Surging GOP Presidential candidate Ben Carson makes clear that he understands neither abortion nor slavery:
Ben Carson argued Sunday that abortion should be outlawed in almost all cases, and he likened women who terminate their pregnancies to “slave owners.”
Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether a woman should have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, Carson, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, acknowledged upfront that the choice of words would be controversial.
“During slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it — during slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything that they chose to do. And what if the abolitionists had said: ‘You know, I don’t believe in slavery. I think it’s wrong, but you guys do whatever you want to do’? Where would we be?” [Vanessa Williams, “Ben Carson Likens Abortion to Slavery, Wants to See Roe v. Wade Overturned,” Washington Post, 2015.10.25].
I don’t think Carson is really thinking about what he’s saying, but words have meaning, and the meanings of Carson’s words fall all over each other.
On face, Carson is saying that women are slaveholders and fetuses are slaves. The basic rule of analogies is to compare like things. Carson’s analogy suggests the moral relationship of women to fetuses is like the moral relationship of slaveholders to slaves. The subtle insinuation is that women have committed some sin to acquire their fetuses just as slaveholders committed sins to acquire their slaves. We would not respond to a slaveholder’s sin by saying, “Treat your sinfully acquired slaves humanely”; we would say, “Get rid of your slaves!”… at which point the analogy to women and fetuses goes all to heck.
If there is any faintly relevant analogy between pregnancy and slavery (and I’ll defer here to the fluid-retaining, diurnally barfing feminine vessels of humanity who wish to share their experience), it may be the reverse: for nine months, the woman becomes the slave, subject to the demands of the fetus, which invades the woman’s body, controls her blood flow, and seizes her nutrients.
That analogy has informed my position on abortion: government cannot force any citizen to submit her body to the service of another being. Dr. Ben Carson cannot force me to surrender my blood or my kidney to preserve another being’s life, whether adult, child, or fetus.
But more broadly, my position on abortion is informed by the absence of any true analogy to pregnancy. The burden a woman bears in carrying another organism in her body for nine months is unique. No man can experience it or anything like it. No man—not Ben Carson, not I, not any wombless being—has any right to require any woman to carry a fetus for nine months. No man has a right to stop a woman who chooses to end a pregnancy. Dr. Carson and I have no more right to enslave women than we do to impose pregnancy upon them. (My analogy sounds more accurate than Carson’s at every turn.)
Slavery was the unjust treatment of living, breathing, autonomous human beings as property. We were right not simply to regulate the treatment of slaves but to abolish slavery. Dr. Carson would make women slaves of the state. His analogy fails, as should his candidacy for President.