Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compared the choice to have an abortion with the choice to own slaves at an event hosted this week by a Christian college.

In her remarks, DeVos touted the Trump administration’s work to advance antiabortion policies, including putting two conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices on the bench, and said she hopes to make abortion not just unconstitutional but “unthinkable.”

Betsy DeVos

In this Oct. 21, 2019, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos listening to President Donald Trump during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

She made her remarks Wednesday evening at a dinner sponsored by Colorado Christian University at the Museum of the Bible in the District of Columbia. The event was closed to the press but attended by a reporter from the Colorado Times Recorder, who first reported DeVos’ comments.

The education secretary said the abortion debate, which has raged in American politics for decades, reminded her of President Abraham Lincoln, who led the fight to preserve the United States and stamp out slavery in the South.

“He too contended with the ‘pro-choice’ arguments of his day,” she said, according to a copy of her remarks provided by the Education Department. “They suggested that a state’s ‘choice’ to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it.”

She said Lincoln “reminded those pro-choicers” that most Americans viewed slavery as a “vast moral evil.”

“Lincoln was right about slavery ‘choice’ then, and he would be right about the life ‘choice’ today,” she said. “Freedom is not about doing what we want. Freedom is about having the right to do what we ought.”

In her telling, abortion is an evil akin to slavery, placing those who support legalized abortion rights on a moral par with those who backed slavery in Lincoln’s time.

Her comparison was sharply challenged Thursday by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

“As a Black woman & the Chair of the abortion access task force, I invite you to come by the Hill and say this to my face,” she wrote on Twitter. “Would welcome the opportunity to educate you.”

While DeVos’ comments are certain to offend abortion rights supporters, they may help fuel support from Christian conservatives who are an important part of President Donald Trump’s base. On Friday, Trump plans to become the first president to speak at the annual antiabortion March for Life.

In her speech Wednesday, DeVos, who attended a Christian college, said the administration is working hard to provide a role for religion in education by, for example, reinforcing the right of students to pray in school. Earlier in the day, she was at the Supreme Court when justices heard arguments in a case considering whether a state can exclude religious schools from a taxpayer-supported scholarship program.


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