Ben Carson Is Right: Abortion Is Today's Slavery

Photo courtesy AP Images Photo courtesy AP Images

Imagine a world where politicians deny the basic rights of countless people, claiming that they are not even people. Journalists refuse to acknowledge the dignity of an entire group of human beings because it is politically expedient. Those who oppose this moral wrong are told they should “live and let live,” that what other people do with their own property is none of their business.

Does this situation describe America in 1858, or the United States in 2015 as opponents face one another in the abortion debate? Ben Carson says it describes both, and Abraham Lincoln’s words lend credence to his argument.

The tactic used by supporters of slavery to bolster their abhorrent practice is the same one used by the supporters of abortion -- dehumanization. Slavery supporters claimed that a human being was less than human because of the color of his skin; supporters of abortion claim that a fetus is less than human because of the stage of  its development. Dehumanization is wrong, however, and people inherently know it.

Popular Sovereignty and the Pro-Choice Movement

Presidential candidate Ben Carson recently compared the abortion movement to the pro-slavery movement before the Civil War. In particular, he connected the supporters of slavery with the so-called “pro-choice" movement today.

“During slavery -- and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it -- during slavery, a lot of slave owners thought they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything they chose,” Ben Carson told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And what if the abolitionists had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery, but you guys do whatever you want’?”

That is exactly what many northerners did say, however, Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas foremost among them. Douglas supported “popular sovereignty,” the idea that the voters in a new state should be able to decide if that state would allow slavery or not. Douglas supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which allowed the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide if they would enter the United States as free states or as slave states.

Of course, any black slave brought into Kansas or Nebraska would not get a vote, so the term “popular sovereignty” is a misnomer. A little known Illinois lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, launched a tremendous political career by giving a speech in Peoria on October 16, 1854. In that speech, he eloquently eviscerated the idea of popular sovereignty.

“The doctrine of self-government is right -- absolutely and eternally right -- but it has no just application, as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself?”

The “pro-choice” movement has the exact same failing as popular sovereignty -- it attempts a compromise between two fundamentally opposing sides (pro-slavery and anti-slavery or pro-life and pro-abortion) entirely on one side’s terms. In order for the pro-choice and popular sovereignty arguments to work, you have to assume the pro-slavery or pro-abortion perspective.

Slaveholders argued that black slaves were inferior to whites -- that they could not govern themselves and therefore needed slavery as an education. This patronizing view held that blacks were less human than whites, and therefore they should not enjoy equal voting rights. Popular sovereignty implicitly accepted this view -- by only opening the franchise to slave-holders and not to slaves themselves.

Similarly, the pro-choice movement accepts the dehumanization of an unborn baby. Pro-choice advocates place the concerns of the mother over the life of the child by arguing that a woman ought to have the right to choose an abortion. They automatically assume that there is only one person involved in the decision.

Just as popular sovereignty only acknowledged the voice and importance of the white slaveholder when it came to voting, so the pro-choice movement only acknowledges the importance of the mother in the case of abortion.