Days ago someone spoke on the issue of abortion with series and pointed words, it was Franco Rodano, in a daily news article released the 28th January. This article is called Abortion and Clericalism. This is a good and civil article; among some of the most good and civil that I have read as of late.
I consider the matter of abortion one of the most intricate, delicate, and saddening that exists; a space in which conducting oneself is certainly challenging. In this article, when Franco Rodano discusses abortion, it feels like we are breathing pure air; as he speaks with such extreme respect for humans, and with an extreme seriousness.
I support the legalisation of abortion. Alongside Franco Rodano, I find the Italian Women’s Union, the only championed, and therefore serious and authentic organism dedicated to Women’s rights in our country, to be right in their advancement of eliminating abortion penalisations, where and provided that it occurs in public health institutions.
In the campaign to legalise abortion, I find the widespread and violent self-assuredness hateful; I find it hateful that abortion is treated as a freeing and joyous experience. In the campaign to legalise abortion, I find all the choreography that surrounds the topic, hateful, the noise and the celebratory remarks, which oscillate between violent and macabre, hateful, the demonstrations of women with foetuses hung on their stomachs, hateful, the words “my womb is my own and I’ll do what I like with it” hateful: in truth, even life is ours, and none of us have the power to do what we like with it.
Above all else, legal abortion should be considered for the question of fairness. It must be a clear cut and poignant address that people direct towards the law. It is unsupportable that poorer women risk death or die trying to induce an abortion with knitting needles, and that wealthier women have secure clinics at their disposal and risk nothing, or next to nothing, in seeking an abortion. This is unsupportable. We know well by now how society and the law are constructed; we know well how chaotic and far from any inclination of fairness the law is; furthermore, however, we also know how they ought to be, many of us in a perhaps raw, passional, and confused way. The law ought to be purely just; it should not be strict, nor supple, but committed only to good cause; and it should step into play when someone finds themselves in situations of danger, misfortune, guilt, or harm.
In calling something into question, it is necessary to identify it by its true name, what it is. I find it hypocritical the notion that abortion is not murder. Abortion is murder. The right to abort must be the only right to legally murder that we as people call into the law. It is murder in the context of abortion, in its own unique respect, and entirely different from every other type of murder. It truly can not be compared to anything else because it does not resemble any other type of murder. No other right is complementary to it, it does not call for any additional forms of similar freedoms.
In not legalising abortions within our country, women die from knitting needles; and between the deaths of women with eyes, features, a voice, and the deaths of a human silhouette without eyes or a voice, it is impossible to prefer the latter. Abortions do not constitute the killing of someone who is already a person, but the remote, pail outline of a person; it is clear that the death of these pail, faint outlines is a lesser evil than the deaths of the mother who carries it inside her, and an even lesser evil that these pail, faint outlines die as opposed to growing up to be children destined to starve. It is furthermore true, that any fate might be destined for pain; and if we are made to think about how the future may unravel, we might ask ourselves wether it would not be right and sensible to never give life, always choosing nothingness. The idea of abortion, therefore, calls into question the meaning of life, and furthermore a line of questioning that leads to a black hole. This is why, currently, the concept of abortion consumers all of our attention: because this topic calls into question all of our understandings of life, which we see as elusive, and it seems as though our future existence, therefore, hangs in the balance; it seems that the future cannot be promised to anyone. However, loving and believing in life, also means loving the painful sides to life; it means loving the moment of our birth, the abyss of horror; it means loving the future, despite its unknown and immense unpredictability. However, it is also true that a similar thought maybe leads to nothing more than a fire that is lit and dealt with by that person alone.
Since abortion is, in truth, the murder of not a true person, but the possibility of a person, it is, a fearful decision for mothers. In truth, almost anything seems better than being faced with a similar decision: birth control, maybe even chastity. Homosexuality has also been suggested, a paradoxical idea that can not hold for everyone. However, with this question considered, it is not as much the paradox that is considered disagreeable as it is its convenience as a solution. When in situations of life and death, convenient solutions appear bled out, overworked, and futile. Chastity, in other words, birth control, instead infers a sacrifice, and one worth paying at that when life and death are at play.
Abortion is murder, however of a variety that can be compared to no other; it is to be separated from any singular, precise and real living possibility. Being a decision different from all others, we can not revert to our usual views and opinions on moral order; here those appear purposeless. We know all too well that killing is bad, but here in the presence of a possibility of life that’s hidden in the dark, even the idea of good and bad is hidden in the dark. To a similar degree, the light of reason, the light of logic, and the well-known light of morality can not clarify this dilemma; they would not be of help in this instance, because there are not solutions or a clear logic when everything is in the dark. It is a choice that one must make in front of another and destiny, in the dark.
Such a choice, however, can therefore only be individual, private, and concealed. Among all human choices, this is the most private, anarchical, and isolating. It is a choice that involves the rights of mothers, and only the rights of mothers. This is not because there exists, in every circumstance of life, a free right to choose, and not because “my womb is my own and I’ll do what I like with it” : I think that never before has there been, in such a choice, the feeling that no choice belongs to them, and less so as it pertains to their own body. The only thing that belongs to them is the horrible power to choose life, either for a silhouette without neither voice nor eyes, or nothing. This is a burdensome power, heavy like lead, that drags weighted chains behind it: because whomever makes this decision, does so on behalf of two people, with the other being mute. The choice entails tearing apart a piece of yourself, killing a part of yourself, tearing forever a precise, alive, and unknown possibility from ones own limbs. It is a muted and lonesome choice as is especially mute the agreement that lives underground with the hidden abortion. And the relations between mother and that hidden, living, unconscious human form, is in truth, is the most closed, intriguing, and dismal that exists in the world; it is the least freeing of all relationships and concerns nobody.
A similar choice, concerns nobody and less so the law. It is clear that the law has no right to prohibit it nor punish it. It calls for the law, or it should call for the law, only in the moment it stops being a choice made in secret and becomes an open and clear determination to abort—at which point the mother is in danger—in this case the law should not be there to punish nor to prohibit but to lend help. The law is held, or should be held, as such that people do not harm themselves nor others. However, this regards people, not possibilities; because in the case of possibilities, hidden in the womb of mothers, neither the law nor code, not society, nor the government should have the smallest power to interfere.
The present piece is a translation of an essay by Natalia Ginzburg that Themis Frigo completed for a class at The University of Chicago.
Dell’aborto in Non possiamo saperlo. Saggi 1973-1990
© 2001 Giulio Einaudi editore s.p.a., Torino
Published by arrangement with The Italian Literary Agency
Themis Frigo si laurea in Letteratura Italiana ed Economia presso l’Università di Chicago. Cresciuto tra Londra e Milano, ha acquisito un profondo apprezzamento per la cultura sociale e la letteratura italiana che continuano a influenzare i suoi studi. Centrale per la sua internazionalità è il suo interesse per le questioni sociali ed etiche che si estendono all’interno e all’esterno dei confini italiani.