Sunday, July 29, 2012

The abortion that gave me life ...

A Facebook friend sent me a picture of a 12-week fetus with the suggestion to “pass this along. It literally might save a life.” Whose life? Might there be unintended consequences of the decision NOT to have an abortion?

I suppose this is what my brother looked like when my mother had an abortion five or six years before I was born.  It was 1933 or 34 in Vienna, Austria. My parents were living with my mother’s sister, a school teacher, in an efficiency apartment. My father, with a Ph.D. in physics, was unemployed. The main Viennese bank had collapsed in 1931.  Austria was bankrupt. Marxists, National Socialists, and Christian Democrats were fighting in the streets. Unemployment was rampant. My parents planned to have only one child, and not until my father could afford an apartment and support a family. Both my father and my aunt considered the pregnancy a disaster. Another mouth to feed. A screaming infant in a tiny space.

Abortions were illegal and against church teachings, but, my parents believed, ending this tragic pregnancy was the only responsible thing to do.  If someone had sent my parents this picture and if they had decided against an abortion, their son could have been born. If he made it through the war, and remained healthy for decades, he would now be close to eighty. He might have become an academic like his father. He might have been a sociopath. Or anything.  He  might have had children and grand children. He might have ... The possibilities are infinite.  BUT, this much is absolutely certain, I would never have been born.  Neither would my children and grandsons and all future generations to come from them.  I would not have taught for all those years. My publications would be unwritten.  And so, ever since my mother told me of my unborn brother when I was in my teens I have thanked him for giving me life and have tried to honor him by doing my best to help build a better world for the future. 

Of course, you might say, my parents could have had a daughter years after their son was born. But that daughter would not have had my genetic makeup; a different ovum and sperm would have merged, and even if, miraculously, my clone would have been born, the girl’s life experiences would have been vastly different from mine, simply because she would not have been an only child, or, if her brother had died before she was born, his remembered presence would have affected her, and in a way very different from my gratitude to him for unknowingly having sacrificed his chance to develop a cerebral cortex which would  allow him to mature into a conscious person, capable of rational thought, memory, and emotion, a person who would be able to ponder the purpose of life and be amazed at the wonder of it all. And so, I can simply thank my unborn brother, my parents, and God for giving all of us a chance.


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