TRANSLATE THIS ARTICLE
Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Brad Reynolds did graduate work at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) before leaving to study under Ken Wilber for a decade, and published two books reviewing Wilber's work: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (Tarcher, 2004), Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006) and God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (Bright Alliance, 2021). Visit: http://integralartandstudies.com
Outlawing Abortion Violates the Separation of Church and State
An Integral Interpretation
Outlawing abortion in the United States of America is an outright assault on the separation of Church and State, one of the foundational freedoms of the US Constitution. Outlawing abortion is not only stripping a woman's—a mother's—right to choose what is best for herself and her potential baby, but it is allowing the State, the government, to crawl up inside a woman's uterus and determine what is best for the unborn child. And, as the recent (June 24, 2022) Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade (with Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization) shows, it is not really the government—for the US Government has protected a woman's right to choose for 50 years—but it's the “Church,” or more accurately, the Christian “Religious Right” (particularly “Evangelicals”) who have taken away a woman's autonomous choice in determining what is best for her, her society, and her unborn's future. They have done this by stacking the courts, including the Supreme Court, in their favor by electing officials sympathetic to their cause. This decision has happened only because the Religious Right have been on a rigorous campaign against abortion for decades—even committing murder of full-grown human beings (doctors, nurses, and others) inspired by this movement—that Roe v. Wade has been overturned at all. I am amazed that the separation of Church and State has not been more eagerly brought into this equation, thus I would like to highlight that aspect and bring Integral Theory into the discussion as well.
Outlawing abortion in the United States of America is an outright assault on the separation of Church and State, one of the foundational freedoms of the US Constitution.
Headed by Supreme Court justices who are Christian and anti-abortion advocates, such as Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett (most of them Catholic who's faith does not permit abortions), are forcing their religious beliefs, in the guise of legal rulings, on millions of people who do not necessarily hold the same beliefs. Three of them (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) were placed in power in less than four years by a President who has been impeached twice and faces possible charges of sedition (or treason). The decision was 6–3, upholding a Mississippi law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The above six justices consented (as Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, with Chief Justice John Roberts trying to split the difference with a separate concurring opinion), while justices Stephen Breyer, and two women judges, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented (newly appointed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson won't take the bench until Breyer retires sometime this summer).
By being majority Catholic, the court does not reflect the religious makeup of the country—where only 22% of the population identifies as Catholic (yet makes up 67% representation on the court), 45% as non-Catholic or Protestant (22% representation on the court), 2% as Jewish (thus 11% of the nine justices), whereas 21% of the population polled as “nones” (meaning no formal religious identity) have no representation on the court at all. We, as citizens, have the right (based on the US Constitution's First Amendment) to believe and follow any religion we want, or none at all (since atheism is a right too). Therefore, the State has no right to force certain religious beliefs about abortion—in this case, Christianity (and an extreme form of Christianity at that)—on the country and her citizens. These justices even lied under oath saying they would uphold precedents (or previous court rulings)—known as stare decisis—but now they have gone back on their promises. They also deceived certain senators who voted for their confirmation (e.g., Collins and Manchin) telling them in person that they would not overturn Roe. It is a hostile (though legal) takeover by conservative Christians of the highest Court in the land.
The domination of these appointed judges on the Supreme Court, selected specifically for their Christian views (as approved by the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society), are leading a right-wing Christian revolution that is about as unjust as it can get. And it's only going to get worse (in fact, it already has). They want to force their religious beliefs on others by robbing the religious rights and freedoms from those who do not believe like them. This is precisely why the separation of Church and State was created in the first place. This assault has been going on for the past several decades in numerous cases trying to break down the barrier between Church and State, and it's working. Justice Sonia Sotomayor clearly wrote in her dissent: “This court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state.” As Katherine Stewart, author of The Power of Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (2019) summarized: “At the core of the Dobbs decision lies the conviction that the power of government can and should be used to impose a certain moral and religious vision—a supposedly biblical and regressive understanding of the Christian religion—on the population at large.” The far-right “Church” has cleverly taken over the State by infiltrating the Supreme Court and millions are going to suffer because of it. The majority of Americans (over 60%) support abortion during the first trimester and did not want Roe overturned.
The long history of anti-abortion activists goes back to the 1970s—Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973—when the “New Right” movement, who were tired of “Rockefeller Republicans” (now known as RINOS), many of whom sided with abortion rights (such as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan), began a revolutionary movement to change the existing power structure. Led by conservative Catholics, such as George Weigel and Richard John Neuhaus, and conservative evangelical preachers, such as Jerry Farwell and Bob Jones, Sr. (who were determined not to lose tax exemptions for segregated Christian schools and universities), they needed a rallying agenda to gather together their disparate elements and draw in the rank and file: abortion perfectly fit the bill since it involves life and death issues (and was also a reaction to the sexual revolution of the Sixties which conservative Christians despised).
In the ensuring decades (from the 1980s onward), the Religious Right has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a complex and coordinated infrastructure, including right-wing policy groups, networking organizations, data initiatives, mass media propaganda, and most important, a sophisticated legal sphere that believes “if you can capture the courts, you can change society.” This is a heated religious takeover of our government, in all branches, that is successfully curtailing people's rights, such as whom to marry (for they are fervently anti-gay and anti-LGBTQ), as well as a woman's right to decide if she should have a baby or not, all based on their Christian religious preferences. Anti-abortion advocates often invoke Jesus Christ as if carrying out his mission yet nowhere in the Bible is abortion addressed; indeed, it wasn't even an issue for most Christians until the Religious Right made it one.
