The voices in my head say wake up
Hey, you can’t sleep
Can’t go home to yourself
What’s left of it
The voices in my head
They say you’re not good enough
No one really gives a shit about you
Your whole life sucks
And we’re what’s left of it
The voices in my head are louder now
They sing the bridge of the dreams I had
with the airiness of the child who had them
They break it down
I do not cling to what’s left of it
The voices in my head say hurt yourself
The pain will distract you
A nail cutter won’t draw much blood
At least not like razor would, coward
I dig into my skin
What’s left of it
The voices in my head have grown faint
We do not scream tonight
We haven’t for a while
Tomorrow, my reminder will come on at 9
I will use my med
Count what’s left of it
The voices in my head are silent
There are no voices in my head
I pull one final sound out of my mouth
I hold the gun to my head
Blow what’s left of it.
I ask a stranger what heartbreak is
and watch them fall into a silence so thick
I almost lose my voice while trying to pull them out
when the air around us sheds its lining
I ask again, this time I hold their hands as if in prayer
it is prayer; to ward off memories so heavy
they swallow you whole
they point a finger to the sky and say nothing
I wonder what this means
then I remember Noah’s ark
how the sky you trust your crop with
rains the flood that drowns you.
you take different men to bed each night
yet it’s a boy who wakes with you
his voice is the sound of a river
fleeing a village that has fed it
more dirt than cackles of bathing children
the boy could be many things:
the stillborn your mother won’t show you its headstone
buried like a body that couldn’t make it
to the border of its town
the pregnancy that had to go when you were in SS1
and your cousin who knew algebra
like he memorized your body
denied letting himself into your room and vagina
the child you wouldn’t touch with your cursed hands
lest death read it as an invitation
but pneumonia broke in on the wake of his christening
and left the door open.
Here is the rhythm to the way this soul breaks:
(Interlude: an orchestra your demons dance to,
invite you to join)
Sol (Harp. Heart-beats — slowly, stop abruptly)
Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!!!
I can’t do this anymore…
We regret to inform you that…
This never happened.
I keep seeing his face on older men; clergies, fathers.
I see it more often now. And the trauma returns.
Is it that traumatizing? It’s just a ki…
I felt violated!
Fuck It, he violated me.
Fa (Turn off the beats. Play violin softly,
yet like the strings will break)
It never goes away.
Do (Silent as a hypothetical graveyard)
I don’t want to be here.
During my freshman year in the university, I took a core course (General Studies – Values of Health and Sickness) with a module on the defense and opposition of abortion.
Abortion is a controversial subject that often leaves the overly religious and cultural on the opposition, free-thinkers on the defense, and indecisive humans dangling somewhere in between.
The lecture materials were essays that at first seemed ambiguous to me, a girl who had eyes only for poetry and fiction, but reading them enlightened me; I discarded the religious ban on, and unlearned cultural beliefs about abortion. I embraced critical thinking.
Class discussions were the most memorable part of taking this course; they were interactive, argumentative, and usually grew into a row that disrupted the learning flow. Everyone had an opinion they wanted to say, assert, or force down the classes’ throat.
The department devised a plan to satisfy the students’ yearn for sharing their viewpoints; an assignment was to be typed and submitted before the semester exams began. This way, students were given a chance to write their stance without coming at one another in the classroom, and even get compensated – the assignment had an aggregate of 15 marks.
The assignment was a summary of the essay, “A Defense of Abortion”, written in 1971 by Judith Jarvis Thomson.
Judith Jarvis Thomson is an 88 year-old American moral philosopher and metaphysician famous for the essay to be summarized.
In this essay, Judith employs storytelling and comparison to gain a better insight to the relativity of abortion to some other life choices that could require a scrutiny similar to the one abortion is bound to; the purpose of this is to give the reader a ride down the lane to visiting their own hypocrisy.
She starts by reasoning with the arguments against abortion as if deterring from the purpose of the essay; she microscopically examines, then moves on to disintegrating them before ultimately fishing out loopholes, debunking these arguments. Her vivid imagery readily elicits thought, making the essay distinct and the most widely consulted in all of contemporary philosophy.
