Same job, different uniform.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Fifth Noble Truth: Suffering is only bad if its your own

To mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this weekend pro-life supporters gathered to protest abortion. In Boise this number was around 400. The day after these protesters gathered, their opponents rallied to to show their support of Roe v. Wade. One of these was a neighbor from my childhood.

I remember her as a wild, slightly obnoxious but affectionate girl that I called a friend. We had nothing in common except proximity and perhaps age (she is a year or so younger). Since I was raised by Christians and she was influenced by a combination of Eastern mysticism and paganism, we fought over politics and religion.

We rarely saw each other after high school, and the encounters were disheartening. She lived an aimless, wild life, and not a particularly happy one. Our email correspondence was painful. A few years ago we reconnected and she told me that she had become a Buddhist. There is no denying its positive effect on her life. She met a man she loves, they got married, they have a dog. (His name is Buddha.) She is calmer. She is sober. She is studying for an advanced degree.

She is an intellectual.

I prefer the loud-mouthed adolescent to the condescending adult.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, at Sunday's gathering, my misguided friend said, ''When American women are barred from accessing health services at the whim of a politician's religious beliefs, we are not in a democracy at all."

Was she at the wrong rally?

It is easy to defend abortion within the framework of a reckless life. Abortion is a safety net for the lazy and imprudent. Within this context, abortion makes sense: I am foolish and I acted foolishly. I will cover my actions by having an abortion. Abortion is a right I should defend at all costs.

It is difficult to defend abortion when you are a Buddhist. The prudent lifestyle does not support abortion in any context. It is superfluous. Not only is it a threat to a virtuous and prudent society, it inflicts suffering on someone weaker--a fundamental harm that Buddhism (and Feminism and Liberalism, one might argue) aims to correct.

What is Buddhism's First Noble Truth? "The Truth of Suffering. The Buddha's discovery of the solution to the problem of suffering began with the recognition that life is suffering...If people examine their own experiences or look at the world around them, they will see that life is full of suffering."

It might be sufficient to say that abortion is a part of mankind's suffering and ought to be borne. The problem with that logic is "the end of suffering is the final goal of the Buddha's Teaching..." Common sense tells us that Buddhists would be inclined to be pro-life, working to end the "ill will, greed and desire" that would compel a woman fully capable of either raising a child or giving it up for adoption to abort it.

Where was the pursuit of the noble goal of ending suffering wherever it's found, however discomfiting the discovery, in my friend's statement? Where is it in the larger Buddhist communities?

I must conclude that to the average Feminist Buddhist suffering is only tragic when it's your own.

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Blogger Lois E. Lane said...

Brilliant, as usual; reminds me of your posting about the rights of the "little guy" supposedly being defended by the liberal cause in every cause ... except abortion. And like I said awhile back, how come television doesn't factor adoption into unwanted pregnanies? This is the most mutally beneficial outcome for all parties.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blogger Lois E. Lane said...

Oh ya, I forgot to say your friend is right about one thing: We aren't, in fact, in a democracy at all :)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blogger girlfriday said...

I know. It's shocking. It should shock us to our core, but it doesn't.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blogger Bubblehead said...

girlfriday -- Hate to break in with an off-topic announcement, but you might be interested in an important announcement regarding Idaho blogging I posted at my site.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blogger saraeanderson said...

Are you really trying to argue that unplanned pregnancies only happen to the "lazy and imprudent?"

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blogger saraeanderson said...

I'm not convinced that having sex is a "decision." It's a part of life, so unfortunately so unplanned pregnancy is too. No matter what purpose you see in sex (I am not inclined that reality has any kind of purpose), women will end up accidentally pregnant. Where I'm coming from, I can't be convinced that the interests of a one- or two-month embryo outweigh those of a grown woman.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blogger Lois E. Lane said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sara. In regard to your first comment, you missed girlfriday's point: She was trying to present a justification of abortion within the framework of a wild, irresponsible lifestyle and within that of a settled, Zen-like lifestyle. She wasn't trying to say what you concluded.

As for your second comment, I may be concerned. Are you being forced to have sex, or do you live in a constant state of intercourse? Kidding, obviously. But of course sex is a decision. You can do it, or not. It's not a part of life in the way that breathing or eating are. You can't live long without doing those, but you can live without sex.

The interests of a 1- or 2-month embryo are actually not that different from anyone else's: food, shelter, and ultimate survival. Why don't more women take both theirs AND their fetus' interest to heart, carry the baby to term and give him or her away?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blogger Julie Fanselow said...


Checking out your blog in the context of Bubblehead's SPUD-LIB campaign. It's great to know about other female Idaho bloggers.

You really need to know, however, that most women who have abortions aren't nearly so flippant about the matter as you suggest. You are falling into the false "abortion as birth control" meme, and it just isn't so.

I read an excellent, excellent article in The New Republic about five years ago, maybe more, about how Japanese (if I recall correctly) women view abortion. If an Eastern woman must have an abortion, she does so, but she goes through a period of reflection and mourning for the lost life afterward.

Abortion is not to be taken lightly. Adoption is indeed an excellent alternative that ought to be promoted, but I do not want to live in a country that demands that a woman carry her fetus to term.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Blogger girlfriday said...

Julie, and Sara. Hi.

Both of you raise excellent points. I think all of us, perhaps women especially, value the particular freedoms granted to Americans, especially freedom of thought, religion and freedom of the press. It is easier to overlook our right to life, not because we don't value life but because we believe that right is secondary to our right to privacy or our right to pursue happiness.

This raises the question, on whom are these rights bestowed? All people? If we agree on this (and I assume we do), then I wonder if we recognize the fetus as a person.

If not (and I'm addressing Sara directly here), at which stage do the interests of the fetus begin to either equal or outweigh the interests of an adult person? Four months? Seven months? During delivery? What elements have to be in place for us to recognize and protect the interests of the fetus?

It's because I take abortion so seriously that I even bother writing on this tiny little blog about it.

Is abortion largely birth control? Yes. This isn't anecdotal. Planned Parenthood, along with other medical facilities that offer abortions, report to the Feds the number of abortions performed and the demographics of the women who have them. They are primarily white, middle-aged women and if memory serves, married.

I was surprised. I thought women having abortions were down and out teenagers or rape victims. We can argue whether or not these women have a constiutional right to abort their unborn child, but we cannot pretend they are the women primarily opting to do it.

Like you, I want to live in a country that embraces equal rights for women. All of them.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blogger saraeanderson said...

I don't know why it's in a woman's best interests to be pregnant if she doesn't want to be. Pregnancy, after all, is dangerous. It can be deadly, even in countries with good health care, and even the easiest pregnancy is still a big deal. Forcing a woman to undergo the pregnancy for the sake of a developing embryo is quite a lot to ask. Once a fetus is viable outside the womb, go ahead and take it out if you really want it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blogger Lois E. Lane said...

Sara: The United States, in which abortion is legal, is not a developing country. The maternal mortality rate here is miniscule compared to successful childbirths. One cannot note the "dangers" of pregnancy without acknowledging the dangerous nature of abortion: Hemorrhaging, sterility, infection, a correlative likelihood for future miscarriages.

To argue that pregnancy is uncomfortable is like saying tonsillectomies aren't the most pleasant of experiences. Of course it can be a burden -- and how much more so for victims of rape or incest. Who doesn't have compassion for a situation like that? But for women who are sexually active by choice, pregnancy should be a consequence they consider long before intercourse. It's a "burden" (or baby) they'll have to bear.

Friday, February 03, 2006


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