Dred Scott case offers hope for opponents of Roe v. Wade, Scott's descendant says

by Allen Palmeri, posted Tuesday, March 06, 2007 (12 years ago)

ST. LOUIS (BP)--The great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott is using her heritage to proclaim the rights of unborn babies to be counted as full individuals, with some pro-life advocates hopeful that just as the Dred Scott decision was overturned, Roe v. Wade may eventually face a similar fate.

On March 6, 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark Dred Scott decision, ruling that the drafters of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Scott, a black man, fought for his freedom after his master’s death, arguing that since he had lived with his master in a free territory he had become legally free and could not revert to the status of a slave. After much legal wrangling, the court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford that as a person of African descent, Scott could never be a U.S. citizen and thereby lacked the capacity to file a lawsuit.

The decision, which helped spur the Civil War, was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution as blacks won the right to be counted as citizens and to benefit from the American judicial system.

Some opponents of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion have referred to the Dred Scott decision in their hopes of gaining full rights for unborn children and having Roe overturned. Both decisions counted an entire class of people as property and popular opinion supported both decisions.

Scott’s descendant, Lynne Jackson, is among those who believe Roe v. Wade was wrong.

“I know children, when they just hear that little babies are being killed before they’re born, who say, ‘That’s not right. Did you want to kill me?’” Jackson, a member of the St. Louis-area Cross Keys Baptist Church in Florissant, Mo., said in an interview with The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. “The sensibilities and just the pure innocence of children alone know that this is wrong.

“Have you ever seen a baby aborted in the womb? Well, I have,” she added, describing what she viewed: “You see this beautiful form of a darling baby just floating around, doing well, and then you see the introduction of these pincers that go in and the baby starts to flinch and move back and forth, as if to get away from this thing that’s poking and prodding at them. Then it becomes pretty violent.

“After that, you begin to see the baby’s form become less specific. It begins to degrade,” Jackson continued. “Eventually, you really can’t see the arms and legs anymore, of course, because it’s being pulled apart in that particular procedure. So now you’re just looking at stuff floating, where a minute ago you were looking at a baby. And it is a baby, and life does begin at conception.”

As Jackson marks the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision, she hopes that what her great-great grandfather helped accomplish for the African American race pro-life leaders can help secure for unborn babies -- the right to be counted as full and valuable human beings.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted in a statement to Baptist Press, “On this 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision, the pro-life forces in America would do well to remember and draw inspiration from the fact that at the time the decision was handed down, it appeared that the pro-slavery forces in America were impregnable. With a clear majority of the Supreme Court on their side, the pro-slavery forces were poised to force every state in the union to accept slavery, as Lincoln so aptly pointed out in his Cooper Union speech in New York City, the speech that did much to elect him president of the United States.

Yet, Land noted, “[T]he pro-freedom forces were utterly triumphant less than a decade later. This should remind us, as does the story of William Wilberforce and his triumphant struggle against the powerful planter class to end the slave trade in the British Empire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, that with God on your side, all things are possible. Pro-lifers, take heart. When God is on your side, you are always more powerful than you appear, and your opponents, who are not on God’s side, are always less powerful than they appear.”

Jackson and her husband, Brian, are president and vice president of a ministry called the Prophecy and Apologetics Research and Resource Center, which they use to declare Christianity “as the most theologically sound, philosophically justified, scientifically verified and most easily perceived, accepted and understood of all beliefs.”

Also, Jackson has recently established the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation with a goal of commissioning a life-sized statue of her great-great grandfather to promote racial reconciliation.

“The human race is of one blood,” she said. “You can’t pick off a couple of races here and there and decide that they’re not.”

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