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Vice President Harris’ horrible argument

The desperation of pro-abortion activists is showing

Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at the NAACP National Convention on Monday Associated Press/Photo by Tim Hawk/NJ Advance Media

Vice President Harris’ horrible argument
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The downfall of Roe v. Wade has energized the apocalypticism of the left like few other moments in the last 50 years. Seemingly, every week since the Dobbs decision brings a new expression of panic from progressives, many of whom appear to have little to no awareness of the strength and popularity of the pro-life movement (and argument) until this summer.

The cluelessness on display is reaching new levels of desperation. Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking Monday at the NAACP National Convention, compared the Dobbs ruling to chattel slavery. “We know, NAACP, that our country has a history of claiming ownership over human bodies,” Vice President Harris remarked. “And today, extremist so-called leaders are criminalizing doctors and punishing women for making healthcare decisions for themselves.”

What a ridiculous statement. No one familiar with the history or legacy of abortion in America should have dared to suggest that the vice president put her reputation on the line to argue for a moral parallel between slavery and abortion. Harris effectively put the racial eugenics of Margaret Sanger—so much a part of the history of abortion in America—on a parallel footing with Sojourner Truth. It is a silly, foolish thing to compare the pro-life position to chattel slavery, a comparison that Republicans can only hope to refute during public debates in the coming years. It is also a deeply revealing comparison, one that invites a historical and philosophical examination of pro-abortion rhetoric that leaves no doubt where the legacy of slavery continues comfortably today.

The idea that the subjugation of human life is a net moral good was a familiar one to the Confederacy’s architects. Infamously, John C. Calhoun made the argument explicit in one of the most important speeches delivered as the Civil War approached. In “Slavery a Positive Good,” he proclaimed that the enslavement of Africans had unequivocally benefited them. “I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition,” Calhoun said. “I appeal to facts. Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.”

Harris effectively put the racial eugenics of Margaret Sanger—so much a part of the history of abortion in America—on a parallel footing with Sojourner Truth.

On the question of their “improved” condition, note that actual slaves were unavailable for comment.

Calhoun’s speech has rightly come to be seen as a horrifying expression of a racist and utilitarian worldview. Yet there is a worrisome continuity between Calhoun’s arguments and the sentiment of many pro-abortion activists. Consider, for example, the notion that pro-life laws are bad because they will result in more poor people. Vox writer Dylan Scott warned readers on June 24 that the end of legalized abortion in many states “could leave tens of thousands of future children unnecessarily disadvantaged and living in poverty.” Scott’s line of argument isn’t unique. It is decidedly mainstream among pro-abortion advocates, and there are even scholarly cases made by pro-abortion activists who use the low-income status of children who are born as a de facto argument for their having been aborted.

What is the alternative viewpoint? According to the pro-life argument, poverty is terrible, and no poverty is worse than the deprivation of life itself. While it’s common for abortion advocates to malign pro-life people as disinterested in the material suffering of mothers and families, the astonishing breadth of goods and services offered by the same pregnancy resource centers that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to shut down contradict this slur. The pro-life movement as a whole is a living expression of compassion for those who need more and those who need life itself. It emphatically rejects the idea that society is better off when those who have less are simply erased.

Slavery takes ownership of another’s life while abortion snuffs one out. Such moral hideousness should be roundly condemned—in every form. The vice president’s moral argument is an atrocity and an embarrassment. But the pro-abortion movement is desperate, and that desperation is showing.

Samuel D. James

Samuel D. James serves as associate acquisitions editor at Crossway Books. He is a regular contributor to First Things and The Gospel Coalition, and his writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and National Review. Samuel and his wife Emily live in Louisville, Ky., with their two children.

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