Is it Right to Compare Abortion and Slavery?

A recent article in the Kansas City Star criticized Kansas governor Sam Brownback for comparing the current anti-abortionists to abolitionists. The author, Mary Sanchez, believes that abortion and slavery are very different. And she wants conservatives to stop invoking the slavery analogy. Here’s her conclusion:

Slavery was a brutal economic system. And the forces that benefited from it fought on well into the 20th century to maintain African-American peonage.


Abortion, whether you consider it permissible or not, is a personal dilemma, pitting the rights and welfare of a woman against the rights of the fetus she is carrying. Conception after rape or incest, pregnancies that risk the mother’s life, and extreme malformations of a fetus are some of the circumstances that can seriously complicate this dilemma.


The abortion question is not the slavery question. Abortion is not a crime against a class of people for the benefit of another. The zealots Brownback praised—and upon whom he no doubt depends in his upcoming election—are not doing their cause or the victims it claims to protect any good by pretending that this weak analogy holds.1

Let’s look at Sanchez’s argument point by point:

1. Slavery was a brutal economic system. The assumption here is that abortion is not a brutal economic system. But it most certainly is. And many of the forces fighting for abortion today do so for economic reasons. Planned Parenthood, for instance, stands to lose billions of dollars if abortion is banned. You think they are lobbying for women’s rights out of the goodness of their hearts? No. According to One News:

Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report shows it performed a record number of abortions in the fiscal year 2011-2012 and received a record amount of taxpayer funding.


According to that report, Planned Parenthood performed 333,964 abortions during the 12-month period. That compares to 332,278 abortions in 2009 and 329,445 abortions in 2010—making a three-year toll of close to one-million abortions.


The report also indicates Planned Parenthood had a record year when it comes to funding from the government. An analysis done by the pro-life group, Susan B. Anthony List, shows the abortion provider received a record $542 million in taxpayer dollars by way of government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements.


That amounts to almost half of all Planned Parenthood’s budget.

Half of their budget? That means they have an annual budget of nearly a billion dollars. Don’t tell me abortion isn’t a brutal economic system. That argument doesn’t stand against the evidence.

2. Abortion is a personal dilemma. What does that even mean? By this argument, any crime could be considered a personal dilemma. Even slavery. It’s between a slave owner and his slaves. It’s about the property rights of a slave owner pitted against the human rights of his slave. When you consider that slaves didn’t have the capacity to take care of themselves most of the time and the North’s manufacturing economy depended on cheap cotton and cheap labor… those are just a few of the circumstances that can seriously complicate this personal dilemma. Whatever.

Abortion is not just a personal dilemma. It is a national dilemma, similar to slavery. If it were morally right to intervene in the “personal” relationship between slave owners and slaves to force an end to slavery, I fail to see why a similar moral reasoning would not hold in the case of abortion. If the unborn baby is a human life endowed with certain unalienable rights, then we cannot stand idly by while that life is extinguished.

By Sanchez’s argument, any action involving individuals would be a personal dilemma. Don’t outlaw murder. That’s just a personal dilemma pitting the rights of a murderer against the rights of his victim. We can’t intervene. Until when? Until that personal dilemma becomes a genocide or a holocaust? Well, we’re already there, Ms. Sanchez. Try 57 million unborn babies. Dead. That doesn’t sound like a personal dilemma.

3. Abortion is not a crime against a class of people for the benefit of another. Umm. Yes, it is. Obviously. There is a class of people in the United States who have basically no rights—unborn babies. And their deaths obviously benefit another class of people—mothers who want them dead for various reasons. Abortion is most obviously a crime against the class of the unborn for the benefit of their mothers. Did Sanchez even think about these premises before she wrote them down?

In conclusion, I think the moral reasoning behind the abolition movement holds for the anti-abortion movement. Sanchez has only confirmed that fact further. Does that excuse violence for the cause? Of course not. It didn’t excuse John Brown and it doesn’t excuse abortion clinic bombers or their ilk. But that doesn’t change the fact that the institution of slavery and the institution of abortion possess marked similarities. If anything, abortion is far worse. It needs to be ended. We all have its blood on our hands.

  1. Emphasis added. []