Slavery’s Connection to Abortion

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

In many ways, the modern abortion movement in the United States has historical continuity within American culture. The same culture that promoted chattel slavery is still thriving, only now it is trafficking in the murder of the unborn. It really is astonishing how similar the pro-slavery argument is with the pro-abortion argument.

Consider that United States was ironically founded with an affirmation that liberty and human freedom come from God:

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 American experiment began with a bold declaration that many Americans themselves didn’t even believe. By allowing slavery—in fact, allowing is too passive of a word—by institutionalizing slavery, American law declared that if all men are created equal, some people must be less than men. In order to justify the theft, possession, and immoral exploitation of a large swath of our population, Americans decided to view those kidnapped from Africa and their descendants as less than human.

They were not created equal, they did not have the same rights endowed to them by their creator. They did not have the right to liberty nor the right to pursue happiness.

Our nation has its roots in the idea that not all persons are enough of a person to be worthy of having their life or liberty protected.

This is the sin of slavery. Now, in much of the world slavery is and has been the presenting sin. In other words, slavery was the external manifestation of deeper hear sins, namely greed and laziness. It is avarice that compelled the Israelites to sinfully catch people and enslave them. The Israelites wanted bigger houses, and slaves could make them (Jeremiah 5:26-29). Yahweh called this practice “deceitful” and “evil.”

American Slavery

But slavery in the US was different. While certainly avarice was one component, racism was obviously a driving force as well. Americans combined the “Protestant work-ethic” with the notion that Africans did not deserve to work for their own happiness, and the result was the American slave trade.

Of course it was excused in numerous ways. “The economy of the South would crumble were it not for slavery, and thus the North would not be able to successfully cast of British rule.” “You see, ‘tis an economic necessity.” And “slaves are actually better off as slaves; they wouldn’t last long with their own freedom.”

And when abolitionists began to meddle with slavery, the howls of protest were unsurprising: “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do with my property!”

While American slavery ended with the civil war, when sins like that are woven into a national fabric, they are not so easily untangled. Hence the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Today the sin of white supremacy still rears its ugly head. But in terms of scope, the sin of abortion certainly carries on the American legacy of slavery.

The arguments used to defend abortion have a one-to-one correspondence to the justification of slavery. Slavery, it was said, was needed to protect the American markets. Today, studies show that one of the major reasons for abortion is a mother (and/or father) who feels like she simply cannot provide for another child. Slavery was needed to fuel the economy, and abortion is needed to keep a woman’s career options open.

Once institutionalized, slavery was defended as a “state’s rights” issue. “Who are you (the North) to tell us (the South) how to manage our culture?”

This lives on today in the form of “only women are allowed to have an opinion on the reality of abortion.” The fact is, anybody with freedom in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries should have been compelled to speak against slavery, and anyone who has been born should be similarly compelled to speak against abortion.

Slave owners were known to respond to abolitionists with, “You have no right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my property!” And obviously that remains today in the pro-choice world with, “My body, my choice!”

Slaves, it was said, would not have a quality of life sufficient to justify their freedom. They would be left to fend for themselves, and didn’t even know how to read. How could they possibly survive? If they could make it, it wouldn’t be with the quality of life their masters had, and this disparity was used to justify denying their freedom.

Of course that same argument lives on today with those that pursue abortion in the case of birth defects, chromosomal deficiencies, or medical reasons. “If she is born, what kind of life would she have?” The implication being that since the child’s quality of life would be less than the parent’s, its just not worth granting her a first breath.

Junk Science

Both slavery and abortion are rooted in junk science. Slavery was defended with an appeal to an evolutionary understanding of races. The very notion of race as a biological reality was and is bunk, yet it was used to justify the degradation of a whole swath of humanity.

In the same manner, abortion is often justified by the bogus trimester model of pregnancy advanced in the Roe vs. Wade opinion itself. With the ultrasound machine, fetal heartbeat monitors, and in utero surgery, the Supreme Court decision reads like a manifesto from the flat-earth society.

Finally, slavery and Jim Crow laws were defended by pointing to immoral and arbitrary Supreme Court decisions. As long as the government is seen as the one who grants life and human dignity, that life and dignity can be withheld by government. But when it is understood that it is God who forms people in their mother’s womb, that he makes the blind, deaf, and mute, then it has to granted that life comes from God, and not from an irrational and evil legal opinion.

It was in 1857 that the Supreme Court handed down an opinion declaring that constitutional freedoms did not apply to slaves. It took only eleven years before the 14th amendment nullified that ruling. As people march to the Supreme Court today to protest Roe vs. Wade, let’s pray that God will speed the overturning of that verdict.

Photo: Chance Agrella

Jesse Johnson bio


Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master’s Seminary Washington DC location.

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There are 9 Comments

josh p's picture

Excellent analysis. I have made this comparison many times. Just last week my dad was saying that a Democrat candidate isn’t pro-abortion just against “telling people what to do”. Same thing could have been said of slave owners.

JNoël's picture

I like the comparisons. Makes it very obvious.

I disagree with your representation of American/pre-American history with regards to how it accepted slavery, but that is a different conversation for a different thread.  Smile

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Don Johnson's picture

And full of hasty generalizations. I'm against both slavery and abortion, but I don't think the arguments are all that parallel and Jesse does a poor job arguing his thesis, in my opinion. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

John E.'s picture

While I appreciate what Jesse (and others) are trying to do, I'm in agreement with Don. 

