by Malcolm McLean
I have been meditating on the term “pro life”: literally, to be on the side of life. Surely a worthy place to be!
In the yoga tradition, reverence and defence of life flow from the yamas, our code of conduct, which includes ahimsa, non-violence. So we answer yes to life.
Of course, the term pro life is also the banner of a powerful political movement, determined to make all abortions illegal and harshly punishable (e.g. 99 years in prison, even, ironically, the death penalty), to protect the unborn fetus. The movement likely contains people sincerely concerned for the amazing manifestation of life represented by the fetus. But this vision is so narrow that, tragically, it betrays most of what the defence of life demands today.
What of the life of a pregnant living women? What of the need for her consent to physically host and nourish, give birth to and take lifelong responsibility for another human being? What of the life of the 700 or so women who die annually from childbirth in the US, the country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world?
As a movement, pro life conservativism has tragically found its identity in social atavism, clinging to old traditions. Hence, it combats women’s rights and gender rights, denies climate change, and destroys natural habitats and human birth planning. It promotes unregulated growth, oil production, and bigger, faster, gasoline-fuelled cars: anti life in so many places, it is pro life only where it drives a wedge against women’s rights and gives cover to misogyny and paternalism.
As for being pro the life of the embryo, it would help to do something about the fact that if carried to term in America it has a 70 percent higher chance of dying in childhood than in peer countries. And a much higher chance of dying by gunshot. And even if it finds a loving family that planned for it to come into the world, its existence will be subject to poison air, heat waves, and maybe the breakdown of civilization and the extinction of life, human following the million species lately tallied.
So there is a lot of pro life-ing needed out there.
If we were wise about our reverence for life, I think we would look at our repressive sexual roles and traditions, our tribal drive to multiply and have dominion over the earth; and we would see that these codes of living were likely suitable millennia ago for nomads struggling in a vast and wild world, needing to multiply the tribe, to drive back the wilderness… but they don’t serve us today when “the planet groans, every time it registers another birth.”
Instead, in the service of life, we would reaffirm social trends and technologies that decouple sex and reproduction, and the women’s role in society from bearing children. We would protect human life and all life by encouraging these social trends that tend to reduce the fecundity of the human species. In this way, we could serve life, save our human race and our planet.