Why am I — science writer who mostly specializes in physics, astronomy, and a bit of math — writing an opinion piece about tear gas and abortion for Scientific American? After all, not only is this not my usual wheelhouse, I’m a cisgender man who will never be pregnant (and who never intends on getting anyone else pregnant either). However, I firmly believe it’s my duty and responsibility as a journalist to stand up for human rights when they are under attack, even if those rights aren’t specifically mine. As evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote,
Science can supply information as input to a moral decision, but the ethical realm of “oughts” cannot be logically specified by the factual “is” of the natural world—the only aspect of reality that science can adjudicate. As a scientist, I can refute the stated rationale for Nazi evil and nonsense. But when I stand against Nazi policy, I must do so as everyman—as a human being. For I win my right to engage moral issues by my membership in Homo sapiens—a right vested in absolutely every human being who has ever graced this earth, and a responsibility for all who are able.
I bring the scientific data because I am a scientist and a science journalist. But when I stand against forced pregnancy backed by theocratic patriarchy and forced abortion backed by police power, I do so as a human being, standing with my fellow human beings. It’s my job and my duty.
For Scientific American:
After the recent ruling by the Supreme Court overturning federal abortion rights, people have taken to the streets in protest. In multiple places, police attacked protesters with chemical weapons in the form of tear gas. In Arizona, law enforcement even fired canisters from the windows of government buildings.
One irony inherent in this violence is that chemical weapons can cause spontaneous abortions, commonly known as miscarriages. In other words, law enforcement officers use dangerous, unregulated weapons against unarmed civilians, possibly violating protesters’ human rights by terminating pregnancies that, according to the Supreme Court, those same protesters have no constitutionally protected right to terminate themselves.