The abortion debate has long surpassed rationality and reasonable argument, with their claims of murder or “baby killers” and hanging replicas of bloody fetuses around their necks, for it has become a crusade of fervent (and blind) belief all in the name of their own version of morality and self-proclaimed superior ethics. Yet, when examined dispassionately, the evidence shows how abortions, or the termination of an unborn fetus, is a positive choice for the majority of women who choose to do so. Almost no woman makes this decision casually, as many testimonies indicate, since it is one of the most important decisions they will make. This is exactly why it should not be the State or Church making this decision for women. It is, ultimately, a choice only between her and her doctor. Most fundamentally, it has to be a woman's right to choose since while she's pregnant it is in fact her body (no one can deny that). Men, white men in particular (who mostly make these laws), seem to get attracted to abstract ideas (calling them ethics)—since it's not their body—so have little sympathy with a woman's plight (and rights).
The facts or statistics about abortion are revealing (especially as a man, which I am), and I believe they should be more publicly broadcast since they help alleviate people's concerns or fears that abortions are being abused or used as a means of birth control. First, unregulated abortion procedures will no doubt increase in wake of the recent Dobbs decision thus increasing the risks of adverse effects. For decades abortion rates had declined, yet reversed in 2020 with slight increases in the number of women who sought them out. Nine out of ten abortions or 93% occur within the first 12–14 weeks, or first trimester, and 79% take place prior to the 10th week (most women don't even discover they are pregnant until the 4th week or later); the embryo becomes a fetus around 8–10 weeks after pregnancy, just prior to the end of the first trimester. Abortion is safest and easiest when performed within the first trimester (3 months) of a pregnancy. “Late term” abortions at or after 21 weeks are uncommon, and represent only 1% of all abortions in the US. Never, as Trump wrongly claimed in a debate with Hillary Clinton, does an abortion occur in the ninth month (except in cases of serious disorders where the child's suffering must be unbearable and with no prospect of improvement or the mother's life is in danger).
Roe v. Wade made the concept of viability, or when on average a fetus can probably survive outside the womb, the critical factor in the regulation of abortion, particularly when it comes to abortions later in pregnancy. Viability is generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks, but there's no universal consensus and some hospitals will resuscitate and actively treat babies born in the 22nd week of pregnancy. Unmarried women account for 86% of all abortions; women living with a partner to whom they are not married account for 25% of abortions; women in their twenties (in 2019) had the highest abortion rates, women aged 15–19 years accounted for 8.5%, and adolescents under 15 years obtained 0.2% of all 2019 abortions; married women getting an abortion was 4% of 2019 pregnancies. Among white women, 10% of 2019 pregnancies ended in abortion, among black women is was 28%, where black women are 3.6 times more likely to have an abortion (in 2019) than white women, and usually they have lower income levels so they will be more adversely effected by the Court's decision. The majority of abortions (54%) in the U.S. are actually carried out via medication (such as with Mifepristone, approved by the FDA in 2000).
Make no mistake, as I mentioned, no woman takes abortion lightly, for it is her body and her potential child that is at stake, thus in no way should the State or Church be allowed to make this very personal and private decision for any woman. To force a woman to bring a pregnancy to term (even when a result of rape or incest) is a clear violation of her natural rights as an autonomous person charged with the task and responsibility of giving birth. It is (and always should be) only her choice and her choice alone. This is precisely why so many women today, including those in the “Pro-Choice” movement, are so upset and vow to fight this religious tainted decision for as long as it takes to make abortion legal again on a federal level (thus restricting state mandates which is what Roe did since states have to follow federal law).
To force a woman to bring a pregnancy to term (even when a result of rape or incest) is a clear violation of her natural rights as an autonomous person charged with the task and responsibility of giving birth.
Indeed, the Supreme Court itself has ruled in favor of a woman's choice for years, first with Roe in 1973 then confirmed years later with Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. These rulings are what the Dobbs decision overturned this June 2022. Abortion hasn't been criminalized by the decision because it turns regulation back to the states, which now have a spectrum of restrictions that makes access to abortions unequal to women seeking one in the United States. Outlawing Roe is causing turmoil and distress across the United States, so no wonder women (and men) are in the streets protesting. The Democrats have vowed to reverse this decision by claiming people need to vote since this never would have happened with a secure Democratic majority (or if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election). The Trump tornado has caused a wide swath of destruction.
According to Justice Samuel Alito writing for the 6–3 majority, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Of course the US Constitution, ratified in 1789, doesn't mention abortion because there was no safe method for doing it, plus with multiple miscarriages being the norm it was irrelevant. Alito's reasoning is unreasonable. Let alone the fact that the original Constitution didn't even give women the right to vote, or that it considered African-Americans only three-fifths of a human being. The Constitution as first drafted is an imperfect document that has been improved upon over the generations, as was intended, via Amendments and Supreme Court rulings. Some precedents have been overturned—such as, famously, with Brown v. Board of Education (of 1954) nullifying Plessy v. Ferguson (of 1896) thus outlawing “separate but equal” practices (or outright racism). These changes were done in order to protect the natural rights of more and more people in an expanding multi-cultural, multi-racial, pluralistic republic. But the Dobbs decision (of 2022) is unprecedented in that rights have been rescinded.
