Letter: Dred Scott decision lives on in Roe V. Wade

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The Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case said the U.S. Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free. As a slave, Scott was owned and controlled by another human being. Further, as a slave, Scott was only 3/5 human, based on the Three Fifths Compromise. The compromisesolution was to count three out of every five slaves as a person for the purpose of determining a state’s number of representatives.

Fast forward to the 20 and 21st Centuries. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade “that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. … With regard to the fetus, the court located that point at ‘capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb,’ or viability.” One of the more popular “pro-choice” arguments is that a woman’s body is her own, and she has the right to decide what happens to her body. Since unborn children are conceived and develop in women’s wombs, by extension, they reason, women should have the right to choose whether to abort the child or not.

The heart of the abortion issue, though, is when does the unborn child become fully human: at conception, or birth? What constitutes or defines what full humanity is has yet to be decided. So, we should pose the question “What is less than fully human?” Looking back at slavery, the Continental Congress declared slaves to be 3/5 human. The intrinsic human worth of a human being held as a slave was not a consideration in that decision, only politics and economics. Similarly, since Roe v. Wade, courts and legislatures have continued to reaffirm the less-than-human status of unborn children.

Dred Scott’s losing in the Supreme Court meant he could not be a free man but would continue being owned by another person: he was still only 3/5 human. Only the defeat of the South in the Civil War finally put slavery to rest in the United States.

Today, we are engaged in a contest of no less significance than the slavery issue: are unborn children fully human and deserving of all the rights granted to all other humans, or are they only 3/5 human? Until that question is resolved, pro-choice mothers, in effect, are acting as slave-owners. By claiming to have the right to determine the life or death of their unborn child, a woman then puts herself in the position of a slave-owner. Her unborn “3/5” of a human child is her “property,” and she can do with it as she chooses.

In actuality, the Supreme Court Dred Scott v. Sandford decision remains in effect.

Edmond Long, retired SBC pastor

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