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Nat Hentoff, libertarian-atheist pro-lifer and jazz critic, dead at 91


Longtime Village Voice columnist had reasoned arguments against abortion

Jazz critic and prolific author Nat Hentoff, who wrote for the edgy New York weekly The Village Voice for five decades, died in New York City Saturday at the age of 91.

His son, Nick Hentoff, announced the death on Twitter, saying his father died “surrounded by family listening to Billie Holiday.”

Hentoff was also known as a historian, novelist, and country music critic. He was the Voice’s jazz critic from 1958 to 2009, when he moved his music column to The Wall Street Journal.

The Boston native and son of Russian Jewish immigrants also was known as a civil libertarian, free speech activist, anti-death penalty advocate and pro-life advocate. While he supported Israel’s right to exist, he opposed Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Though he took a left-leaning view on many issues, in the 1980s he began embracing more socially conservative positions—including opposition to abortion and voluntary euthanasia. In an address to Americans United for Life in 1986, he said that he and the American Civil Liberties union “are in profound disagreement on the matters of abortion, handicapped infants and euthanasia, because I think they have forsaken basic civil liberties in dealing with these issues. I’m considered a liberal except for that unaccountable heresy of recent years that has to do with pro-life matters.”

In 2008, he had been prepared to support Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, but his view changed after looking into Obama’s voting record on abortion.

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