*Names in this piece (including the author's) have been shortened or omitted to protect privacy.
Photo provided by the author.
Here in Kauai, the senses are overwhelming: the warm and gentle night air, the sounds of families playing, and the sweet smells of exotic flowers fill me with a sense of sublime happiness as the waves repeatedly embrace the shore in a song that conjures all the poetry of antiquity in my mind. Only a short while ago, a cousin of mine requested I write an article on my secular pro-life stance, my improbable but all-too-human origin story. At the age of 23, I look just like anybody else, reclining on a poolside chair letting one toe swirl in the soft sands. I sit here, as the birds sing sweetly and the sun lazily settles into the horizon like warm butter, and wonder "What were the chances of me getting here?"
My origins (like those of anybody) start with my mother. At the age of 24, it was a strange and dichotomous time in her life. She was engaged, yet she knew her relationship was crumbling and she had to break away. She was in college and popular among her friends and classmates, yet she was failing in her classes. This was the time in which I was conceived, and given her situation many other women would have aborted me, and the Feminist Majority Foundation's work with their campus coalition is pushing this agenda to college-aged women like my own mother at 24. But from the very moment she found out about my small, nearly invisible existence, she felt a profound sense of love for the developing human that was me.
My mom has told me countless times that my conception turned her life around, and gave her an overwhelming sense of purpose. I was brought home in a stocking after I was born around Christmas, and my mother's world continued to change exponentially. She rapidly graduated with stellar grades and began working for Macy's. This isn't to say we were well-off by any means. My biological father left when I was 3, leaving my mom to provide for us both. We lived in a converted garage with a molded, crumbling floor. I was well-accustomed to the sight of a near-empty fridge, save for a block of cheese or loaf of bread donated by WIC to supplement the little food my mother could afford. For months at a time I stayed with my grandparents while my mother took classes at Macy's to become an executive, to build us both a happier, wealthier, healthier life somewhere greener and safer in the world.
Photo by Matthew Rutledge; some rights reserved.
She rapidly went on to become an executive; she was still in her twenties and managing over 17 stores. Simple to say, we moved to a better area, to a lovely house, and she married a great guy who adopted me as his son. No, not every woman in near-poverty and failing in school can raise a child and climb the corporate ladder in a few short years, I'm no fool, but I feel blessed that she was able to see the truth: that I was a person from the beginning, a person whose future was worth fighting for.
More than any conviction in terms of there being a God or afterlife do I believe that once a child has been conceived -- based on scientific facts and humanistic principles -- he or she has a right to be born. I first began to adopt this view when I began researching various famous atheists including the late Christopher Hitchens (who was very much against abortion), following an organization called Secular Pro-Life on Facebook, and critically looking at my own origins. What frightens me is that while some truly noble and humane causes such as gay rights and racial equality bear the righteous roar of the masses (and should, good on them!), the right of a preborn human to life is bizarrely one spoken so often in whispers. This is made even worse by people who either pervert the pro-life cause by using misinformation and slander, or who squander the truth by using shady or violent tactics. How is it that when we as a society can fight for the equality of some select groups, far too few take up arms to protect the preborn (whether black, white, straight, gay, autistic, dyslexic, etc.), who surely deserve it as well?
Perhaps the blame partially rests on my generation. I remember in high school, a friend of mine -- a progressive, intelligent young man who contacted me on Facebook chat -- complained that he was given the impossible position of being pro-life in his debate class, and could only think of unusable religious talking points. Within moments I gave him a wealth of arguments, sources, articles, all entirely secular in nature. He asked in bewilderment how I found them. I told him I simply put what he was looking for into the Google query bar and hit "search." He hadn’t even tried. Think about this for a moment: this smart, charismatic, progressive young man preferred sitting there in bored agony for I-don't-know-how-long, rather than actually considering the fact that there was a rational opposing viewpoint.
