SLAVES AND UNBORN BABIES AS CHATTEL

Cecil Hook

he notable Dred Scott case brought before our courts in 1856-57 addressed the right of a Negro slave and his child born in free territory to become citizens of the United States. Scott sued for citizenship on the ground that he was taken from Missouri to live in the free territory of Minnesota, where his child was born, before being brought back to Missouri. The lower courts ruled that he had no standing before the court. On March 6, 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision that Negro slaves and/or their descendants could not be citizens and that they had no rights before the court.

The written majority opinion was of more concern than the decision of the court. The opinion contended that Scott was mere chattel which might be dealt with by its owner as any other property. That historic opinion did much to widen the breach between North and South to hasten the Civil War.

A present day case which also began in the courts of Missouri was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. In effect, the decision of Roe vs. Wade was that an unborn child has no rights before the court and that it may be dealt with as nothing more than chattel.

Now, fortified by that decision, abortionists raise the popular cry that the unborn child is a part of the woman's body, that she has the right over her own body, and that she can deal with it as she pleases, even to the termination of its life.

With their humanitarian views, the abolitionists pressed for the human rights of slaves at a time when many of the citizens of our country denied that a Negro had a soul. He was not considered to be a human being.

Strangely, now those who counted for the equal rights for women, minorities, and blacks both in American and South Africa are denying that the unborn child has a soul or human rights. It is not considered to be a human being.

Although it is said to be a part of the woman's body, the fetus is not even esteemed as highly as an eye, a hand, or a finger. It would be considered inhuman to destroy one of those parts for any reason short of necessity. The fetus is given about the same consideration as a tumor or an inflamed appendix. To sterilize a woman as a preventative to pregnancy is considered to be a destruction of her human rights, but to terminate her pregnancy is thought to be neither inhuman nor destructive of the infants rights.

We hear little from the abortionists about the sins of fornication and adultery. Rather, they contend that freedom of sexual activity of the unwed is another human right which we dare not discourage. Promiscuity is encouraged by our society as a whole. With the abandonment of sexual morality has come a disregard for the life that results from the lack of sexual restraint. When we abandon the concept of sin, we deny responsibility.

Slave owners were "pro-choice," contending that the choice of whether to own slaves or not was a private and personal matter and that ones personal values should not be pushed onto others. The "pro-choice" ideology was urged to protect slavery then, and it is designed to destroy life now. God is "pro-choice" in that he demands that we choose to refrain from any sexual activity that might result in an unwanted pregnancy.

Both the slave and the fetus are human in essence, an essence which is not measured by degree of maturity, legal standing, or possession.

Who would have thought that, more than a century after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, we would hear the infamous decision of the Dred Scott case revived so loudly and adamantly? Once it was the slave and his child who had no rights or soul; now it is the unborn child who has neither rights nor soul. In those times a master could deal with his slave as chattel; now the unborn is regarded as disposable property possessed by the mother - a part of her body which she can destroy without conscience. -- 1350 Huisache, New Braunfels, TX 78130 (Restoration Review)