Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Practically resigning Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal

Recently to protest abortion, students at one university erected crosses to represent aborted fetuses. This did not go over well with some other students on the campus, which led to this exchange making the rounds on youtube:

Here's what the young man yanking the crosses out of the ground said:

"In 1973, it was made a constitutional right for a woman to be able to have an abortion... Since it's a right, you don't have the right to challenge it... Do not put this in front of all of us; this is not your right."

Abortion was made a right in 1973, you will recall, by a 7 to 2 ruling by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113).

Now here's somebody else talking about a 7 to 2 ruling by the Supreme Court:

"(T)he candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

That was Abraham Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address, speaking of Dred Scott v. Sandford 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857).

You will notice that the young man in this video of 2008 is taking the same approach as the southern slaveholders in 1858, saying, in effect, "The Supreme Court has ruled that slave holding/abortion is a constitutional right, thus nobody has any right to criticize slavery/ abortion."

Of course, by the time of the Dred Scott ruling, slaveholders were old hat at this. As Michael Kent Curtis noted, "Starting about 1830 southern states adopted laws restricting freedom of speech and of the press in an effort to suppress antislavery ideas" (No State Shall Abridge: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights, 1986, p. 30; see also Feherenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics, 1978, p. 120.) In 1858, a North Carolina court sentenced one Daniel Worth to a year in prison for circulating a book hostile to slavery; this conviction was upheld by the state's supreme court (State v. Worth 52 N.C. (7 Jones) 488 (1860).

Mind you; by pointing out the similarity between the ideas of the man in the video and those of the powerful in the antebellum South I'm not saying everybody who praises Roe v. Wade thinks it's acceptable to try to shut down pro-life displays. But Lincoln got it right, for goodness sakes, a ruling by the Supreme Court does not end debate on issues people feel strongly about. This is, after all, a free country for everybody, in part because Honest Abe spoke up.

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