The Huffington Post took a bit too much sensationalistic license when it characterized Mike Huckabee as comparing abortion to slavery in a recent speech at a fundraiser for an anti-abortion group. Per the article, what was said was:

…when it abolished slavery, the U.S. debated and decided it was immoral for one person to have complete, life-or-death power over another.

While Huckabee is trying to reuse the logic and argument behind the abolition of slavery for abortion, it’s pretty clear he’s not saying abortion is slavery. Nor do I think he was trying to characterize the relationship of parent to child as analogous to that between slave owner and slave. Although that’s a more direct line of reasoning than the sensationalistic one the article chose to go with.

It’s certainly hard to argue that one person should have complete life or death power over another. But that statement is predicated on two things. First, that both parties involved are people. Prior to the abolition of slavery there were already laws against murder and such that cemented the notion of one person not having life or death control over another into law. The legal transition that abolished slavery was the recognition of slaves as people rather than property. This is essentially what Huckabee is proposing, and he says as much later on. He thinks that fertilized eggs are people, and wants that codified into law. The rest just follows.

The trouble with fertilized eggs being people, as opposed to slaves, is that slaves are autonomous. When slavery ended, there was no requirement for owners to educate and endow slaves with anything as they left. They just cut them loose. But this is not possible for eggs and embryos. Even if it were medically simple to transplant fertilized eggs and embryos out of the mother, to where are they sent? Do we raise them in labs? Do we employ surrogate mothers?

What if this were two adults with such a dependent relationship? What if I’m identified as being one in a million who has a particular tissue match with a person who will die without one of my kidneys? Should the law obligate me to donate the organ? I suspect most of the pro-life lobby would say no. Yet I think this is a way more analogous situation than slavery.

Curiously the political camp that seems the most determined to garner persondom on cell clusters is also the group that is most adamant about dismantling the social safety net pushed by more progressive politicians. They oppose any form of government subsidy (medicine, housing, welfare, etc.) that confers a minimum environment for a person to live. Why then does it make sense that they want the government to mandate that a woman must provide a minimum environment for a fertilized egg, but the government shouldn’t require that once that baby is born that any taxpayer should be obligated to provide for its welfare?

If pro-life is really about celebrating and preserving life, shouldn’t it be worried more about improving the quality of life for existing people rather than just increasing the number of lives born and allowing them to fend for themselves on the streets?

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