Sometimes slavery gets trivialized by using it as an analogy to modern-day abuses against people, such as immigrant sweatshops or unpaid internships.
The analogy between slavery and abortion, however, is both legally and morally apt.
Just as another horrifically bad Supreme Court decision, Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, upheld the right in America to keep millions of human beings in bondage, a gravely flawed Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 opened the gates to the extermination of tens of millions of unborn children.
Slavery only seems more horrific because its inhumane treatment — the killings, the maimings, the beatings, the rapes — has been documented in books and film, while abortion’s genocide is sanitized by a public relations campaign, now decades in the making, that portrays an unwanted pregnancy as of no more consequence than an inflamed appendix — a medical condition to be dispensed with as safely as possible for the afflicted patient.
As a result, the case for legalized abortion, like the defense of slavery a century and a half ago, has evolved from making it not just palatable but desirable.
Darel E. Paul, a professor of political science at Williams College in Massachusetts, makes just that point in a recent essay in First Things, a conservative religious journal that focuses on issues of public policy.
“The class ideology that abortion is necessary for women’s empowerment bears a distasteful resemblance to pro-slavery arguments used in the run-up to the American Civil War,” Paul writes. “Thirty years ago, the liberal abortion mantra was ‘safe, legal, and rare,’ a position not unlike that of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century American slave-owners, who viewed the ‘peculiar institution’ as an evil, if perhaps a necessary one. Yet much like the evolution of contemporary feminism toward ‘shout your abortion,’ Southern intellectuals in the 1830s changed course to insist that slavery was not evil at all but rather a positive good” that powered the economy in the South and reduced the potential for class conflict among whites in the region.
The primacy that the pro-choice movement has given to women’s reproductive rights — at the cost of the right to life of the unborn child — was voiced by one of the Supreme Court’s three liberal justices this past week during the most momentous hearing on abortion at the high court in three decades, a hearing precipitated by a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation.
Roe v. Wade and the 1992 Supreme Court decision that affirmed abortion on demand, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, are “part of the fabric of women’s existence in this country,” argued Justice Elena Kagan.
They have also become, sadly, part of the ideological fabric of the Democratic Party, which, for all of its empathy for the poor and downtrodden, shows no compassion for the most defenseless form of human life there is.
Even those who find abortion distasteful have been so desensitized by its long-tolerated practice that about half of them tell pollsters that they don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, an outcome that seems more probable now than it ever has before.
They are uncomfortable with the idea of forcing women into motherhood against their will. They should be more uncomfortable about the lives that never materialized largely because their existence was considered inconvenient or expensive.
There is, after all, a life-affirming alternative to abortion — putting a newborn up for adoption, for which the adoptive parents or social service agencies will foot the costs of the mother — that inconveniences the pregnant woman for less than a year while leaving her conscience clear for the rest of her life.
It is also forgotten that what may be initially considered undesirable does not always remain that way.
Mary Eberstadt, an essayist writing in that same issue of First Things, ponders the lives of two fictional unmarried young women who make opposite decisions about their unplanned pregnancies.
The one who opts to have the baby does not do so without struggles. The father has little interest in helping to raise the child. Any job or educational aspirations the woman might have had are sidetracked by her parental obligations. Yet, as the child she once contemplated aborting becomes woven into the woman’s life, she cannot imagine an existence without her.
The woman eventually marries, has a couple of more children and leads a contented if unremarkable life. Many years later, she contracts terminal cancer and spends her last few months surrounded and cared for by loving family, including her first-born.
Maybe that’s just a sweet dream. One could imagine the child also growing up to be an emotional and financial burden.
With abortion, though, there’s no knowing what might have come of a child or what joys for a mother might have been forever lost.
- Contact Tim Kalich at 662-581-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.