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What Goes Into Having An Abortion

[Note: we realize that the topic of abortion may be highly controversial among Buddhists, and we do not require readers to agree with this post, or any post we publish on Turning Wheel Media. Nevertheless, we feel this piece represents a valuable perspective, and we are grateful to the author for sharing it with us. Comments on this post may express strong disagreement, but may not attack the author. Any that do will be removed. Thank you.]

What Goes Into Having An Abortion

My father’s incest
My mother’s blindness and shame
Cosmo covers full of blonde and boobs
The man masturbating in an abandoned apartment building
Off the Uptown el,
My desperate attempt to hold on
To a decaying affair.

I could not stand to be left.
I was raised by Cosmo and Dad and 17 Magazine and 1981 years
Of Christian dogma to believe
My body was others’ property, I had no worth other than
What it could sexually provide.

Dumping ground for daddy rage.

To counter that, Our Bodies Our Selves.
A feminist fist with a voice behind it, shouting,
You must have compassion for yourself

I had the abortion.

(Training ground for bodhisattvas. Looks different
Than what all those men think, eh?)

Kate Niles is the award-winning author of The Basket Maker (a novel), The Book of John (novel), and Geographies of the Heart (poetry). She lives in Durango, CO, with her family.

This post appears as part of June’s series, “Sex, Gender, Power”: a systemic take on the Third Precept of Buddhist ethics. BPF’s year-long curriculum, The System Stinks, brings spiritual activists together to explore the Five Precepts on a collective, social level.

Comments (7)

  • Melissa

    Very powerful. Necessary imagery. Thank you for sharing.

  • kristin loken

    Kate – one way or the other, we all had the abortion.

  • Jeff

    Kate, thank you for a very moving poem. If we men had to carry a pregnancy for 9 months, abortions would have never been illegal and priests would have come up with a ritual that sanctified them.

  • Mushim Patricia Ikeda

    Here is some writing on abortion by Zen priest Yvonne Rand: http://www.goatintheroad.org/buddhasway.html

  • Ava Torre-Bueno

    This poem is beautifully expressive of the incredible complexity that goes into some abortion decisions. I have done pregnancy counseling for my entire career as a social worker. Twenty years ago, at a Vipassana retreat, I had a huge opening about the amount of suffering I had been witness to. This led me to write a compassionate self-help guide called Peace After Abortion. http://www.peaceafterabortion.com
    All that said, most women do not struggle with their decision to have an abortion, and we should admire them for their clarity as much as we admire women who struggle.
    And Zen priest Yvonne Rand gets it all: http://www.goatintheroad.org/buddhasway.html

  • Bryab Wagner

    Yes. Well said.
    I often wonder.
    Why?
    There are so many people.
    So involved in attacking other people’s decisions.
    About a lot of things.
    Abortion. Gay marriage. War. Sex. Money. Relationships. Religion.
    Why is there so much interest in what happens over the fence?
    I suspect that, for many, their own business is too painful to look at.
    And.
    It is easier to make decisions for others.
    In Loving Kindness.
    Bryan

  • Kate Niles

    Many thanks to the heartfelt responses to my poem. I am heartened by Wendy Davis and the stories of abortions that are coming forward now. These are not meant to glorify, but rather to break an oppressive silence around the truth of women’s lives and decisions regarding their bodies. The ignorance of the (largely) GOP white male bastion continues to astound me — maybe someone should send them all a copy of Our Bodies Our Selves. Namaste.

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