Alito even bizarrely argued for legislatures being able to ban abortion based on the reasonings of Sir Matthew Hale (1609 –1676), an influential English barrister, judge and jurist who sentenced two women to death for witchcraft as well as saying it was impossible to determine if a woman had been raped based on her testimony. Hale's justifications have long influenced American law (such as with a husband being able to rape his wife), thus Alito relies on Hale because he's desperate to establish that the early American legal system was opposed to abortion. Alito referenced 17th century common law in England, which had established that abortion was illegal after the “quickening,” or the point of being able to detect fetal movements at approximately 16 to 22 weeks of gestation. Talk about regressing back to medieval thinking involving legalized male supremacy and this influenced the reasoning of our current Supreme Court Justices! This is plainly a regression of women's rights to be autonomous individuals.
They came to his deadly decision in overturning Roe v. Wade because a majority of the justices maintained that previous justices had got it wrong saying their reasoning was off. However, many legal experts disagree since in actuality the majority opinion reflects the arguments of evangelical and Catholic pro-life groups who filed the various lawsuits attempting to overturn Roe in the first place. Once again, reason seems not to have been used at all but rather mythic (or religious) beliefs. Strategically, many of the pro-life lawyers argued for the fetuses' humanity and right to life, thus overlooking what the Constitution actually does say about the developmental process of becoming a human being, if looked at closely. The justices decided the reasoning of the 1973 Court was incorrect, which, admittedly, has long been criticized.
The Court's decision in 1973 about Roe v. Wade was based on the argument that fetal life does not have constitutional protections. This is based on the 14th Amendment where, as the pro-choice lawyers argued, citizenship is granted to those “born… in the United States,” not to those conceived within the nation's borders. Similarly, a fetus cannot own property, they wisely noted. The judges did, however, recognize that the State did have a compelling interest to protect fetal life but that had to be balanced with a woman's right to privacy. “Privacy” is never specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but the Ninth Amendment says that rights not mentioned are not to be denied by default. The ruling of Roe v. Wade took all of this into account; but not the current justices. Since the 14th Amendment guarantees legal due process, which the 1973 Court ruled as indicating a right to privacy, therefore a woman (not her husband or boyfriend) had the right to make decisions about her own pregnancy and abortion without state interference—at least up to a certain point: fetal viability. The justices debated back and forth and settled on fetal viability, or when the unborn can survive outside the womb (with medical assistance), as being the cut-off point for making an abortion illegal (unless a woman's life was in danger). That seems reasonable.
Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the landmark decision, viewed Roe v. Wade as a careful compromise, since he wrote:
The Court does not today hold that the Constitution compels abortion on demand. It does not today pronounce that a pregnant woman has an absolute right to an abortion. It does, for the first trimester of pregnancy, cast the abortion decision and the responsibility for it upon the attending physician.
Since Roe's divisive decision delivered a win to abortion rights advocates, by accepting none of the arguments of the pro-life movement, there has been a contentious battle ever since. The decision forced 46 states to rewrite their abortion laws bringing them in line with the Supreme Court ruling that has held for nearly fifty years until now. This 1973 decision also gave birth to the anti-abortion movement since several Christian organizations banded together to announce (in 1979): “We implore those of you who are Christian to exert all your influence to fight against the increasing loss of humanness—through legislation, social action, and other means at your disposal.” They weren't joking either since abortion clinics and doctors have been relentlessly attacked (and even murdered). Since 1977, property crimes committed against abortion providers in the United States and Canada have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid (“stink bombs”), as well as murder and attempted murder. “Increasing loss of humanness” is obviously open to interpretation depending on what side of the debate you are on. Anti-abortion hostility and violence has become not just a matter of protecting the unborn, but also in not protecting the already born grown people who do not believe like them. What's driving this violence is plainly religious hysteria, which is exactly why it is the duty of the State, in this case the Supreme Court, to protect its citizens against the beliefs of the Church.
Breaking Down the Wall of Separation
This brings me back to the “wall of separation” between Church and State, a fundamental right that is clearly in the US Constitution, emblazoned in the First Amendment, and was consciously intended to be so by our Founding Fathers (notice: no “Founding Mothers” included). The phrase “wall of separation” was coined by Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist tradition in America, since he was concerned about the dangers of maintaining the integrity of his faith from the State's interference. The separation of Church and State was an experiment born of necessity since religious diversity was rife throughout the Atlantic colonies, often havens from escaping religious persecution in Europe. The Founders decided to forswear alliance to any one religious establishment since they realized only a pluralistic attitude would allow all religions to thrive. As Princeton historian (and professor of religion) Randall Balmer summarized:
Despite a somewhat checkered history, the separation of Church and State in the United States, this unprecedented experiment in Western culture, has proven remarkably resilient over the decades, the centuries. The genius of the Founders lay in their determination to avoid entangling the two entities, recognizing that each would function better untrammeled by the other. Although religious factionalism is one of the characteristics of American life, those divisions have rarely impeded the functions of government, and religion in fact has often contributed to the common good.
In essence, the First Amendment by guaranteeing the free exercise of religious preference set up a free market for religion in the United States. Since no one faith enjoys the preferential support of the State (unlike the Church of England in Britain, for instance) then religious entrepreneurs could compete with one another for popular followings. This has created a dynamism to religious life in America unmatched anywhere in the world, permitting Western and Eastern religions, for example, to exist side-by-side. Nonetheless, since the vast majority of Americans have always been Christian (of whatever denomination) then by default Christianity has affected our perceptions of what it is to be American. No wonder “white Christian nationalism” is on the rise led by their infamous leader, the former President responsible for an insurrection and attempted coup to overthrow a legal presidential election. Nevertheless, these circumstances do not give the majority religion any right to trample the rights of minority religions or even “new religious movements” (NRMs), including those with Gurus.
