I want to enter into the conversation about the overturning of Roe vs. Wade with sensitivity to both “sides” and also share my grief. Please bear with me no matter where you fall on this issue. This discussion is important to the work of peacemaking and healing. I want to present both the serious harm that has been done and propose a different way of approaching conception, pregnancy and tending to the needs of both women and the unborn and living children rooted in a compassionate, loving and expanded mystical vision of the life-giving and life-taking power of the Divine Feminine and its sacred partnership with the Divine Masculine.
First to my grief: Whenever and wherever laws are created that impose a single and unmoving imposition of one story, one way, on someone’s individuality, mind, heart, and body, harm is done. The logical outcome of the present-day anti-abortion movement in the US and the laws that are being put into practice in many states is that women will be put into terrible double binds, hounded, branded as murderers, accused, put into jail, and even possibly be executed, whether by the state or at the hands of others without regard to their individual needs, stories and conditions. Anyone who helps them, from family and friends to the abortion providers, will similarly be deeply harmed. There is absolutely nothing to gain from such fearful, shame-based and violent treatment.
While on one level, it may seem to “save” an unborn child, it does so through the oppression of and serious wounding to all concerned. It serves no one. Not even the human being that may be born. This type of egregious oversight is nothing less than a perpetuation of oppressive systems of domination that have been played out against women for millennia and also against others.
What, then, is the alternative from the point of view of sacred activism for peacemaking? An alternative that respects and holds the sacred act of creation in procreation, pregnancy and birth and also the autonomy and dignity of pregnant people (I alternate between “people” and “women”, recognizing that people of all genders can be pregnant—she/he/him/her/they/them)?
To answer this question, I want to parse the landscape of this debate, both the shadow and the light.
The story on the anti-abortion side is that women’s lives and the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy are always trumped by protecting unborn life, no matter the causes and conditions. The laws that are recently being put in place presume right out of the gate the essential criminality of people who do not wish to bring a pregnancy to term—even, most shockingly, individuals who have been raped and incested. It continues a persistent and centuries-long story that women, as a whole (and even children who are incested), are irresponsible with their sexuality and that even considering not carrying a pregnancy to term makes them callous, cold-hearted, and, well, heinous.
Keep in mind the struggle that women who have been sexually assaulted have had and continue to have to be taken seriously and prove their case. Or even children and adults who call out their abusers. How they are ignored, doubted and even silenced. How they are shamed and blamed and put on trial in the court of public opinion and even in the administration of the law.
This approach is very black-and-white and allows for no nuance, compassion or neutrality. It shuts down each individual’s personal story before their voice ever gets heard. A person who wants or needs and abortion is bad. Their life and wellbeing must always be sacrificed. They must not be allowed to have their own unique experience. Ultimately, this position does not even take into account the emotional, physical and financial costs that forcing someone to carry out an birth can do to both the parent and the child.
Now, deep within the calling of so many who oppose abortion is a reverence for life and the sacredness of creating it. However, let me be absolutely clear: I do not include here many, many politicians and pundits, both men and women, who have participated in a decades-long weaponization of the abortion issue in the US as a means to garner personal, professional and party-aligned support and power. I am not saying a few may not personally, individually care—surely, some do; but have no doubt that in the 80s, there was a calculated decision to use the issue of abortion to conquer and divide. There was an alignment made with evangelical Christians, in particular, to make their particular religious views and practices dominant as a means to secure votes. This is one more example of the misuse of power and authority in service of domination.
Yes, we must hold sacred our sexuality, procreation, pregnancy, and procreation. I will say more about this after I have parsed the pro-abortion side.
The latter view is more balanced and yet also has an imbalance that is shared by the anti-abortion side.
The balanced aspect of the pro-choice movement embraces the unique voice of each individual and gives space for complexity. It recognizes that the debate about when life really begins is rooted in deeply personal beliefs, both religious and cultural. Thus, there is an acknowledgment that wherever force is applied assaulting the personhood and dignity of pregnant people and imposing one view of when life begins is oppressive, violent and harming. This is as true as any form of oppression applied to any group based on race, culture, ethnicity, nation, religion, sexual identity and orientation, or gender. There is also a recognition that anti-abortion laws unjustly and unfairly make the lives of women who have less means or difficult circumstances harder—even in many cases, untenable.
