In a Nice Neighborhood Like This

Silent Scream a film that shows ultrasound pictures of a twelve-week-old fetus being aborted is fanning the flames of controversy over abortion. The embryo's heart begins to race up to two hundred beats per minute. Then the embryo reacts to the surgical instruments and, although too young to cry out, opens its mouth in a "silent scream." The unborn child is subsequently torn apart piecemeal and is vacuumed, bit by bit, from the womb.

Those favoring abortion, the prochoice faction, argue that a woman has the human and constitutional right to control her own life and body and therefore the right to a safe and legal abortion. Silent Scream, on the other hand, representing the prolife faction, contends that human life begins at conception. And to convince us, it appeals to our emotions and sentiments, vividly showing and describing the mechanics of abortion. But neither faction has satisfactorily answered the most crucial question here: What, exactly, is a human being? In other words, at what point should an embryo be seen as a human being entitled to protection under U.S. constitutional law?

The most obvious answer to this question is also the simplest. When a woman is pregnant, we understand that the newly conceived embryo will become a baby, then a child, and then an adult, by natural progression. Thus, the simple truth is that a human being is present from the moment of conception. This conclusion is in line with the Bhagavad-gita, which states that a nonphysical spirit soul animates the body at every stage of life. The person is never the body at any stage of development.

Human rights are ultimately the soul's nights, a fact implicitly recognized by the U.S. Constitution: "All men are created equal." Obviously we aren't equal in intelligence, beauty, strength, and so on. We are equal only as eternal souls, part and parcel of the Creator.

By divine arrangement the transmigrating, eternal spirit soul begins a new life by taking shelter in a womb at the time of conception. From that moment the spiritual rights of the unborn, beginning with the right to life, deserve respect. Trying to justify abortion on the grounds that the embryo is not developed enough to protest is like trying to justify murder because the victim is asleep or unconscious.

Unwanted pregnancy must be accepted as a lawful reaction of material nature, under divine sanction, to previous violation of spiritual principles indulgence in illicit sex. That is called karma, or reaping what you've sown. You may try to circumvent your karma by abortion, but this simply violates another spiritual principle and makes matters worse.

The real solution is to live in harmony with spiritual principles. Human life is an opportunity to become enlightened and transcend material miseries altogether. The purely spiritual process of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to God, beginning with chanting the names of God, Hare Krsna, frees one from karmic reactions and unveils one's divine qualities, moral purity, and love of God. Only by sincere application of nonsectarian spiritual principles can America truly be "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."