Bush's message to pro-lifers

By Geraldine Sealey
Published October 10, 2004 4:34PM (EDT)

We were as bewildered as anyone on Friday night when President Bush referenced the Dred Scott decision when asked what kind of Supreme Court justices he would appoint. Was he making a play for the runaway slave voting bloc? Actually, it looks like he was making a play for pro-lifers, assuring the anti-abortion rights crowd that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade if re-elected. You read that right.

For many who oppose abortion rights, Roe is "Dred Scott II," denying the unborn rights they deserve just as the Court once denied blacks. Here's the logic from the National Right to Life Committee: "In an 1857 court case, known as the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves, even freed slaves, and all their descendants, had no rights protected by the Constitution and that states had no right to abolish slavery. Where would Blacks be today if that reasoning had not been challenged?"

"The reasoning in Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade is nearly identical. In both cases the Court stripped all rights from a class of human beings and reduced them to nothing more than the property of others. Compare the arguments the Court used to justify slavery and abortion. Clearly, in the Court's eyes, unborn children are now the same 'beings of an inferior order' that the justices considered Blacks to be over a century ago."

Pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum made the point in an interview with The New York Times: "[He] likened Roe to the Dred Scott decision of 1857, when the court ruled that blacks born into slavery had no constitutional rights. 'The more people understand how wide open Roe v. Wade is, how unlimited it is,' Mr. Santorum said, the more they turn against it." And as Paperwight pointed out, a simple Google search shows how widespread the Roe = Dred comparison is.

A sidenote: We found this interesting article that shows how Antonin Scalia's angry dissent in the anti-sodomy law case last year, in which he argued against gay rights, echoed the logic used to justify slavery in Dred. Yet Scalia has taken issue with Dred in the abortion context, citing the decision in his dissent in Casey v. Planned Parenthood.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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