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Op-Ed: Progressives’ Treatment of the Unborn as 'Property' Puts Them in Same Camp as Slavery Defenders

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A Pulitzer Prize awarded this week to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her New York Times’ 1619 Project is undeserved. We would suggest that both the author and the Pulitzer board members take the splint out of their own eyes before they advance and applaud anti-slavery attacks on the integrity of the Founders.

The 1619 Project attempts to “reframe” the American colonies’ founding as an exercise characterized by slavery rather than a courageous bid for freedom. The series indulges in the ideological trashing of the true history and the honorable founding principles of the colonists who fought to form the United States of America.

It is just another attempt to defame the Founders’ principles in the progressives’ propaganda war that started with the Sexual Revolution.

Roe v. Wade (1973) was one of the first of the progressives’ victories. Ironically, the 20th-century sexual revolutionaries started out by claiming that pregnant women without access to abortion were being “forced” to bear children in “gestational slavery.”

Their advocacy for abortion up to viability, based on the proposition that unborn children are not “whole persons,” puts them in the same camp as the defenders of slavery.

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Progressives today dehumanize the target of an abortion as a woman’s personal and private “property” rather than a mother’s daughter or son.

Appeal to Privacy Echoes an Old Injustice

There are irreconcilable problems with locating a right to abortion in the “the right of personal privacy” all too handily inserted by Justice Harry Blackmun into the Constitution.

Today’s most frequent defense of abortion as “no one else’s business” — to be decided only by “the woman” herself — is itself an echo of an old injustice recorded in abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld’s account “American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses” (1839):

Do you think progressives' zeal for abortion is akin to support for slavery?

“A slaveholder, after flogging a little girl about thirteen years old, set her on a table with her feet fastened in a pair of stocks. He then locked the door and took out the key. When the door was opened she was found dead, having fallen from the table. When I asked a prominent lawyer, who belonged to one of the first families in the State, whether the murderer of this helpless child could not be indicted, he coolly replied, that the slave was Mr.—-‘s property, and if he chose to suffer the loss, no one else had any thing to do with it.”

It’s sad that today when a daughter or son is attacked and destroyed in her or his mother’s womb, the cool reply is much the same: The child is the mother’s property, and if she “chose” to suffer the loss, it’s nobody else’s business.

Abortion Offends Against the Founders’ “No Property in Man” Principle

A right to procure the killing the unborn, who comprise part of our posterity, as though they are not “whole” persons but rather part-persons/part-property, offends against the “no property in man” principle recognized from the beginning by the Founders (Records of the Federal Convention, August 25, 1787).

And over 70 years later, Abe Lincoln was still validating that constitutional principle that all human beings are to be respected as persons.

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In his 1860 Address at Cooper Union, Lincoln asserted the ability to “show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves [as ‘persons’ in the Constitution] … was employed on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.”

Indeed, the Constitution nowhere singles out any group of human beings as property or as not being “persons in the whole sense.”

The Constitutional Distinction Between Persons and Property

When the Constitution’s wording was being negotiated, the Records show that the idea that there could be no property in men (i.e. human beings) was raised in discussion and conceded in principle. Roger Sherman objected to “acknowledging men to be property, by taxing them as such under the character of slaves.”

James Madison seconded the objection: “Slaves are not like merchandise.” He thought it “wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.”

The practical result was that throughout the convention-adopted text, the Constitution consistently uses the term “persons” and never “slaves.”

Property in Man Assumption Is Intolerable: “Disowned by Conscience and Reason”

During the Constitution’s drafting, there was a clear expectation that slavery would be abolished. For example, on August 22, 1787, in the Records, Sherman observed that “the abolition of Slavery seemed to be going on in the U.S. & that the good sense of the several States would probably by degrees compleat it.”

Another delegate said: “Slavery in time will not be a speck in our Country. Provision is already made in Connecticut for abolishing it. And the abolition has already taken place in Massachusetts.” Yet another said: “If the S. States were let alone they will probably of themselves stop importations.”

But it was not until the post-Civil War 13th Amendment (1865), that this expectation was finally met. The original “no property in man” principle became unequivocally a robust precept of the U.S. Constitution recognized across all states.

In the Senate, April 8, 1864, Sen. Charles Sumner gave his renowned “No Property in Man” speech on the Proposed Amendment of the Constitution Abolishing Slavery through the United States:

Mr. Madison said in the convention that it was “wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.” Of course it was wrong. It was criminal and unpardonable. Thank God it was not done.

Sen. Sumner went on to reject “the intolerable assumption of property in man” which is “disowned alike by the conscience and the reason.”

“Sir, let the ‘execrable’ pretension never again be named, except for condemnation, no matter how or when it appears or what the form it may take. Let the ‘idea,’ which was originally branded as so ‘wrong’ that it could not find a place in the Constitution, never find a place in our debates.”

For the abortion debates today, it is significant that the idea of treating persons as property was originally branded as so wrong that it could not find a place in the Constitution.

Progressives must recognize the truth: It is only with the abolition of abortion today that we can honorably achieve the abolition of the execrable ownership of human beings.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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