Desperation: Slavery and Abortion

 

As I understand it, a major concern in the slave-owning South in the years leading up to the Civil War was that newly admitted territories would enter the union as slave-free states, thus diminishing the percentage of the nation that supported, and that was supported by, slavery. The Republican party, which was formed at least in part to advocate for slave-free territories and new states, and the election of its first President precipitated a desperate move on the part of the South to separate itself from what promised to be a nation dominated by free states and increasingly critical of the remaining slave states.

I wonder if the current excesses of the pro-abortion left, the swing-for-the-fences mindset that seems to have gripped the Democratic Party and its most progressive members, is an expression of a similar desperation. The left routinely portrays America as a reactionary country on the verge of theocracy, this despite the left’s impressive record over the past half-century of achieving dramatic social transformation. While I think this portrayal is absurd, I also suspect it’s sincere, and that many on the left believe we are one Ginsburg away from rolling America back to the dark ages of, say, 1958.

I’ve marveled in recent days at the sheer chutzpah of radically pro-abortion progressives calling for abortion-until-birth, and even managing to get it passed in my state and looming in others. I wondered what inspired their confidence. Now I think that perhaps it isn’t confidence at all, but a fear that the future is unlikely to be kind to abortion — that, even as abortion law remains outrageously liberal, the public view on abortion, particularly among the young, is growing more conservative: that abortion’s appeal has peaked, and may soon be on the wane.

If that’s their thinking, I do think that the current strategy will backfire, and will actually accelerate public opprobrium of abortion.

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There are 23 comments.

  1. Pete EE Member

    Their current strategy certainly accelerated my opprobrium of abortion.

    • #1
    • February 7, 2019, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Their current strategy certainly accelerated my opprobrium of abortion.

    Right?

    • #2
    • February 7, 2019, at 2:18 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. tigerlily Member

    I think you may be onto something Henry. In the US, apologists for slavery basically argued that it (slavery) was unfortunate but a necessary evil. That’s why the constitution includes the provision in Article I, Section 9 – 1 which provides a twenty year grace period before the Congress may prohibit the slave trade. The congress did abolish the slave trade in 1808. It was only several decades later as the Abolitionists had secured the moral high ground in the debate when the slavery apologists such as John C Calhoun started to argue that slavery was a positive good for the slaves.

    • #3
    • February 7, 2019, at 2:19 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq Contributor

    In both cases, I think, the magnitude of the evil requires people to convince themselves that it is not, in fact, evil in order to maintain the illusion (that we all share) that they’re good people.

    • #4
    • February 7, 2019, at 2:33 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. DonG Coolidge

    I don’t think it is desperation. I think this an artifact of the Great Sort, where geographic areas have become increasingly polarized. All the crazies are gathered in the same places and their true nature is coming out. 

    • #5
    • February 7, 2019, at 2:56 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):

    In both cases, I think, the magnitude of the evil requires people to convince themselves that it is not, in fact, evil in order to maintain the illusion (that we all share) that they’re good people.

    The similarities, and differences, are interesting.

    Many who defended slavery did so by arguing that blacks were either subhuman or human but of a sufficiently inferior variety as to not deserve full human rights. Even many of those who were opposed to slavery shared the view that blacks were significantly inferior, yet still deserving of liberty. President Lincoln himself, though he spoke eloquently and compassionately about the injustice inflicted on slaves and the wrongness of slavery, did not consider blacks equal to whites, and was sometimes skeptical that people of the two contrasting skin colors could coexist and thrive together.

    However, the idea that black people were fundamentally different from white people really didn’t hold up well, once whites and free blacks were able to meet and get to know each other, as happened more and more frequently in the free states. (I suspect many in the slave states had similar doubts, even if economic considerations compelled them to ignore them.) I think a belief in black inferiority was simply too implausible to be sustained indefinitely.

    In contrast, the differences between an early-gestation embryo and a fully formed human being are real. The relationship is complex: the biology is, in some sense, absolutely congruent — the embryo is genetically absolutely human. But the biology is also significantly different: almost every defining characteristic of a human being is absent or undetectable. The embryo is unquestionably biologically human, but also unquestionably not like any human with which normal people are familiar. And, unlike with slaves, there is no means by which we might develop a growing familiarity with these early-stage embryonic humans and come to appreciate their obvious humanity.

