What We Talk About When We Talk About Elizabeth Bruenig

The once-beloved “leftist” is facing backlash for her anti-abortion views. Why did it take this long?

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
11 min readJul 20, 2022

A young white woman crosses her fingers behind her back. Because she is young and white, this clearly cannot signify any mischief.
She’s definitely not up to anything, right? Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The first time I realized something was off about Elizabeth Bruenig, I was looking at her uterus. She had followed me on Twitter after I’d criticized someone named Matt Bruenig for harassing female journalists; she didn’t tell me they were married, and she was so friendly that I didn’t suspect. Her friendliness had a disconcerting edge to it. Every time I got too loud about gender (which was often) she’d pop in with one or two tiny questions, just a teensy correction, just a leeeeeeeetle suggestion that maybe I was taking this whole sexism thing a little bit too seriously and possibly I should just relax? Maybe? A bit???

I told her I thought everyone had a responsibility to fight sexism. She told me she was “just a kid” who never even wrote about gender (this will be important later) and anyway, what did I expect her to do?

Things came to a head when Newsweek published a cover story about “America’s abortion wars.” The cover showed an image of a fetus in the second or third trimester; like most such imagery, it displaced any image of the pregnant person (whose right to an abortion was, presumably, the cause of the “war”) and was also bigger and older than 90% of aborted fetuses. When I said this, Elizabeth Bruenig tweeted back that she found the image realistic, actually! To this, she attached a picture of her own ultrasound. I had not previously known she was pregnant.

Dropping fetal images to derail a conversation about abortion rights was a tactic I recognized. It went all the way back to the billboard truck that used to circle through my hometown with gooey “abortion” pictures printed under the word “CHOICE.” Even if the resemblance was somehow accidental, to find myself unexpectedly looking at the inside of her body (was I supposed to tell her the fetus was… cute? Large? Obviously more important than the right of full-grown adults to make their own medical decisions?) felt way creepier and more inappropriate than our previous interactions.

Soon afterward, someone emailed me the link: “Why I am a Pro-Life Liberal,” by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig. As it turned…

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.