In a historic decision, the Supreme Court has been asked and has answered a fundamental question regarding personal autonomy and freedom: under the law, does one have the basic right to secure one’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The Court has resoundingly denied that freedom. This decision creates two classes of citizens; one free to go about their daily lives unencumbered and often enjoying pleasure at the expense of the other, subjugated and less powerful class. This class is forced to carry the burdens of others without the right to determine their own future, unable to pursue their dreams and to develop their potential.

I am speaking of course of the monumentally misjudged case of Dred Scott vs Sandford (1857) in which the Court ruled that Scott was the property of another human being and therefore had no legal standing under the Constitution. To me, the parallels between this horrific blot on our nation’s legal legacy and the now overturned Roe vs Wade scream out for comparison. In both cases, the rights of one citizen were denied for the convenience of another. In Dred Scott, he, along with millions of other black Americans, were denied their freedom for the financial gain of their masters. As a result of Roe, tens of millions of children have been stripped not only of their legal rights but their very lives. In both cases, the vulnerable were left unheard and not seen as human beings, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

Another similarity between the two is that the arguments made in defense of the unjust actions of the Court often fail to address the fundamental issue being debated: is this a human being who, through no fault of his or her own, has been made dependent and at the mercy of another? Once one recognizes the undeniable fact that we are all one race of human beings, no matter what the color of our skin or the stage of our development, the argument is over. But, at the time of Scott, many argued about the financial devastation which would befall the South if slavery were to be ended just as now people argue about the economic consequences of an unplanned pregnancy for the mother and society. There were even arguments made that slaves were better off as slaves rather than fending for themselves just as many argue that children of unplanned pregnancies or those suffering from various genetic issues are better off dead than alive.

While the unmet needs of women and their children are certainly something we should consider and address, this does not justify the killing of one let alone millions of innocent and helpless children, any more than it justified the enslavement of millions of slaves. Look at the millions of dollars devoted to treating sick and injured children each year in this country; or the enormous economic cost we were asked to pay as a nation and individually through loss of income and other various government mandates during the pandemic. If those situations justify such great financial outlays, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same in order to save the millions of children aborted each year? I’m certainly willing to support various agencies designed to do just that; are you? One would certainly question that willingness on the part of some in the pro-choice movement given the recent wave of vandalism against crisis pregnancy centers.

I think it is also worth noting that the proponents of both slavery and abortion profited handsomely from its continuation. Planned Parenthood, the most recognizable abortion provider in the U.S., makes millions of dollars a year through the dismembering of the unborn. This is done at the expense of not only those children but also their mothers who, we can all agree, are often in a vulnerable place themselves. It is well-documented that not only do PP workers lie to and pressure women into abortions, but also fail to report those who are being exploited by sex traffickers and abusers. Those who call for the pro-life movement to step up and provide resources to pregnant women, as they should and often do, should be equally vocal in their condemnation of what is clearly not an isolated phenomenon. On the topic of Planned Parenthood, it should be noted that like slavery itself, this organization was founded by racists who sought to limit the influence of those they deemed subhuman.

The final comparison I will make between these two cases is the obvious one: they have both been overturned, righting the wrongs of decades of immoral behavior and illogical thinking. In the case of Dred Scott, it was overruled by the 14th amendment which granted citizenship to all those born in the United States regardless of their skin color. In the case of Roe, of course, it was overruled this month by Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The 14th amendment by no means brought immediate equality and was only accomplished after years of bloody battles, not in the courtroom but on the battlefields. But it did bring about an age when former slaves and their descendants were free to contribute mightily to our nation’s legacy. They were free to become lawyers and continue the fight for freedom; free to become doctors and advance our understanding of what it means to be human; free to enter civil service and even rise to the highest offices in the land, including the White House and, yes, the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the case of Dobbs, despite what some seem to think, this decision is very pro-choice. It has not made abortion illegal; rather it has sent the issue back to individual states who now have the freedom to stand on the side of justice and morality or to stand on the side of oppression and murder. The choice seems an obvious one, just as Dred Scott seems to us now. I hope that, in whatever state you may live, you will find yourself making the right choice: the choice to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, that we can truly become a nation “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

4 Responses to “Being Pro-Choice”

  1. Chip Wehling


    Excellent article detailing the benefits to our society, and the obvious benefit to the unborn fetus, that the over-turning of Roe V Wade will have.

  2. Alexander Bozzo


    Thanks for the intriguing post!

    I’m not sure I agree with the comparison to Dred Scott, however. I think there are a number of important disanalogies between slavery and abortion worth mentioning. Here are two:

    First, abortion is an incredibly complex issue, in ways that racism and slavery are not. The development of the human fetus involves a substantial and gradual transformation over a prolonged period of time, from a miniscule single-celled zygote to a soon-to-be-born infant. It is certainly a difficult and vexed philosophical question *when* this being obtains rights. Does the single-celled zygote have a right not to be killed? It’s not clear to me that it does. But, whatever one’s view here, my point is simply to say that it’s complicated – it’s not an easy answer to discern. And, unlike the issue of abortion, the philosophical case for slavery is not similarly complicated by any kind of relevant scientific knowledge (indeed, it is just this kind of scientific racism that has been debunked and rendered irrelevant). Thus, there is room for reasonable disagreement on abortion, but not on slavery.

