Opinion: Free expression bypasses abortion issue

April 8, 2013


— We know Johns Hopkins University is devoted to diversity, because it says so. Its “Diversity and Inclusion Statement,” a classic of the genre, says the university is “committed to sharing values of diversity and inclusion ... by recruiting and retaining a diverse group of students.” Hopkins has an Office of Institutional Equity and a “Diversity Leadership Council” that defines “inclusion” as “active, thoughtful and ongoing engagement with each other.” Unless you are a member of Voice for Life, an anti-abortion group.

Hopkins’ Student Government Association has denied VFL status as a recognized student group, for two reasons: VFL’s website links to other organizations that display graphic images of aborted babies. And VFL plans to engage in peaceful, quiet “sidewalk counseling” outside a local abortion clinic, which the SGA considers “harassment.”

Hopkins’ student conduct code enjoins students “to protect the university as a forum for the free expression of ideas.” And although Hopkins has a stern policy against sexual harassment, it says the purpose of this policy is not “to inhibit free speech or the free communication of ideas by members of the academic community.” Presumably that also applies to other forms of “harassment.”

Suppose such SGA-recognized student groups as the Arab Students Organization, the Black Student Union, the Hopkins Feminists or the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance were to link their websites to provocative outside organizations, or were to counsel persons not to patronize firms with policies those groups oppose. Would the SGA want to deny them recognition as student groups? Of course not. Obviously, the SGA has acted to express animus against the content of VFL’s speech, and to protect students from the discomfort of disagreement.

Persons who do not want to see the images to which VFL links need never see them. Nevertheless, an SGA member says pro-life demonstrations make her feel “personally violated, targeted and attacked at a place where we previously felt safe and free to live our lives.” If encountering ideas she does not share makes her feel this way, she is unsuited to a proper academic setting. She may, however, be suited to Hopkins, which should be embarrassed, if it still can be.

Hopkins’ institutional intolerance would be boring were it simply redundant evidence of academia’s commitment to diversity in everything but thought. It is, however, indicative of the increasingly extreme ambitions and tactics of those operating under the anodyne rubric of “choice.” In Florida recently, a legislative debate that reverberated in the U.S. Senate in the 1990s was revived concerning the right to choose infanticide.

In 1996, the Senate debated outlawing partial-birth abortion, whereby a baby is delivered feet first until only the top of the skull remains in the birth canal, then the skull is punctured and its contents emptied. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., asked two pro-choice senators, Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., this: If the baby slips entirely out of the birth canal before it can be killed, should killing it still be a permissible choice? Neither senator would say no. In a 1999 debate, Santorum asked Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whether she agreed that “once the child is born, is separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed.” Boxer said: “I think that when you bring your baby home ... ”

Sort of like driving a new car away from the dealership. But, then, what principle forbids killing a baby at home if its crying interrupts the parents’ enjoyment of Jay Leno’s monologue?

Recently in Florida, Alisa LaPolt Snow, representing Florida Planned Parenthood organizations, testified against a bill that would require abortionists to provide medical care to babies who survive attempted abortions. Snow was asked: “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?” Snow replied: “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.” She added, “That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider.” To this, a Florida legislator responded: “I think that at that point the patient would be the child struggling on a table, wouldn’t you agree?”

Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million in government subsidies, is branching out, expanding its mission beyond the provision of abortions to the defense of consumers’ rights: If you pay for an abortion, you are owed a dead baby.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Ray Parker 1 year ago

Sadly, in many or most of our "universities," academic freedom now means freedom only to agree with the leftist pro-abortion pro-sodomy faculty - faculty that will deny a right to pro-life displays or ignore their vandalism, even punish pro-lifers who expose the names of the pro-abortion vandals. Graphic pro-life displays are proven to save some of the babies from mangling, dismembering, poisoning, and beheading in abortion mills, and so are justified. Why would the abortion lobby object, if they just show a blob of tissue being discarded?

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tomatogrower 1 year ago

"Hopkins has an Office of Institutional Equity and a “Diversity Leadership Council” that defines “inclusion” as “active, thoughtful and ongoing engagement with each other.” "

Most of the groups I see at abortion clinics do not practice active, thoughtful" engagement. Mostly it's harassment.


