Letter To The Editor: How Abortion Is (And Isn’t) Like Slavery

Los Alamos
Abraham Lincoln, on the campaign trail in March of 1860, explained his stance on slavery using the following analogy:
“If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road, any man would say I may seize the nearest stick and kill it. But if I found that snake in bed with my children that would be another question. I might hurt the children more than the snake, and it might bite them.”
Lincoln had received some flak for not being a total abolitionist (although he did view slavery as a moral wrong) and with his analogy was describing his dual responsibility to protect both the sanctity of human freedom and the unity of the United States. Recent comparisons have been made between the issue of slavery in the 1860s, and the issue of abortion today, and this has prompted me to write on the appropriateness of such comparisons, and wonder how Lincoln would have handled the issue of abortion if he were POTUS now.
First, the most immediate and salient comparison between abortion and slavery is that they are both abhorrent violations of human rights. Even those on the far left will admit that abortion is the murder of a child – they only justify the necessity of it due to a woman’s right to choose, or they somehow ignore the bodily autonomy of the child in defending the bodily autonomy of the mother. Similarly, many people in the 1800s recognized the terrible wrong of owning and abusing other human beings, except they argued that it was an important part of Southern economy, or that each state had the right to choose what happened within its borders. People knew it was wrong – our founding documents spoke of all men being created equal and having the right to life and liberty, but they justified slavery’s existence and continuance anyway.
Another comparison may be made regarding the widespread perception of what could be done about such a moral wrong. Many people in the United States (including Lincoln himself) believed that the Constitutional protection of slavery made it difficult to immediately abolish. In 1857, the Supreme Court decided in Dred Scott v. Sandford that slaves could not be citizens. It is not an exaggeration to say that this court case deemed them property, and not people. Today as well, many people believe that Abortion is constitutionally protected and that we can do nothing about it. But here is an important difference. Unlike slavery, abortion is not constitutionally protected. As I explained in my last article, Abortion is only allowable today because the Supreme Court (an institution that cannot create law) set a precedent (not a law) that overruled state regulations regarding the legality of abortion (actual laws).
And as I argued before, even if it were a Federal law, we in our very state have chosen to ignore Federal entities if we feel morally compelled to do so (we don’t honor ICE detainees in our jails).
Roe V. Wade was a 1973 Supreme Court case that effectively, if not explicitly, deemed unborn babies “not people” as well, and it was loosely based on the right to privacy, and ambiguously founded on a scientifically archaic knowledge of when life begins. It is shocking how flawed that decision was. Do you have a right to any privacy when committing murder? Would you like to know how early human beings can be born now? Check out the recent news about the smallest baby ever being born, “Saybie” at 23 weeks. This precious little girl weighed only 8.6 ounces, just a little more than your average apple. But the only reason she’s considered a human being by the Supreme Court is because she was wanted by her parents.
Another way in which abortion and slavery are different is that the abolition of abortion cannot and will not have any significant negative consequence for the United States, much less its total fracture.
Abortion, when abolished in other countries, has not led to wide-spread prosecution of women or the realization of the fear-mongering propaganda that women will be dying in the streets. These things don’t happen in other countries, probably because abortion is not healthcare, and pregnancy is not a disease, and so banning it does not hurt anyone. But regardless of the reason, places where abortion is illegal are not any worse off, and are often times better off, than places where it is legal. And regardless of the outcome, a moral obligation to do the right thing always supersedes the consequences. You can’t justify doing something wrong by saying that you would have gotten in trouble for doing the right thing.
The right thing remains the right thing. And the right thing now, as it was back then, is abolition.
To summarize, let’s review the ways in which abortion is and isn’t comparable to slavery:
Gross violation of human rights? Yes.
Common belief that nothing can be done about it? Yes.
Protected by the Constitution? No.
Abolition of it dangerous for the nation? Not in the least.
Because of that, I humbly dare to guess how Abraham Lincoln would have treated the issue of abortion.
He would have swung the stick unhesitating and hard. Because, brothers and sisters, this venomous, child-eating snake is in the road – and the stick is in our hands. End abortion now.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence
For further reading: Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court case of 1857.

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