In recent years, the Religious Right has mobilized against the First Amendment trying to collapse the wall of separation between Church and State for their own benefit. For example, they are trying to relax restrictions that forbid tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from engaging in partisan politics, or lessening school prayer restrictions, or placing religious symbols, like the Ten Commandments, in public places (but that's another essay). Fighting against abortion obviously falls within the “garden of the church,” as Roger Williams put it, which is at odds with the “wilderness of the world” and secular society. This is precisely why religion, as James Madison said, “must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man [and woman]; and it is the right of every [person] to exercise it as these may dictate.” Years later (in 1819), when reflecting on the benefits of Church-State separation, Madison acknowledged that both personal piety and civil society had been “manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.” In 1786, the Virginia state legislature adopted Thomas Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom, which ensured that “no man [or person] shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever” by promising that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” Pretty powerful statements for religious freedom and tolerance in a nation dominated by Christianity, but our Founders knew better. Too bad today's Supreme Court justices do not.
By assaulting our right to our own conscience, they have sent our country into disarray, pushing us back into the Dark Ages instead of propelling us forward into the 21st century.
“Out of many, one”—E pluribus Unum—is what makes the United States so great and free, thus it is our responsibility as citizens to be sure the separation of Church and State is maintained even as the Supreme Court itself, currently skewed by a corrupt President and Republican party, is on a mission to breach this wall of security. By assaulting our right to our own conscience, they have sent our country into disarray, pushing us back into the Dark Ages instead of propelling us forward into the 21st century. We must be clear what we are fighting for and what we are willing to protect. Abortion falls into this category since not everyone believes it is a sin or morally corrupt.
Fear of Death: Even Life Dies Too
One of the principal arguments of anti-abortionists is that “all life is sacred” so thus it is the government's responsibility to protect the unborn embryo and fetus. Yet, the hypocrisy of such a stance is not lost on many since it is easily undermined by rational thinking not in the grip of mythic religious thinking and the attitude that “my religion” or “my way of thinking” is superior to yours. This is precisely why it is actually the government's responsibility to protect the majority of us from such religious zealots. Nonetheless, their concerns stem from a concern for the unborn who has often been conceived outside of a consummation willing to receive a child into the world. As the World-Friend and Avataric-Sage Adi Da once pointed out: “The whole matter of abortion is already a reflection of entanglement in the karmic realm. It is merely a sign that people have an irresponsible sex relationship and are not in a responsible position in life in general.” In other words, as most Mystics claim, Adi Da is calling us into a responsible and spiritual way of living, including appropriate sexual relations, by engaging in a lifestyle that transcends (and includes) traditional religions and underdeveloped religious perspectives.
For example, we should ask these Christian anti-abortionists: if you really believe “all life is sacred”—and I do agree everything is sacred or a manifestation of God—then are you eating meat and killing animals for your dinner? Do you believe in the right for people to own automatic weapons that pulverize young children (and anyone) into unrecognizable corpses yet are unwilling to change our gun laws? How “pro-life” are you really? Or are you just following a slogan to make you feel righteous and justified in your extreme beliefs? How concerned are you in helping to serve the born child (such as with government-financed childcare), to educate them (such as with equal, accessible schools), to provide proper (and universal) healthcare, or to help raise unwanted pregnancies with government assistance for those who cannot afford a child? The hypocrisy, really, puts an end to their so called “pro-life” arguments, but, of course, they won't listen or concede to reason which is exactly why the government, the federal government, and not just state legislatures, must intervene and protect the rest of us from these religious extremists.
Yes, life is sacred but so is death. Death is part of life. Yet, why is this simple fact constantly overlooked by anti-abortion advocates? It's only because their religion, or more accurately, some of their religious leaders, tells them something different in order to “prove” they are true believers—in Jesus Christ or “God's Laws”—so then they decide to become anti-abortionists. Consequently, they shove or force their beliefs on other people, mainly women, who may not choose to believe that way. Religious freedom is a sacred right too, protected in the Bill of Rights under the US Constitution, the legal document protecting all of our freedoms, therefore, it is the federal government's responsibility to protect us from the Church and religious fanaticism. But now the United States Supreme Court itself has become a tool of this religious bigotry so our society has been set into disarray creating disasters that could continue for decades considering the justices' lifelong appointments.
The other reason the anti-abortionist or “Pro-Lifers” cannot accept death as part of life is they are afraid of death. Most people, especially Christians, are afraid of death or the possibility of being obliterated forever. This is why they even hold some of their religious beliefs: they will be “saved” from death and have everlasting life. Fine, have your beliefs but keep them to yourself, for we also have the right to believe other things, like in reincarnation. Therefore, people should be allowed to do what they feel is best and most true for them in their relationship with a Supreme or Ultimate Reality (or God). A more mature outlook on death is to see it as part of life and that it is inevitable. Everybody is going to die, sooner or later, but that is no reason to despair or get angry. All things must pass, thus you too are a sacrifice in God.
Therefore, if a fetus dies before being born then that is just part of life. In this case, it is the conscience of the mother who is the best judge in being able to determine if bringing her potential child into the world is beneficial or not. Only the mother can decide. That is what the “Pro-Choice” movement is all about: protecting the sanctity of the mother to make the best possible decision, not for the State or the Church. Even if she chooses wrong it is her choice to make and no one else's, especially not some religious fanatic's beliefs. The State must keep the Church out of peoples' bedrooms and health choices. And if a woman chooses a decision that she later regrets, that is not the law's fault, but her own. Yet, honestly, no one has a right to push their religious beliefs onto other people. Our Founders knew this. George Washington, for example, who disliked religious factionalism wrote (in 1792):
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated…. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every domination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
The wall of separation between Church and State must be maintained—it has served this country well for centuries—and now is no time to breach this vitally important boundary that allows religious freedom for all. The Supreme Court with their current Dobbs decision has violated their legal (not sacred) oath to keep the Church or religious beliefs out of the affairs of the State and her citizens. Nonetheless, religious life or spiritual understanding is still crucial in untangling this mess, a perspective that the Integral Vision tries to incorporate by listening to the Mystics of the world while keeping their exoteric (or outer-directed and ritual-based) religions at arm's length.
