps 99 percent human by the way)..."

Gary Samuelson replied: "If it will make a difference, I will agree to oppose killing anything which is genetically 99 percent or more human, chimpanzees included."

Carrier responded:

"Okay. What about 50 percent human? That probably brings quite a few species into the net."

Carrier then concluded:
"...I will extrapolate from how we regard the rights of animals to how we may consistently regard the rights of fetuses.

"My argument has been an indirect one, that since we think certain things are okay, such as killing fish, perhaps killing fetuses is okay. It's not a mathematical proof, but there will be no mathematical proof that settles the abortion debate."

(Of course, if it IS wrong to harm or kill animals, it changes the dynamics of the entire debate!)

In the fall of 1986, pro-life student John Morrow of Rutgers University compared abortion to slavery: Roe v. Wade denied rights to an entire class of humans merely on account of their age and developmental status, just as the Dred Scott decision of 1857 denied rights to an entire class of humans based on the color of their skin.

Dave Butler of Tektronix in Oregon responded: "Abortion and slavery? Not even close. A fetus isn't human. If you believe it's wrong to eat meat, should your morality be imposed upon everyone else?"

"Not even close" has become a popular slogan with pro-choicers. It even appeared on the headlines of many San Francisco Bay Area newspapers in November 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected.

"Not even close" is not a new slogan. Peter Singer writes in Animal Liberation that when Mary Wollstonecraft, a forerunner of today’s feminists, published A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, "her views were widely regarded as absurd."

Thomas Taylor, a distinguished Cambridge philosopher, tried to refute Mary Wollstonecraft by demonstrating that if women could be given liberation, then animals could be given liberation, too. And since this is "absurd" it must be equally "absurd" to give women liberation. 

Taylor titled his parody, "A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes."

"Not even close" is the "A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes" of the late 20th and early 21st century, because it repeats the insurmountable  prejudice that other animals couldn't possibly have rights. 

It is this prejudice which we in the animal rights movement are struggling to overcome.

The pro-choice mentality hasn't changed since then. 

On AlterNet (a liberal headlines email newsletter), on February 20, 2009, in an article entitled "why get freaked out?", pereztx writes on the subject of abortion:

"...the thought of killing an innocent little life form and tossing them in an incenerator or trash might be the hang up other than that I cant think of why they might freaked out. This article writer probably then sheds tears during a PETA meeting about a chicken being killed..."

Again, the mentality of the pro-choicers was that the fetus wasn't human, but some kind of lower life form--and that lower life forms couldn't possibly have rights. This led me to conclude that if there's any constituency out there which ought to be sympathetic to animal rights, it's pro-lifers.


Everlast is pro-choice! Read the lyrics to "What It's Like" (see below):

"Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love
"He said, 'Don't worry about a thing, baby doll, I'm the man you've been dreamin' of'
"But three months later he said he won't date her or return her call
"And she swore, 'God damn if I find that man I'm cuttin' off his balls'
"And then she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin' through the door"They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore..."

In 2006, bhakta Matias Carnevale Cano in Argentina asked me via email if in Hinduism there's any forgiveness for a woman who has committed abortion. Yes.

I responded that according to Vaishnava tradition (the worship of Lord Vishnu), the Tulsi plant is considered sacred and especially dear to Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is a jiva-tattva living entity (one of God's children, like ourselves) rather than vishnu-tattva (a direct expansion of the Supreme Lord, similar to the Trinitarian conception of God in Christianity) and Vaishnavas will worship her as a saint, and she is honored with titles like "devi" (goddess) and maharani (empress).

In worshipping Tulsi, we circumnambulate her and sing a prayer in either Sanskrit or Bengali (not sure which language it is, and I don't remember all the words to the prayer, either!):

yanni kani cha pal pani, brahma hatya dhi kani cha, tani tani pranashyanti, pradakshina pade, pade

Which roughly translates as: step by step, by circumnambulating the Tulsi plant, one is absolved of all sins, including the sin of killing a brahmana (priest) -- which in Hinduism is a very grave offense.

As far as I know, the only equivalent in Christianity is the Catholic ministry Project Rachel, which engages women in post-abortion healing, without judging them.

Go on to: Chicago Police Department Interview with Srila Prabhupada (1975)
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