JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee likened abortion to slavery in a Monday speech during a fundraiser for an anti-abortion group.
Huckabee said that when it abolished slavery, the U.S. debated and decided it was immoral for one person to have complete, life-or-death power over another. He said that should not change whether the control involves racial bigotry or a pregnant woman making a decision for her unborn child.
"What are we saying to the generation coming after us when we tell them that it is perfectly OK for one person to own another human being?" Huckabee said. "I thought we dealt with that 150 years ago when the issue of slavery was finally settled in this country, and we decided that it no longer was a political issue, it wasn't an issue of geography, it was an issue of morality. That it was either right or it was immoral that one person could own another human being and have full control even to the point of life and death over that other human being."
He said civilization cannot survive if "one group of people have life and death control over another for no particular reason other than their own conveniences and, in that case, prejudices."
The half-hour speech was the keynote address during a luncheon fundraiser for the Jefferson City-based Vitae Caring Foundation. The organization, created in 1991, sponsors advertisements across the country encouraging women to seek alternatives to abortion.
Huckabee was the governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007 before launching an unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2008. He has written a book and is a commentator for the Fox News Channel and ABC Radio Networks.
Missouri NAACP President Mary Ratliff, who said she learned of Huckabee's remarks when contacted by The Associated Press after the speech, said the comparison of abortion to slavery was "apples to oranges" and called it offensive to use the issue of slavery for an unrelated political point.
"It seems to me now that when folks want to object to some kind of morality type of issue, they want to attach it to slavery," Ratliff said.
Huckabee said his ultimate goal is the enactment of a federal constitutional amendment "that protects every human life from the point of conception until its natural conclusion." But to make government action possible, he said society must first change the way it views abortions.
"Before laws get changed, we have to change minds and hearts of all the American people, but especially those who will ultimately make the decision as to whether or not they will give an unborn child life or whether they will give it a death sentence," he said.
To make his point, Huckabee examined the degree to which American culture and laws have changed in four different issues compared with the mainstream opinion before national public awareness campaigns. He said:
--Advertisements featuring a crying American Indian helped encourage motorists not to litter.
--Ads with crash test dummies have led to more people wearing seat belts.
--Extensive smoking cessation advertising has helped reduce cigarette use and make the practice less socially acceptable.
--Mothers Against Drunk Driving has helped draw attention to the dangers of intoxicated drivers.
Huckabee was to speak again at a Monday evening dinner for the group, and the event's organizers hoped to raise $400,000.