Perspective

I have been listening and reading some of the things people have said about the change in law since last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And listening to my daughter, whom I love, and who will live with this longer than I will.

I thought these articles were worth reading:

They do not all agree.

No one I’ve heard recently has said this:

Almost the entire debate about abortion seems to take place against the background of the premise that pregnancy is about housing, rather than about making.

The premise that what a woman does in pregnancy is provide space, rather than work, with her whole life and body, at the making of another whole life and body.

The premise that a pregnant woman is a container, for another person, rather than herself a person actively engaged in a labor of creative love, which will, if she keeps at it long enough and can keep at it well enough, finally result in the creation of an entirely novel other person.

That is, we think of the pregnant woman as more like a loft than like an artist.

Indeed, as a society, we are still mostly unable to see a woman’s pregnant body as anything other than … dirt. Soil, into which a seed gets dropped, and then grows, no real thanks to the soil; it might as well be hydroponic growth medium, or whatever. We think everything needed is already in that seed. With the consequence that as a society, we are able to treat women as if they are people – that is, more or less as minds that travel around in bodies – much of the time. Until those bodies turn back into soil, when they become pregnant. Because when you live in that kind of body, that kind of soil, space, nature, premium real estate, sometimes you just have to share it with another person who needs it. So, I think, the unthought thinking goes.

In short, almost the entire diabolical debate on abortion as it takes place in this country seems to be based on a fundamentally Aristotelian account of human reproduction, in which there’s a fully-formed person, who gets dropped into a passive womb, and then sits there and grows like a sponge toy in water or a bun in an oven for the appropriate amount of time. We know, about as well as we know anything, that this account is erroneous. We keep thinking with it anyway.

If we perceived the pregnant woman as an artist, actively engaged in the creation of a human person whom she is knitting together in her womb, we would be thinking differently about this entire issue.

To be able to perceive the pregnant woman as an artist, who has a legitimate authorial right to all her creative endeavors, and to how fully she will invest herself in any one of those, we would have to be living in a world that takes women and their creative contributions, of all kinds, seriously as human endeavors. We would have to be thinking differently about nature, and about bodies, and about their role in what it means to be human, and creative.

We still have a lot of work to do, to make a world like that to live in.

red line embellished

Image: “Young Mother Sewing,” Mary Cassatt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

red line embellished

6 responses to “Perspective”

  1. I like the analogy of the artistry and creativity as part of the process of creating life. If we believe in that analogy, we can build the foundation of all that God has created is within that same process. I do think the “container” analogy is a bit simplistic, although so are the inane and vitriol-laden arguments on both “sides” of the abortion “debate.” Thanks for the thoughts, Heather.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed. And the process theologians, among others, have done exactly that, exploring what it means for human beings to be “co-creators” with God … and as for the simplistic sloganeering etc. of our political “discourse” I could not agree more.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I like the analogy too. This analogy is powerful and moves me to at least try to look at “this issue” from a new viewpoint… one I, of course, will at best have empathy, not direct knowledge/understanding. I also appreciate how much more space it makes for mystery, and surely life is full of mystery our debates cannot cope with at times.

    That said, I certainly have given much thought to my own mother’s first pregnancy – ME! When I do that, I often find myself reflecting on Mary, mother of Jesus. The differences appear to be more profound than the similarities, but the similarities are profound too. (The biggest difference being, I am not Jesus.)

    My mother was young. Not as young, but nonetheless very young and naive. She was far from home when the day came. She was extremely vulnerable. I was born into “a man’s world.” My dad was kept in the waiting room while male doctors attended to my mom. She was willing what happened, but she was also primed for it. She was very much like Mary, especially in her response to Gabriel saying, “May it be to me as you say. I am the Lord’s servant.”

    The knitting going on in my mother’s womb certainly involved my mother’s contribution, but I have the sense God’s mysterious hand was the particularly artistic part. I think my young mother, who up until that time was hardly more than a young girl herself, felt life happening to her.

    If I could transfer the thrust of the point made in this post from the woman, not entirely, but in large part nonetheless, to the community around her and to God himself, I think is fair. My mother was “given in marriage” to my father. While that was more ceremonial than substantive in 1966 America, there was a lot of tradition and ecclesial faith bound up in that. My parents both observed church teachings regarding their marriage quite purposedly – prescribed ideals.

    My mother was the central person in all of that, especially where the pregnancy itself is concerned, but my dad’s flesh became one with hers, his sperm, his DNA, his bodily fluids, his complete attention and care went into that pregnancy. He played a lesser role in the gestation, but a very important one in the larger dance of culture and family. My mother’s mother, and her father too, played important roles. My father’s parents also.

    Meanwhile, I was growing in there, mysteriously moving physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional furniture around in her little body. He bore the most intimate hardships and challenges of that, but she was buoyed by the encouragement, the celebrations, the support of her family and the teachings of the church.

    When we argue about abortion in today’s context, we take very little account, usually, of the part community, family, and God play in it.

    While your post gives me a profound appreciation of the mother in a way that guards against reducing her functionally to a room, a plot of dirt, but opens my imagination to far more, I want to guard against reducing her to just a single, private, individual too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The examples we bring to bear on our thinking about things always matter a great deal, I think.

      “Context is everything.” All of us – each of us – acts in some complex social context, subject to the influence of many antecedents, and the pull of future possibilities, embedded in some specific set of relationships. Those different contexts make different options more possible, reasonable, desirable, responsible, etc. Still, I think there is a large question as to whether we, collectively, “as a society,” can grant women’s decisions within those contexts the same legitimacy as others’. There is some of this deep concern about conceding that legitimacy in your last sentence, I sense.

      Like

    • Theodor Adorno talks about artists having to work with “the resistance of the materials” in the creation of art. Parenthood gives that a whole new meaning.

      Thanks for reading, marymtf 😉

      Like

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