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My mother married my father because she was pregnant. As an adult I thanked her for having gone ahead with the pregnancy and given me life, and she said, “You’re assuming I had a choice?” So I must admit to sharing the core aversion that many people have to abortion, but I am not avidly on either side of the issue. I only note that our culture has become an abortion culture, in which the disposal of fetuses has become an easy substitute for personal responsibility and common sense.

Reportedly, forty percent of pregnancies in the United States now end in abortion. Nearly thirty percent of American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45. In New York City, more than half the African-American children who are conceived are aborted. Just hold these statistics in your mind for a moment.

In the same way that you and I live in an abortion culture, Thomas and Martha Jefferson lived in a slaveholding culture. Both of them inherited slaves in a colony in which freeing them was illegal, and even in the colonies where blacks could live free, they suffered miserably as society’s dregs. That Jefferson detested slavery is abundantly clear from his contemporary writings. That he concluded that these slaves he was stuck with were better off in his care than sold of or freed seems sensible, especially given the fact that during his marriage – the period covered by My Thomas – he seems to have been hopeful that slavery could soon be ended.

A recent review of My Thomas has made me see our abortion statics in a new light. Of course, it is hard to put ourselves into the minds of those living in other cultures, but this tendency that some now have to judge slaveholders as irremediably evil and insist that those people should have known better makes me wince. This reviewer said:

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