Those who speak to the need to give each woman the dignity to make her own decision recognize that once you take that right away, it erodes the very fabric of society. Oppression never results in abundance and prosperity for all. It continues transgenerational legacies of wounding.
It is absolutely true that the financially secure and well-heeled will have ways to get abortions and pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to do so. The middle class whose budgets are tight and the poor, or women who must hide their pregnancy and abortion due to domestic abuse or other family pressures, will seek out abortions through means that will potentially do harm to themselves. And many women will bring children into the world that are unwanted, not necessarily through lack of love, but because the circumstances of their pregnancies and the future that they see for themselves and a child are not life-affirming.
They may end up living in poverty, struggle and scarcity on many levels. Or having a child will truncate a dream they have to pursue pursue work, an avocation or a passion and be soul-killing. This is also a valid reason to not want to carry a pregnancy to term. Every human being has an inalienable right to choose their own destiny. Every person can feely choose creative work and even just independence over the responsibilities of parenting.
Further, as has been pointed out over and over again, the concern for the life of the unborn on the part of the anti-abortion movement is not generally wedded through law and systemic practice to a desire to eliminate the deep economic disparities in our country that are particularly hard on women and children. Or to take proactive steps to eliminate systemic racism and sexism.
I believe it is true that many people would be happy to carry a child to term if they were able to earn enough to know that their own and their child’s needs would be well met. Or if they knew they could easily afford childcare or access to other family and community support so they could go to school or pursue a well-paying job, career or passion. Of if they did not fear for their own and their child’s wellbeing due to poverty, domestic violence, racism, sexism, and other harms that befall some and not others. This violence is profoundly systemic in our world.
There are people who are anti-abortion who do understand this and advocate for greater society-wide and governmental programs to end the economic and systemic disparities that create double binds for many pregnant people. I give them a nod. Yet, if they continue to believe women should be forced by law to bring a child into the world and even punished by the courts, the state and even their neighbors if they seek to not do so, then their position remains fundamentally flawed. It is still based on a system of oppression. The errors of the divide between the haves and havenots cannot be solved through forced birth and then by equity on the other. The imposition of a particular, religiously- and culturally-determined idea of when life begins cannot be imposed on the whole.
Pro-choice advocates like myself also respect and care for the life of the unborn, as well as the child-to-be. Though I love and respect children, I myself chose to not have them; luckily, I never became pregnant. I made this choice for two important reasons: during my childbearing years, I was still struggling with symptoms of PTSD. I felt that I could not at the time hold space for a tiny and growing human being. Secondly, I felt that if I was to manifest what I knew to be my mission to help so many others in the world, I could not add the responsibility of childrearing to my plate. Given all this, if I had become pregnant, I would have chosen to have an abortion.
But have no doubt that I care about the unborn and all the unique causes and conditions by which the seed of life is planted and nurtured. Of course. Love demands no less. But I care, as well, about the bodily autonomy and sovereignty of already living human beings. I worry about any law or system which seeks to oppress any group based on identity, culture, religion, race, gender, and pregnancy status.
The only way to resolve this dilemma between caring for the unborn and the living, we must understand the archetypal level beneath the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This decision demonstrates the profound wounding of the feminine and masculine. In their balanced, sacred form, these divine energies are each part of a mystical dance of giving and receiving, action and stillness, birth and death, light and shadow. There is no power-over in this dynamic. Nor are there fixed roles—these energetic frequencies can be expressed in single individuals. It is only when the outer world is a complete expression of this harmonized, compassionate and loving dynamic that the born and unborn are served well.
In many cultures based on the imbalanced system of patriarchal, systemic oversight, and in the world as a whole, our idea of masculinity has been reduced to dark stereotypes of machismo and domination. Our idea of femininity has been reduced to the shadow of passivity and weakness. Within this paradigm, women are seen as in need of being controlled; men as in need of being in charge. When women themselves participate actively in this oppressive construct over other women, they are reflecting the internalized wounding of our their own divinity and sacred power.
