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Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade: Bad decisions that hurt our country

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One hundred and sixty years ago, on this day, the Supreme Court issued the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford ruling. Similar to Roe v. Wade, a comparison often made by pro-life advocates, the High Court’s decision was reached with a 7-2 majority vote.

As described by PBS in its series covering the Supreme Court’s initial century:

In the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford (argued in 1856 and decided in 1857), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that individuals of African descent, regardless of their status as free or enslaved, were not citizens of the United States and lacked the right to sue in federal court. The Court also ruled that Congress lacked the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories of the United States. Finally, the Court declared that the rights of slave owners were constitutionally protected by the Fifth Amendment, on the grounds that slaves were classified as property.

On the anniversary of the Dred Scott decision, I am reminded of President Ronald Reagan’s analogy in his book, Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation.

We must not lose heart. Our country has been divided by Supreme Court decisions before. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 was not overturned quickly. At first, only a few Americans saw the moral problem of denying the full humanity of black people. But they kept up their fight and eventually won. They did this by appealing to people’s hearts and minds and the truth of human dignity.

From their example, we know that people will always respect the sacred value of human life. But most Americans have not yet spoken out, and we cannot expect them to—until the issue is clearly presented.

One of the most notable achievements of President Reagan’s two terms in office was his ability to clearly define and present the issue of the sanctity of human life, including the smallest, youngest, and most defenseless.

While searching for a specific quote, I came across an article written by an articulate pro-abortion advocate. In this article, Dahlia Lithwick writes

To peruse the daily pro-life press, as exemplified by the article in NRL News Today, is to witness the ongoing impact of Roe as an assault on fundamental morality. This impact is as tangible and significant today as it was in 1973.

We oppose Roe because it was/is wrong. It was based on the idea that a woman’s right to choose is more important than the life of the unborn child. We believe that killing an unborn child is wrong, whether or not you believe in God.

Furthermore, we concur with the late Malcolm Muggeridge, who succinctly summarized the equality-of-life ethic that undergirds our Movement: “Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or it is of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other.” Pro-abortionists espouse a view that life is not always sacred, but rather that its value is relative. We do not subscribe to this view.

In conclusion, let us return to President Reagan’s book and examine the final paragraph in which he reflects on the Dred Scott v. Sanford case.

Abraham Lincoln recognized that a free nation cannot survive when some men can decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. Likewise, a free land cannot survive when some men can decide that others are not fit to be free and should be slaves. My administration is committed to the preservation of America as a free land. We believe that affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings is of paramount importance in preserving that freedom. Without this right, no other rights have any meaning.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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