For those tuning into the news in the United States, a Senator in the Texas Legislature launched a 13 hour filibuster blocking the passage of a drastic anti-abortion bill a couple weeks ago. The Senator’s name is Wendy Davis. Despite her heroic efforts to protect women’s health issues, the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has called a special session of the Texas Legislature to get the bill passed. This week, that special session convenes. Thousands of people are descending on Austin, the capital city of Texas, to protest the bill. This legislation has reignited one of the most painfully contentious issues from the legacy of the civil rights movement in the United States. Namely, the question of how much control a women has over her own body when it comes to having children.
The Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma, also known as Yogi Bhajan, spoke very pointedly and eloquently about this topic. For him, the issue was never about the unborn fetus. He focused on the dignity of the mother. Here is what he had to say,
“If it is medically or socially required that an abortion should be performed, it should be done. We are not going to lower the status of motherhood. It is not the woman per se, it is the status of the mother which matters, and if that pregnancy lowers the mother’s status, we do not want the mother to deliver a child. Period.
The cry of ‘right to life’ is religious nonsense. What do you mean by ‘right to life’? Tomorrow the State may pass a law that every woman who becomes 24 years old must adopt a child or bear a child. They don’t want any abortions because they want their membership to outnumber that of every other religion. It is a neurotic approach, a tribal approach, and is inappropriate for more highly civilized cultures. It is no more than a ridiculous ritual. It is a direct disgrace to women. God does not place the soul in the fetus until the 120th day. There is a reason for that. Even God wants to have planned parenthood. This nonsense of ‘right to life’ is being laid down in the name of God.
There is no reason why you must bear a child if you are mentally, socially, economically, and religiously unprepared. Don’t bring anyone to this earth if you cannot handle it. It is most unrighteous. As a human being it is your responsibility to deeply search yourself to know the capacity of your nervous system, the depth of your ability to love and understand, and the degree of balance between your inner thoughts and values and their expression in your environments. If everything tabulates in the positive, then plan for a child.” From the “Ancient Art of Self Healing”
For me, this position has two very important aspects to it. First is the notion that a mother should be absolutely ready, on every level, to bring a child into the world. She should know that she has the capacity to serve that child – economically, socially, spiritually and consciously. It is a deep responsibility and profound duty to bring a soul to the earth.
Motherhood is not an accident of biology. Somebody has sex with somebody. Somebody gets pregnant. And look – there is life! Birth is the beginning of a very long process. A child needs values. A child needs love. A child needs time and attention. And if a woman honestly does not feel capable of giving those things, then it is better for her to not have children.
When a child is raised without values, without love, or without adequate resources, it creates suffering. It is possible with the grace of the Divine for any soul to overcome any handicap. But a vast majority of souls do not overcome them. They stay trapped in misery and poverty their entire lives. The health of the human race depends upon the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the child. And the health and strength of a child begins with the mother. A woman should have the freedom to enter into motherhood with the same conscious choice that she has pursuing any vocation, because motherhood is a lifelong proposition. Marriages may fail. But any child born to a woman will be part of that woman’s life until she takes her last breath. Let the woman be prepared to accept that responsibility. And if she is not prepared, it is better for her to never have children and contribute to society in other ways.
The other important point from this quote is this notion that the soul does not come into the fetus until the 120th day from conception. This is not just a traditional Eastern view of life. It is actually quite an old and ubiquitous idea. If you research the history, even in the Catholic Church, in centuries past, people believed that the soul did not come into the body until the “quickening.” The quickening is the time when a pregnant woman’s body goes through rapid changes. Her belly gets big very fast. It occurs between three to four months after conception. The quickening was considered a sign that the soul had arrived.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, infant mortality was so high that children often did not receive a name until they were at least two years old. They were not accepted as recognizable members of the community until they had survived for a couple years outside the womb. So this idea that life begins “at conception” is a very young cultural idea, based on a highly technological society. It does not align what people have culturally believed for thousands of years.
These issues are highly personal, and highly charged. Any individual has the right to believe what he or she wants to believe about the beginning of life. The problem comes in attempting to legislate these issues. In Texas, as well as other places, there is a segment of society who has reduced women to being vehicles for babies, regardless of what having a child will do to the woman’s physical, mental or spiritual health. Having children for the sake of having children, and disregarding the dignity of the mother in the process, is blindness. It refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the woman in question. It blocks her from exercising decision making power over her own body.
Motherhood is a sacred institution. When the Divine wishes to incarnate, It must do so through a woman. Therefore, there is a profoundly private and spiritual agreement that must happen between the soul of the woman and the soul of the child in order for this to happen. These soul agreements need to be respected. If the woman is not ready for the responsibility, she needs to be honored for that decision. Not shamed and humiliated for it.
When I was young, and first understood that my life was the result of my parents being together, I remember pestering my father with questions. I asked him, “But what would have happened if you and mommy had never gotten married? Would I have never been born?”
My father got this funny look in his eyes. He paused and then he said to me, “If we had never gotten married, I think you would have been born. You would still exist. Just in a different family.”
It was not a very Catholic thing to say. But it was a very wise and universal thing to say.
A soul that wishes to take birth on the earth has a lot of avenues to choose from. Better for the choice to be voluntary and mutual. Better for the mother to be prepared for it. That is what will give a soul the best chance to enjoy its right to life.
If this essay has offended anyone, please know that was not the intention.
With Divine Light,