'Free speech' Republicans are pushing a Joseph McCarthy-like plan to silence abortion rights activists

'Free speech' Republicans are pushing a Joseph McCarthy-like plan to silence abortion rights activists

Anti-abortion activists have a long history of demonstrating in front of the homes of abortion providers. But with the U.S. Supreme Court likely to overturn Roe v. Wade and some pro-choice activists demonstrating in front of justices’ homes, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and other MAGA Republicans are calling for draconian crackdowns — and their inspiration, journalists Andrew Perez and David Sirota emphasize in an op-ed published by The Guardian on Friday, May 13 — is the notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

“Prominent Republican lawmakers, conservative operatives and Beltway pundits are demanding the government arrest demonstrators — and to do so, they are citing a McCarthy-era statute passed to stop people from protesting against the prosecutions of alleged communists,” Perez and Sirota explain. “Ignored in the discourse is a past ruling from the Supreme Court effectively blessing conservative protests at the homes of abortion clinic workers.”

Republicans, Perez and Sirota argue, are trying to create a distraction — and some journalists are falling for it.

“Conservative operatives want Washington reporters focused on inane questions like who leaked the Court’s draft opinion,” Perez and Sirota warn, “and they want journalists and Democrats to criticize protesters who are outraged by the Court’s overriding lack of respect for people’s bodily autonomy…. Corporate news outlets are taking the bait, fretting about the leak and calling for arrests over peaceful demonstrations.”

Perez and Sirota add, “Like usual, they are focused on narrow flashpoints of anger and upheaval that will likely prove temporary, rather than the far more sweeping and ominous impact of the Court’s looming ruling to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision and allow states to force people to carry their pregnancies to term. Even as the nation is poised to enact an injustice of historic proportions, those in power and their chosen mouthpieces only appear to care about one thing: upholding the rights and privileges of the ruling class, and ensuring they remain safely ensconced in the Washington bubble.”


On May 10, Hawley sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding that he “vigorously investigate and prosecute” pro-choice activists who are nonviolently protesting outside of Supreme Court justices’ homes. This is rich coming from, of all people, Hawley — who, on January 6, 2021, raised his arm in solidarity with an insurrectionist mob of Donald Trump supporters who wanted to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results. Some members of the mob violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Building that day; some of them set up a hangman’s gallows and wanted to lynch then-Vice President Mike Pence because they believed he had betrayed then-President Donald Trump.

“The supposedly ‘limited and justifiable’ anti-picketing statute being cited by all these people — 18 USC § 1507 — was enacted as part of the Internal Security Act of 1950, a law requiring communist organizations to register with the government,” Perez and Sirota explain. “This particular statute was specifically written to respond to reports of protests outside federal courts during U.S. prosecutions of alleged Communist Party leaders.”

Another irony where Hawley is concerned is the fact that he often paints himself as a champion for the 1st Amendment who bravely stands up to left-wing “cancel culture.” And he isn’t the only Republican who rails against “cancel culture” but now wants to shut down protests against a likely Supreme Court ruling.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has defended the January 6, 2021 demonstrators, claiming the left is trying to silence them. But now, Cruz has a problem with pro-choice protestors. He is also calling for prison time for the person who leaked Justice Samuel Alito’s majority draft opinion calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is another Republican who defended the January 6, 2021 demonstrators but is now railing against pro-choice demonstrators. On May 10, Blackburn tweeted, “The safety and security of Supreme Court Justices are under threat for attempting to uphold their constitutional duty.”

Moreover, Blackburn views the Biden Administration as anti-privacy, but is all for the High Court overturning not only Roe v. Wade, but also, 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut (which made access to contraception a federal right for married couples).


Liberal economist Robert Reich, who served as secretary of labor in the Clinton Administration, has been stressing that Republicans who speak of “freedom” are, in reality, obsessed with “power” and trying to “impose their narrow ideology on everyone else.” And he views the likely doom of Roe v. Wade as an example of GOP authoritarianism in action.Perez and Sirota argue that when it comes to outrage, Hawley is being quite selective.

“Hawley, for example, didn’t call for anyone to ‘vigorously investigate and prosecute’ the insurrectionists who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol last year,” the journalists note. “In fact, he cheered on those protesters shortly before the insurrection, and since then, his campaign has been selling merchandise sporting pictures of him raising a fist to those insurrectionists.”

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