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Bad Analogy

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To the editor:

Your reviewer Noah Berlatsky ["Wishful History," February 18] offers a comparison of abolitionists and pro-lifers as if this were a fresh insight on his part and not a tired cliche (a Google search of "abolition" and "abortion" will get you just under 100,000 hits). As banal as the analogy is, it doesn't hold water. Pro-lifers are good at staying united and on message; the abolitionists were notoriously sectarian and divided their energies among a whole slew of causes (temperance, marriage reform, female suffrage, etc). Pro-life has working-class grass roots; abolitionism was a middle-class to elite phenomenon. Pro-lifers are fundamentalists; abolitionists were the New Age seekers of their day, attracted to spiritualism, fad diets, free love, etc. Pro-lifers are social conservatives; radical abolitionists were anarchists whose principled hatred of hierarchies and institutions greatly impeded their ability to organize and act politically. Make no mistake, abolitionists belong to the American left.

D. Godwin

Hyde Park

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