the apparent frontrunner in the Republican race for president, just
couldn’t help himself. He made another slavery comparison, this time
comparing abortion to slavery and likening women who terminate their
pregnancies to slave owners.
A favorite of white evangelicals,
the neurosurgeon and low-energy candidate has stuck his foot in his
mouth again. Or, in the world of the rightwing Republican base — the
poor, uneducated, intolerant white folks he hopes to attract — he made
a lot of sense.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he was asked if a woman should
have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. “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,” Carson told Chuck Todd. “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
The doctor-turned-politician said he wants the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade,
which legalized abortion, overturned with few exceptions. “I’m a
reasonable person, and if people can come up with a reasonable
explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen,” Carson
added. He argued that an abortion to save the life of a mother is “an
extraordinarily rare situation,” but one where “there’s room to
discuss” abortion. On the other hand, he provided no wiggle room in the
case of terminating pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. “Rape
and incest I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby
came about in that way,” he said, arguing there are “many stories of
people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or
Ben Carson has officially gone over the top, if he already hadn’t.
The doctor’s insistence on making comparisons to slavery is troubling
to many, because he makes light of slavery, which is a common
tactic of white racists who care nothing about black people and what
they have endured in this country. Further, as a purported black man,
Carson should know better. And in making his point against abortion, he
turns the narrative of slavery and black sexuality on its head,
hopelessly twisting and perverting it in the process.
While Carson compares a woman having an abortion — a legal and
constitutionally-protected right — to being a slave owner, the fact
remains that slavery was a means of controlling the bodies and
reproductive activity of black women. Black women had no control over
their bodies, no say so regarding their own sexuality, and no parental
rights to their children, who were separated and sold at will. Black
women were bred like livestock, raped at will by the slave master, at
his pleasure, and forced to bear the master’s children. The rape victim
was his property, as was the baby he fathered.
Welcome to the plantation. And the reality is that the extremists in
the GOP want to return women to a state of subservience, in which Roe is overturned, reproductive health services are made illegal, and women and their bodies are criminalized.
This is not the first time Carson has spoken what he would regard as truth to “white” power. In 2013, he compared Obamacare to slavery,
saying the Affordable Care Act was the worst thing to happen since
slavery, and “it is slavery, in a way.” Similarly, he has made
offensive comments on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Earlier this
year, he invoked Nazi Germany when discussing Planned Parenthood and also suggested that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the Jewish people of Europe had been armed.
Ben Carson should know better, and he should do better than this,
but he apparently cannot. Invoking an evil institution that involved
the wholesale kidnapping, theft, rape, torture and murder
of millions of people of African descent — all for his cheap, partisan
political goals — is dreadful. But to compare the right of a woman to
control her own body to slavery, in order to promote policies to
oppress women, is what Carson and his party are all about.
This commentary was originally published by The Grio