Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty

Among the items that drew my attention today is “A Prime Instance of Political Correctness: The Blackballing of Nat Hentoff,” by Maverick Philosopher.

My opposition to abortion on libertarian grounds is of long standing, with this being the most recent of many posts on the subject. As it turns out, Nat Hentoff, who on many issues might be considered a leftist, holds views similar to mine. This, for example, is from his “Indivisible Fight for Life“:

I’ll begin by indicating how I became aware, very belatedly, of the “indivisibility of life.” I mention this fragment of autobiography only be cause I think it may be useful to those who are interested in bringing others like me – some people are not interested in making the ranks more heterogeneous, but others are, as I’ve been finding out – to a realization that the “slippery slope” is far more than a metaphor.

When I say “like me,” I suppose in some respects I’m regarded as a “liberal,” although I often stray from that category, and certainly a civil libertarian – though the ACLU and I are in profound disagreement on the matters of abortion, handicapped infants and euthanasia, because I think they have forsaken basic civil liberties in dealing with these issues. I’m considered a liberal except for that unaccountable heresy of recent years that has to do with pro-life matters.

It’s all the more unaccountable to a lot of people because I remain an atheist, a Jewish atheist. (That’s a special branch of the division.) I think the question I’m most often asked from both sides is, “How do you presume to have this kind of moral conception without a belief in God?” And the answer is, “It’s harder.” But it’s not impossible….

Now, I had not been thinking about abortion at all. I had not thought about it for years. I had what W. H. Auden called in another context a “rehearsed response.” You mentioned abortion and I would say, “Oh yeah, that’s a fundamental part of women’s liberation,” and that was the end of it.

But then I started hearing about “late abortion.” The simple “fact” that the infant had been born, proponents suggest, should not get in the way of mercifully saving him or her from a life hardly worth living. At the same time, the parents are saved from the financial and emotional burden of caring for an imperfect child.

And then I heard the head of the Reproductive Freedom Rights unit of the ACLU saying – this was at the same time as the Baby Jane Doe story was developing on Long Island – at a forum, “I don’t know what all this fuss is about. Dealing with these handicapped infants is really an extension of women’s reproductive freedom rights, women’s right to control their own bodies.”

That stopped me. It seemed to me we were not talking about Roe v. Wade. These infants were born. And having been born, as persons under the Constitution, they were entitled to at least the same rights as people on death row – due process, equal protection of the law. So for the first time, I began to pay attention to the “slippery slope” warnings of pro-lifers I read about or had seen on television. Because abortion had become legal and easily available, that argument ran – as you well know – infanticide would eventually become openly permissible, to be followed by euthanasia for infirm, expensive senior citizens….

Recently, I was interviewing Dr. Norman Levinsky, Chief of Medicine of Boston University Medical Center and a medical ethicist. He is one of those rare medical ethicists who really is concerned with nurturing life, as contrasted with those of his peers who see death as a form of treatment. He told me that he is much disturbed by the extent to which medical decisions are made according to the patient’s age. He says there are those physicians who believe that life is worth less if you’re over 80 than if you’re 28.

So this is capsulizing an incremental learning process. I was beginning to learn about the indivisibility of life. I began to interview people, to read, and I read Dr. Leo Alexander. Joe Stanton, who must be the greatest single resource of information, at least to beginners – and, I think, non-beginners – in this field, sent me a whole lot of stuff, including Dr. Leo Alexander’s piece in the New England Journal of Medicine in the 1940s. And then I thought of Dr. Alexander when I saw an April 1984 piece in the New England Journal of Medicine by 10 physicians defending the withdrawal of food and water from certain “hopelessly ill” patients. And I found out that Dr. Alexander was still alive then but didn’t have much longer to live. And he said to Patrick Duff, who is a professor of philosophy at Clarke University and who testified in the Brophy case, about that article, “It is much like Germany in the 20s and 30s. The barriers against killing are coming down.”…

Back to Dr. Norman Levinsky. This is all part of this learning process. It is not a huge step, he said, from stopping the feeding to giving the patient a little more morphine to speed his end. I mean it is not a big step from passive to active euthanasia.

Well, in time, a rather short period of time, I became pro-life across the board, which led to certain social problems, starting at home. My wife’s most recurrent attack begins with, “You are creating social mischief,” and there are people at my paper who do not speak to me anymore. In most cases, that’s no loss.

Which leads to “Blackballing Nat Hentoff,” by Mark Judge (writing at RealClearReligion):

Hentoff’s conversion from pro-choice to pro-life, and the fallout that resulted, is explained in an essay in the new book, The Debate Since Roe: Making the Case Against Abortion 1975-2010. It’s a compendium of essays from the journal Human Life Review….

Hentoff’s liberal friends didn’t appreciate his conversion: “They were saying, ‘What’s the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don’t you consider it a late abortion and go on to something else? Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying.”

The reaction from America’s corrupt fourth estate was instant. Hentoff, a Guggenheim fellow and author of dozens of books, was a pariah. Several of his colleagues at the Village Voice, which had run his column since the 1950s, stopped talking to him. When the National Press Foundation wanted to give him a lifetime achievement award, there was a bitter debate amongst members whether Hentoff should even be honored (he was). Then they stopped running his columns. You heard his name less and less. In December 2008, the Village Voice officially let him go.

The blackballing of Hentoff, reprehensible and revealing of the left’s moral bankruptcy as it may be, has one positive aspect: It seems to have been accomplished by private action; that is, the power of the state has not been wielded against Hentoff. (As far as I know.)

