Abortion and Religious Liberty

This excerpt is from the forthcoming book, The Paros Commune of 1971 to 2021 & Beyond; Jubilee Imagings of Soul and Community, Martin Gibson, ISBN 978-1-958488-05-8, UniServEnt, publication, June 17th, 2022, a Jubilee celebration journaling the Greek Island, while looking for rock & roll, retsina, and a soul mate.

The date coincidentally is that of the Watergate break-in. So it goes. It took another eleven years to find my mate. After 50 years of maturing like any fine retsina, I am attempting a rational principled centrist position based on faith and science, borrowing from the life work of Marx, Plato, and Christ.

This timely topic is one of four that need including in the public discussion, listed in the book as 1) public versus private problem solving, 2) abortion and religious liberty, 3) guns, and 4) race and a public safety net.

Buy the book. No telling where it might lead.

Restrictions on abortion are generally viewed as a conservative right of a minority based on their religiously held beliefs, designed to protect the integrity of the life of the unborn, against the liberal rights of the individual child bearer—necessarily a woman—to have control of her own personal body, which includes the right to decide when and whether to reproduce. Prohibition of abortion is necessarily a prerogative of the state, operating at the behest of the those that hold such beliefs, as stated in the claim that life of a person with rights begins as a soul with conception. In the United States of America, the only thing that trumps that prerogative of the state is the U.S. Constitution as stated in the first amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This means exactly what it says, that “no law respecting an establishment of religion” of one set of beliefs or faith shall enforce a law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” with respect to people holding another set of beliefs or faith. An exception might be if the “free exercise thereof” involves the enslavement, apartheid, or murder of another person, another human being, as in the days of human sacrifice, chattel slavery, and discriminatory legal regimes. The belief that abortion is murder that applies to a fetus that is not viable is based on two flawed assumptions.

First is the self-contradictory notion that a human being exists as a person prior to viability, defined as having the capability of living, under normal conditions, outside the womb—by breathing on its own. Second, prior to viability, the only basis for any claim to murder for such termination is the assumption of the existence of a soul attached to the evolving fetus from conception by creationist or traducianist religious belief. Creationism holds that each soul is created by divine intent with each conception and traducianism holds that the soul is created as a potential along with Adam and Eve and passed on as an instance of actualization with each human conception. There is no demonstrable evidence admissible in a court of law that either of these is the case, though the presence of a soul in a court room should be proof as of that point in time; the notion of the presence of a soul from conception is simply a matter of religious belief. There is ample evidence to the contrary, that in cases of stillborn and some instances of unconscious infant birth dependent on medical life support systems, there is no soul present, where a soul is understood in most religious and many philosophical contexts as necessary for human life. Viability in these cases becomes a moot point. Somewhere along the timeline from conception to such a birth, the soul must be understood to have vacated the body or else was never present; for a viable birth, at some point the soul takes up residency.

From an understanding of the pre-existence of the soul as found in most eastern religions, in ancient Greek, early Christian, and Neoplatonist beliefs, each human being is an incarnation of a divinely created soul that lives in the ethereal realms or ‘underworld’ between embodiments, to be born into different circumstances of inherent opportunity and risk for whatever purpose the soul or the divinity intends. Such preexistence is also a matter of religious belief, unless it is a matter of knowledge based on a recollection of prior incarnation, though proof of this also remains problematic. For those Christians or others who believe that life of the soul began at conception, they clearly cannot claim without contradiction that they have personal knowledge having probative value of the fact. Proof of becoming a soul at conception, or any other time, is a matter of belief.

Anti-abortion, then, is actually a liberal state solution designed and sanctioned to provide each soul the opportunity-risk upon reaching viability and birth, of reliance on state support for cradle to adult care sufficient for the task of becoming a viable citizen, without the risk of abandonment. But this is currently pursued without regard to the mix of opportunity–risk faced by each soul, making it an essentially anti-conservative risk. Pro-choice, on the other hand is a private, conservative approach to decision making by the parents, particularly the mother, in dealing with unknown risks of childbearing and childrearing of the infant soul often in a community that may not be prepared to foster that soul’s growth and development adequately or properly.

As someone who knows about preexistence of the soul from my own experience, who remembers my own entry as a soul into this current material existence at the time of my own birth, I know that we are not created at or by conception—at least I know this ‘we’ wasn’t. I don’t speak for everyone in this regard for what should be understandable reasons. As a soul, my life did not begin at conception, because that Life has no beginning and no ending, though every human body has both. The purpose of each human life, between these bookends, is to gain material-ideal-spiritual experience as a soul in order to cooperate more fully with the community in the divine plan and purpose, always forward looking, and not just so we have the opportunity to grow up and buy stuff.

