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Thought for the Day: Human Abortion is an Intensely Personal Issue for Me

I have learned how to deal with the hordes of hawkers who stand at Thompson Center downtown (Chicago, dude, Chicago) at lunch time; this one for food, this one for Green Peace, this one for... well, you'll see.  I run into them as I am walking to (and sometimes from) mincha.  I don't engage them, but neither do I avoid them.  My only interest is to get to mincha (or back to work); but if they accost me and invade my privacy, I have a ready answer.  To food hawkers I simply query, "Kosher?"  To Green Peace and Save the Children I request, "Please walk with me and explain why this is important."  To which they respond, "I can't."  I then call back, "Ah.  Well if it is not important enough for you to walk a few steps with me, then it's not important enough for me to stop."  The most pointed rejoinder I have received to that is, "Oh yeah!?"

That is how I came to have a "conversation" with Planned Parenthood volunteer.  They were out in force hawking their wares.  I was not accosted on the way to mincha, but it did get me thinking what I would say.  An Orthodox Jew can certainly not say that the Torah forbids abortion.  The unborn fetus, while certainly alive, does not have the rights and privileges of a person living in this world.  At some point that spark of life may very well have the great merit to live in this world as the vehicle for a human soul to fulfill the mission for which it was created.  When does that happen?  Good question with no definitive answer even in our most sacred writings and knowledge.  So our tradition treats that unborn entity as a potential life.  If the fetus is threatening the mother's life -- physical, mental, or spiritual -- then there he life takes precedence.  None the less, even when terminating a pregnancy is being considered, the consequences are great and the issues life changing.

When I was accosted with an enthusiastic, "Hi! How are you?  I'd like to talk with you about Planned Parenthood", I didn't think she needed more evidence that abortion is sometimes necessary.  I told her simply, "I am not going to sign your petition nor make a donation, but I would like to tell you one thing.  My decision is not for religious reasons, but for personal reasons.  I have three children and nine grandchildren.  My mother became pregnant with me at 19 on a first date.  She was unemployed, as was my father.  She tried her best to abort me, but failed.  So you see, I can't give you money; because if your organization had existed 60 year ago, I wouldn't even be here."

I did not raise my voice, I was not contentious; though my voice was certainly impassioned.  I was expecting a reaction of empathy or at least understanding.  Her reaction, though, was chilling.  She simply looked at me with a blank expression and said in a flat voice, "Have a nice day, sir."  As I walked away, I was even more chilled by hearing her greet her next target with the same enthusiasm and cheeriness with which she had greeted me.  This was Stepford mentality at its worst.

My intent was not to change anyone's mind, only to encourage deep thought before -- and all the more so while -- taking  course of action.  To terminate a life is no small matter.  It's not one life, but that life and the generations and generations that follow; including the impact that life -- and the generations and generations that follow -- will have on others.  Of course we must take positions and make decisions.  Just don't take those decisions lightly.


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