I am admittedly on the fence on the abortion issue. I lean pro-life. That is to say, in theory, when the idea is considered apart from the practical realities of life, the pro-life position is the perfect ideal. However, the real world realities leave me burdened with a feeling of responsibility that if I’m going to tell people they need to give birth to all their unwanted children, then I need to consider what I’m going to do to ensure these children are given the love, nurture and quality of life that every human being deserves. A “right to life” argument that doesn’t consider the right to life after birth seems to be in the realm of cruel and unusual — inhumane.
The following excerpt is from Christina McKenna’s, “The Misremembered Man”. While it’s fiction, true stories exactly like this are repeated daily by the tens (if not hundreds) of thousands all over the world in orphanages, foster homes, and other “alternative” living arrangements for the unwanted kids of the world. It begs the question, what is our social responsibility?
“Remind me why you’re here, Eighty-six?”
“Because…’ He swallowed back the tears. “Because I’m bad and me mammy d-didn’t want me…and she put me h-here because…’
He stopped, terrified. Her unblinking eyes and doughy face made him think of hooded figures in the forest, death and buried bones, a headstone-crowded darkness.
“Stop that at once!” She slapped him across the face, grabbed him by the shoulder and trailed him to a bench set along the wall. He immediately scrambled up onto it.
“Stand up!” They were at eye level. “Do you know why your sister is not here, Eighty-Six?”
He shut his eyes tight. He did not want to say the word. But another blow to his cheek brought the answer she required.
“She died. That’s right: she died.” She spat the awful word into his face. “Your mother put the pair of you in a shopping bag and dumped you on our doorstep. Your sister was already dead. We saved you.” The boy was looking down at his feet, the tears falling freely now. “Only for us you would have died too, you ungrateful, greedy, thieving little devil.”
She pulled him off the bench and flung him across the floor. He collided with the bucket, sending the water everywhere. He ended up sprawled on his knees in the dirty puddle, unable to right himself.
“Now look what you’ve done.” She unhooked the strap at her side.
He screamed and doubled up under the lashing leather, believing that the tighter he held himself, the less pain he’d feel, an instinctive yet useless tactic he’d used many times before.
Then she stopped. He heard her rapid breathing and slowly uncurled himself into the full, throbbing aftermath. He retrieved the damp cloth and attempted to soak up the “sin” he’d just been found guilty of.
“I’m not finished with you yet, Eighty-Six.” She hauled him to his feet again. “I’m waiting, Eighty-Six. Your mother put you here because what?”
“Because she want…id, w-w-wantid you…y-y-y-you to make me…make me good, Sister?” His whole body shook as his words slid everywhere. He stopped and swallowed deeply.
“And if you’re not good and you don’t do your work, what will happen?” Her face was a mask of disdain. Sweat misted her brow. She grinned, lips peeling back from dingy teeth.
“God will puniss…punish me, and me ma…me mammy won’t come for me.”
“Correct, little man.” She straightened up. “Now get to it or there’ll be no bed tonight and no breakfast in the morning.”
She marched to the door, then halted. He set immediately to work, fearful she might come back to beat him again.
“Eighty-Six, change the water when it gets dirty. Do you hear? If you can’t see to the bottom of the bucket it needs to be changed. You understand?”
And with that she left him in the joyless hall with the bucket, the brush and his small heart pounding, a trail of dread and danger battering in her wake.
Two hours later, he was finished and lay in the darkness in the crowded dormitory, three rows, ninety-six beds in all. Ninety-six hungry boys, hungry for love and hungry for nourishment, and their sleep disrupted for lack of both. Ninety-six rejects with no gifts or grace, on whom a cloudless sun would never shine.
They were all under ten years, yet none of them knew their age, or what birthdays meant, or what presents were for, or that Santa Claus came at Christmas. In their long years in the orphanage, they’d never been hugged, never been smiled at, never eaten meat or used a knife and fork; they did not know the pleasure of bathing in warm water, or the feel of cotton sheets against the skin.
Their only crime was that their mothers had died, or been too poor to keep them, or too frightened to resist the forces of power and authority that deemed them unfit for the maternal role. Each child was paying for the “love” that had brought him into being: a love that in the “holy” eyes of the children’s “carers” was tainted, because it had come from lesser beings—poor people.