Here is the edited version of the summary I wrote four years ago:
SUMMARY OF THE ESSAY
Many people oppose abortion based on the supposition that the foetus is human from the onset of conception. Defenders of abortion rely on the premise that the foetus is not a person, but a bit of tissue that becomes a person at birth.
Suppose we grant that the foetus is a person from the moment of conception, then we will have to acknowledge its ‘right to life’ since every person has this. In the same vein, we must recognize the woman as a person with the same right, coupled with an exclusive right to decide what happens in and to her body. In instances where these rights conflict, shouldn’t we then weigh them to determine which is more morally justifiable to protect? We might as well consider cases in which the foetus’ right to life diminishes; such as ones where the woman had no voluntary participation in the existence of the foetus, or her health is at stake.
People who oppose all abortions except those done to save the mother’s life hold the notion that anyone’s rights should fade away as it gets harder to accord to them. That is, an unborn child should have the right to the mother’s body except in cases where housing it poses threat to her life or health.
When an unborn child threatens the woman who houses it, she has the right to defend her life against it even if it involves its termination. A third party (who can perform abortion) may agree to abort the pregnancy, or not; it is a matter of choice.
But, this is morally unacceptable; whether or not a man has a right to a thing should not be dependent on how easy it is to provide him with it.
“…it is rather shocking that anyone’s rights should fade away and disappear as it gets harder and harder to accord to them.”
In cases where an unborn child poses no threat, there is a need to examine the views of people on “the right to life”; some see it as the right to be given the bare minimum needed for continued existence (what if this “bare minimum a man needs for life” is something he has no right to?) and some, as the right not to be killed. Having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given, or allowed continuous use of another person’s body even if one needs it for life itself. Therefore, a foetus may have no right to the continuous use of a woman’s body.
An unborn child who came to be through rape has no right to use the mother’s body, therefore aborting it is not deprival of what it has a right to, hence, not an unjust killing. Rather, it is a callous, indecent or a self-centered act. In some situations where the foetus has a right to the woman’s body – where she voluntarily had a sexual intercourse, knowing she could get pregnant — abortion can be said to be unjust. Not all abortions are unjust.
The essay proceeds by using the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) to infer that it is hypocritical it is to say that abortion is not an “unjust killing” in circumstances such as pregnancy due to rape, or when the mother’s life is in peril, but an “unjust killing” in entirely different cases. This is like creating separate laws for the “Minimally Decent Samaritan” and “Good Samaritan”— highly unjust and improper.
“… in no state in this country is any man compelled by law to be even a Minimally Decent Samaritan to any person… by contrast, in most states in this country women are compelled by law to be not merely Minimally Decent Samaritans, but Good Samaritans to unborn persons inside them. This does not by itself settle anything one way or the other, because it may well be argued that there should be laws in this country as there are many in European countries – compelling at least Minimaly Decent Samaritanism. But it does show that there is a gross injustice in the state of law.”
Away from arguments on rights, it may be said that the foetus is not just a mere person, but one for whom a woman has a special responsibility because she is its mother. But, we have no responsibility towards a person unless we have assumed it implicitly or explicitly. If the parents make no attempt to be rid of the pregnancy, then it can be said that they have taken responsibility for it, and given the foetus rights which they cannot deny it when it becomes difficult to continue housing it. But if they have considered or tried terminating the foetus, they do not have a special responsibility for it; they have the choice to either assume responsibility for it or not. And if being responsible for it means making large sacrifices, they may refuse.
Conclusively, this essay argues that abortion is not morally impermissible, but does not that it is always permissible. It does not give a general yes or no to abortion. It recognizes that there are some cases where carrying the child to terms only requires the mother’s being a Minimally Decent Samaritan, which is a standard everyone ought to attain.
“…for example, a sick and desperately frightened fourteen year-old school girl, pregnant due to rape, may of course choose abortion, and (that) any law which rules this out is an insane law. And it also allows for and supports our sense that in other cases resort to abortion is even positively indecent. It would be indecent of a woman to request an abortion, and indecent in a doctor to perform it, if she is in her seventh month, and wants the abortion to avoid the nuisance of postponing a trip abroad.”
The bulk of this essay argues for abortion whilst assuming the foetus to be human from the time of conception; an abortion done in the early trimester(s) is definitely not the killing of a person.