The Supreme Court with their current Dobbs decision has violated their legal (not sacred) oath to keep the Church or religious beliefs out of the affairs of the State and her citizens.
Let's extend our argument and allow the Adept-Guru Adi Da Samraj—who was living when abortion became legal with Roe v. Wade—weigh in on these vastly important matters. As a genuine Guru he does not represent a traditional religion or point of view but rather speaks from the position of universal wisdom. A deeply spiritual or transcendental view, which most Mystics abide by, maintains that we must be compassionate to others in regard to the brutal processes of nature. People are obviously living in the midst of chaos and death as well as within the beauty of life, so it's best we recognize the totality (or wholeness) of our existence without reacting in fear (or condemnation). Adi Da's Teaching generally discourages abortion since he insists on responsible sexual behavior (conducted in intimate partnerships)—yet he still compassionately and dispassionately offers wise advice on these matters:
Part of the horrible mystery around abortions is associated within the failure to understand the condition of the unborn. The whole process of the child being able to develop until birth is something you obviously must value… But you place the design of your own conventional perception on fetuses and infants and you cannot tolerate the idea that they are a sacrifice, that they are in chaos. You cannot tolerate the idea that you too, must be a sacrifice.
So, as Krishna tells Arjuna [in the Bhagavad Gita], do not be afraid of all these deaths. Presume everything conditional is in chaos. Unconditional Existence [or God] is Inherent [and Absolutely Free]. Be free of the fear that is evoked when you see all the cycles of being, everyone dying. See all of that in chaos. See that conditional existence is a sacrifice. This will release you from the fear associated with mortality and witnessing the mortality of others and the mortal effects that each and every breath has. It will release you from the mortal effects that you have on everything, everyone. Everything is a feast, a transformation already, without doing anything else to it, without becoming violent to anything.
What is ultimately sacred is the Eternal, the unconditional transcendental Divine Ground and Source (or Cause) that permeates and IS all things, including the lives of all human beings. God is transcendent and immanent, the One Divine Reality. The sacred Divine or God is present in life and in death (and beyond), so there is no need to fear life or death. No thing, or being, in truth ever really DIES but is involved in a process of transformation, a change from one state to another. Death is merely the dropping of the physical body (which is a profound event). Thus, we do not need churches or religions to tell us that we are spiritual: we only need to realize this for ourselves as being the Truth. Then the fear of death evaporates IF you really know and believe in the One Eternal God (which I most certainly do). But I am no Christian (though I love Jesus Christ and admire many of their Saints), therefore, I choose to exercise my right to my own religious expression. According to the US Constitution, the State or my government must protect me (and others) from another's religion. They have generally done so for nearly 250 years, so now is no time to relax these safeguards (as the current conservative Supreme Court has done and will continue to do). The United States is founded on religious pluralism, not as a Christian nation, regardless of what some Christians may say. It is my Constitutional Right to freely exercise the “religion” or spirituality of my choice. Let's listen to Adi Da clarify these perceptions (and misperceptions) about death and abortions (or birth control):
The processes of nature are not holy in themselves. They are made holy through conscious God-Communion. You, not nature alone, must be responsible for birth. But the conventional religious point of view tends to keep you irresponsible, eternally parented, as if only nature in the abstract (not in the form of humanity) can be responsible for life. The notion of not wanting to “interfere”, whether responsibly or irresponsibly, in the workings of “Mother Nature” is behind the common dogma relative to birth control.
Christians are free to be Christians—or not to abort their fetuses—if that is their choice, but they must stop projecting their religious beliefs onto our government. E Pluribus Unum or “out of many, one” is the motto of the United States, so no one religion has the right to dominant our lifestyle or worldview or legal laws. This is the plain and simple fact people seem to be overlooking in the abortion debate. For “we hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men [or fully-born human beings] are created equal by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… and whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government,” as the Declaration of Independence declares.
A Christian government is NOT what the Founders intended (despite some Christian's claims to the contrary), so no form of Christian religion, especially that of the Evangelicals (or “born again” Protestants) or Catholics, or any set of religious ideas or philosophies, should ever be allowed to subvert (or diminish) Our Rights as “We the People.” The wall of separation between Church and State must be vigilantly protected so we may each, according to one's own conscience and soul, practice the form of religion and spirituality that they deem most true and real for them. This is the Great Gift of constitutional freedom practiced throughout the modern world and it must be maintained instead of slipping backwards into mythic thinking and religious bigotry which the United States Supreme Court has recently sanctioned. This fault must be reversed as soon as possible.
Partial Truths in the Pro-Life Stance
In any contentious debate, both sides usually have certain partial truths that need to be acknowledged, and this holds true for the abortion debate as well. This essay has sided with “Pro-Choice” or a woman's right to choose in whether or not to terminate her pregnancy mostly because of the legal “wall of separation” between Church and State, between religious beliefs and the government, that needs to be maintained in order allow religious pluralism to flourish. Each individual has a right to their own beliefs about God and what is best for them. Nonetheless, what seems to be behind the abortion debate is not only the right (or not) to terminate a pregnancy but the act of sexuality itself. This is where religion or spiritual beliefs want to weigh in since individuals usually need guidance to what is wise or not about sex. Most people are confused over emotional-sexual matters since these energies involve the passions as well as the mind and so are harder to discipline (thus, for example, they become a focus for yogic practices).
