One City

So the abortion doctor from Wichita, Kansas, George Tiller was killed in church yesterday, by a pro-life radical (irony of ironies). Amazingly, this was not the first time Dr. Tiller was shot. So clearly Dr. Tiller believed in what he was doing quite strongly (if you get shot and keep going, you must have conviction), and clearly so did the (alleged) man who shot him. As a student of the human mind, I am deeply interested in abortion as an ethical quandry precisely because of the concrete convictions of so many people those on both sides. As the discussion in Ellen Scordato’s piece on the Sotomayor abortion questions demonstrates, it really does seem to be black and white in the minds of many. However, the study of interdependence makes every polarity wither away into complex shades of gray.

George Tiller, Dr. Tiller killed


I wonder what this will do for the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation process, as abortion stays right at the forefront of the American moral consciousness.

What is your view of abortion?

I am pro-choice, and strongly so, but not because I view anti-abortion stances as an invasion of women’s privacy. I don’t buy the whole “hands off my body, evil white men!” vibe of many pro-choice activists. Guess what, I am a white man who will never know what it’s like to be pregnant, and yet, a huge percentage of my own body is composed of other living organisms! Interdependence problematizes the idea that my body is even just my body when I’m not pregnant, much less when there is a (potential) human being inside of me.

So why am I pro-choice? Because the alleviation of suffering for all involved is the prime factor we should worry about. Bringing an extra life into an already over-populated world to be raised by parents who are not ready and willing to do so increases suffering, plain and simple. And who is best suited to make this interdependent decision? 99.9% of the time, it’s the people directly involved, not the government. Viewed interdependently, the people directly involved (mother – and hopefully – father) need all options on the table to make a decision based on compassion.

But at the same time, we need compassion for someone like George Tiller’s killer. He must’ve believed he was stopping a repeated murderer from striking again. Many anti-abortion activists view abortion as a genocide, and while I think this is a false view, I have to try to understand why they feel that way. While we may or may not agree with that stance, or with the hypocrisy of attempting to use violence to end perceived violence, we have to put ourselves in the mind of someone who believes a genocide is taking place, and is willing to kill the perceived actor in that genocide.

Compassion is all about staying present with our resistance to seeing a different point of view.

Finally, I really want to hear from anti-abortion activists who are also anti-war, because I believe that is a coherent moral position worthy of study and respect.

Sound off in the comments. 

Peace. For Real.

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