In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled that people of African-American decent were not and could never be "persons" or citizens of the United States. The court said slaves were private property subject to the desires of their rightful "owners."
In like manner the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that unborn children, no matter what the stage of their development, were to be viewed in the same manner. They were not legal persons but private property subject to the desires of their mothers.
The Dred Scott decision seemed to strike a death-blow to the abolitionist cause. With the recent election of President Barack Obama, the pro-life/anti-abortion movement has likewise been dealt a crushing setback. All involved understand that the president and his allies in Congress will seek to erase any measures (few though they may be) to limit the practice of abortion.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party, in which the pro-life movement traditionally has placed its trust, lies in a state of wreckage without prospect of revival for perhaps a generation. And in any case, it must be admitted that the Republican Party, despite having almost total power for nearly a decade, failed to seriously roll back the effects of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a constitutional right.
The Grand Old Party, like the Whig Party in the face of the Dred Scott decision, welcomed those who were outraged by the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, but it never had the will to take its moral fight to the next level.
The similarities between slavery and abortion run deeper still. While only a small percentage of the American population owned slaves, likewise only a small percentage of American women seek abortions. And while slavery proponents wrapped themselves in the banner of "states rights," abortion advocates hold high the flag of unrestricted "individual rights" -- even as they would deny the rights of other human beings.
The pro-life movement maintains that an unborn child is a human being every bit as much as abolitionists considered a slave to be. And with infants now surviving outside of the womb after just a few months of pregnancy, the point becomes clearer, undeniable.
Preborn lives are not "property" to be kept or discarded on a personal whim; these infants do in fact have rights. The death penalty they suffer for the crime of being inconvenient is a moral travesty of the highest order.
Yet another sad association exists between abortion and slavery: Close to 40 percent of the abortions performed in the United States involve African-American babies, far in excess of the African-American proportion of the population. Millions of African-American infants have been killed by abortion since Roe v. Wade was decided. Abortion may have been presented as "family planning" when the case was argued in 1973, but what it has become is genocide.
Where does the pro-life movement go from here? Back to the Republican Party, which demonstrated that it didn't have the fortitude to really attack Roe v. Wade? To some this may seem the only option available.
But today's Republican Party now looks very similar to the Whig party, which it consigned to the ash heap of history just prior to the Civil War. Even though the GOP rode the ideals of Ronald Reagan to overwhelming power in Washington over the past 30 years, it has revealed itself to be the same Grand Old Party of big money and big business -- conservative ideals of government and morality be damned.
As I see it, pro-life conservatives have two alternatives at this juncture in our nation's history: One is to attempt to reform what is left of the Republican Party; the other is to deliver the GOP to the same fate as the Whig Party by forming a new party based upon the Christian ideals that brought down slavery and aims to bring down abortion. Let the debate begin.
Bob Cranmer , a former Allegheny County commissioner and chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee, lives in Brentwood ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).