A large part of the anti-abortion movement began in reaction to the sexual revolution of the 1960s when the birth control pill was first introduced (in 1960). For the first time in history women had reproductive autonomy and thus were able to decide more freely when they would have sex since “the pill” vastly limited the chances of her getting pregnant. This has led to more promiscuous sexual behavior which led to an increase in pregnancies that needed to be aborted because they are unwanted (or unplanned). Therefore, Christians in particular have been offended by “free sex” since they themselves tend to repress sexuality and the body. Indeed, Christians have often historically treated women as “second-class” citizens by not giving them the right to vote (until 1920) and killing those they considered “witches” (until 1727), and so on. There is no denying that many modern people, women and men alike, engage in sexuality in an irresponsible manner. They often “do it” for pleasure, for passionate and romantic reasons, and therefore sexual relations become a matter of irresponsibility. But this is not what the right to an abortion is about.
Religious attitudes are often trying to get people to be responsible for their sexual activity, and that is a correct and appropriate point of view, especially since sex is best enacted within a committed intimate partnership for then it is “making love,” not just sex. Without a doubt, modern-postmodern people are confused about these matters—so they just tend to “do what I want”—which is what the traditional religious attitude is attempting to counteract. The whole point is to avoid unwanted pregnancies. If an unwanted pregnancy is avoided, then the whole controversary over abortion is unnecessary. And this means, therefore, that the man (or potential father) must also be involved in the responsible practice of appropriate sexuality. After all, they too can practice birth control, such as not ejaculating inside their partner, wearing a condom, or trying not to have sex with a woman who is ovulating. From a spiritual or yogic perspective, every individual has the responsibility to make right use of his or her own bodily chemistry. The Adept-Guru Adi Da Samraj summarizes these more advanced views on human sexuality and abortion:
There is today a great deal of controversy about birth control and abortion, as if these were real questions. The questions of birth control and abortion occupy attention because people in our secular society do not live responsibly in Spiritual terms. The more worldly individuals want to control conception because they want an obsessive, promiscuous sexual life. They live their sexuality casually, and so when conception occurs, it does so casually, by accident. Then, because they cannot accommodate a child in their present circumstance, they seek abortions.
Such irresponsible and un-Lawful approaches to birth control and abortions are opposed by certain religions—but these religions have their own limitations and delusions. They also fail in another way to recognize and fulfill the Law [of self-sacrifice to the Divine]. The popular religious scruples about practicing birth control make idols of the processes of nature, rather than permit men and women in their Spiritual consciousness to be responsible for the processes of nature….
In the truly human culture, almost all reasons for abortion disappear, and the matter of birth control is removed from the prohibitive medieval context wherein you are automatically guilty of tampering with the workings of nature. The question of birth control is not a matter of whether or not to use such devises [or methods], but it is a matter of right and prudent use.
Living a life of sadhana (in Satsang), or engaging in spiritual practices as a matter of ego-transcending Divine Communion, where all the processes of life are undertaken in a responsible manner, from diet to sexuality to work to education to social interactions, and so on (what Adi Da calls “money, food, sex, and social egoity”), is the way to establish a “truly human culture.” Obviously, these considerations go beyond the conventional understanding about these matters or what is a truly healthy human lifestyle. This is another reason why “integral life practices,” which acknowledge the many different levels or stages and states of human existence, is so vital in bringing about harmony to our confused global culture caught in raging battles between archaic religions and modern values of autonomy and human rights.
The other point pro-life advocates emphasize is the living tissue of fetal life is the origin of a human being from the instant of conception and so should be protected under the law. But do we really want the law crawling up our bodies like that? Should ejaculating be made illegal as all those potential human beings get wasted on a towel? Is it not reasonable to place the protection of the law at the point of leaving the body of the mother during birth when it becomes a separate creature? Even then, pro-choice advocates concede that the fetus should be protected by law once viability is reached (except in medical emergencies). Is this not a reasonable compromise? But not for anti-abortion advocates, which indicates their objection goes deeper: the sex act itself. Christians, for the most part, preach abstinence or no sex at all EXCEPT for reproduction. But that is simply their religious belief and not everyone believes like this nor should they. Tantra, for example, uses the ecstasy of sexual intercourse for spiritual communion (I have never heard about this in the Bible). Thus, Christian beliefs should not be forced on others. It is reasonable to assume that constitutional rights truly begin at birth when one is born as a citizen. But, like I said, reason seems to have left this debate (becoming emotional on both sides).
Does a sperm have constitutional rights? Does an egg? Or only a fertilized egg? This becomes an unsolvable paradox if taken to extremes. Obviously, sperms and eggs are disposed of naturally in nature, such as with menses or menstruation, and no one cries murder because of wasted reproductive material. Or with miscarriages. Yet, of course, an embryo is different for it is a growing human, but let's be honest, it is not fully human; it is potentially human. Yet, it NEEDS the mother's body; it cannot exist on its own so it is not a separate entity. Reason suggests, as it did with Roe v. Wade, that a fetus does not have full constitutional rights since that is not specifically stated in the Constitution. But the judges of Roe did suggest there was a point when it might have some rights: with fetal viability. Full constitutional rights begin at birth. But anti-abortionists would not accept that compromise. So now they have been involved in a decades-long fight based not on reason but their religious beliefs. Once more, Adi Da, a God-Realized human being, goes right to the root of the matter:
Every individual has the responsibility to make right use of his or her own biochemistry…. To participate in degenerative and egoically “self-possessed” exploitation of sex is to throw away the living chemistry necessary for your own rejuvenation, enlivenment, health, and real transformation….
