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Playing God

By Carl S ~

I'm eighty years of age, the fourth of five children raised in a Catholic household. Three of my siblings were born eleven to fifteen years before me. My oldest brother, Ray, who had a strong influence on my youth, was the second child born. Serious questions related to the “to be or not to be” choices are focused here unfolding the story of his life, how it was and how it might have been.

When Ray was in his thirties, our mother told him something which I consider unnecessary, cruel, and abuisive. She said that while she was pregnant, “your father wanted to have you aborted.” (Of course, my father wasn't thinking “him” at the time.) She did not mention this was during the Great Depression, and my father didn't think he could afford another child then. (The suggestion came from his co-workers, with whom he shared his concerns.) My mother just said, “No.”

On many a night, Ray and dad would get drunk and engage in verbal battles for hours. (Ray held resentments and anger towards his father all his life.) The arguments were a dumping-ground for anger, but accomplished little; my father couldn't get past them to placate him. Nothing got resolved. One of the things Ray brought up was, “You tried to have me aborted.” I wonder if it ever entered his mind how he would have felt had he been aborted. I can understand an adult being angry his parent didn't want “him,” But would this really make any difference to an unborn?

This got me to thinking about myself in regards to that decision. I know some things are beyond an individual's control. We did not choose to be conceived and we will die someday. If my parents decided I should not be born, what difference would it make to a potential “me?” If my oldest brother was unborn it wouldn't matter. Would it have been better for his parent's relationship if he had never been born? This is another perennial question.

My mother wanted this child. I know adults who weren't wanted; their mothers didn't have maternal instincts. (No fault of theirs.) Apparently, some had children because their faith required them to. The children picked up on their mothers' attitudes toward them, and they suffered, paid the price, for her decisions. We don't talk about this when we discuss these unwanted children. We don't talk about the fact that, without choice on the woman's part, many a child is born into poverty, and many will live in crime-ridden environments. And yet, how many abortion opponents care, when they are well-set financially, with adequate food, mental and physical health care securely provided to them? The “right to life” excludes the right to quality of life for the born. It isn't whether a fetus comes to term that's important, but what quality of life the child will have after it is born.
Maybe it's time we had a discussion of why abortion is such a powerful issue that it overwhelmingly factors into our elections, when inept and immoral men are elected to law-making positions, where they make decisions denying health care, food, and support for the neediest of our brethren. Those politicians for the “rights of the unborn,” show their indifferent and righteous natures; they've got theirs and tough luck on those who don't. Those who vote anti-abortion need to really think about what they're doing to their less fortunate brethren.

Does the emotional power of abortion have to do with the pro-lifer's fear of death, since the after-death body he sees is a reminder of his pre-conception state? It reminds him of a state of nonexistence in the future. Perhaps pro-lifers do everything they can to make sure death does not prevent a life from coming into existence because they are unable to prevent their own mortal cessation? Since half of conceptions end spontaneously, for those who believe in God, isn't he the great abortionist? His “taketh away” is after conception.

Are the same people who militantly oppose pro-choice the same ones who oppose death with dignity? In each case, these are choices which should be left up to the individuals most affected by the decisions. The choice of whether or not to have a child is often a choice of what will happen to that child, a compassionate choice, and is none of their business. The choice of death with dignity is also a compassionate choice. Any individual has a right to choose to terminate his or her life when the future is hopeless, filled with pain or agony, or dependent on endless drugs or machinery to prolong life. There is no quality, no dignity, no “sacredness” of life left.

More to the point: What about those who protest we are “playing God” when we make life and death choices, or when and how we express our sexuality? Aren't they the ones (who say they “speak for God”) who are really playing God? Don't they believe they have the right to make actual life and death decisions for us based solely on their beliefs and not on the evidence?

My oldest brother lived with his parents most of their lives. He was living with them when each of them died. When the family was gathered for our mother's funeral, I mentioned she told me the year previously: “I'm tired of living and I want to be with my husband in heaven.“ My brother said, “He's in hell.” He died at age 77. Those who judge him will say he's in hell. He drank himself to death, with a “choose life” magnet on his refrigerator.

He chose life for himself, but I wonder: if he ever had to choose whether to have a child (He mentioned the possibility.) or abort it, if he would choose the latter, considering what kind of life that child might have. The child's life might have been as depressing as his was so often.

Ray was a gay man, and I know he suffered from keeping his nature hidden. I can't help thinking about how different his life might have been, how he would have a quality of life, if he had been permitted to be openly homosexual and married to a man he loved. He was a very intelligent and perceptive man, in spite of being troubled. (He experienced some horrible things as a marine in WWII.) Too bad he wasn't born in our times, when he would be able to be himself,. How many of those in his lifetime who stood with their “right to life” posters, also protested his right to live his life as a free gay person?

As far back as I can remember, there has always been a UNICEF. It seems like every other day I open mail asking me to donate to save “the starving children, the children dying of malnutrition and from preventable diseases.” And one day it came to me: We will never catch up, these problems will go on forever as long as new needy children are born to consume the resources. On purpose or by accident, we procreate. All animals procreate. There's no virtue in that. As humans, we know there is more to sex than just copulation. Intimacy, bonding, love, and our deep human needs are expressions of our sexuality. All efforts to curtail or expunge sexuality by religions and holy men have been doomed to failure. And yet they keep trying. They're “playing God” with our lives.

Belief is not morality.