JD Vance compared abortion to slavery in an interview last fall, drawing a controversial parralel between America’s original sin and a procedure that until recently was a constitutional right.
“There’s something comparable between abortion and slavery, and that while the people who obviously suffer the most are those subjected to it, I think it has this morally distorting effect on the entire society,” Vance, the GOP nominee for an open Ohio Senate seat, said in an interview with the Catholic Current last October.
Vance then referenced Abraham Lincoln’s quote “I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master,” before arguing that because of abortion, many Americans have “begun to see children as inconveniences to be discarded, instead of blessings to cherish.”
“I really think abortion has really done something very socially destructive to us as people in how we see the most vulnerable and the most dependent among us,” Vance continued. “I think that’s one of the underappreciated facts about abortion. It’s really distorted our entire society.”
The Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn a half-century of precedent and allow states to ban abortion has significantly raised the stakes on the issue in both state and federal elections—especially since some congressional Republicans are already working on legislation to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy at the national level.
Vance won the Republican Senate primary in May and is viewed as the favorite against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in conservative-leaning Ohio. If he wins, he could very well vote on a national abortion ban.
Vance’s own state now has a six-week abortion ban in place, with no exceptions for rape or incest. That law reportedly recently blocked a 10-year-old girl who’d been raped from getting an abortion; she had to travel to another state to obtain one.
Vance seems to oppose such exceptions in abortion bans. When asked last fall about including exceptions in cases of rape and incest in abortion bans, he replied that “two wrong[s] don’t make a right.”
“It’s not whether a woman should be forced to bring a child to term; it’s whether a child should be allowed to live, even though the circumstances of that child’s birth are somehow inconvenient or a problem to the society,” Vance said.
The anti-abortion movement has long compared itself to the abolitionists, painting itself as a movement trying to erase a major societal evil. And anti-abortion rights activists often point out that Black women are more likely to have abortions, painting abortion as a civil rights crisis.
“In both instances, the abhorrent practice rested on dehumanization: the declaration that black Africans were somehow innately inferior to whites, and the declaration that unborn children are somehow less than fully and completely human,” National Review writer David French argued in 2015, claiming that the abortion “industry preys upon millions of disproportionately poor and minority women by actively deceiving them about the status of their child.”
Yet these arguments rarely address the economic and social reasons why Black women are more likely to choose to have abortions, ignore the long, cruel history of sexual chattel in the U.S., and sidestep the fact that abortion bans disproportionately impact Black women’s reproductive choices.
Vance is just the latest in a long line of Republicans to compare abortion to slavery. Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos did so in 2020, describing those who had defended slave states as “pro-choicers,” while now-Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said future generations will “look at abortion the way we look at slavery” in a campaign debate that same year.
In 2015, presidential candidate Ben Carson compared women who have abortions to slave owners, and former Arizona Rep. Trent Franks repeatedly made the comparison through his career, arguing in 2010 that “far more of the African American community” had been hurt by abortion than by slavery. And lightning-rod former Rep. Steve King of Iowa recently got back in the hate-click headlines last month by saying he spent Juneteenth thinking about how he’d rather be enslaved than aborted.
Vance’s campaign did not respond to questions from VICE News about his abortion comments.
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