Begging The Question, Abortion, And Slavery

Given America’s sad history with slavery and the shame with which it is regarded today one might think that defenders of Roe v Wade (1973) would be a little more cautious about the rhetoric they use in defense of what they regard as an absolute right to abortion. The two are connected. Recently, defenders of Roe v Wade (1973) submitted enough requests to the State of Nebraska to justify a license plate that reads, “My Body, My Choice.” They did so in response to a pro-life plate that said, “Choose Life.” The rhetoric “My Body, My Choice” is essentially identical to one of the defenses for chattel slavery as practiced by Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slave owners argued that slaves were their property and it is no one else’s business what they did with their property. Paul Finkelman writes, “[th]roughout the Revolution, southern politicians argued that slaves were property, not persons” (p. 113). Were human beings capable of being property, that would be true but it begs the question to assume that humans can be property. In order to justify this way of thinking both pro-abortionists and slavers had to deprive the slaves and infants in utero of their humanity. The pro-abortionists do this with the slogan, “My Body, My Choice.” Like their slave-owning forebears, they too must deprive the humans within their bodies of humanity. There is no question, of course, whether the pregnant woman is involved in having a baby. What is in question is the status of the baby. The slogan, “My Body, My Choice” assumes what must be proven, that the infant developing within the pregnant mother is a mere appendage of the mother.

All of the evidence of what I am aware is to the contrary. As has been noted before in this space, in the study of human biology, we are said to develop from an embryo  (a zygote , i.e., a fertilized ovum then to a blastocyst) in the first 8 weeks to a fetus, which covers the remaining 7 months. To borrow a bit more from that earlier essay, infant humans are humans. Humans conceive human embryos. Those embryos develop into human infants. Our English word embyro is just the Greek word ἔμβρυον (Embyon) for foetus (fetus) and Foetus is Latin for infant. From a biological perspective, all the stuff that determines what we become is already present. From a logical perspective, it makes no sense to say that we become human either in utero or after. Who says? On what basis? Any answer is bound to be either entirely subjective or self-serving.

So, from all that most of us know about basic human biology tells us that the premise of the slogan, “My Body, My Choice” is false. There are, in fact, two bodies in question here: the woman’s and the baby’s. Yes, the woman’s body is intimately involved in the process, so much so that (ordinarily) without the assistance of the mother, that the infant cannot survive without her. Nevertheless, the baby is also a human person. Whatever ignorance beclouded the minds of the majority in Roe and Doe in 1973, such ignorance is no longer possible. We know too much. Anyone who has ever watched the credits of the old Drew Carey Show arguably knows more about human development than did Justice Blackmon in Roe.

The facts will not permit us to grant the premise. It is not “My Body” alone in question. Therefore, the question of whether to end that second, helpless, infant life is not merely “My Choice” anymore than it was ever the slaver’s choice to buy, sell, rape, or murder slaves. Notice the attached poster. They were being sold as if they were a commodity. They were dehumanized and commodified in the same way that rice and fabrics were sold as commodities.

In the few occasions I have had civil discussions with defenders of abortion on demand I have been struck both by how similar their rhetoric is to that of the American slavers and by how unconscious they are of that relationship. Were I to ask them in they are willing to buy and sell their neighbor or, to press the analogy, to take their unconscious, sleeping neighbor to a clinic to have them dismembered, they would be justifiably horrified but at least some of them, are positively proud of their decision to do the same to their unborn children. It does not appear to have occurred to them that they are using the same rhetoric and logic of the slavers whom they rightly abhor. They speak about unborn persons in the very same categories used by the slavers of the 18th and 19th centuries. They treat unborn humans as bad or worse than the slavers did their slaves.

Just as human beings are not mere appendages (your liver does not have its own DNA, if left in safety, a human embryo develops into a mature human, that is not true of your heart) so too human beings are not like rice and beans. The stealing, buying, and selling of humans is a great evil. Certainly man stealing is a sin (Ex 21:16) and the “peculiar institution” of slavery as practiced by Americans in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries was sinful. To the best of my knowledge, it was not exactly like slavery practiced in the ancient near east, which is reflect in scripture, or even like the slavery practiced in the Greco-Roman world, with which Scripture is familiar.

The point here, however, is that the same folk who rightly decry the evil of human trafficking, who denounce heatedly the shameful American history of slavery, nevertheless speak (and apparently think) about unborn humans in the same categories as the slavers they deplore. It is your body but it is not only your body. All that we know from science and experience tells us that human developing within you is a person, endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights. It is one of the great wonders of our deeply confused age that so many are so self-deceived that they cannot or will not see it.

6 comments

  1. A couple of more dimensions to your excellent comparison here:

    First of all, I distinctly recall some of the behavioral science classes I attended as an undergraduate back in the late 60’s/early 70’s. The textbooks and journals contained numerous articles about how experiments using sounds and other stimulants, such as intense light, evoked responses from human fetuses in such a way that they could be conditioned in a manner similar to small children. In other words, they were developing humans and behaved as such even before they were born. Once Roe v. Wade hit the courts, though, all of those experiments were stifled and the behavioral science types were reticent either to talk about them or continue conducting further research.

    Regarding the justification of slavery, many in the slave owning areas of the country not only viewed slaves as property, but as sub-human – therefore eligible to be bought, sold, and done with in a manner similar to what one might do with inanimate goods. The pro-choice types have bought into that same line of reasoning which has been perpetuated not only be law (Roe v. Wade), but by the reluctance of the scientific community to oppose it, as illustrated above.

    One would think think that any sane, reasoning person, having seen these side-by-side comparisons would surely come to the conclusion that there is no sound basis for aborting human embryos. It’s all a matter of the convenience the “human carrier” to do whatever she wishes with her “excess baggage.” Amazing.

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