Julian Assange Says Being Anti-Choice Represents ‘Non-Violence.’ Non-Violent for Whom?

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to include context for Assange’s remarks about non-violence.

During a recent online Q&A session with Campus Reform, Julian Assange, founder of the government secret-leaking group WikiLeaks, admitted he’s a “big admirer” of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for what he called “their very principled positions.” He spoke of their commitment to “non-violence,” highlighting the various ways in which he sees that commitment reflected in their political stances, including opposing abortion.

“The position of the libertarian Republican—or a better description, right—coming from a principle of non-violence which is the American libertarian tradition. That produces interesting results,” said Assange. “So, non-violence: well, don’t go and invade a foreign country. Non-violence: don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. Army. Non-violence: doesn’t extort taxes from people to the federal Government with a policeman. Similarly, other aspects of non-violence in relation to abortion that they hold.”

He went on to say, “I think some of these positions that are held by Rand Paul, while I can see how they come from the same underlying Libertarian principle, I think the world is often more complex and by taking a no-doubt principled, but sometimes simplistic position, you end up undermining the principle.”

While he seems to suggest there is a contradiction with the libertarian movement and the politics of some libertarians, it is unclear, at least to me, how opposition to abortion is grounded in a commitment to non-violence. Non-violent for whom, exactly?

According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 6,461 reported incidents of violence against abortion providers since 1977, including eight murders and 17 attempted murders. Abortion providers and clinics have faced numerous bombings, cases of arson, butyric acid attacks, death threats, kidnappings, and more, all from opponents of abortion rights. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed while at church with his family. His convicted killer, Scott Roeder, is heralded as a “hero” in some anti-choice circles.

In 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States, illegal abortion accounted for 17 percent of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth. And today, around the globe—mostly in the developing world—at least 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year (roughly 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide) and many times that number suffer serious and sometimes lifelong health consequences.

It is impossible to quantify how many people in the United States avoid accessing safe and legal abortion care because of fear of harassment and intimidation, but with 5,165 abortion clinics reporting some form of disruption or harassment in 2011 alone, it’s safe to assume that it plays at least a small role; people often avoid accessing the basic reproductive health care to which they have a constitutional right because of virulent hostility from abortion opponents.

What’s that about anti-abortion views being non-violent again?

In a political climate so openly hostile and threatening to abortion rights, one in which states have enacted 43 abortion restrictions in the first six months of 2013 alone, where 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas will be forced to close because of an omnibus anti-abortion bill, where serious legal threats to Roe v. Wade abound every day, women’s lives are literally at risk.

So why are men like Assange essentially telling women to get over the abortion issue and praise Ron and Rand Paul anyway? It’s simple: privilege.

While these white, cisgender men may be able to pick and choose which political positions they like from the Pauls, marginalized groups do not have that luxury. They are essentially asking women and people of color to praise politicians who disdain and combat their very existence. This is not petty partisanship; it is a fundamental lack of respect for who we are as people. A simple look at their political records proves this.

In 2011, Ron Paul sponsored the Sanctity of Life Act, which would define life as beginning at the moment of conception. He has stated that he favors abortion as an option only if a woman is a victim of an “honest rape.” He is listed as the author of some controversial newsletters from the 1980s that featured racism and other types of bigotry. In 1999, he voted yes on HR 2587, a bill that would have banned adoption for gay couples in Washington, D.C. He has run ads that vehemently state his opposition to granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants and has been critical of current efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

As RH Reality Check‘s Adele M. Stan has pointed out in the past, Rand Paul opposes the 1964 Civil Rights Act because he believes it infringes on private establishments’ rights to refuse service to whomever they deem unfit. Earlier this year, he introduced a “personhood” bill that would give legal recognition to fertilized eggs and effectively outlaw safe abortion care in the United States. He has linked same-sex marriage to bestiality and opposed a bill that would ban workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people in the United States. He publicly opposed the creation of an Islamic community center at Ground Zero and has been accused of running anti-Muslim attack ads.

If, as Assange suggested, “pro-life” libertarians like Rand Paul are the “only hope” for U.S. electoral politics, that doesn’t bode well for women, people of color, or LGBTQ individuals. These aren’t small bumps-in-the-road in an otherwise spotless political record; this is evidence of general disdain for and bigotry against women, people of color, LGBTQ communities, and other marginalized groups. Yet civil libertarians expect us to put aside our partisan squabbles to cheer for these men? Please.

