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Fraudulent Fertilisation

Episode 30

Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapMar del Plata, Bosque Peralta Ramos
Tuesday 19th September 1989

Carlos Stelli’s practice was comfortable and warm; the waiting room with its large window looking onto the garden and its small fireplace was an invitation to stay. Mabel was sitting with her head down, preoccupied and tortured. Her recent abortion had left her morally wasted, she felt like the most wretched woman in the world, inconsolable. She constantly thought about the baby who, according to her, she had murdered, plain and simple. It tormented her to remember what she had done, to imagine what her child would have been like. The voice of Father Tomás pursued her constantly, accusing her of having eliminated her baby. To stop suffering, she thought about suicide more and more; this idea had become an obsession. Alicia was next to her, keeping watch over her anguish, Roberto too. In the last few days, Mabel had found a great deal of understanding in him, so she wanted him to be present at that moment. Burán had recommended consulting Stelli, a vastly experienced gynaecologist who was a close friend of his. According to his criteria, this doctor was an interesting guy, full of humanity. Doing abortions had worn him down psychologically, he had given it up a few months earlier. He was prepared to help Mabel get over the acute depression she was suffering from. He would speak to her directly and frankly.

A man in his sixties, of medium build and with very white hair, appeared in the door. His blue eyes, sharp and penetrating, stood out in his wrinkled, manly face, with a wide smile, showing his perfect teeth. He wore an impeccable white apron.

“Come in, please,” he said with a deep and affectionate voice, “How are you, Roberto, how’s it going? A pleasure, you must be Alicia, no? And you’re Mabel... I’m Carlos Stelli, let’s not stand on ceremony, please, don’t worry about me being old. I know how you’re suffering, I’ve seen lots of cases like yours. Please tell me about it, would you like us to be left alone?”

Mabel felt comfortable with Stelli, he didn’t judge her, he seemed to understand her, to take pity on her for her pain. She answered him...

“No, doctor, Alicia stuck her neck out for me and Roberto gave me a lot of support. I’d like them to stay, they know everything, we’ve already spoken about the matter. I don’t mind them being present, on the contrary. I want them to listen and give their opinion...”

“All right, dear,” agreed Stelli, “Tell me what is the specific problem, what most affects you. I’ll try and help you.”

“I feel filthy,” the girl managed to say, “I can’t get it out of my head that I killed my child. I was selfish, I didn’t want to wait and give him away for adoption. If I had done that, I would have saved his life.”

“But, Mabel,” answered Stelli, “would you have been able to give away your child, after seeing it be born? After having held it in your arms?”

“No, I don’t think so, doctor,” said Mabel, hesitating a few seconds.

“So then, you shouldn’t torture yourself so much for something that was impossible.”

“It wasn’t, doctor, it wasn’t. I could have done it.”

“But, Mabel, you’re looking at it from a theoretical angle; the reality of the situation didn’t allow it. You should be more tolerant with yourself. Don’t judge yourself so harshly.”

“All right, doctor, I’m grateful for everything you’re telling me. I know you’re trying to alleviate my guilt complex, I’m full of remorse, believe me, I can’t take any more. Father Tomás warned me, he said that I’d regret it until I died, and he was right. It’s as if I’m broken, doctor, I can’t go on living like this, I can’t bear it any longer.”

“Now then, tell me, you think you’re a murderer, right?”

“Yes, doctor, I am really.”

“I told you not to stand on ceremony, call me Carlos, otherwise you make me feel more decrepit than I am, understand? Don’t let it happen again, I’ll lose my temper, eh?” the doctor said, smiling and winking at the teenager.

Mabel agreed with a whimper.

“Look, girl,” continued Carlos Stelli, “let me ask you a question, have you got any friends or relatives that have had an abortion?”

“Yes,” answered Mabel.

Alicia hurriedly acknowledged.

“Doctor, I had an abortion when I was 19, now I’d have a little five year-old...”

“Thanks for telling me,” said Carlos. And he continued, “Mabel, if that’s the case, do you think your sister is a murderer because she did the same as you? Do you think a friend that did the same would be one?”

“No! No way! I’ve got no right to judge anyone, least of all my sister. She’s a very good person...”

“Explain then, why, if the circumstances are the same, you’ve committed murder, but she hasn’t?”

“I don’t know, doctor, you’re confusing me.. I’ve got no idea what Alicia felt, but I know what I’m feeling. I’ve thought about the matter a lot, but it’s undeniable that I’ve killed my baby, it’s unforgivable...”

