Anniversary

Seventeen years since the day Jo married me: it feels like that was just yesterday and it feels like it always was this way. One makes only a few really good decisions in life. The one where I convinced Jo to marry me is by far my best. So here we are, celebrating our anniversary with a selfie in New York with Vivian perfectly timing her photo bomb.

If I had to pick the second best decision, that would be the one to have kids – but let’s revisit that one again in a few years, shall we? We did the usual touristy things in New York – starting with a huge New York breakfast after which we were only fit for a horse carriage ride around Central Park. Then a nap, followed by a visit to the 9/11 memorial. How strange to see two giant pools of water where two really tall buildings full of people used to be. I remember standing on the observation deck of one of the towers four decades ago. After walking around the memorial, we went down to Battery Park from where you can see the statue of Liberty. I explained to Vivian and Evan that my immigrant story in the US starts much less dramatically – at the immigration hall of Houston airport, and not on Elis Island, ancient as I may be. Then we wandered into this surreal looking carousel called Sea Glass where the kids and Jo rode on hollow glowing fish that swirled and danced and turned to the beat of even more surreal music. Dinner at Ajisen, a ramen restaurant in China Town. Then the kids and Jo ubered back and I walked through SoHo and Little Italy and up along Broadway past Union Square and then on 6th Avenue to our hotel near Central Park. Later that evening my friend’s son Abhik, dropped by for drinks, and by 11pm we were in line a few blocks away at the Halal Guys food cart.

On Sunday we met Vikram and his lovely family for an enormous brunch in mid town. We sat outside in one of those wood and plastic sheds that have popped up everywhere in an attempt to bring fine dining outdoors during CoVid. Jo and Vivian went “thrifting” in the East Village. Later that evening we strolled down to Times Square and looked at a world bathed in the glow of giant displays. On a wet Monday morning Vivian and I went walking/running in Central Park and then I worked while Jo and the kids went to the Met. In the evening we went to the new Little Island park, wandered through Chelsea market, and then strolled up the H Line to the crazy new buildings at the Hudson Yards – stopping to look at the Shed with it’s giant roller wheels so it can be retracted in 5 minutes, and the Vessel, a vanity sculpture/building that is reminiscent of Escher’s Steps but is unfortunately closed now due to multiple suicides by jumping from it’s open 16-stories of waist high glass rails. Then we wandered into Muji to restock ourselves with precious brown notebooks and pens and pencils before heading home to Evan who was supposedly working on “homework”.

We’ve had a lovely time. Why don’t we come here more often?

SB 8

NPR describes SB 8, the new Texas abortion law as: “…[it] prohibits terminations after about six weeks, even in the case of incest and rape, and it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone else who helps a woman break the law and gives them money if they win.”

If abortion was an issue that had a clear solution, like say, Covid vaccines, it would have been settled decades ago by the good people of America who are sometimes smarter than they look. But it doesn’t. It pits the individual rights of the woman carrying the fetus against the rights of the unborn fetus. Almost everyone in modern liberal secular democracies agree that a new born deserves the same protections from the state as any one else. Children are not considered the property of their parents to do with them as they choose. In that light, one way to frame the abortion question is: when does the state grant those rights to the child? At birth? Or when it is still a fetus but it is viable outside the womb, which depends on when and where you are pregnant? Or when a heartbeat is first detected using a Doppler transducer and increasingly more sophisticated scientific instruments? No one has a convincing answer, let alone a single correct answer. Texas grudgingly allowed abortions till 20 weeks. The new law lowers that down to six weeks. There isn’t any logical reason to not just keep going to “just a few seconds after fucking”.

The new Texas law relies on private citizens to sue anyone who aids in an abortion. The state will pay them up to $10,000 in bounty as an encouragement. The state is expressly forbidden from directly acting against those who break SB 8 for a reason. By turning all the people of Texas into peeping toms and snitches, the Texas law gets past the usual judicial process that would have otherwise declared the law unconstitutional.

At the center of the target of who gets sued in accordance to SB 8 is the doctor who performs the abortion. My friend Alan did exactly that six days after SB 8 went into effect and then he wrote about it in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

And that is why, on the morning of Sept. 6, I provided an abortion to a woman who, though still in her first trimester, was beyond the state‚Äôs new limit. 

I saw Alan two weeks before SB 8 went into effect at a lunch. We had a drink and got caught up and he chatted with Vivian who he still remembered as a little girl. Vivian and I had no idea that afternoon that we would be soon be reading about him in the national news.

Alan performed the abortion because as a doctor, he was simply providing medical care to his patient. It is his job. He swore to do it. But he is also testing the law. Someone needed to.

On the other side, who is the kind of person that stands up for the rights of the unborn fetus over the rights of the mother? That would be the kind of person who works on behalf of the weakest, who doesn’t hurt anyone, who is staunchly against any form of state sanctioned killings – abortion, war, capital punishment, etc. The kind of person who is probably a vegan and practices non-violence even with regard other species. The kind of person who is the opposite of a red-meat-eating war-mongering law-and-order freak. Hmmm. I seemed to have explained myself into the exact opposite of reality. So what is it then that motivates most anti-abortion Americans? Certainly not pacifism and non-violence toward fellow humans. It is because their god prohibits them from committing adultery, eating shellfish, aborting fetuses, and several other things. Adultery and shellfish are a lot harder to give up than telling someone else not to get an abortion.

I’ll never get an abortion – but simply because I’ll never get pregnant. I can’t tell you whether you should – I don’t have the moral certitude or authority. But I do hope that the world that my children grow up in is one where abortion is less necessary. No one wants one. But if someone needs one, that it is legal and safe. Abortion often ends the possibility of a life that could have been, and changes another for ever. Let us let them sort that out with their doctor and their god. Your god won’t mind if you comfort them instead.