The root of it all is a profound inclination toward sexual pleasure, even promiscuous pleasure, while there is no equally profound inclination toward love, surrender, commitment, Spiritual, Transcendental, and Divine Realization, ordinary life responsibility, and truly human community. If these essentials are integrated in your understanding, then abortion ceases to be necessary.
The Religious Right totally overlooks the fact that the processes of nature itself are not holy in themselves. Nonetheless, wasting sexual energies and fluids is not recommended in genuine yogic practices that attempt to transmute such fluids and etheric energies into spiritual life-energy (thus, for example, ejaculation is discouraged). “Conductivity” of life-energy should be the conscious responsibility of every person from the spiritual point of view. But let's be honest, exoteric religions—particularly Christianity—never goes there. Rather, they use mythic beliefs and become obsessed with ideas that fear death so they project their fears and anger onto other people. Again, this is why we need the wall of separation between Church and State, between religious beliefs and our right to belief what we want. Perhaps Integral Theory has some wisdom we could reasonably integrate into our understanding as well.
Integral Evolution: Fetus to Buddha
Integral Theory can serve our understanding on several fronts. First, by understanding the process of evolution it is possible to realize that a fetus is not yet a full human being. That only happens at birth when the newborn leaves the mother's womb. Growth in the womb is the first stage of becoming a human being so this is when—probably within the first trimester—it is justifiable to abort this growing life form (unless the mother's life is in danger or other special circumstances). After then, protecting the baby becomes top priority. Consequently, such abortion is not done frivolously, as all abortion clinics (and Planned Parenthood) definitively know and practice, for they are here to the serve the entire life circumstances of the mother and the potential growth of the newborn (that takes at least 18 years to come to fruition).
Ultimately, from the integral perspective we can potentially grow from fetuses to newborns to Buddhas (or Enlightened and God-Realized human beings) thus reaching our highest potential. But that involves a long process of growth and evolution, adaptation and transformation. Thus, if we are aborted, either psychologically or physically, that is part of life, our karma, our destiny. It is nothing to be afraid of or mad about as if anything is final. Our soul survives death, as many religions preach, so we get another chance, if deserving. That is what most religions (including Christians) believe in some form or another. If the tadpole dies, frogs still continue living; if the acorn perishes, there are other oak trees; if a human abortion occurs, then the mother has made her choice since only she knows if she can bring a healthy person into the world who can possibly grow into his or her fullest potential. What's most important is the healthy development of the whole human being. At some point judgments must be made.
Ken Wilber's Integral Philosophy attempted, I believe very successfully, to address these concerns and issues of judgment based on what he called the “Basic Moral Intuition” (BMI)—defined as to “protect and promote the greatest depth [degree of consciousness] for the greatest span [or number of holons]”—which results in a compassionate “environmental ethics” that he reviews below:
Our first pragmatic rule of thumb for environmental ethics is: in pursuit of our vital needs, consume or destroy as little depth [degree of consciousness] as possible. Do the least amount of harm to consciousness as you possibly can. Destroy as little intrinsic worth as possible. Put in its positive form: protect and promote as much depth as possible….
I think we want an environmental ethics that honors all three types of value for each and every holon [or “a part in a greater whole”]—Ground value, intrinsic value, and extrinsic value. We want our environmental ethics to honor all holons without exception as manifestations of Spirit—and also, at the same time, be able to make pragmatic distinctions about the differences in intrinsic worth, and realize that it is much better to kick a rock than an ape, much better to eat a carrot than a cow, much better to subsist on grains than on mammals.
The evolution or development of the human being, as the vulnerability of the newborn baby shows, proves that people grow over time which is why it is so IMPORTANT to consider the ENTIRE life development of the human being, not just the nine months in the womb. Once more, as Wilber suggests: “In attempting to promote the greatest depth for the greatest span, we must make pragmatic judgments about differences in intrinsic worth, about the degree of depth that we destroy in an attempt to meet our vital needs,” in other words, better to abort an unborn fetus than ruin a born baby's life by not providing adequately for their growth into healthy development. All eighteen years must be taken into account which is exactly why the mother-woman must decide for herself. Even if she doesn't know for sure, she has to calculate the best she can; the government should not interfere with her decision. She may be counseled, obviously, by health-care providers, and even churches, but it is, ultimately, her decision alone, not the Supreme Court's. Does she have the proper resources, the family structure, the educational environment, the assistance necessary to develop this newborn into a fully healthy and autonomous human being as a functional well-adapted member of society? But once that baby is born, the law becomes responsible for maintaining life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The parents become liable if they don't treat the child right.
This does not mean, of course, that abortions should be undertaken frivolously or casually, or simply as a means of birth control, since fetuses do indeed have the potential (in potentia, as Aristotle pointed out) to become fully-grown human beings and for certain they are part of the sacred miracle of life. Yet, the entire developmental process must be taken into account, and when it comes down to it, since the unborn child is living in a woman's womb, it is her responsibility and no one else's (although the father who impregnated her, obviously, should also be consulted and taken into account). To a large degree, these factors of responsibility for sexual behavior are where the abortion debate most deeply revolves, yet still, ultimately, neither Church nor State should be deciding for the mother about her right to medical abortions. Her conscience (and faith) must be her guiding factor so the State needs to honor and protect her right to privacy (as Roe v. Wade originally recognized).
