Here in the United States, only the most extreme opponents of abortion (which is legal in this country) want to prevent women who have been raped, and get pregnant with the rapist's child, from terminating the pregnancy.
So I was shocked when someone emailed me the message below. She describes a satsang (public talk) given by an Indian guru, Gurinder Singh, last summer. The guru took a hard line with a woman who asked if a woman who had been raped should have the child.
I used to be a member of the religious/spiritual organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, the guru leads. After reading the following, I felt really good about leaving RSSB. The lack of compassion shown by Gurinder Singh is abhorrent to me.
National Satsang in the United Kingdom this year was on 14th 15th and 16th August 2015. You may be familiar with the layout - a public lecture followed by a public interactive Q&A forum. On the last day, the 16th August, one of the questions came from a young Indian woman.She asked if a woman had been raped, and then found out she had become pregnant, what should she do? Should she have an abortion or should she have the child? She also stated that there was a lot of stigma against single mothers in India.The Guru's response was that it was a difficult situation. However, he then asked a rhetorical question - whether the child had done anything wrong.She then asked him to confirm whether he was advising not to have an abortion after rape.He then said he could understand why she would want to, but then said VERBATIM "If it were me, I would not have the abortion, I would not do it".He then spoke at length about why the child should suffer, when the child had done nothing wrong, the child was innocent.The response from the people around me was sympathetic tutting in agreement.I was mortified to have to sit there and listen to this. I was mortified to see hoardes of (presumably) literate educated followers agreeing with him, nodding in blind obedience with this man, placed high on a pristine white podium. A man who had no idea of what this experience would be like.I was horrified for the poor woman who had opened up publicly about what was obviously her personal tragedy, and because of the callous response of these people (men AND other women) who did not question the response, did not question the source, would not empathise with her, could not understand her plight.Please bear in mind that abortion is legal in the United Kingdom and is recommended if the woman's health, including her emotional health, is at stake. In practice two doctors are required to sign off. The reality is no doctor will turn you down for an abortion if you request it. UK medical law puts the woman as the priority.The evident response from the Guru, and I'm assuming RSSB community that did not question this, was that the welfare of the child (unborn) was more important than the woman.More important than having to live with a daily reminder of your rapist. More important than having to raise your rapist's child, which could give him rights to access his biological child, and therefore access to you, his victim. More important than your future hopes and dreams and plans. Your future career, your travel plans, your hopes of settling down. Your ability to choose the man whose child you would bear. Your choice to pick the timing for bearing a child. More important than financial/social considerations. More important than your wishes and thoughts. More important than your life. More important than you.As a young woman who was in this position myself, I was mortified.I was fortunate that I did not end up pregnant, however if i had been, I very likely would have felt pressured to keep it and I would have done so out of a sense of religious/ spiritual/ karmic/ radhasoami guilt. Needless to say the experience itself shattered every shred of faith I have, but nonetheless, I am sure there were many more women in that crowd who are just like me with the same experience, and I am sure some of them would still listen to the Guru - like the young woman who asked the question in the first place.The young woman's second question was whether individuals should stand up for their rights. He said to avoid this use of rights because it sounds aggressive and confrontational but definitely stand up for yourself. The sheer contradiction just made me confused. The woman just left, her voice trailing off, and I felt even worse for her. She had turned to this Guru, this apparent Perfect Living Saint for comfort and clarity, and left with nothing but confusion.I muttered (a little too loudly perhaps) "I would love to see what he says if this actually happened to him".DO NOT give me a rant on how "men can get raped too". Men, including the Guru, Perfect Living Saint or not, will NEVER face the worry, fear, shame, anxiety, dread, hopelessness, stress of pregnancy after a sexual assault since this is NOT a physical possibility for them. Yet the people in the row in front of me and the people on both sides turned to look at me with looks of disgust, as if I were the one making outrageous statements.I was fighting back tears. I got up and left.I felt betrayed by the community. I felt disappointed in my old Guru who I used to believe in. I felt rejected in the space that I once felt welcomed in. I have never felt so worthless in my entire life - save for when the incident itself took place.I have tried to be as dispassionate as possible but of course my views/experiences may come through. I am not perfect. Just wanted to share my story with someone who might understand. If you use this in any way, my humble request is that you keep me anonymous as some of my family members look at your site too, and I am not open about my sexual assault. As the young woman rightly said, there is a stigma in place, and RSSB is all too familiar with it.Regards, _________