The Common Logic of Those Who Defended Slavery in the Past and Those Who Defend Abortion Today

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently made remarks declaring that the moral stance of pro-life Americans is akin to racism.

I think there’s [sic] some issues that have such moral clarity that we have, as a society, decided that the other side is not acceptable,” Gillibrand said.

“Imagine saying that it’s OK to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic,” she continued. “Asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America … I don’t think those are political issues anymore” [*].

Her conclusion is that our pro-life view, our side of the issue, is as unacceptable as racism. There is for her no room to accept that reasonable people can and do differ with her pro-abortion stance and do not see killing a child in the womb as an exercise of “reproductive choice.” Her position is that our view deserves no consideration at all and is not just wrong but immoral—as immoral as racism.

To this I can only reply that her allusion to racism has an irony she doubtless did not intend. The very movement she celebrates uses a logic almost identical to that used by racists (and others) to justify slavery. Consider these parallels between abortion and slavery:

      • The fate of certain human beings is dictated by the personal and financial interests of others.
      • The courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, used categories of partial humanness prior to the civil war. Slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person for legal purposes and deemed the property of their owners. Today, children in the womb are not deemed persons at all but rather “products of conception.” An unborn child is treated more like a tumor inside the mother’s body than a unique, distinct human being.
      • Slaves were bought and sold at the will of the owner. That this separated married couples and families, undoubtedly causing tremendous pain and anguish, was not considered important or relevant. A slave owner could do what he wanted with his own property. Similarly, children in the womb and the effects on them are not even considered today; a woman may choose to do what she wants with her “own body.” This of course denies the reality that another distinct, unique human person, who we believe has rights as well, is killed in the “choice” involved.
      • The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not inalienable for the unborn child today. Just like the slaves, they are excluded from the vision that “all men are created equal.”
      • Babies in the womb, like the slaves of old, are not held to receive fundamental rights “from God.” Rather, they only have rights if more powerful people decide that they do.
      • The rights and desires of powerful individuals—slave owners, in the past; those already born, today—take precedence over those of others.
      • Like the slaves of yesterday, children in the womb today lack legal standing. They cannot advocate for themselves.
      • Fundamentally, both slavery and abortion are economic and convenience issues. Slavery was considered by many a “necessary evil” to protect economic, political, and social interests—so today with abortion.
      • Overturning the injustice depends on the unrelenting, courageous effort of people who are often labeled “fanatics” by their opposers. (“Abolitionist” was viewed as a pejorative by many at the time.)

I hope that Kirsten Gillibrand and others who share her views will consider how eerily similar their arguments are to those of slavery supporters. Far from being racists, we pro-lifers are the abolitionists of our day. The abolitionists of old were excoriated and hated, called extremists and religious zealots—but they were right. As a nation, we now look back with embarrassment that we ever supported slavery with such thinking.

Still not convinced? Let’s recast some common pro-choice statements in terms of slavery and see how they sound:

      • I am personally opposed to slavery, but I don’t want to impose my values on somebody else.
      • I’m not personally pro-slavery, but I do think slave owners should have the right to choose how they run their own plantation.
      • Let’s keep slavery safe, legal, and rare.
      • Releasing slaves might cause burdens on their owners and others.
      • Released slaves might have a hard life, living in poverty and tending to commit crime.
      • Slavery has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It is the settled law of the land and must be respected as such.
      • We really can’t say a slave is a person.
      • Abolitionists are just trying to impose their extreme religious views on us.

What do you think? How are they different than the current thinking about abortion? I wonder if Kirsten Gillibrand and others who pitch around this “racism” equivalency have really thought about the sound of their arguments.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Common Logic of Those Who Defended Slavery in the Past and Those Who Defend Abortion Today

10 Replies to “The Common Logic of Those Who Defended Slavery in the Past and Those Who Defend Abortion Today”

  1. When I clicked on this on Twitter I got this message:
    “The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.”

    Are they censoring you now.

  2. Facebook is also censoring this post. I had to type in the address to get to the post since the link from fb was broken.

  3. She wants people to “imagine” her red herring false equivalence then applies preemptive ad hominem attacks to dissenters and yet has the audacity to speak of morality?
    Such is the ‘morality’ of the age… the Godless cult of utility, where the baby is just another object to possess… much like slavery.
    I can’t take those in darkness seriously. Jesus tells us not to argue with them on their terms, to ‘not prepare our defense beforehand’ but to let the Spirit speak. This is what I try to do.
    I mention this if it may benefit someone else.

  4. Msgr. an advance statement of friendship in case its harder to write later, I rejoice in your love for liturgy, thank you for being a good priest, I hope we can find peace and love in the One Body, your friend, deb. May you have a blessed Holy Trinity Sunday and Happy Father’s Day, thank you for being a good Father to your children, amen.

  5. This is a really great article which hopefully is read by many pro-choice people.
    Enjoy all your articles and plan to go to mass at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian next time in DC visiting our son.

  6. I got the post just fine. My comment is that I have been told by reliable people (but I forget who they were just now) that there have indeed been some legal rulings in which an unborn child is declared to be a “person.” If anyone here has the citations for those cases, I’d appreciate getting that information.

  7. I think these two points stood out to me the most (although all were excellent):

    •Slavery has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It is the settled law of the land and must be respected as such.
    •We really can’t say a slave is a person.

    I am always baffled that people think Roe v Wade just made abortion legal – in fact it said a woman had the right to choose her own healthcare. That we now call murder of innocents “healthcare” should scare the bejeezus out of us all, and yet we continue on as if the ruling does not condemn us all to a similar fate. One day, the mental health of our triggered generation may need to be saved by killing all the people who won’t submit to their collective will.

    And the whole dehumanizing of the child – again, we are saying that children are harmful to women (and society), yet we as a country are now importing people from other nations through illegal immigration (people who, oddly enough, we also do not treat as humans). Both of these situations are touted by progressives as “human rights”. Let that sink in. In our “evolved” society of 2019 it is our right to be dehumanized.

  8. Go right to the primary sources. Pro-slavery literature from the 1800’s is available online. You will see pro-slavery types makind EXACTLY the same arguments to pro-abortionists make

  9. I recently read the 100 year war before the war, the fugitive slaves. The politics of that period were rife with our present day division.
    There were desperate compromises. Passionate pamphlets published. There was the extraordinary success of Harriey Stowe to make the personhood of the slave and family members visible. Something our current movies have attempted. Sadly the image of the unborn needs a miracle to reach hard hearts. The autonomy of the slaveholder was held just as the autonomy of the woman now in our controversy. The economy was a factor and geography as well.

  10. Thanks for the essay Msgr. Pope. At least we have one good Pope now as the barque of Peter founders.
    Did the slavers not also say that slaves are not human?
    This is the most common parallel those who argue babies in the womb are inhuman. The 3/5 thing was merely a political gambit to get the South in the Union.

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