The current anti-abortion solution misunderstands the nature of opportunity–risk within the community and takes the liberal approach of applying public chastisement and penalization of what would otherwise be a private, conservative solution in weighing the decision to terminate a pregnancy, something only a prayerful mother is in a position to decide. In much of the world governed by neo-liberal economic decision-making with no private safety net, if allowed or mandated this liberal anti-abortion solution would result in births of infants at heightened risk, without the proper access and opportunity to health, educational, vocational, and general spiritual resources conducive to Life, through the turning of a blind eye to basic human care and adolescent education, including the teaching of contraception and sexual understanding of the human soul.

This is not said to avoid a discussion of an enlightened determination of viability. It is meant to address the current liberal motivation of one-upmanship and delight in assigning public retribution for what should be a private, conservative right to a choice that is justly a decision between a child-bearing soul and God. If that soul sees the wisdom of bringing their child to term and raising it with Love and Wisdom, that would be a good thing and would presumably be met by the provision of a viable soul according to the Wisdom of the Good Lord in whatever manner They see fit. Until the liberal anti-abortion movement sees the wisdom of matching their zeal—primarily for retributive justice, and only ostensibly for bringing a child to term—with a proper public foundation for child rearing within the community, they would do well to check their anti-conservative bias at the liberal public door.

What is missing in the context of the current judicial show, on whether to operate on the basis of stare decisis or to set precedent aside in disingenuous deference to the lack of a statement of a right to abortion in the constitution, is any reference to the first amendment. The current liberal anti-abortion movement seeks to make it a crime, by delegation to the states, to terminate a pregnancy even prior to viability as an act of murder of an inependent human being, based only on a religious belief that the soul is created by God along with the gestating body at conception, when the body is itself created only over a period of some 9 months. Rather, as a material vehicle created by conception for the eventual habitation of a preexistent soul, sometime before birth, there is no act of murder prior to viability. To think otherwise is to operate without true experience or knowledge in the matter, and possibly with malice.

The notion of the creation of a soul, and therefore a person, at conception, if honestly held, is an understandable fallback belief against the backdrop of a soulless Darwinian materialism. We all know instinctively that we are souls. But how we got here is a religiously held belief that is not subject to verification. Neither do any of the Supreme Court Justices have this verification or we might have found it communicated in the recent leak. If those citizen Justices want to set aside precedent and rightly consult the Constitution, instead of looking for references to abortion, they would do well to concentrate on the first amendment, again as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.

The states right to prohibition of the individual right to choose whether to bring a child to term begins at viability, as murky a threshold as that might be. I would surmise that there is no cynical English case law that would consider a miscarriage or a stillbirth to be a murder on the part of a mother or midwife or doctor. The prohibition of that right prior to viability is an imposition on the free exercise of an individual’s religious faith based simply on the contrary religious beliefs of another citizen. That free exercise is a federal right under the constitution, above the purview of any statehouse—unless, of course, we interpret the first amendment to mean that while Congress can’t do it, the statehouses still can. But that would mean that the statehouses can also allow, “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  I don’t think we want to go there, but then again, that is obviously the intention of some misguided souls.

My personal free exercise of religious faith is Holy Ghost based, informed by the Spirit of Truth since before my birth, and not dependent on any biblical interpretation. It should be apparent to anyone that is honest, that the decision to end a pregnancy is a spiritual decision, if we believe in free will of the soul and not the tyranny of the state. It can only be entrusted to the individual mother, up until the threshold of viability. Based on that murkiness of the viability threshold, we might think any penalties attached to a violation of that threshold should be mitigated or misdemeanored, and not pursued with the current smug felonious hypocrisy of some people.

Babies are precious. They represent all the potential of human life; under the right circumstances, they are an opportunity for a life of joy; without the circumstance of a supportive community, they are at risk of disaster for themselves and those that love them. That children exist at all is due to the God given ability to procreate, an ability that requires understanding and experience to master in all its implications. It is not something that just happens or that can be left to the state to supervise as the liberal anti-abortion movement would like to do. Taking the moral high-ground in the mission to end Roe v. Wade is both theologically and legally unsound. Prohibiting the free exercise of religious belief as it pertains to the human body prior to well defined viability strikes at the heart of the constitution and the federal government which was designed to protect that constitution, so when we try to trump another religious belief with our own, we amplify the risk of taking the God of Love, Wisdom, and Compassion permanently out of the legal discussion, and that is something no one should want.