“But tell me, Mabel, if you could go back, would you have an abortion again, or not?”

The young girl fell silent, a slight tremble made her shudder. She had never consciously asked herself that question. Ashamed, she had to admit, “Sincerely, even though I can’t understand it myself, I think I would, doctor. I know it’s an absurd contradiction, but I must be honest, I think I’d do it again.”

“Girl, I’ve already told you not to stand on ceremony, I’m asking you nicely.”

“All right, doc... Sorry, Carlos.”

“You yourself acknowledge that your answer is contradictory, why don’t you analyse it more closely? That means you’re not repentant, if you were, you wouldn’t be able to ever have another abortion.”

“It’s true, I don’t know, perhaps I shouldn’t call it repentance but simply feeling guilty, awareness of having sinned.”

“Ah! Is it a religious problem for you? Are you a believer?”

“More or less, doctor... I mean... Carlos. Sorry, I forgot to call you by your name... As for the question, the truth is that I don’t go to church very often, but I believe in some superior being, at least I suppose I do; I’d like it to be the case.”

“Well, dear, let’s see... You accuse yourself for an act that you justify in another; you torture yourself for violating precepts you don’t believe in, or at least which you doubt. Don’t you think there’s something here that doesn’t add up?”

“I don’t know what to say, Carlos, believe me, I’m not pretending.”

“I don’t doubt it; I know you’re not acting, but I don’t think you’re analysing your circumstances objectively. Tell me, what do you think single women normally do when they get pregnant?”

“I don’t know, perhaps lots of them have abortions, I don’t know what proportion; lots of others will take the decision to have a family, I’m not sure.”

“Well, I can assure you that the majority terminate their pregnancy. Do you understand that it’s like that?”

“Yes, I went through it, I know how painful it is.”

“Mabel, I’ve had many years of experience, let me speak to you in a way few people will speak to you. We live in a world full of hypocrisy; this practice has been visited by judges, politicians, very powerful people and also very humble people. I’ve received mothers who were horrified by the thought of being grandmothers and others who were only worried about what the neighbours would say. Recalcitrant Catholics have begged me to free their daughters from their sinful burden. Rigid moralists suddenly forgot their principles here... Don’t judge yourself so harshly, the world is not like a repressive priest tells you it is. True charity begins with coming down to earth. Sentences can’t be decreed from heaven.”

“But Carlos, we’re talking about a life!”

“Yes, a potential life, a transcendent expectation that deserves protection. I don’t deny it, but it’s not the same as a creature that breathes for itself, that cries in your arms. Don’t suppose that I’m saying abortion is good. Look, I know it’s heartrending, terrible, but a two day-old embryo is not the same as an eight month-old foetus. If we say this is not true, preventing conception with the coil should be prohibited, because it’s supposed to be abortive. Do you think it’s bad to use it?”

“No, not at all,” answered the girl, assimilating the doctor’s every word. “On the contrary, I think its use should be promoted. It would avoid horrible situations like the one I’ve been put through.”

“Right, therefore the argument of life is relative in practice. In theory, we can agree, it’s always life that is annihilated. But real life shows that we must differentiate according to the development of the foetus. A priest would raise objections with religious arguments, he would preach that life comes from God and only He can take it away. He would claim to be the bearer of the Only Truth, because Our Father has placed his trust in him. He would equate morals with religion, which is a very serious mistake, because they are totally independent concepts. There can be atheists, in fact there were, who were examples of morality. Bertrand Russell is the best example I can remember... This shows us that the typical principles of Catholicism, for example, do not necessarily have to coincide with our own. On the other hand, the notion of life is currently spread out of all proportion. Each of our cells has life.”

“I don’t understand that,” replied Mabel.

“It’s quite simple, although it doesn’t sound it. It has been shown that, through cloning systems, a new being can be manufactured using, for example, a piece of skin. This means that the act of giving blood allows the gestation of innumerable subjects like the donor. A French Nobel prize-winner always said that his most terrifying obsession was finding himself face to face with five Einsteins on the New York subway. This is perfectly possible. Now then, if each cell contains an entire genetic code, if it has the ability to duplicate a human being, doesn’t that mean that it has life? Can this be denied?. However, nobody worries about giving blood, or wasting sperm. The church does not approve of masturbation, but it doesn’t consider it a serious crime like abortion.”

Translation: Peter Miller (© 2002)
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Copyright ©Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli, 1990
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Date of publicationJuly 2002
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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