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Exploiting Pandemic for Ideological Advantage Is Wrong

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By Friday, 10 April 2020 04:08 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As the coronavirus ravages the world, partisans on both sides seek to exploit it to their advantage. Opponents of choice are trying to shut down abortion clinics as "non-essential" medical facilities. Second Amendment zealots are seeking to reduced checks on gun possession. Environmental extremists are suggesting permanent restrictions on the use of airplanes and other means of travel that cause pollution. Advocates of universal healthcare are demanding it now, despite its failure to prevent the spread of the pandemic in countries that have it. Both parties are seeking voting rules that will help them at the polls. But most perverse is the new campaign to end the so-called pandemic of pornography.

Anti-porn zealots offer the following comparison between the coronavirus and pornography:

"Like the coronavirus, pornography use is silent but deadly, a powerful disease that has had devastating effects across our society. Although coronavirus may attract more headlines today, pornography will be with us for the long haul. Porn cannot be vaccinated against. It has a nearly $100 billion industry devoted to its spread worldwide and few are brave enough to stand against it."

Any analogy between a pandemic that threatens the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children, and the voluntary use of pornography by adults is, of course, absurd. Porn zealots claim, however, that the use of porn is not voluntary — that it is addictive, just like crack cocaine and heroin. They warn about "addictions to greater amounts and more depraved forms of porn." Although there is no scientific basis for this claim, it is commonly made by those who would make pornography illegal.

Anti-porn zealots are now focusing on porn sites that usually charge for access, but are now making it free, in order to encourage people to stay home and watch it than risk sex with potentially infected partners. They point to the following new phenomenon, "Perhaps most disturbingly, Vice News reported earlier this month on a surge of coronavirus-themes on porn sites such as Pornhub and xHamster, proving a well-known internet maxim that there is nothing — absolutely nothing — pornography won’t sexualize if it won’t make them a profit."

Apparently these sites show porn actors and actresses wearing protective masks.

How that poses any danger, the critics don’t explain.

These potential censors declare "The explosion of online pornography to be a public health crisis, recognizing the serious threat it poses to use all." They claim that this is “no exaggeration." But surely it is.

I have no problem with anti-porn crusaders exercising their First Amendment rights in an effort to try and deny First Amendment rights to producers and consumers of adult pornography.

The marketplace of ideas should be open to all, even during times of crisis.

We are already experiencing diminutions in our constitutional rights to assemble, to travel, to go to church, to work and to gather with family. But these emergency measures are temporary and deemed necessary by public health officials.

What the anti-porn zealots are trying to do is, in their own words, permanently stifle the free expression of sexual images they deem offensive. They are using the current pandemic as an excuse to get what they have been trying to get for years. But they picked the wrong time, because if there ever was a justification for "home remedies" to sexual deprivation, this may be that time.

An op-ed by the Executive Director of the American Principles Project insists that, "As bad as coronavirus is, we cannot afford to fight one disease by simply trading it for another. Now more than ever, we must join together to take on the pornography industry and defeat the terrible porn epidemic."

I would respond by saying, now more than ever we must not devote additional resources to unnecessarily constraining basic liberties that are unrelated to the public health needs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Moving to a more serious issue, several states have been trying to shut down abortion clinics, claiming they provide non-essential medical procedures.

But as the CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights correctly pointed out: "It is very clear that anti-abortion rights politicians are shamelessly exploiting this crisis to achieve what has been their longstanding ideological goal to ban abortion in the United States.” To prove that point she cites efforts by some states to ban abortion pills as well as other methods of ending pregnancy that do not require hospitalization or clinics.

She also points out that banning abortion is far more dangerous to public health because it will force women to travel long distances, citing a study that women seeking abortions during this pandemic would have to travel up to 20 times further than normal if some states shut down local clinics.

Some radical feminists may be conflicted over these two issues: they support choice when it comes to abortion, but reject choice when it comes to pornography.

Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but inconsistency surely weakens public policy arguments. So let us all stand consistently in favor of public health efforts to stop the spread of the virus and against efforts to exploit this tragedy for narrow ideological advantages.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "Guilt by Accusation" and "The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump." Read more reports from Alan M. Dershowitz – Click Here Now.

Follow Alan Dershowitz on Twitter: @AlanDersh and Facebook: @AlanMDershowitz

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Let us all stand consistently in favor of public health efforts to stop the spread of the virus and against efforts to exploit this tragedy for narrow ideological advantages.
clinics, porn, online, internet
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2020-08-10
Friday, 10 April 2020 04:08 PM
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