As a matter of policy, I support a woman’s right to an abortion.* It’s the law, though the foundation, Roe v. Wade, is a poorly reasoned decision. And that’s my position. But I recognize that others disagree, and I appreciate their arguments against abortion. I don’t agree, but that’s neither here nor there. They are entitled to their well-founded opinion, even if I don’t share it.
This preface is flagrant Gertruding, because what I’m about to write about would otherwise be dismissed in outrage by those who would impute improper motive to me. After all, why else would someone question what happened at Fresno State?
From a press release from Students for Life, an anti-abortion group:
The Fresno State Police Department is investigating an incident that occurred around 8:15 am on Tuesday, April 10th at Fresno State University in the Engineering East Building. Members of Students for Life were putting up flyers to oppose SB-320, legislation in California that would mandate abortion drugs such as RU-486 to be freely distributed through campus health centers.
Aside from the foundational question about abortion, a mandate to distribute RU-486 freely raises some collateral issues. Even if one is pro-choice, this mandate goes a few steps beyond the right to have access to an abortion, but that’s not the issue here. The issue here is that a student walked down the hall and ripped the posters of one group of students off the wall because he disagreed with their position.
That’s wrong. More to the point, what that man, whose only utterance in response was “go to hell,” did undermines any pretense to virtue. And the foundation of social justice ideology is that it may be entirely unprincipled, hypocritical and irrational, but its goals are righteous. Thus, anything done in its name, no matter how wrong or offensive, is justifiable for the greater good.
The once-sacrosanct principle of free speech and expression has fallen into disrepute at both political extremes. To the extent they embrace it at all, it’s only when it serves their goals by shielding them against their foes. Beyond that, it’s a tool of the devil, used to spread bad ideas and fake news, false arguments and hatred. Facile rhetoric makes speech easy to vilify from the mouths of the dishonest to the ears of the simplistic.
But it’s because I Gertrude, because I support the policy of abortion as a right, despite the fact that it came through the dubious means of a Supreme Court decision rather than the appropriate means of affirmative legislation, that I find this so reprehensible. When the policy side with which I agree resorts to such actions as ripping posters off the wall, they attack one virtue to sustain another. This is unacceptable. This is unprincipled. This is a disgraceful admission that they cannot prevail without resorting to silencing their adversaries.
It does not make me change my view on the policy question. The right to access to an abortion is, in my view, the better policy. No matter how poorly reasoned Roe v. Wade was, it remains the law. That’s not to say that people who disagree with it cannot persist in their arguments for change, or oppose extensions beyond the right as held by the Supreme Court.
But there is no sustainable argument that abortion is a right but the exercise of free speech against abortion is not. What the young man ripping posters off the wall at Fresno State did was demonstrate that those who oppose abortion should shut down providers, information sources, advocates for the right to have access to abortion.
That young man does not represent the policy views of those of us who take a principled stance with regard to constitutional rights and support the policy of access to abortion. That young man should be condemned for the wrong he committed, and it’s no consolation that he engaged in disgraceful conduct for a well-intended cause. Even one with which I agree.
*To be clear, I do not “favor” abortion. No one should “favor” abortion. It’s not a good thing, a trivial thing. But my position is that it should be available if necessary.