A leading Republican in the Michigan state legislature is refusing to apologize after comparing legal abortion to legal slavery – remarks that have drawn criticism from pro-choice members of the chamber.
Michigan Sen. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey made the comments during an interview with Radio Free Hillsdale.
“I believe the rampant acceptance of unfiltered and unregulated abortion, or frankly allowing abortion to occur at all, is the scourge of our country now today,” he said. “In my mind, it’s comparable – and people are going to be very upset when I say this – but it is comparable to the scourge we endured when we still had slavery in this country. It is no less a scourge today than slavery was then.”
Such comparisons aren’t new. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, in the mid-2000s, also compared abortion to slavery.
Democratic state Sen. Erika Geiss, who is black, urged Shirkey to apologize.
“It is incredibly out of touch for him to have made such incredibly insensitive remarks,” she told the Associated Press. “I don't think comparing something that is a reproductive health care choice for one in four women – that is really no one's business except between her and her physician – has any place in a conversation about slavery.”
A spokesperson for Shirkey said the senator would not apologize.
“Senator Shirkey believes there is no room for compromise on the issue of abortion and that the fervor from those on both sides of the issue has the potential to be destructive to our country,” spokeswoman Amber McCann told the Michigan Advance.
In 2005, Santorum argued that the comparisons between legal abortion and legal slavery are striking.
"If you look at slavery, what we did was say that the slave wasn't property, wasn't a person, and therefore didn't have constitutional rights,” Santorum told CNN in 2005. “And what do we do with the child in the womb? Well, the child is either a person or its property, and we say that the child under the Constitution is not a person – therefore it's the property of the mother. I find that somewhat chilling, that we would revisit a very ugly chapter in American history, that we take a human being – and no one denies it's a human being – and treat it as property. And that is something that we should guard against as a society. [We should] learn from history.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Michigan Government/Mike Shirkey
Video courtesy: Senator Mike Shirkey
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.