Society & Culture

Let’s Stop Equating Slavery and Abortion

Frequently, pro-life leaders draw a parallel between slavery and abortion. “You Say Abortion Is Legal? The Supreme Court Also Legalized Slavery,” reads one popular bumper sticker. The motivation for this comparison is understandable, since slavery and the Civil War occupy central places in the American historical imagination. By gesturing toward one of the issues associated with the iconic figure of Abraham Lincoln, the pro-lifers try to draw upon a powerful and influential legacy. 

Upon examination, however, the slavery-abortion analogy does not hold up,  and we can persist in touting it only by falsifying history and distorting the Christian tradition. It is one thing to be glad that slavery no longer exists . It is quite another to redefine perennial teachings to make them conform to the American civil religion, which gives to the slavery issue far more weight than does the Faith. 

Perhaps the best-known proponent of the slavery-abortion analogy is Princeton professor Robert George, who argues that slavery and abortion alike constitute a “denial of the equal dignity of a particular category of human beings.” As George’s fixation with equality unnecessarily complicates things, we might also turn to Justin Dyer from the University of Missouri, who contends in Public Discourse that each controversy raises the question of “what it means to be a person.” Just...

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