Cait McKnelly 1 year ago

Just out of curiosity, does Will's advocation for the presence of a pro forced birth group on Johns Hopkins' campus also extend to advocacy for the presence of a pro woman group on the campus of Liberty U.?
Yeah. I thought not.
Go home George. You're drunk.


autie 1 year ago

Ag, it fit well with the argument the other day that the editors forked. A push in logic to push the lack of logic.


Roland Gunslinger 1 year ago

John Hopkins is a private university.

They can stifle whatever speech they want on their property. End of argument Mr Will.

Unless George is now going to argue against private entity rights and how government should be interfering in how a private business operates.


Agnostick 1 year ago

You were being baited, autie. It's usually very obvious. Deleting a fact makes it no less factual.

"Zygotes" are "zygotes." Why the unhealthy fixation comparing them to "parasites?"


autie 1 year ago

Yes, I think zygotes are parasites in a strict sense. so are embryos. My fishing comment was a literary device used to recognize that I was potentially being "baited" and not so much straying from the conversation.


voevoda 1 year ago

George Will attempts to make a case against abortion through a slippery-slope sort of argument: If late term abortion is permitted, then there is nothing to stop infanticide. Therefore, late term abortion must be prohibited. If mid-term abortion is permitted, then there is nothing to stop late term abortion. Therefore, mid-term abortion must be prohibited. If early term abortion is permitted, then there is nothing to stop mid-term abortion. Therefore, early term abortion must be prohibited. If expelling a fertilized egg is permitted, then there is nothing to stop early term abortion. Therefore, expelling a fertilized egg must be prohibited.

But the same kind of logic can be used to prohibit any and all activities that could result in someone's death. Such as use of medicines. Medical treatment. Operating a motor vehicle. Common sense needs to take over, instead of the emotionalism George Will displays here.

And yes, there is a distinct difference between an abortion and infanticide. It's the same difference between shooting an intruder who comes into your house, and chasing an intruder who fled your house down the street and shooting him there. The first, under our laws, is self-defense, and legal. The second, under our laws, is manslaughter, maybe even murder.


Michael LoBurgio 1 year ago

Santorum: Our Abortion Was Different

Rick Santorum is one dangerously confused denialist. The former Pennsylvania Senator and presidential aspirant is best known for his inability to associate his professed compassion for life at the level of the zygote, with the physical realities of human sexuality. He has equated loving same-sex relationships to bestiality. He is opposed to abortion under any circumstance. Almost.

In October, 1996, his wife Karen had a second trimester abortion. They don’t like to describe it that way. In his 2004 interview with Terry Gross, Santorum characterizes the fetus, who must be treated as an autonomous person, as a practically a gunslinging threat, whom the mother must murder in self-defense. Karen has had to justify her decision to save her own life by explaining that if she died her other children would have lost a mother.

Republican extremists in Congress and the statehouses propose to make abortion illegal even if it would save the mother’s life. Even the Santorums admit they would make that choice, while claiming that they didn’t.


jafs 1 year ago

Although I usually think Will is muddled and off-base, I think he makes some good points here.

If you really believe in free speech and the inclusion of diverse viewpoints, then you have to accept that will sometimes make you uncomfortable. Claiming to believe in that, but then denying those who make you uncomfortable the right to express their views is inconsistent.

That's why the ACLU opposes restrictions on "hate speech".

And, although I might agree that the organization discussed is engaged in "harassment" outside abortion clinics, that might easily apply as well to any number of "protests" by other organizations, ones that liberal folks have no problem with.

If liberals want to create their own versions of "acceptable" and "unacceptable" ideas/speech, I suppose they can, but they shouldn't kid themselves that they're really supporting freedom of speech and the inclusion of diverse viewpoints.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

Next column, George will tell us how oppressed the Phelpses are.


autie 1 year ago

He writes with sensationalist fervour. Use of the extreme situation to condemn the rest.


TJ_in_Lawrence 1 year ago

By all means lets criticize a well known and accomplished author for the way he writes instead of admitting that the questions he asks and the points he makes are valid.


Jackie Jackasserson 1 year ago

Wow, how did this derail from free speech to to row v wade?


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