The fact is, I live in the Bay Area and follow the news frequently (half of which is that posted on the Facebook news feed of my friends), and the fact that I had only heard about the horrific Gosnell case through Secular Pro-Life, and not through any other source, is one I found deeply disturbing. Some said it was a sort of media blackout, a thing I assumed only police states resorted to (and yet, knowing American history, this is far from the first time). But not now, not under this progressive, freedom-of-speech-loving presidency, right? Could it be that the free-thinking, progressive society I thought I lived in is only open-minded towards certain political agendas? Could it be that some of the self-righteous articles I see friends post about progressive issues aren't as factual or as neutral and balanced as they seem to be? I mean, there's the strange fact that even here in the Bay Area, there is openness towards diversity, but not necessarily a diversity of opinion.
Now, as a man, I know next to nothing about what women go through in their lives, yet I am convinced that the world is a far, far harsher and more dangerous place for them than it is or ever has been for men. Naturally, in the name of fairness, I can understand why people choose their pro-choice stance to protect women. These are clearly people who have moral goals in mind, even if they must ignore science or do mental gymnastics to get there. After all, freedom is a good, right? I also am no scientist or statistician, but I've known many people who have been adopted, who were grateful to their absent mothers who chose to carry them those 9 long months and bore them in the bloody, painful exodus that is birth. Birth is not comfortable; even as a man, I can see that that's blatantly obvious. In the name of freedom and comfort, it's far from strange for the average person in our society to prioritize material happiness over moral good, but it's also very common to not entirely be aware of the gravity of the choices being made.
Consider this for a moment: when's the last time you purchased something big that you could survive without? How much was it? Do you use it on a daily basis? Did your upgrade to the latest smartphone make a world of difference and bring you happiness? We all buy these things, but rarely are we conscious of the fact that every dollar, every penny spent on something we don't need is money we could donate to some more worthy cause. Hell, come to think of it, I’m on vacation in Hawaii. Rarely do we think about the fact that we often prioritize our own temporary material happiness over the survival of somebody far away, because we cannot see them.
But much like Dr. Seuss said in Horton Hears a Who, "a person’s a person no matter how small," and when science says the person inside of your womb (or your girlfriend's womb) is a human being, what sort of price is their life -- one directly related to you, of your own blood, as opposed to somebody across the globe -- worth when weighed against your comfort? This isn't a struggle for life in a faraway land among strangers (who of course do deserve help, by all means); this is a challenge inside of your very intimate life, one concerning family: 9 months of pregnancy plus thousands of dollars of medical fees plus the pain of childbirth adds up to a whole lot of pain and discomfort. But what, I ask, is the pain of ending a human life -- of a family member, no less? I'm not a soldier; I'm not a headsman; and I have certainly never had an abortion (I'm a guy, remember?). But I know a certain few women who have paid that price: some of whom speak of it plainly, others in regret, and still others who don't speak of it at all.
Image by Eric Atkins; some rights reserved.
If you don't believe that a human being at the fetal stage deserves the same rights as every other born human being, can you imagine what amount of information would need to be shown to you to change that opinion? The information is out there if you are merely willing to Google it, just as you are willing to see friends preach to the choir on your news feed. But if no amount of information would ever change your mind, would that mean you hold a parent's freedom to kill to protect their comfort higher in priority than a human being's right to live? Would that mean you hold the so-called "right" to abortion more convenient and valuable than a child's chance at happiness? Does that sound humane?
Life is a priceless thing; whether I'm in Hawaii or at home or even at the DMV, I'm pretty glad to be around. I live a good life -- imperfect as any -- but always fighting forwards, onwards, upwards. I'm pursuing the career of my dreams and I'm having some measure of good luck with life in general. Actually, I'll retract that word "luck." I don't owe much to luck; I owe everything to the parent who realized I, too, was human. And now, as I finish writing this, the sun has set long ago and the moon rises high in the clouds as a soft passing rain-cloud kisses my face with a warm mist and I hear the sounds of local music nearby. I am glad, I am lucky, and I am proud that she grasped the reality of science, of ethics, of my own human worth: I had a right to live.