When a mother decides to abort her unborn fetus, she is determining whether the life circumstances surrounding her involving her family, whether the father is stable and willing, whether her social status with her income level is capable of providing for a child, and so on. Plus, there are other potentially necessary circumstances that need to be taken into account for creating a nurturing life environment for the newborn and growing child that is proper and sufficient. Only the mother can make this decision, whether she's right or wrong, it is only her choice, not the State's or the Church's. To suggest otherwise is a corruption of the First Amendment and a woman's natural right to be a mother when she is fit to do so.
Indeed, it is the State's responsibility to protect the mother from certain beliefs and powers of any Church or religious institution. At this time, the Supreme Court has failed miserably in meeting these duties, and so have the US Senate and the Republicans who helped create this situation.
Indeed, it is the State's responsibility to protect the mother from certain beliefs and powers of any Church or religious institution. At this time, the Supreme Court has failed miserably in meeting these duties, and so have the US Senate and the Republicans who helped create this situation. For example, they prevented President's Obama's (a Democrat) Supreme Court nomination, Merrick Garland, from even being voted on (a clear violation of his Constitutional right as President). Led by Mitch McConnell, then head of the Senate, they allowed President Trump to stack the Court with justices approved by the Federalist Society who were explicitly committed to overturning Roe v. Wade and the right of a woman to choose whether she should have a birth or not. Then they pushed through another nominee, Amy Coney Barrett right before a presidential election (the excuse given for not allowing Obama's to proceed). Now they have stolen a woman's right that had been guaranteed by previous Supreme Court justices for fifty years. This is a travesty of injustice and an assault on the right of women everywhere now and into the future.
“Pro-Lifers” seem to totally overlook the entire arc of human development and how a healthy citizen is made—a process Integral Psychology follows in detail based on science plus a spiritual understanding of life. Rather, these zealots have zeroed in and focused on the unborn fetus as if it exists in a world all on its own, but it doesn't: it exists in an environment of enveloping spheres of existence from the womb to the home to the community to the nation to the world to, yes, God's universe and Divine Domain. Only the mother can decide if she can provide the necessary circumstances and love needed to create a healthy human being, not just bring a fetus to term. Women, for the most part, only abort because they know they will fail to provide adequately for their child; this is one reason, for example, why some abortions are done by mothers who already have large families and thus she must take care of her already-born children. And now the State-Church wants to make this possibility illegal and imprison health-care providers who only wish to serve the woman and her right to choose in providing what is best for her and her family (and ultimately for society as well). Family planning centers and abortion clinics (which go hand-in-hand)—such as with Planned Parenthood—are here to serve women (and men) in bringing children into the world (or not) in order to be the best they can be.
Once a religious Christian, however, becomes obsessed with what Integral Theory identifies as “mythic thinking”—because they have lost (or forsaken) “rational thinking,” a higher level of development—then they are on a mission that must not fail (in their eyes), a campaign of righteousness that knows no end to what they will do to reach their goal: in this case, outlaw abortion. Religious leaders, therefore, have naturally come out in favor of the Court's decision often lavishing their praises with hyperbole and religious rhetoric. For example, Christian leaders have called the ruling “the day we have all been waiting for… one of the most important days in American history.” Really? Many claim it is a tragedy of the greatest degree. The founder and president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, Jason Rapert claimed: “This is a great day for our nation as future generations of Americans will be given a greater chance at realizing their own lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness being born in the greatest country the world has known.” That hardly makes sense, unless you are a Christian realizing the State is now on your side. A more sober and realistic assessment, however, comes from the leaders of a minority religion, the Muslim Advocates:
The Supreme Court's radical decision to overturn Roe v. Wade represents a dangerous Christian nationalization of American law and kicks open the door to future reversals of the right to contraception, the right to marry whomever you want and even the right to teach your children a language of your choice. By upholding a law that defines life as beginning at conception, the U.S. Supreme Court has enshrined the religious doctrine of one minority religious community [the evangelicals] into law—violating the First Amendment principle of religious freedom.
In this case, contrary to what the current Supreme Court has done, it is absolutely the United States Government's responsibility to protect the rest of us from such religious fanatics who think their religion, their way of thinking, is superior to all the rest of us. Granted, the Christian religion is the majority in the United States but we must be protected from the tyranny of the majority. This is why it's often difficult for other Christians who support a woman's right to choose an abortion to counter the radical far-right Christians and their rhetoric of righteousness. Nevertheless, the separation of Church and State is there to protect ALL OF US from any one religion or tyranny of the majority, thus the Supreme Court has made a grave error in reversing progress for the human race and every American.
Granted, the Christian religion is the majority in the United States but we must be protected from the tyranny of the majority.
Unfortunately—very unfortunately—the current Supreme Court has failed in their duty for maintaining the “wall of separation” between Church and State, between religious fanaticism and rational thinking, for that's in the Constitution. It's meant to protect the natural rights, the human rights, of women and its citizens so we cannot relent. Only a woman knows how to make their own decisions about what is best for their bodies, themselves, and even their unborn, and whether or not they decide to bring to term their pregnancy. We must as a nation, and as men, trust our women and their innate wisdom to do what is right for themselves, for us, and for our children. We must insist the federal government do its duty and protect women from state legislatures and religious believers who think they know better when obviously they do not. These anti-abortion laws are always passed by majorities of men, white men (almost all of them Christian). This assault on the separation between Church and State has been an assault on us all. It must not stand if we value our Freedom and potential to be an Enlightened society.