    In addition, most abortions occur early on in a pregnancy (The CDC reports that in 2019 92% of abortions occurred at or prior to week 13). If it were the case, then, that the fetus does not have rights until after week 13, say, then most abortions would not amount to a grave moral disaster. Again, this distances the gap considerably between abortion and slavery, insofar as the issue of abortion is a complicated one – many or most abortions occur at precisely that point at which we might suspect the fetus lacks rights.

    Second, unlike the protestations of slave-owners in defense of slavery, women *do* have a substantial and weighty right favoring abortion (even if one thinks this right is overridden). This of course is the right to bodily autonomy. Locke recognized the importance of this right in his attempt to ground all private property rights on a fundamental right of bodily autonomy. I think we all recognize the importance of this right: it would take some serious reasons for the state to forsake someone’s right to bodily autonomy. I am not saying no such reasons exist, only that this seriously complicates the abortion issue in a way that is not mirrored in the slavery issue.

    Having said all that, I want to be clear that I’ve not argued for or against abortion (or even for or against the Dobbs decision). I’ve simply been at pains to emphasize that the issues of abortion and slavery are not quite as close as the original post suggests. There is reasonable grounds for debate on the former, but not the latter.


    Xan Bozzo

    *I’ve attempted to post this several times now… So I apologize for any duplicates! I’m not quite sure what the issue is. 🙂

    • Jim Spiegel



      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. To your first point, my initial response is that your framing abortion, in comparison to racism and slavery, as “complex” could potentially be a sign of how far we have come in our thinking regarding race and another way in which the two issues have more in common. You and I and most Americans, believe that slavery is obviously evil and should be outlawed but that has not been the case throughout not just our nation’s history but throughout history period. Slavery, in various forms, has existed for millennia and, sadly, millions still live in slavery, in many cases legalized slavery, today. Estimates range as high as 40 million people globally. For centuries, slavery was seen as “complex” rather than the clear violation of the most basic of human rights we believe it to be in this country.

      I understand that your point is that abortion is complex from a medical standpoint. Though I strongly disagree with that position, I do understand where you are coming from. If you do not draw the line at life beginning with conception, it can be murky as to where one should draw the line. When the fetus develops a heartbeat? Discernible brain activity? Viability? In the midst of the current debate, these scientific issues within the womb seem less influential in the position of those advocating for abortion than the circumstances outside the womb. The vast majority of arguments I have seen are based in the economic and social potential of mother and child rather than issues such as whether the baby feels pain at this stage of development. There also seems to be a total lack of willingness to compromise on the part of many abortion advocates (such as granting the justice of laws which outlaw abortion after a certain stage of development) which indicates less commitment to science and more of a commitment to one person’s liberty (the mother and, to a lesser degree, at least during pregnancy, the father) over another (the fetus). As I said in my post, this is, to me, a clear parallel between abortion and slavery.

      To your point that most pregnancies occur in the first 13 weeks, as someone who believes that life begins at conception, this argument holds no weight with me. I believe that a baby in the womb deserves the same rights and protection as he or she does outside the womb. I understand that not everyone feels this way and am willing to grant the logical consistency of their view and hope they would do the same for mine.
      As to your second point, I absolutely affirm a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. They have the right to engage in sexual activity with the understanding that that activity might result in pregnancy. They, and their partners, have the right to guard against pregnancy through various means of birth control. But their autonomy ends at the point when it violates another person’s autonomy, in this case their baby’s. Just as in the case of slavery, I believe that we should stand up and speak for those who are unable to do so themselves.


  3. Johannes Climacus


    Thank you for the helpful response, Amy!

    Yes, I agree that many in history have found the issue of slavery complex. But, as you note, my argument isn’t that abortion *seems* complex to many people, whereas slavery has not or does not *seem* complex; rather, my argument is that abortion *is* significantly more complex than slavery. And I have argued for this on two grounds: (1) the scientific facts relating to gestation and (2) a significant right to bodily autonomy (whether outweighed or not). The claim is an objective one — about what is objectively the case — rather than a subjective one — about how people view the issue.

    You note as well that if one doesn’t draw the line at conception the issue *is* murky (or can *seem* murky?). But note that I haven’t assumed that the line *isn’t* conception. I’ve merely been arguing that it’s not obvious that the line is at conception – that the issue is a complicated one. In fact, let’s assume the line is at conception – that the “fetus” does immediately obtain rights. As far as I can tell, my point still holds. It’s not obvious that rights should be granted at conception; and this because of the objective complexity of the issue. Given the complicated nature of gestation, and philosophical considerations surroundings personhood, humanity, bodily autonomy, consciousness, killing and letting die, and the like, the fact that it is wrong to terminate a zygote — a fact I’m assuming for the sake of argument — is not a straightforward one. That was simply the point I was trying to make, and I find this to be a noteworthy aspect of the abortion issue not mirrored in the slavery issue.

    With respect to my point about bodily autonomy, you say “I absolutely affirm a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. They have the right to engage in sexual activity with the understanding that that activity might result in pregnancy. They, and their partners, have the right to guard against pregnancy through various means of birth control. But their autonomy ends at the point when it violates another person’s autonomy, in this case their baby’s. Just as in the case of slavery, I believe that we should stand up and speak for those who are unable to do so themselves.”

    You may be right! But, again, I haven’t argued that one’s right to bodily autonomy is absolute. It may indeed end when it violates another person’s bodily autonomy. My only point was that bodily autonomy is a strong and relevant right with respect to the abortion issue, which complicates it. I don’t see a similar and weighty right of slaveowners outweighed in the case of slavery. That was my only point.

    Thanks Amy!

    Xan Bozzo


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