The power of the state has been wielded against those who dare to resist the “gay rights” movement and its ancillary activities. Here is Hentoff, writing in September 2000 (“Media Ignores Far-Ranging Gag Order“) about one such instance:

On March 30, the Boston chapter of the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) held a conference at Tufts  University. Present, from around the state, were teen-agers and some children as young as 12, as well as teachers who received state ‘professional development credits’ for being there.

One of the sessions was titled, ‘What They Don’t Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class: A Workshop for Youth Only, Ages 14-21.’ Instructing the students were two employees of the state Department of Education and a consultant from the Department of Public Health.

Scott Whiteman of the conservative Parents Rights Coalition attended  that class and secretly taped it. I have a copy of the transcript.  When a youngster asked, ‘What’s fisting?’ in gay sex, a woman from the Education Department explained how to do it. There might be some pain, she said, but it’s an ‘experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with.’

Among other lessons, there was a ‘hand diagram’ to show how lesbians have sex. Another workshop was: ‘Early Child Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not.’

Part of the tape was played on Boston talk-radio station WTKK-FM by the host, Jeanine Graf, whom I’ve known for years as a vigorous advocate for free speech.

The Parents Rights Coalition made the tape available to others, and GLSEN sued to have it and any transcripts suppressed. On May 17, Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel, who moonlights as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, issued one of the most  far-ranging prior-restraint orders in American judicial history….

It included not only the Parents Rights Coalition but anyone, including  lawyers, who tried ‘to disclose or use such tape in any forum’ or its contents. That included the press, electronic and print….

The … media [other than the Boston Herald] was silent, except for WTKK’s Graf. She kept playing the tape. And, on her program, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Harvey Silverglate – a civil-rights and civil-liberties lawyer as well as a national columnist – attacked the prior restraint as a violation of a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

I went on Graf’s show to violate the gag order. I discussed what was on the tape and underlined the judge’s contempt for settled First Amendment law. Also criticizing the prior restraint was Jay Severin, a WTKK commentator.

The Massachusetts affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union was silent….

On May 25, van Gestel modified his gag rule, saying, ‘Nothing in this preliminary injunction shall be deemed to apply in any way to the print or electronic news media.’ But the rest of the prior restraint continued….

Subsequently, there has been some coverage of this assault on the First Amendment and the acquiescence of most of the Boston media. Rod Dreher, a New York Post columnist, wrote an indignant ‘Banned in Boston’ article in the July 3-10 issue of The Weekly Standard….

Aside from Dreher’s piece, I’ve seen no mention in the national press of this gag order that should go into the Guinness Book of World Records. If a similar suppression of speech had been handed down by a judge against a secret taping of a David Duke-sponsored conference by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, would there have been such media silence?

Fast forward to 2012, where the leftist-statist conspiracy to advance “gay rights” (i.e., gay privileges) is alive and well. A case in point is described in “Wedding Photographer May Be Required (on Pain of Legal Liability) to Photograph Same-Sex Commitment Ceremonies,” at The Volokh Conspiracy:

So the New Mexico Court of Appeals held last week in the long-pending Elane Photography v. Willock (N.M. Ct. App. May 31, 2012). The court began by holding that the state law that bans sexual orientation discrimination in places of public accommodation applies to professional wedding photographers’ decisions not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies: Such photography businesses are “places of public accommodation” under the language of the law, and the discrimination between legally recognized opposite-sex marriages (New Mexico only recognizes such marriages) and same-sex commitment ceremonies constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court then rejected the argument of the photographer (Elane Huguenin, the co-owner and principal photographer for Elane Photography) that penalizing her for not photographing such same-sex ceremonies was an unconstitutional “speech compulsion.” The First Amendment, Huguenin argued, has been repeatedly held to protect the right to speak as well as the right not to speak; and the right not to speak includes the right not to create artistic expression that one doesn’t want to create. And just as the First Amendment protects speech that is said for money (indeed, most books, newspapers, movies, and the like are created and distributed commercially), so it protects the right not to create certain artistic works for money, even if one is in that line of business. But the court disagreed….

I don’t think this [ruling] is right, for reasons that I discussed in my earlier posts about earlier stages of this case. It seems to me that the right to be free from compelled speech includes the right not to create First-Amendment-protected expression — photographs, paintings, songs, press releases, or what have you — that you disagree with, even if no-one would perceive you as endorsing that expression….

Amen to that.

Not that I am surprised by the court’s action. This is from “Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage,” a post that I wrote three years ago:

[A]s sure as the sun sets in the west, the state will begin to apply the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to protect homosexual “marriage” from its critics. Acting under the rubric of “civil rights” — and  in keeping with the way that anti-discrimination laws have been applied to date — the state will deal harshly with employers, landlords, and clergy who seem to discriminate against homosexual “marriage” and its participants.

The post concludes with this:

Many will dismiss consequential arguments against homosexual “marriage” by asserting that the state’s refusal to legitimate homosexual marriage simply isn’t “fair.” In return, I will ask this:

Unfair to whom, to the relatively small number of persons who seek to assuage their pride or avoid paying a lawyer to document the terms of their relationship, or generally unfair to members of society (of all sexual proclivities), whose well-being is bound to suffer for the sake of homosexual pride or cost-avoidance?

As a practicing minarchist, I would rather have the state stay out of “the marriage business.”  But given that the state is already in that business — and is unlikely to get out of it — the next-best outcome is for the state to uphold societal norms instead of bowing to the preferences of the gay lobby and its influential supporters.

Faced with a choice between libertarian shibboleth and libertarian substance, I have chosen substance. I now say: Ban homosexual marriage and avoid another step down the slippery slope toward incivility and bigger government.

And, while we are striking blows for liberty, let us ban abortion, too.

Related posts (abortion):
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather

Related posts (homosexual “marriage”):
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm

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