It’s easy for Julian Assange to endorse Rand Paul as “non-violent” when he doesn’t belong to the marginalized groups against which the younger Paul perpetuates violent oppression. Likewise, it’s easy for journalists like Salon‘s David Sirota to belittle reproductive and civil rights activists for their opposition to Paul when his rights aren’t on the line. And it’s easy for The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald to say that the elder Paul is “willing to advocate views that Americans urgently need to hear,” when the views of which Ron Paul speaks so often come at the expense of women and people of color.

For those of us on the front lines of the fight for reproductive rights, many of us women, it is both demoralizing and sexist to hear these men scold us for not embracing Ron and Rand Paul more fully. As people who will never need to access abortion care, it is telling that they aren’t more willing to check their privilege and listen to the individuals whose health care and basic reproductive rights are eroding before our very eyes. It is both offensive and absurd to ask that women put concern for something as fundamental as their own bodily autonomy aside in order to commend the very men working to erode it. And it is the embodiment of hypocrisy that Julian Assange, a so-called champion against governmental overreach, lobbies for an end to imperialistic foreign policies while supporting politicians who participate in the occupation of women’s bodies.

These men have the privilege of never having to worry firsthand about accessing abortion care or being disenfranchised because of their skin color. As men who are often heralded as progressive heroes, one would think that they would not only understand and acknowledge their privilege, but advocate for political candidates who embrace women’s and civil rights, in addition to civil liberties and anti-imperialism.

But as we’ve unfortunately witnessed, they largely don’t. They and other civil libertarians like them eulogize the duo for their opposition to drone strikes but remain conveniently silent on their virulent disdain for women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. Yes, it is possible to commend them on certain issues, even if they’re terrible on others. But it seems woefully hypocritical to support politicians who undermine the rights and liberties of people who don’t look like you.

When Julian Assange heaped praise on Ron and Rand Paul while equating abortion with violence, he simply reified what many of us already knew: Too often, civil libertarians like Assange prioritize other issues ahead of our own basic human rights, and then condemn us for being petty and partisan.

If you champion men like Ron and Rand Paul for their anti-imperialism, but casually disregard their bigotry, it isn’t women’s and civil rights activists who are being politically myopic. It’s you.

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  • fiona64

    Yes, because gestational slavery is so non-violent.

    Paul pere et fils are whackjobs who don’t even realize that the woman whose philosophies they espouse, and after whom Paul fils was *named,* was pro-choice.

  • colleen2

    I agree. The quality of ‘journalism’ in that interview is as bad as anything we see on Fox. Pure right wing propaganda.The Pauls, of course, are a joke. Pretentious, misogynistic assholes and racist to the core. As are their followers.

    • AlexanderHagen

      Regarding the Paul’s – Cornel West and Louis Farrakhan are two people who consider them potential allies on foreign policy and civil liberties issues. Here is Ron and Rand discussing the racism of american drug laws.

      • colleen2

        Oh, just go away. Go lie to someone else.

  • Kaitlyn Newton

    just a reminder that this man raped a woman.

    • AlexanderHagen

      He did not rape a woman. First bear in mind the woman who accused him of not using a condom – is probably politically motivated – in that she previously was part of an anti castro group. The second woman claimed he had sex with her while she slept. A more accurate accusation (not even under Swedish law was he accused of rape) – would be sexual harrasment. Just to set the record straight. I won’t sit by while one of the few people in the world – trying to really get us info about whats really going on – is inaccurately bashed….regards

      • blarrie

        Having sex with unconscious people is rape, moron.

        • AlexanderHagen

          I think it best to quote from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/women-against-rape-julian-assange “When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.

          It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction.

          Justice for an accused rapist does not deny justice for his accusers. But in this case justice is being denied both to accusers and accused.

          The judicial process has been corrupted. On the one hand, the names of the women have been circulated on the internet; they have been trashed, accused of setting a “honey trap”, and seen their allegations dismissed as “not real rape”. On the other hand, Assange is dealt with by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged. It is not for us to decide whether or not the allegations are true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don’t have all the facts and what has been said so far has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims’ right to anonymity and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.”,,,, read the rest later – Sweden has refused to interview Assange. That is very odd.

      • ack

        If you have an agreement to have sex with someone under specific circumstances and you knowingly violate those boundaries, you have committed a wrong.
        And if you “have sex” with someone while they are sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise unable to consent, you are a rapist.

