Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Friday, May 17, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Abortion

Here's the thing: my opinions on abortion are no more valid than my opinions on panty liners. I will never have a kid.

No one will ever press a hand to my stomach and exclaim, "I feel it kicking!"

No one will ever observe, after an unfortunate up-draft billows my skirt over my head, "Perhaps you should consider Carefree. It's effective, and ever so much more economical than other brands of similar use."

True, I was once approached by a wonderful and wonderfully naive lesbian couple about contributing a sample of Marc. Both women were young, and about five minutes into their relationship, and had gathered their belongings into one concise duplex in northern Alabama. When they popped the 'pop' question, we were in a car headed down an even more concise road to pick up pizza for a party. As the car moved along the road, in a mostly dark Alabama night, there were stutters of light from street lights. Both the women were sitting in the front seats, one driving and one spun around to stare at me as I sat in the back seat. Flash of a streetlight.

"We love you," the non-driving lesbian said. "You'd be perfect."Blank of a streetlight gone.

Flash. Kids are not my thing. I like them in theory, and recognize they're necessary to keep the human race going, and to make my pizza, but it is a rare thing to be told by two women that they want you to contribute to their future disappointing offspring.

Blank. Mingling my DNA with their own, even in the most abstract, clinical of ways, reminded me of being a lab assistant in high school. Lab assistants had access to all the chemicals and specimens and vials and jars kept in the inner sanctum of our science classroom clusters. Usually we were supervised. When we were, on the rare occasion, left on our own, we lab assistants mixed random chemicals together to see what kind of reaction we would get.

Sometimes we got a satisfying explosion. Flash. Blank.

Sometimes we were rushed to the school nurse for treatment, and admonished by a negligent teacher, and forced to endure months of physical therapy.

Strobe lighting in the car as I paused.

"You'd be perfect."

"You'd need to ask my parents about how perfect," I replied. "And then maybe their parents to get a more informed opinion."

Flash-blank. Flash-blank. Flash-blank.

"Are you asking... I just jerk off into a cup, right?"

Flash-blank. Flash-blank. Flash-blank.

"I guess it's a cup."

"And then it's a kid?"

"If we're lucky."

Lucky. Right.

"What," I asked during a flash, so I could see her face, "would my responsibility be?" But then I continued talking during the blankness. "If I gave a part of the kid, I'm sure I'd want to be a part of the kid's life."

Flash. Face.

"It'd be our kid. Not your kid. All we need is the cup."


True story: when I was growing up I didn't believe in a soul. Certainly I believed in life and existence and being present, but I didn't get the whole soul thing. And I grew up surrounded by soul-believers. Everyone I knew spoke of The Soul as if it were a birthright, as if the soul were more vital to existence than pacifiers, Sesame Street, and milk.

"We are all," I was assured, "born with a soul."

Another true story: I wasn't a planned pregnancy.

I know, right? Not many kids are. I mean, some kids are of course, but most pregnancies are a surprise. Inconvenient. Or if not inconvenient, at least accidental, brought about by kids in the science lab, dumping chemicals into chemicals to get a reaction and surprised when there are consequences.

Life, as John Lennon once said, is what happens when you're making other plans.

Pregnancy is what happens when you're making another life.

The soul, though? The soul is what happens when you're making... what? Just because a cluster of scientific rooms come together to create a reaction, there's a soul so suddenly?

The Simpsons, via poet Paplo Neruda, explained my view of the soul: It isn't given to you at birth. You have to earn it. Like everything else in life, one must work for a soul. A soul doesn't come from God. It doesn't come as a birth-right. There are no distributions of souls from mythical figures.

Also, there's this exchange from 'Into the Woods':

Witch: Since when are you so squeamish? How many wolves have you carved up? 

Red Ridinghood: A wolf's not the same. 

Witch:  Ask a wolf's mother!

Souls, it would seem, are relative. Murderers have mothers. Mothers are the givers of soul.

Fathers are the giver of life. Males: cups. Mothers: 9 months of being a cup. Mix gently. Ingredients will bring forth a soul contained in a screaming, mewling compact human.



"It'd be our kid. Not your kid."

"Planned," I asked.

"Yes. Jesus. That's why we were asking."

Flash-blank. A long blank because a street light was out, or because I blinked at the wrong time. "You've only been together for a few months and you're asking me to..." Flash-silent.

"A cup."


Straight couple! A few day ago, I had a conversation with a recent father who had begat himself upon a willing female, and together they'd produced a child, and that child was named [redacted].

The father, a liberal in all other ways, said this: "I used to be pro-abortion, but with the baby I'm now thinking about it."

And I replied that I understood. "Accident, planned, it's still your kid."

"It's just, it is murder. I'm surprised to feel that way."

I'm not a father so I haven't experienced the conversion. Maybe what The Simpsons Neruda meant is that the way we earn our souls is to give them to small, mewling humans of our own creation.

"Absolutely," I replied. "I don't like abortion." It's true. I'm married to an adopted son. "But rape. Incest. Choice. I'm a gay man. I have no horse in this race."

A lie. Flash-blank. Flash-blank.

"It's so complicated because there's this life that can't exist without you for a certain time, and then around six months, it can exist with the right, you know, the right medical care, and when do you draw the line? When do you call it a life and when do you call it a person, and when as a man do you get to say that it should be criminal to kill it? When do you, as a man, as a person who will never grow that thing in your own body, get to say..."

Say what? Say that the life should be brought to term? Say that it was just a chemical reaction, and then go off to the school nurse?


I was an accident who could've easily been aborted. And my husband was more so. And we both struggle with abortion debates. We think of our own origins, and we thing of our own futures, and we both admit we'll never have a child in our bodies for months. We'll never be shamed for having sex out of wedlock. We'll never--not entirely true here--have to deal with long-term consequences of sexual abuse or rape.

Souls. They aren't earned. They aren't given. Souls are lucked into, like an inheritance, a rent controlled apartment, or a Duggar family birth. The truth is, those with get have, and those without get to have not. Some are lucky at birth, and some aren't.

There is not a reason to pretend those who are born got lucky to have a soul. Just as there is no reason to pretend that those who are unborn had a soul. In the end, we all have life. We have to earn the soul.


Flash-blank. Flash-blank. Flash-blank.

"Will you do it?"

"Do you love one another?"


"Of course."


"Do you love the cup?"


Bang. Flash.            

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