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The New Abolitionists
'Funny, I don't feel like a conservative'

It has always struck me as odd that advocating a laissez faire, Reaganomics approach to abortion should be considered as somehow liberal or leftist.

It also strikes me as strange that so many conservatives who proclaim themselves to be "pro-life" are just as opposed to social policies that might reduce the demand for abortion as they are to abortion itself.

After all, if all human life is sacred, shouldn't we all be cared for no matter the circumstances of our creation? And why on earth the hostility of so many pro-lifers toward gays – if we're truly pro-life, shouldn't we embrace life in all it's varied forms?

And so in exploring these issues, I discovered that, much to the chagrin of both the big-business abortion industry and the Christian right, there exists a strong, committed progressive movement to abolish the violence of abortion as part of the larger struggle to eradicate all other forms of prejudice and oppression. It is an opposition deeply rooted in feminism, a community born of the civil rights and anti-war struggles of the 1960s, a philosophy that calls on the same humanistic principals that advocates of abortion claim as their own.

Nat Hentoff deserves much of the thanks and credit for serving (however unintentionally) as point person for the progressive wing of the pro-life movement. He's taken much of the brunt of the savagery and censorious impulses of the pro-abortion establishment – and taken them with courage, good grace and even a touch of humor. (If you're not familiar with Hentoff's work, he's one of the finest jazz critics ever, as well as one of the most vigilant defenders of the First Amendment's free speech clause. You can find his books at He was a hero of mine before I learned he was pro-life; learning of his commitment to consistent nonviolence helped me come to terms with my own struggles with the death penalty and environmentalism. His example has stood many of us in good stead during the times of personal rejection, professional sacrifice and social isolation inevitable to taking a stand unpopular with the ruling class.

Below are links to some left-of-center and other non-Christian right pro-life groups – organizations that see abortion as a civil rights and not religious issue, organizations that reject the consumerist mentality that leads to acceptance of dehumanizing practices such as the death penalty, euthanasia and abortion:

  • Consistent Life is dedicated to speaking out against all forms of violence — the death penalty, euthanasia, war and abortion. Originally founded as the Seamless Garment Network, an umbrella organization for other abolitionist groups, Consistent Life now individual memberships. Leading voices in the Consistent Life Movement include Maya Angelou, the Dalai Lama, Nat Hentoff, Martin Sheen, Eunice and Sargent Shriver, and Daniel and Phillip Berrigan. Try branding them "right-wing" ...

  • Feminists For Life — As with Susan B. Anthony, Mathilda Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull and nearly all the early feminist foremothers, FFL is trying to bring about real, substantive change to improve women's place in society — and recognizes that abortion is simply another manifestation of male domination. FFL was founded in 1973 by a group of women excommunicated from the inclusive folks at NOW for their abolitionist views.

  • The Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League gives lie to the stereotype of pro-lifers as being a bunch of Neanderthal Bible-thumpers.

  • Environmentalists For Life is a project of Pat Goltz, one of the founders of Feminists for Life. Environmentalists for Life is a new organization, one that is still fleshing out its positions and platforms. It seems to me that this group has as much potential as any in the abolitionist camp at helping to illuminate the contradictions inherent in a pro-environment/pro-choice philosophy and the equally oxymoronic combo of the anti-abortion/pro-development position.

  • Rachel MacNair, another founder of Feminists For Life, is currently working on a new project — the Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Association. Back issues of the group's journal are online, where you can find some very provocative challenges to the pro-abortion establishment.

  • The Consistent Life Ethic Ring is a list of progressive Web sites committed to a seamless life ethic. None of the rabid right-wingers the press likes to trot out as representing the abolitionists here.

  • The Prolife Alliance of Gays and Lesbians — Talk about not having any friends ... these folks are far braver than most of us. And I loved their old slogan: "It's a whole new closet to come out of."

  • Rock for Life presents a grass-roots alternative to the seemingly monolithic pro-abortion message of the corporate music world.

  • Libertarians For Life — Okay, they're hardly on the left, but they are challenging their own status quo and it's kind of a neat exploration of just where the limits of laissez faire ought to be.

  • A piece I wrote for the American Reporter garnered tremendous response, more than anything else I've ever written (well, at least outside some feminist erotica I wrote for Libido magazine a few years back ... that's still in first place for most e-mail generated ...). I've reposted it here — "The Left's Surrender on Issues of Human Value."
  • I've written several other essays on abortion, particularly the media-perpetuated myth of the "conservative" pro-lifer vs. the "liberal" pro-choicer:

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