    This is not true in the case of a 40 week abortion: no one can doubt the absolute and familiar humanity of an about-to-be-born baby. I can wrap my mind around someone who is willing to deny the right to life to the unformed embryo. The thinking of the proponents of these new bills escapes me: they seem analogous to slave owners who know perfectly well that the men they own are their own equals, and yet continue to insist on their right to own them. I don’t know what conception of good allows these people to defend their bills. Whatever it is, I think it’s deeply flawed and incompetent.

    • #6
    • February 7, 2019, at 3:01 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  7. Postmodern Hoplite Member

    In the years leading up the the Civil War, there were a number of anti-slavery factions in the Northern states that were advocating for a separation from those Southern states that refused to abolish slavery. They argued that the Federal Union should be dissolved so that the Free states were not polluted by the evils of the slave states. Such abolitionists welcomed the secession of the Southern states.

    I can’t help but wonder; will the pro-abortion states be the ones to eventually seek the means to separate politically from the anti-abortion states? If there were a recognized procedural mechanism in the Constitution that provided a means for states to leave the Union peacefully, which side of our current polarized society would seek to use it first? Would New York or California have the gumption to pull the trigger?

    • #7
    • February 7, 2019, at 3:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    Henry Racette:

    While I think this portrayal is absurd, I also suspect it’s sincere, and that many on the left believe we are one Ginsburg away from rolling America back to the dark ages of, say, 1958 2008.

    Fixed it for you.

     

     

    • #8
    • February 7, 2019, at 4:13 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Old Bathos Member

    Give the baby killers full marks for logical consistency. It a kid is unwanted and thought to be burdensome at 5 weeks why would he or she be any less burdensome at 40 weeks? So why should the legal basis for killing that infant be any different at or after delivery.

    It was never that the first trimester infant was just a “clump of cells”. That was just rhetoric to silence critics of Roe v. Wade. It was not whether or when the infant was human. It was always that the infant’s humanity does not matter.

    The baby killers could continue to win a PR battle about early abortion even as anti-life support continues to slide (pro-natalists are far less likely to kill their own offspring and thus their (our) numbers increase over time.) 

    But now that they want their position to be a unified pro-death/no humanity position they will force the issue in ways they did not expect. 

    I like moral clarity.

     

    • #9
    • February 7, 2019, at 5:25 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. James Gawron Thatcher

    Henry Racette: If that’s their thinking, I do think that the current strategy will backfire, and will actually accelerate public opprobrium of abortion.

    Henry,

    I think you are on to something. The Democrats were the party of slavery and they still actually mistrust freedom & democracy. That is why they are so attracted to the socialist control state. As for abortion, it is a very strange issue. Of course, so was slavery. The Declaration dropped all reference to slavery to preserve the unanimous affirmation. The Constitution was compromised explicitly as so understood in the Federalist papers. Yet, the compromise would not hold. Two massive compromises, 1820 & 1850, were brought about by a legislative herculean effort. Yet, this too was not enough. Weirdly, I think your analysis of the South’s overreaction to the election of Lincoln is correct. However, this overreaction is a true paradox. The South’s slavery institution had just won a huge Judicial victory with Dredd Scott. This decision forced Northerners to return runaway slaves to their “owners”. With a precedent like this, I don’t see why a Virginia slave owner couldn’t open up a Hertz rent-a-slave agency in Pennsylvania. As long as the slaves were owned in Virginia why not rent them out to Pennsylvanians who would return them after the lease was up.

    However, Southerners instead of exploiting their advantage became paranoid of Lincoln and chose succession. For me, I can only explain the whole American slave experience by recognizing that moral imperatives exist. There must be a moral imperative against slavery. That is why the best minds in an incredibly creative and innovative country couldn’t find a compromise that would stick. That is why the Southerners chased by their own shadows, not Lincoln, panicked and opted for succession. Lincoln and the North actually weren’t prepared to fight it out with the South over this issue. Lincoln and the North dithered at first, unsure of what they were really doing. Finally, they set themselves the task and broke the South forcing total victory and the complete elimination of slavery.

    Thus we come upon the strange issue of abortion. The left each year has become more and more paranoid, each year demanding that the goal posts be moved until they are now claiming an absolute right to kill a child out of its mother’s womb breathing and screaming on the table. Like the Southerners with slavery, Women with abortion, are not realizing that they are way ahead on points and should lay low. Instead, they panic, seeing their own shadows, not Trump or the Republicans, coming after them. This can only be explained because a moral imperative must be involved. It is their own shadows that pursue them. Gd made moral imperatives certainly not Republicans. If you are an atheist then you will believe that evolution created moral imperatives. Either way, you aren’t going to be able to fight one.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
    • February 7, 2019, at 5:28 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  11. Aaron Miller Member

    Any status quo seems to merit little debate until its opponents gain a strong foothold in culture.

