The flavor of the week in terms of controversial social and political issues is definitely the United States Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade. All my friends, acquaintances and family are obsessed with it. Okay, the truth of the matter is that I am obsessed with it. I find it amazing that a political party – namely the Republicans – that espouses a philosophy of minimal government interference in people’s daily lives should support a ruling that involves the invasion into one of the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. This idea is a pretty standard attack on the so-called pro-life movement, so I’m not going to be discussing my feelings about the Supreme Court decision from this point of view. Rather I am interested in discussing abortion from the notion of the nature of death. As is well known to the readers of my column, I am interested in unpacking different kinds of death. In a traditional natural society, death tended to be either people rotting away from excessive organic flowing blendable continual stimulation – in other words, what I call undifferentiation or natural aging– or else people experiencing explosive defined discrete situations like war and like infectious disease pandemics such as plagues. Both of these categories of situations were concerned with the inability to regulate the absorption of organic stimulation, particularly as one got older.
By way of contrast, death today tends to occur around the experience of numbness. As has been discussed previously, modern technology has transformed living environments by covering over or eliminating organic stimulation in order to make life safer and more comfortable by making life more frictionless and more mediated. The side effect of safer and more comfortable has been to create sensory distortion: patches of abrasive overstimulation from different kinds of unabsorbable pollution as well as vast panoramas of an experiential vacuum of understimulation. Both extremes tend to lead to behavioral pathology. People become jaded, hardened, burnt out from overstimulation and they become numb from understimulation. But since the jadedness from overstimulation ultimately leads to an incapacity to absorb not only abrasive machine-generated overstimulation, but also leads to an increasing diminishment of capacity to absorb what little organic stimulation is still available in a modern technological society, the ultimate end result is a person sinking deep into a numbness that can only be described as a living death. When a woman is pregnant, she is either experiencing the most sustained beautiful organic stimulation of her life, assuming the pregnancy is wanted, or the most profound sustained abrasive stimulation and ultimately numbness, assuming the pregnancy is not desired. At first, the woman experiences the undesired pregnancy as an abrasive intruder, that she wants to magically expel psychologically from her inner being. The pregnancy becomes a source of ongoing psychological pain. But then, at a certain point, the pain becomes unbearable. At that point, the woman develops the defense of converting the pain into numbness. A person can tolerate the experience of numbness for a much longer period of time than pain. Although a price is paid for making the conversion. When a person is in pain, he feels very much alive. When a person feels numb, it is like a living death. The numbness can be selective as with neuropathy in the feet. Or it can be systemic as with an undesired pregnancy where the total body is involved. In this case, even though the pregnancy doesn’t last forever, the imprint of the pregnancy does. And with that imprint comes the ongoing presence of numbness which also lasts forever. In other words, an unwanted pregnancy carried to term leads a woman into a permanent living death. It is a scarring experience, the effects of which never really disappear. The woman has learned that she is not in control of her body. It no longer belongs to her.
So, in an abortion, we have to weigh the termination of an entity that has yet to be born into the external world and become really alive with the certain killing of the spirit of a fully formed adult through numbness. The Pro-Life movement is exclusively concerned with saving the life of the unborn embryo or fetus. But looked at dispassionately, the life of the unborn embryo or fetus, who is really not fully alive until he pops out of the birth canal, is being saved at the price of the death of the spirit of a human being who has already been fully alive for many years. The prolife movement seems to refuse to consider the death of the spirit of a woman who is forced to carry an unwanted fetus to term to be a meaningful classification of death. Just ask the woman who has had what she considers a predator on her being, what she thinks and feels about the whole experience.