For whatever reason, PoT has not, in the eight years of its existence, focused much on abortion or related issues. But we’ve run a few relevant posts, all written by yours truly. Most, I suppose, nibble at the edges of relatively peripheral issues; few are directly relevant to the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade through Dobbs vs. Jackson. Still, for whatever it’s worth, I thought I’d dig a few out of the vaults.
In 2015, in the wake of the mass shooting at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, I wrote a pair of posts on whether opponents of abortion were logically or morally obliged to engage in vigilante violence in order to oppose abortion. Jason Brennan had argued that they were; I argued that they weren’t.
Brennan had argued that if one regards abortion as murder, one ought to respond to real-time abortions as though they were real-time murders. Since violence is justified as a response to a real-time murder, violence would be justified in response to any given real-time abortion. So shootings like Colorado Springs were ex hypothesi justified on anti-abortionist grounds to stop abortions. (I say “ex hypothesi” because Brennan wasn’t literally justifying the shooting; he was arguing that those committed to the anti-abortion cause were committed to engaging in anti-abortion violence.)
I disputed the claim that, all things considered, violence is always justified as a response to any given real-time murder. A vigilante response to murder may in some contexts end up being counter-productive and imprudent, especially if one has a non-violent or less violent legal strategy in hand for dealing with those murders. The anti-abortion movement has always had such a strategy, and was not, in any case, committed to a consequentialist form of “abortion minimization.” So vigilante violence did not, contrary to Brennan, follow directly from their ethical commitments.
Though I don’t agree with Dobbs (I’m pro-choice on abortion), I take my argument against Brennan to have been vindicated by Dobbs. What Dobbs shows is that the anti-abortion movement has always had a coherent legal strategy for undermining abortion, one that obviated the need for (indeed, was probably undermined by) resort to vigilante violence. But read the “exchange” for yourself, and decide who was right. Here’s part 1 of my post, and here’s part 2. There’s a link to Brennan’s original post within part 1 of mine.
In 2018, the conservative writer Kevin Williamson was denied a journalistic gig at The Atlantic after suggesting that abortion providers and patients be treated as murderers, and be given capital punishment by hanging.
The debate over Williamson’s comments was taking place at a time when the Israeli military was engaged in the wanton slaughter of Palestinians at the Israel-Gaza border. Conservatives defended Williamson, so I wondered what their reaction would have been if defenders of Palestine had taken a similar line with respect to Israeli soldiers. If it’s permissible to hang abortion providers and abortion patients as murderers, why not hang Israeli soldiers on the same grounds? If Williamson’s views on the treatment of abortion providers and abortion patients were within the bounds of respectability, why not analogous views on the treatment of Israeli soldiers? They sound like rhetorical questions, but aren’t.
It’s relevant that the editor of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, was at one time an Israeli soldier–a guard at Ketziot military prison camp.No one in the current climate of American opinion would dream of denying Jeffrey Goldberg a journalistic gig on that basis, and obviously, no one has. But it’s a question whether we should be so complacent.
In March 2020, I wrote a post responding to an anonymous writer, Catiline, on the subject of abortion in cases of rape. This was very much an in-house discussion between two pro-choicers sharing basic normative commitments, and my aim was less to discuss abortion or rape per se than to clarify issues regarding the voluntary assumption of risk. Make of it what you will.
And here are some photos of an anti-Dobbs rally I attended last night in New Brunswick, New Jersey, sponsored by Planned Parenthood and the local chapter of the ACLU. The women in white coats were abortion providers, and as you’ll see, a scuffle broke out near the end of the rally when an anti-abortion activist grabbed the mic and refused to give it back to the organizers. A wholesome event, by my lights, but again, make of it what you will. You’ll see me in the last photo, brandishing a sign that says “Abortion Is Health Care.” I take that pretty literally: when I worked in the OR at Hunterdon Medical Center last year, I helped perform a few abortions. I’ll write about that here when I get a chance.