    Twenty years ago, I would not have bothered to debate “gender identity” because what has become the dominant view was then quickly dismissed as ludicrous by all. 

    Democrats could be more casual about abortion laws when they were winning. Ultrasounds have exposed their lies. As the losing side, they must be bolder just to keep attention.

    • #11
    • February 7, 2019, at 6:08 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Could Be Anyone Member

    Are they desperate though? According to the data those in favor of abortion under any circumstance outnumber those opposed to it under any circumstance and half favor abortion under certain circumstances, which means varying levels of support. And I should note that these numbers are quite stable. The current legislation passed and proposed at the state level strikes me as more of natural outgrowth of leftists seeking new avenues to advance their policy and get publicity, which they like a lot.

    Not much desperation.

    • #12
    • February 7, 2019, at 6:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Amy Schley Moderator

    Henry Racette: Now I think that perhaps it isn’t confidence at all, but a fear that the future is unlikely to be kind to abortion — that, even as abortion law remains outrageously liberal, the public view on abortion, particularly among the young, is growing more conservative: that abortion’s appeal has peaked, and may soon be on the wane.

    I would add another point on why abortion proponents might be becoming more desperate — medical science is managing to keep IVF zygotes alive longer before implantation and allow earlier and earlier premature babies to survive. Frankly, I think we have 10 years or less before transferring a second trimester fetus to an artificial womb (like has already been done for lambs) becomes routinely feasible, and probably only 15 or so for a first trimester fetus. When it becomes easy for a woman to end her pregnancy without killing the child, the only sympathetic case for abortion is completely gone. What possible reason can justify killing an unwanted fetus when there are so many couples trying to adopt and the mother doesn’t even have to suffer through pregnancy and labor to give the child away?

    • #13
    • February 7, 2019, at 10:21 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  14. Keith SF Member

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    I think you may be onto something Henry. In the US, apologists for slavery basically argued that it (slavery) was unfortunate but a necessary evil. That’s why the constitution includes the provision in Article I, Section 9 – 1 which provides a twenty year grace period before the Congress may prohibit the slave trade. The congress did abolish the slave trade in 1808. It was only several decades later as the Abolitionists had secured the moral high ground in the debate when the slavery apologists such as John C Calhoun started to argue that slavery was a positive good for the slaves.

    Kyle Sammin at The Federalist brought this up recently:

    New York’s New Law Is Abortion’s John C. Calhoun Moment

    A snippet:

    “Comparing abortion to slavery is only meaningful if we can learn something from it. Sadly, the course of the 19th century’s great debate does not foreshadow a simple end to our current dispute. It is a mistake to say that our Civil War was inevitable, but once the Slave Power began to embrace slavery as a positive good, once they began to see it as an end in itself and not merely the means to achieve financial comfort, the two sides were no longer aiming at the same eventual result. A negotiated solution became a lot less likely.”

     

    • #14
    • February 7, 2019, at 10:41 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. GrannyDude Member

    Great conversation!
    I’m thinking “all of the above,” myself. 

    Yes to the “desperation” induced by the mere thought of abortion rights being rolled back

    Yes to the moral unease about what has already been done, driving women to seek confirmation that their own abortions were justified and normal

    Yes also to the pressure of technology making it ever harder to pretend that the point of abortion is not the death of the baby

    I’d add: Planned Parenthood is so boldly (fluorescent pink signs!) front-and-center on this that I have to believe that PP is exploiting all of this to extend the available legal scope for doing their business, the “core mission” of which is—as Dr. Lena admitted—abortion.

    • #15
    • February 8, 2019, at 6:48 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Ralphie Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    This is not true in the case of a 40 week abortion: no one can doubt the absolute and familiar humanity of an about-to-be-born baby.

    I bet not many people could kill that baby if they are the one that has to do it. There are some that could, there are still people that drown, shoot, drop off puppies and kittens. I doubt many would be willing to rip a fetus limb by limb either. 

    • #16
    • February 8, 2019, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Hang On Member

    Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 50th Anniversary Edition by Henry Jaffa.

    Incredibly relevant to what is happening today. About 85% of the way through. It’s a difficult read but well worth it.

    Bring it all back to the Declaration of Independence and do we still believe in it.