This argument, at least as I've seen it articulated, including in the article above, irons out the evil complexities of both slavery and abortion to score an emotionally rhetorical hit on people - "if you support abortion, you're like those who supported chattel slavery." That may or may not be true, but it has no bearing on the evil of either one. Chattel slavery is evil on its own (de)merits. Abortion is evil on its own (de)merits. Attempting to draw out the parallels (and I believe some do exist), especially in a short-form article, often serves to open the dialectical door for supporters of abortion to dance through as they change the terms of the debate.

I've been guilty of doing this in the past (and probably will be again at some point in the future, sadly), but the comparisons between slavery and abortion tend to come across as an anti-abortion version of Godwin's Law. We also frequently do this with Margaret Sanger (which I've written about and taken the liberty to link to below). There are solid arguments to be made (and that have been made) about why abortion is evil. Likewise for chattel slavery. Attempting to draw out the parallels are unnecessary and runs the risk of bringing with it accusations from different people (depending on their primary concern) that we don't understand either one. 

https://practicallyknowntheology.com/2019/12/09/truth-matters-the-margar...

 

josh p's picture

I think some of you guys are reading too much into this. It’s just a way to get people to realize that we may not have it all right in the 21st century. The only real value in the argument to me is that it demonstrates that just because something is deemed moral in the great enlightened west, doesn’t mean it is.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's about dehumanizing. I didn't get the impression it intended to be anything like a comprehensive analysis. Just a brief look at one important parallel, and the core connection isn't at all a cheap shot. These are two vital, seldom noticed realities:

  • Both American slavery and American abortion rely on dehumanizing real people
  • Both American slavery and American abortion began and have persisted on sloppy, badly flawed appeals to science

Is there also an emotional punch to connecting the two? Yes. Rightly so.

Don Johnson's picture

Some of the statements about slavery are just inaccurate. (I'm on my iPad and can't seem to copy and paste while typing a comment.) It doesn't help your point to make superficial parallels based on inaccurate and simplistic generalizations. It's just not a good way too argue. I don't think it would make any impact with abortionists, which ought to be the objective.

It just ends up being rhetoric that entrenches previously held views on both sides.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Americans combined the “Protestant work-ethic” with the notion that Africans did not deserve to work for their own happiness, and the result was the American slave trade.

This seems like a gross oversimplification to me at best, but there are some really great thoughts sprinkled throughout the piece.  This section, in particular, was terrific:

Of course it was excused in numerous ways. “The economy of the South would crumble were it not for slavery, and thus the North would not be able to successfully cast of British rule.” “You see, ‘tis an economic necessity.” And “slaves are actually better off as slaves; they wouldn’t last long with their own freedom.”

And when abolitionists began to meddle with slavery, the howls of protest were unsurprising: “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do with my property!”

The arguments used to defend abortion have a one-to-one correspondence to the justification of slavery. Slavery, it was said, was needed to protect the American markets. Today, studies show that one of the major reasons for abortion is a mother (and/or father) who feels like she simply cannot provide for another child. Slavery was needed to fuel the economy, and abortion is needed to keep a woman’s career options open.

Once institutionalized, slavery was defended as a “state’s rights” issue. “Who are you (the North) to tell us (the South) how to manage our culture?”

This lives on today in the form of “only women are allowed to have an opinion on the reality of abortion.” The fact is, anybody with freedom in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries should have been compelled to speak against slavery, and anyone who has been born should be similarly compelled to speak against abortion.

Slave owners were known to respond to abolitionists with, “You have no right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my property!” And obviously that remains today in the pro-choice world with, “My body, my choice!”

The side by side comparison of all of these lines - almost all of which I have heard in real life and used to defend abortion - is a great way to illustrate the flaw in these arguments.

The timeliness of this article is fascinating, since it has become somewhat du jour lately on Twitter since some so-called Christians have argued that 'indentured servitude' wasn't really all that bad for enslaved Americans and that there are 'limited opportunities' when slavery is actually a good/Biblical thing.  I have to admit that I never thought I'd be arguing with people against slavery in 2020 America, but unfortunately that does seem to be the way the ball has bounced.  I think it's a spinoff discussion of the whole 'social justice' topic, but...how far have we really fallen to even countenance that discussion within our 'spheres'?  

Pretty far, I guess.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

JNoël's picture

Jay wrote:

I have to admit that I never thought I'd be arguing with people against slavery in 2020 America, but unfortunately that does seem to be the way the ball has bounced.  I think it's a spinoff discussion of the whole 'social justice' topic, but...how far have we really fallen to even countenance that discussion within our 'spheres'?  

I think it may be nothing more than the evolution of thought among American Christians who are trying to reconcile the utter sin that was early American/pre-American slavery and the reality that the Bible does not forbid human ownership and, actually, gives us instructions on how to properly "own" (stated loosely) another human.

Individual freedom and individual soul liberty have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The Bible does not tell us the former is right/proper/that the opposite is sin - the (man-made) US Constitution does. Americans grow up believing it so deeply that American Christians tend to confuse the two. One need look no farther than military members to appreciate there is nothing sinful about human ownership (yes, the DoD really does own its members). When properly done, master-slave relationships can be very beneficial. There are countless examples of military members' lives being bettered where if they did not have the military option they often would have been homeless, substance abusers, or worse. This is a secular example. Just think of the possibilities of a Spirit-filled Christian with a master-slave scenario and try, really try, to divorce such a relationship from early American slavery and realize how powerful it could be.

For the record - I am not proposing a cultural shift to actually try to implement this in our society - it is merely a theoretical. Meanwhile, for you younger folks, go ahead and join the military - and remember, you're giving up your personal freedom and becoming a slave to the Department of Defense. A willing one, yes, but a slave, nonetheless. Try telling your drill instructor that you are free. They'll laugh at you in your face and order you to drop and give them 20. Smile

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

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