By Jonathon Van Maren
Several of you have been keeping up with the online back-and-forth between a few members of the “abolitionist” crew and myself after Josh Brahm and I spent two episodes of his podcast discussing this group (which you can watch here and here.) I also wrote an essay in response to one of their rebuttals, and noted in a series of notes beneath that article that it would be my final contribution to the discussion (the notes detail the objections of some others to this group). But just a few more points to wrap it up, as their response on The Liberator podcast showcased why dialogue is pointless. My engagement on this matter has been for the many pro-lifers who have asked about this group; I’ve been gratified by the many people who have messaged to say that this exercise has been helpful for them.
To reiterate one last time, I have not stated that the pro-life movement will not engage so-called “abolitionism” simply because T. Russell Hunter is “a big jerk” or “mean,” as the folks at The Liberator would like people to believe. That’s an obvious and intentional straw man. In fact, many pro-lifers engaged with both Hunter and his group as it developed; I wrote several articles then and responded again after Hunter created videos in response; Gregg Cunningham engaged in a public debate with Hunter that was publicly promoted by pro-lifers.
What we’ve said is that the response of Hunter and some others leading up to and in the wake of this revealed that they are bad faith actors and that the debate isn’t worth a repeat performance. A debate has been had. Hunter himself was there and had the floor to do his worst. It is still available for any interested party to watch. In the minds of many pro-life leaders, the outcome was clear. Pro-life engagement with these ideas were literally published in an entire e-book. The critique of Hunter’s behavior (he assures everyone that his friends, family, and followers assure him that he’s never been mean, only righteously indignant, which I’m sure will come as a shock to all of you) came during pro-life engagement with his ideas.
There’s a real hubris in “abolitionists” insisting that because they disagree vehemently with pro-lifers, those pro-lifers, who are consistently mischaracterized by them, have an obligation to debate them. (As I mentioned previously, Hunter actually said that perhaps American pro-lifers wanted abortion legalized in Ireland to expand “their influence”—I kid you not.) It would be amusing if it weren’t so arrogant. The simple fact is that not everyone takes them as seriously as they take themselves.
Incidentally, Josh Brahm and I spent two hours discussing not only the early history of this group, but also their political strategy—their ideas. I articulate why I disagree with them and think they are wrong-headed and doomed to failure; I rearticulated them once again in a follow-up essay. Ironically, The Liberator hosts instead choose to pretend that folks like myself use Hunter’s behavior as a reason to reject “abolitionism,” which is not the case. I reject it because I think they are historically incorrect, strategically mistaken, and will fail in their attempts. They might prefer not to accept that, but it’s true. I and others simply do not find their arguments convincing.
On that note, let me spell something out in clear English so they understand it: The reason we state that their claim that the pro-life movement is keeping abortion is legal is slanderous is because we believe their bills will not actually abolish abortion. As I stated in my previous essay, this is not a choice between regulating and abolishing. It is a choice between strangling the abortion industry and passing an abolition bill that will never actually take effect. We have explained extensively why we believe that these bills will never take effect; their response is to bring up ludicrous comparisons to states defying the courts on weed etc. and insisting, with no compelling evidence whatsoever, that their strategy will in fact work.
Again: This is not a serious argument, and nothing they’ve said or written has been even remotely convincing on this score. Abolition bills, in short, will not actually abolish abortion—and will have the reverse effect of ensuring more abortions take place. If there’s a good argument for why these bills will actually take effect, I’ve yet to hear it. In the meantime, ignoring the fact that we say their bills will be ineffective and simply claiming that they will be and accusing us of “keeping abortion legal” because we disagree with their strategy is precisely why we see them as bad faith actors, or at best people so hubristic that they are incapable of understanding why others think their arguments are intellectually feeble.
But the “abolitionist” response is: If you don’t want abortion to be legal, you should be supporting our bills. So there you have it: If you don’t think they’re right, you’re responsible for dead babies. There’s no way they can be wrong–the only possible reason for opposing their ideas is cowardice or genuinely sinister motives. I believe they want to end abortion–they do not believe that of us. They believe we want “influence” and an “industry” and to ensure that the corpses keep piling up, and that this is why we will not debate them and be subsequently blown away by their brilliant arguments (many of those who join this group compare their entry to a conversion experience.)
There’s hubris, and then there’s that. Good grief.