    • #17
    • February 8, 2019, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. James Gawron Thatcher

    Ralphie (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    This is not true in the case of a 40 week abortion: no one can doubt the absolute and familiar humanity of an about-to-be-born baby.

    I bet not many people could kill that baby if they are the one that has to do it. There are some that could, there are still people that drown, shoot, drop off puppies and kittens. I doubt many would be willing to rip a fetus limb by limb either.

    Ralphie,

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #18
    • February 8, 2019, at 12:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Pilgrim Thatcher

    Barbara Boxer was OK with infanticide until the “baby left the hospital.” Maybe the new standard will come to be “until the child starts school.”

    • #19
    • February 8, 2019, at 2:16 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Ralphie (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    This is not true in the case of a 40 week abortion: no one can doubt the absolute and familiar humanity of an about-to-be-born baby.

    I bet not many people could kill that baby if they are the one that has to do it. There are some that could, there are still people that drown, shoot, drop off puppies and kittens. I doubt many would be willing to rip a fetus limb by limb either.

    I’m sure you’re right: not many people could.

    I’ve heard some people try to include, in a defense of legal late-term abortion, the idea that no woman nor practitioner would undertake such a procedure if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. That’s nonsense. There are people who will do unspeakable things, things that most of us would never even consider; there are people who enjoy doing such things, and more who would do them happily enough if they were paid to do it.

    There will be abortionists who will step up to perform any abortion for which the woman is willing to pay. We can’t count on normal human sensitivity to prevent ghoulish excess.

    • #20
    • February 8, 2019, at 2:40 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Freesmith Inactive

    I think you’re being too optimistic. (I might have said Orwellian: you are turning left-wing legislative victory and ostentatious triumphalism into desperation and intimations of defeat.)

    It’s a big problem for conservatives. We were brought up in an America where we were the overwhelming majority and where our values were predominant, but as that reality slowly fades our minds and our attitudes have a hard time adjusting. Worldview is a lagging indicator to demography.

    I hear it all the time in the way conservative commentators blithely posit an “America” or “the American people” as bulwarks against certain political or social claims the pundits are sure are out-of-the-mainstream. “The American people will never go for that,” they say, or “That’s a complete misreading of how America works.”

    (My favorite is “Racism is being so overused that soon Americans won’t take the charge seriously.” I’ve been hearing that chestnut since before Ralph Northam was in medical school.)

    Well, America may have been the way many think, but after the unprecedented 50-year long and still unceasing social experiment that the US is conducting upon itself through massive Third World immigration, I’m here to suggest that it isn’t true anymore.

    America is now like the word inconceivable in “The Princess Bride:” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    For instance, Hispanics are among the biggest supporters of abortion rights. Asians too. Same for blacks and Jews. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if California is one of the next to extend 40-week abortion rights into its constitution – out of “fear and desperation.”

    Our new country is going to be great!

    • #21
    • February 9, 2019, at 12:04 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Freesmith (View Comment):

    I think you’re being too optimistic. (I might have said Orwellian: you are turning left-wing legislative victory and ostentatious triumphalism into desperation and intimations of defeat.)

    It’s a big problem for conservatives. We were brought up in an America where we were the overwhelming majority and where our values were predominant, but as that reality slowly fades our minds and our attitudes have a hard time adjusting. Worldview is a lagging indicator to demography.

    I hear it all the time in the way conservative commentators blithely posit an “America” or “the American people” as bulwarks against certain political or social claims the pundits are sure are out-of-the-mainstream. “The American people will never go for that,” they say, or “That’s a complete misreading of how America works.”

    (My favorite is “Racism is being so overused that soon Americans won’t take the charge seriously.” I’ve been hearing that chestnut since before Ralph Northam was in medical school.)

    Well, America may have been the way many think, but after the unprecedented 50-year long and still unceasing social experiment that the US is conducting upon itself through massive Third World immigration, I’m here to suggest that it isn’t true anymore.

    America is now like the word inconceivable in “The Princess Bride:” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    For instance, Hispanics are among the biggest supporters of abortion rights. Asians too. Same for blacks and Jews. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if California is one of the next to extend 40-week abortion rights into its constitution – out of “fear and desperation.”

    Our new country is going to be great!

    I still believe that most people are conservative. What has changed, I think, is the perceived cost of admitting it. I just posted something about that here, in Conservatives: Unto the Breach!

     

    • #22
    • February 9, 2019, at 1:05 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Fascinating comparison. Let me think about that a bit…

    • #23
    • February 9, 2019, at 5:32 PM PDT
    • Like