Keith Doyle, a man with second sight and precognitive dreams sees pregnancy, and abortion, in a different light.
Men do not need to see through the eyes of women to understand abortion; because the social imperative defines our roles and experiences differently, men need only to understand themselves. Outside the ethical boundary of a choice provided to women by law are new and different questions for men and different answers to discover. These are the choices for men.
As to the issue of abortion, the law gives me no quarter to exercise a position. As a man it goes against my role in society as I perceive it. That my manhood makes my opinion irrelevant is a source of internal pain personally. There are ways for a man to avoid this personal pain, all of which I have tried at one time or another; condoms that have ripped, abstinence that left my partner wondering about her desirability, and the pill which seemed most effective. My first choice would be for a male pill: I prefer agency and choice over trust and vulnerability. With our current state of science and technology, I wonder why it doesn’t exist.
Ethics are usually sourced from a perception of boundaries. “A woman’s body, a woman’s choice” clearly represents an ethical boundary. There are, however, limits to the boundaries of every ethic that can be obscured by politics and emotion; abortion is one of them. This may be an uncomfortable issue, but there remains an issue that resides outside the boundaries of a woman’s body. Who owns the material remains of an aborted fetus?
Does a woman have the right to surrender the remains of a fetus that contain half of my genetic material to be further used in genetic research and experimentation? Do I as a man have the right to those remains, to remove my genetic heritage from the microscope of observation, manipulation and patent? Do I have the right to bury my dead and protect the legacy of my existence and its future?
Whose life is this?
You should know before reading on that this represents a very oblique and personal perspective on the question of abortion. These small remaining matters, and my own feelings, are what remain for men in this debate. My opinions are suggested but incompletely defined, and also, because it is so uniquely personal, much has been left out. I chose this style to reflect a male experience of birth and abortion, a position I see as an observer who is often powerless in the process.
I am the ninth of ten children and lost my mother at the age of nine. She died from cancer of the uterus; she had been warned after the third child to have no more, yet here I am. This circumstance continues to teach me about life: who gives it, who owns it, and once given, what it may become.
When I was a young man, I caused a life to begin in another person’s body. I can’t speak for the mother or her innermost experience: I have no womb and I cannot suckle a child. During my pregnancy by proxy I had a dream that stayed with me and stays even now. I saw a self-aware young woman, filled with confidence. She had long hair and she spoke to me of herself. She said she would live her life as her own, not mine, and that her happiness would come from enduring her struggles. She said all that and more with a smile, a poised emanation in the darkness of my dream that was illuminated only by her presence. She was a strong spirit.
I told her mother that we would have a girl and months later my daughter was born. Her mother raised a daughter; I, true to my dream, raised a spirit. She is thirty now and every bit the spirit that appeared in my dream. Often I have looked in her eyes and in her face to see and remember that dream and I see her telling me more. Because of this dream my fathering became more than a responsibility, more than a duty; it seems more to be a respectful collaboration in her becoming. So I take no esteem or praise for participating in an understanding and fulfilling an agreement. I feel great joy for her presence, for her life and for her becoming.
It has been this way with each of my children. The coming of my eldest son was prefaced in a dream as well. Before his birth, I saw only his torso with clarity, as if I was seeing a medical review of his health. I saw his pierced abdomen and his weak lungs, yet a strong and powerful body overcoming its weakness. Months after his birth he suffered congestion and struggled to breathe. The family doctor advised that the congestion was fluids left from birth.
I was alarmed by his words and told him of my dream. He smiled and asked if I had considered medication for my condition. Leaving his office I chose to see another doctor immediately; my son was hospitalized three hours later. My son struggled for the first 2 1/2 years of his life with what his doctor and others described as colic. Eventually it was discovered that he had a hydrocele; a medical term used to describe an abdominal tear that was finally corrected with surgery.
The Celts call it “An Dara Shealladh,” a trance or sleep that brings a second sight; others define it as walking in a thin place. The last letter H is a breath out that takes you from here to there should you care to feel the word.
I have also dreamed of a child lost to abortion, one who fell back into the chasm of time, back into the dark. What I saw of his face—what I witnessed—I could not understand; it was the image of powerful beauty becoming.
At the end of the day, arriving home from work, I was confronted by my wife as I stepped in the door of our home. She was frantic: almost hysterical. She blurted out that she was pregnant and having an abortion; if I tried to stop her she would leave me and our children and have it, anyway. “You’ve told me about your mother. I know how you feel about abortion and there is nothing to discuss,” she said.
I will not feign feelings of betrayal of my seed or of the right to choose, but there was an emptiness of becoming in her words, hollow and dark. I was removed from her and what we were becoming; I fell back into the chasm of time, back into the dark. Through our years as companions, I had supported her choices. But now she could not risk knowing how I felt, and against that risk she could not accept my understanding or that comfort. I will thank her for my innocence, but if evil was committed, I as her companion was equal to it. Her politics silenced me from telling her that the guilt was ours.
Years later in a new relationship, my new partner spoke to me about having children. She mentioned that at an earlier time she had an abortion that to some, she had never spoken of. Her story was accompanied by justifications and feelings of abandonment, her pain was finally expressed by saying she did not know if she was worthy of being a mom. I felt the despair and pointlessness of her punishment.
I believed that if she wished to be redeemed, if she wished for a child, she should mother. If you want redemption, accept it: fulfill your destiny. A child will teach you how to forgive, how foolish you are, how to become and continue changing. She struggled through miscarriage and tears, many tears. She achieved motherhood. It was costly: it eventually cost us our relationship and my fatherhood. It was for us both a destination of becoming.
The choice has been given and the law provides it, but there is more to the experience beyond what can be legislated; that for some may cause mourning, pain and loss. For those who have made the choice and turned it into a secret never to be spoken, I ask you: is the pain also never to be spoken? What becomes of this?
As a man I am a designated witness, charged to abort my feelings as if they never existed, to be mechanical. I have a right to mourn the loss, to see that loss as a failure to provide and protect. I have a right to bury my dead and honour their life, however brief. I learned this by honouring my own life; as a gift received and a gift I own I can honour the lives of others.
A Christian may simply say “thou shalt not kill” and reside in that understanding; it is safe, innocent and good. My eldest son asks why people are so reckless with the lives of other. He sees and feels deeply and I fear he also has the second sight in him. He remembers the dream of his becoming and he often speaks with me of shadows and life, love and pain, breathing and being and becoming.
Image of people soaring toward light courtesy of Shutterstock