I don’t think the pro-choicers and the pro-lifers are going to agree on this one. But I do think that Ta-Nehisi is either missing what I’m trying to say here, or he – and the commenters at his blog – are incapable of seeing how this analogy might look different if they held different assumptions about the personhood of a fetus. For the umpteenth time I’m not making the case that the analogy is good or useful, I’m trying to explain how people who come into the discussion with the belief that fetuses (or embryos) are people who are in possession of basic rights, might see this analogy through different lenses than people who consider fetuses to be less than human, or not human at all. The point is that from a fetus-is-human perspective, both fetuses and slaves should be considered fully human and fully deserving of human rights, but legally during the days of slavery slaves were considered less than human or not human at all, and during the days of legalized abortion, so are fetuses.
This is not a racist argument. It has nothing whatsoever to do with race. It analogizes the legal status of two sets of what pro-lifers view as humans. Slaves were denied their rights, the argument goes, so are the unborn. It’s not that the slaveowner and the mother are analogous. It’s not that the slave and the fetus are analogous even. It’s that these two distinct groups of people (or ‘people’ depending on how they are/were defined then and now) were/are denied rights by the state. No, fetuses can’t make their own minds up on whether they want to live, and slaves can make up their own minds about whether they can escape. That isn’t the analogy in question. But all these points are secondary to the central idea: two groups of people had their rights stripped away. Others were given the right to decide their fate. This could apply to any group of people who were denied their rights if you accept the assumption that fetuses are people. If you don’t, then you can keep thinking I’m a racist and a misogynist. And nobody is better off than when we began.
Which is, essentially, why this analogy is useless and more often than not used as a political weapon. And why I don’t use it myself, but try to understand better those who do.