The following was written on ISCABBS, Aug 16, 1996, in response to a question about the pagan or wiccan ethos in response to the issue of abortion. As always, no one can speak for any unitary sort of ethos; the thoughts which follow are my very own.
Now: on the topic of abortion, I feel myself uniquely qualified to comment, as I am female, have experienced an unexpected pregnancy, and have chosen an abortion: true, it was before I discovered I was pagan, but the reasoning still holds.
One can take the term “Harm none” to a degree which requires one to suffocate one’s self in order to cease harming various bacteria. I am a Kitchen Witch; I have a much more pragmatic approach to it.
I have a garden in back of my house. When I do not weed the garden, the vegetables and fruits and herbs which I wish to encourage, die. When I weed the garden, but fail to thin my plants, again they die. I kill “weeds” (the plants I do not wish to grown among my vegetables) and “plants” (the species which I *do* wish to grow there) so that the plants which I am cultivating might live.
Again: I try to discourage mosquitoes and certain types of caterpillars and junebugs. I kill them, remove their spawning grounds, and set barriers and traps for them: because I want my garden to be a certain way, and I want to be able to use it.
It is my garden. I highly resent people who come and tell me that I’m “murdering” the plants which I pull, or the insects which I fight. I highly resent, as well, the people who sternly tell me that I should have planted different plants, or that a particular species which I’m cultivating is a Weed, and should be pulled.
Let them plant their own gardens, and care for them as they will.
Which is not to say that I won’t accept advice on various ways of caring for the plants I do have.
For me, a fetus is like a plant:
- If I’ve planted it deliberately, no one has the right to remove it from me.
- If I’ve decided that, in the garden of my life, this is a weed, or a plant which needs thinning, no one has the right to prevent me.
My body is my garden; do not try and tend it for me. Tend your own. Once the harvest is complete, or the baby delivered, if I choose not to keep it — why, then is the time to come and take it from me.
We are not committed to preserving all life everywhere forever; we are committed to doing the most amount of good possible. When we don’t know which might be good and which ill, it’s better to leave it alone and see what comes of it. When we do know, however, then it is time to act.
The child I had started (and yes, I thought of it as a child, not as a lump of worthless flesh) was a sunflower sprout in October. I looked at all its possible futures before I chose what to do. And I talked to it, there in my womb, in the weeks before I had my abortion. And I grieved for it afterwards. But I did not then nor ever after regret my decision.
For, look: were I to try to raise the child myself, we would both be thrown on welfare, and I would be thrown out of college (for which I was paying my own way), and I would resent the child on those accounts and on account of its father, and I would be a danger to the child: unfair to the child, unfair also to me.
Were I to give the child up for adoption, the child would languish in foster homes and orphanages, and grow up dislocated, for the children of the race of my child go for years and decades without being adopted. Devastating for the child.
And were the child to come to me, having grown up, to see why I’d abandoned it, all my explanations would never convince it that I’d done so for any other reason but prejudice.
And were the child at any point to ask me concerning its father, I would have to say:
- His youngest daughter was older than me.
- He was engaged in all manner of criminal activity (the which I didn’t know until after I’d conceived.)
- He was an alcoholic and a drug addict.
- He has a habit of impregnating young, emotionally vulnerable girls. It is, in fact, a goal of his.
- He told me straight out that, given the chance, he would have sexually molested his daughters.
And, above all else, I had to look at the possibilities of birth defects. No one, having abused his body to that extent over that period of decades, could be assured of having sound sperm.
No. No, no, and again no. Not this child, not of this father, not when I was in no position to protect it as I wanted.
It is my garden, my body, and the mere fact that some charming scoundrel has managed to dump seed in it does not mean that he has any right to require me to hoe, water, fertilize and harvest it.