To understand feminine power, both real and sacred, here is a fundamental fact: Women will always seek ways and be able to prevent and end pregnancies. This has been true back through the mists of time. The means used have changed and varied. It could be said that contemporary pharmaceutical and medical tools have perhaps made this easier. The bringing of new life is always in the hands and hearts of the women. Though laws can be imposed on them, the essence of the feminine to is to hold and choose to prevent or end a seed of potential life. We see this mirrored in the activities of Mother Earth. She gives and takes life. Humans have little control over this elemental fact.
Men who plant a seed that becomes immanent life ultimately have little control over this elemental power of women other than through respectful and caring relationship. In a healthy system, men recognize that their powers do not lie in the same playing field as women. Pregnant people grow life within; men or the male enacts life in the outer world. They co-create the conditions in families and communities whereby mother and child will be supported and nourished. They know that they should never force themselves on women, either in a sexual act or after there is a pregnancy.
Within the healthy framework of the expression of the divine masculine and feminine, all people recognize the magnitude of responsibility around sex and sexuality and take whatever steps are needed to prevent a pregnancy if the conditions and time are not right. If pregnancy happens anyway (which it always will, whether due to a moment of lust or passion, or due to the unavailability or a failure of birth control, or, more awfully due to rape or incest), then there is a careful and reasoned decision made based on love and responsibility about whether to bring an unborn child into the world. If men or a community wish to be part of a decision about whether or not to bring a pregnancy to term, then it has to be through a demonstration of deep respect for the emotional and bodily autonomy of the woman. In the end, everyone must concede should a woman/person and/or the family decide to not so do. It is within this healthy framework that we serve those who are not yet born and those who are.
In contrast to this life-giving, co-creative and respect-driven scenario, we live in a world where the dark, unbalanced masculine and feminine operate. The men who lead the movement operate unconsciously from a the deep conditioning and shadow of domination; the women who join them are unconsciously internalizing the wounding of their own human sovereignty. In this system, both men and women—all people can become oppressors.
Sadly, the use of force and oppression is accepted in many domains, not just in the anti-abortion movement. It manifests in arenas that more often than not put women and families into a difficult double bind when it comes to a decision about whether to bring a pregnancy to term.
The key here is the unconscious acting out of our wounded humanity. Millennia of the consequences of the will to domination and the violence that is the outcome, both subtle and overt, conscious and unconscious, have distorted our perception of reality, self and other, masculinity and femininity, gender, sexuality and procreation, pregnancy and birth, birth control and abortion, family and community.
Children, mothers and families (including men) are abandoned to struggle economically and socially despite this obsessive desire to control pregnancy and force birth. The demands of full-time work and career, often underpaid, create a difficult double bind with the potential caregiving of a child. Intimate relationships in the home and how sexuality and pregnancy are handled are invaded. Rape and incest are tacitly accepted when women are forced to bring the resulting pregnancy to term. They are, in fact, violated again.
And let us not forget that a person may make a decision to not bring a pregnancy to term because they feel it is not the right time, or it would prevent the pursuit of work and career goals, or it is not in alignment with what they feel is their mission and purpose in life. These are always valid and important reasons.
If there is any question about the oppressive mindset and paradigm within which the anti-abortion movement operates, look at the discussions underway after the overturning of Roe v. Wade about creating laws that prevent and punish women for crossing state lines to seek out an abortion. And allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits against women who are considering or who have had an abortion.
Where does it stop? Where does the will to domination and control stop when it comes to women and pregnant people? The point is that under these conditions, there is only one road: to deepening oppression over women’s and people’s bodies.
The harm and wounds that flow from out of this system under any guise makes my heart cry. The shaming and labeling of women hurts me. I weep for the suffering that will and already is coming for them, me, and all of us—including living children.
What has happened now in the US and still is happening around the world in other countries is not and should never be the answer to the question of the balance between the life of a mother/pregnant person and child. Never. Ever. Dominance and oppression never work; they do not serve life.
To begin to create a fruitful conversation about the issue of pregnancy between all concerned is to start with the recognition that everyone cares for the life of the unborn and for children. Indeed, I would argue that it is fundamentally human to do so. It is built into our DNA, our neurophysiology and our psychology.
From there, we must evaluate the ways in which oppression and domination mar our human experience and take constructive steps to build a world in which the powerful, positive divinity of the masculine and feminine (and andrognyny) is reestablished. Only then can the number of unwanted pregnancies diminish even more than they already have; only then can we have a world of peace and dignity for all.