Another abuser has been exposed. Eric Schneiderman, formerly the highest-ranking law-enforcement officer in New York State, was torpedoed earlier this week by a thoroughly devastating New Yorker report on his serial physical, sexual, and verbal abuse of several women with whom he had been romantically involved.
Like Harvey Weinstein before him, Schneiderman successfully donned the mask of a feminist ally throughout his career; he was the most outspoken attorney general in the country in support of women’s rights — particularly the right to abortion. A mere four days before news of his misconduct broke, he tweeted:
A year before Roe v. Wade, I graduated from high school, went to Washington DC, and got a job working in an abortion clinic. I learned an important lesson at a young age. If a woman does not have the right to control her own body, she is not truly equal. She is not truly free.
It is not difficult to unearth dozens of statements such as this one from his many years in public life.
As it turns out, Schneiderman’s relentless campaign for women’s rights was a thin veneer apparently painted on for public profit. Behind closed doors, the act evaporated, to be replaced by systematic, heinous abuse. I won’t recount Schneiderman’s misdeeds here — the New Yorker story, tenaciously reported by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow (who catalyzed the #MeToo movement last fall with his bombshell report on Weinstein), is not for the faint of heart.
In short, Schneiderman, a supposed champion of female autonomy and empowerment, appears to have exhibited a pattern of viewing and treating the women in his life as less than human.
The perpetration of violence and abuse against women, of course, is not isolated to public figures on one side of the political spectrum. The right has its Roy Moores and Steve Wynns, a unique brand of hypocrisy that preaches family values and wholesome Christianity while preying on women, including underage girls. And the Republican party has as its president a man credibly accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women, a man who allegedly cheated on his wife with a porn star just months after his son was born.
But why have many of the left-leaning men incriminated in the wave of #MeToo revelations also been vocal advocates of third-wave feminist goals, particularly abortion rights?
Schneiderman, Weinstein, former Minnesota senator Al Franken, and former Michigan congressman John Conyers, along with media figures Leon Wieseltier, Matt Lauer, and popular comedian Louis C. K. were all ostensible allies of the women’s-rights movement and the broader progressive agenda. All these men, too, have been accused of serial sexual misconduct, though some allegations have been more credible and serious than others.
Their primary reason for ritualistically donning a feminist public persona is fairly obvious. There are few greater causes célèbres on the far left than “reproductive rights,” and few simpler ways of establishing progressive bona fides than dumping cash in the lap of Planned Parenthood. Schneiderman even billed himself as a legal champion of the #MeToo movement, instigating a lawsuit against Weinstein when the latter’s misdeeds surfaced.
On some level, though, I suspect their support for abortion rights was and remains sincere. It clearly doesn’t stem from authentic respect for women’s autonomy or a desire for their empowerment — but then, abortion isn’t authentically respectful of women’s bodies or empowering to them, either. What kind of empowerment subjects women to the possibility of severe medical side effects and complications, opposes giving women aid to continue their pregnancies, and transforms a child into the enemy of her mother’s liberty?
There are few, if any, legal developments that have enabled male exploitation of women more than abortion on demand — all under the guise of making women “free” like men. While some women electively avail themselves of their right to an abortion, all too many are coerced into it, often by the child’s father — whether through direct physical force, open threats of abandonment, or the subtle psychological coercion of refusing to provide for or help raise an unwanted child.
It is surely not the case, of course, that all pro-choice men view women the way Schneiderman and Weinstein do, as objects to be used and discarded. Favoring abortion rights does not mean a man cannot also be decent, kind, and respectful of women, sincerely but mistakenly believing that abortion is a means of female empowerment.
Abortion is, first and foremost, an easy way out for men who do not wish to take responsibility for their sexually libertine lifestyle. This is why first-wave feminists opposed it.
But there is ample evidence of the reverse: Men who disrespect and abuse women are aided and abetted by our regime of expansive abortion rights. Consider former Pennsylvania congressman Tim Murphy, a Republican who claimed to be anti-abortion but who — in conjunction with having an affair and pressuring his mistress to have an abortion when she became pregnant — admitted behind closed doors that his pro-life stance was a sham put on for GOP voters.
Abortion is not a boon to women or true freedom from supposed servitude to their bodies. It is, first and foremost, an easy way out for men who do not wish to take responsibility for their sexually libertine lifestyle. This is why first-wave feminists consistently opposed abortion and viewed it as a means of further oppression. If a “mistake” happened, a woman could be made to go “take care of it,” at great personal, physical, and emotional cost.
We are now several decades into this experiment of billing abortion as false liberation that requires women to “take care of” unwanted pregnancies. On top of the tens of millions of unborn lives taken as a result, the #MeToo movement and abusive men such as Schneiderman have shown us the bitter fruit of a message that allows men to foist the consequences of promiscuity and pregnancy on women alone.