        • AlexanderHagen

          I only mentioned this because i recalled that their was something that made it sound more like a misunderstanding than forcible. I reread it – and their is testimony indicating it was in fact consensual. I agree that having sex w someone without their consent either conscious or unconscious is rape. In this case you should read the article on the Guardian web site (’10 days assange’ should find it). And you be the judge. I believe he was set up by a cheerleader (figuratively) who was politically or personally motivated.

  • pablosharkman

    Well, the effects of being holed up in the Embassy.

    Anything to do with Rand or Ron, come on, they are blights to the human condition. So sad how many of my young students, all went for that Ron Paul crap. Assange should know better, and he should know weighing in on American or Australian or European politics will sink any credibility he has with Wiki-leaks.

    The fact that anti-human/anti-humane anti-abortion rights folk are winning, well, that says it all about our society, one where Obama is the keynote for the March on Washington. Shifting baseline syndrome. All Americans succumb to that disease as soon as they believe there is choice in Amerika as funneled through the media mush, including Alternet Mush.

    Controlled Opposition. Read it. Apply it to liberals!

    From Goldstein to Soros and Beyond


  • Regina Mahone

    Thanks for your comment. We’ve updated this article to add more context.

  • Aidan Mooney

    Assange and Campus Reform were the search terms I used to find the interview with Assange and he does not say that being anti-choice represents non-violence. This isn’t journalism, it’s just made-up stuff.

  • AlexanderHagen

    I had my unborn child terminated by the mother. This was her right, but abortion involves 3 people, a fetus, a mother and a father. Protecting the unborn has a huge danger for abuse, but it is a reasonable aspiration. I support women’s right to choose – and hope we can eliminate underlying conditions that create unwanted pregnancies. Because an abortion does snuff out a life.

  • scrufmuffin

    The issue of anti-choice coming out of a generalized position on non-violence should be addressed to the Pauls not Julian Assange. He never says he is anti-choice he just praises certain specific libertarian positions individually and describes them ; he then goes on to say that there are problems with such simplistic notions. Listen to the talk on Campus Reform; this article is cherry picked and distorted, comparable to classic Fox News methodology and total garbage. Granted Assange is not always a clear speaker; after all he’s a computer geek par excellence.

    • colleen2

      I’m sorry. But your assessment is so full of crap. He is clearly favors the Paul’s extreme and absolutely inexcusable fascism when it comes to controlling and demeaning the persons and bodies of women. As do the rest of you and your friends trying to discredit honest reporting of facts you find inconvenient.

  • colleen2

    Libertarians (and Republicans) are trying to redefine rape so that the vast majority of rapes are no longer considered crimes. Alexander Hagen is, objectively speaking, pro-rapist and pro-rape.

    • AlexanderHagen

      If you go home with someone have sex with them. and then wake up to more activity – it depends on exactly what goes on. It could also be a misunderstanding. The man should immediately desist. But this is a situation – that is political – and we have to be very careful about putting the label rapist on Assange – since he has not actually been accused of rape – your characterization – is easy to make – because it requires no evidence or study. I am about as anti rape as any person you have ever met.

      • colleen2

        Who the fuck is “we”? Mr Assuage has indeed been accused of rape.

        • AlexanderHagen

          I posted a link below about the rape allegations. I personally believe Assange’s persecution is politically motivated. “”The second complainant, too, failed to complain for several days until she found out about the first complainant: she claimed that after several acts of consensual sexual intercourse, she fell half asleep and thinks that he ejaculated without using a condom – a possibility about which she says they joked afterwards.” I am defending the presumed innocence of Assange, I have fought against men harassing women all my life – so please don’t make this about me.

        • http://myspace.com/fcr_stop_ice Bludgeon

          Wrong Colleen. No woman has ever accused Assange of rape. Two women, after discovering that Assange had bedded them both in a short period of time, went to the cops to try and force him to take an STD test.

          Even though Assange came to the cops and answered all the questions. HE WAS NEVER CHARGED. Only after Assange left Sweden did their government then declare that they wanted him back for more questioning. Purely political.

          Last I heard one of the women isn’t even cooperating with the Swedish government. Please get your facts straight. The info is quite available.

  • Emily Walton

    Are you arguing that having sex with a woman who has not consented is not, in fact, rape?

    • http://myspace.com/fcr_stop_ice Bludgeon

      Emily and ack, are you aware that no woman has ever accused Assange of raping her? Both women continued being friends with Assange after each instance in which he failed to use a condom. Their joint venture to the police was not to charge Assange with any crime but rather to try and force him into taking an STD test? Are you saying a rape occurred even though neither of Assange’s partners has ever said so?

  • colleen2

    I was referring to another posted link to a CNN interview which has since been removed.