Hitchens’ Questionable Feminist Record

Richard SeymourAmong Hitchens’ criticisms of religion was what he considered was its opposition to the liberation of women, and their reproductive rights. Yet, if the notion of Hitchens as a feminist is unconvincing, it is not only because of his trivial shock-jock commentary on why women are not funny (unless they are “hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three”) or because of his rape jokes and snipes about feminism. He also had a record of opposing certain reproductive rights for women, suggesting that society should “claim a right and an interest” in the fate of the unborn child and therefore might limit abortion access to any woman who “is the victim of rape or incest, or if her mental or physical health is threatened” as part of a “historic compromise” offering in return a health service with free contraception and an adoption service.

Thus Hitchens urged that the state should be involved in adjudicating the specific rights and wrongs of individual abortion cases. And, if he conceded that, in some circumstances, abortion might be justified, his celebration of the abortion by nature of “deformed or idiot children who would otherwise have been born” indicates certain unnerving normative criteria about just who might be considered candidates for future members of the human race. Drawing a parallel with evolution, he suggested that “the system” was “fairly pitiless in eliminating those who never had a very good chance of surviving in the first place.” It is hard to detect in this a moral position on abortion qualitatively superior to that of the Reverend Falwell.

—Richard Seymour

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