Vying for the title of Most Controversial Member of The Trump Administration is no easy feat, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos somehow always finds a way to stay in the race. On Thursday, she sparked controversy for making statements that — wait for it — compare abortion to slavery. Her remarks came just two days before Trump became the first president to both attend and headline March for Life — a massive anti-abortion rally that is fighting to overturn Roe V. Wade.
On Wednesday, Devos attended a Colorado Christian University event in Washington, D.C., where she proceeded to make comparisons between the abortion rights debate and abolishing slavery.
“[Former President Abraham Lincoln] too contended with the pro-choice arguments of his day,” DeVos said at the event, according to the Colorado Times Recorder. “They suggested that a state’s choice to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it. Well, President Lincoln reminded those pro-choicers that a vast portion of the American people do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil.”
She referenced the “irony” of supporting a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, but not supporting mothers who want their children to attend “non-traditional public schools.” Of course, parents can send their children to whatever schools they want, but the expectation that public funding should pay for private and/or charter schools — which is what DeVos wants — is an entirely separate conversation.
Her remarks caught the attention of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who extended an open invitation to DeVos. “Dear Betsy, As a Black woman & the Chair of the abortion access task force, I invite you to say this to my face,” Pressley tweeted in response.
Pressley added that people should support the EACH Woman Act, which guarantees that every woman would have insurance coverage for abortion. “[T]he rhetoric & policies of anti choice zealots like DeVos put the lives & bodily autonomy of far too many people at risk,” Pressley tweeted. “That’s why we need to pass EACH & #repealhyde TAKE ACTION.”
But, in a statement to Newsweek, Angela Morabito, education department press secretary, argued DeVos’ comments were not drawing comparisons between abortion to slavery. “Read the speech. The Secretary did not compare abortion to slavery,” Morabito said. “She made clear that the ‘choice’ debate over states’ rights was as morally bankrupt as the abortion argument about the so-called ‘right to privacy’ is.” But, it looks like Morabito went ahead and contradicted herself in that defense.
Let’s not forget that DeVos has racked up quite the resume of not-so-great policy positions. Last year, she proposed eliminating federal funding for the Special Olympics (yes, really). It was such a terrible proposition that even Trump himself was against it (yes, really). Under her leadership, the U.S. Department of Education has considered letting states use federal funding to buy guns for teachers, and she’s also backed policies that would make it safer to commit sexual assault on campus without repercussion. Meanwhile, Pressley's consistently used her position in Congress to advance rights for women, people of color, and educate the next generation. So, it looks like DeVos won't be responding to Pressley's invitation, because it's hard to imagine what defense she would have now.