Msgr. Charles Pope: The Common Logic of Those Who Defended Slavery in the Past and Those Who Defend Abortion Today

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By Msgr. Charles Pope, June 13, 2019

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