Are Blacks Human Beings?

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Gregory Koukl

The question "Are Blacks human beings?" is so bizarre it's almost comical. Who could ask such a thing today? Yet the question is still being asked, this time with a twist.


Are Blacks human beings? Believe it or not, there was a time when the Supreme Court's answer to this question was no, not if they were slaves.

It was 1856. Dred Scott, a Black slave, had been taken north of the Mason-Dixon line into Illinois and Wisconsin where slavery was prohibited by the Missouri Compromise.

Scott sued for his freedom and lost. The Supreme Court ruled that the Compromise was unconstitutional. Congress, they said, had no authority to limit slavery in that way.

In the Court's mind, the choice to own slaves was an individual decision, a private matter for each citizen to struggle with apart from interference by the state. If a person, in an act of conscience, chose not to keep slaves, that was his own decision, but he could not force that choice on others. Every person had a private right to choose.

Dred Scott, as a slave, was declared chattel--human property. He was a possession of his owner, and the owner had a right to do whatever he wanted with his assets. Three of the justices held that even a Negro who had descended from slaves had no rights as an American citizen and thus no standing in the court.

A civil war and 100 years of oppression stood between the slave as property and the slave as human being.

Today the dream of Black America has come true, by and large. Slavery is a thing of the past and Blacks are well into the mainstream of American life. In a climate of civil rights and civil liberties the question "Are Blacks human beings?" sounds so bizarre it's almost comical. Who could ask such a thing today?

The question, however, is still being asked, this time with a twist: Is an unborn baby a human being? Characteristically, our answer as a nation has been the same as Dred Scott's Supreme Court. No, the child is the property of the woman who carries it. A woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her own property. Abortion is a private, individual decision that cannot be denied by others. Every person has a right to choose.

Much of the justification for this position focuses on the confusion about when life begins. However, the scientific community is of one mind on this. Biologically the life of a new organism always begins at conception.

When a cat conceives, what kind of life is stirring in its womb? What kind of being is living there? It's not a dog being, is it? It's not a salamander being, or a mosquito being. A close look at its genetic structure shows that there's only one kind of being growing there, a feline being, a cat being.

If the biological life of any being begins at conception (as scientists agree), then any termination of pregnancy kills the life of an individual being, however rudimentary its development may be. If the cat's pregnancy is aborted, a kitten will die.

When a human conceives, what kind of being has just started a new life? There's only one answer: a human being. From the very first day a small, individual, human being is developing in his mother's womb. If her pregnancy is terminated, a life is lost, the life of a human being. There's no way around it.

In the case of humans, however, a new category has been added, distinct from biological life: personhood. When does this human being become a protected member of the human community?

Whether any baby is a "person" or not is a question for the lawmakers to decide. The legal concept of personhood is malleable. Lawmakers define who is protected by the law and who is excluded. The law says, for example, even a company can be a person in the case of a corporation. On the other hand, in 1856 Black slave babies were not persons according to the Taney Court.

In 1973, the Blackmun Supreme Court, in the spirit of Dred Scott, relegated the unborn child to the status of chattel--mere human property. Their decision, however, will not change the fact that with every aborted pregnancy a living being loses its life. A human being.

Conception: The father's sperm penetrates mother's egg cell. Genetic instructions from both parents interact to begin a new and unique individual - no bigger than a grain of sugar.

1st day
: The first cell divides into two, the two into four, and so on.

5-9 days: The new individual burrows into the wall of the womb.

14 days: Mother's menstrual period is suppressed by a hormone produced by her child.

18 days: Heart is forming. Soon eyes start to develop.

20 days: Foundations of brain, spinal cord and nervous system are laid.

24 days: Heart begins to beat.

28 days: Muscles are developing along the future spine. Arms and legs are budding.

30 days: Child has grown 10,000 times to 6-7 mm (1/4") long. Brain has human proportions. Blood flows in veins (but stays separate from mother's blood).

35 days: Pituitary gland in brain is forming. Mouth, ears and nose are taking shape.

40 days: Heart's energy output is 20percent of adult's.

921ms_b42 days: Skeleton is formed. Brain coordinates movement of muscles and organs. Reflex responses have begun. Penis is forming in boys. (Mother misses second period.)

43 days: Brain waves can be recorded.

45 days: Spontaneous movements have begun. Buds of milk teeth have appeared.

7 weeks: Lips are sensitive to touch. Ears may resemble family pattern.

921ms_c.jpg8 weeks: Child is well proportioned. Now a small scale baby, 3cm (1 1/8") and weighing a gram (1/30th oz.) Every organ is present. Heart beats sturdily. Stomach produces digestive juices. Liver makes blood cells. Kidneys begin to function. Taste buds are forming.

8 1/2 weeks: Fingerprints are being engraved. Eyelids and palms of hands are sensitive to touch.

9 weeks: Child will bend fingers around an object placed in the palm. Thumb sucking occurs. Fingernails are now forming.

10 weeks: Body is sensitive to touch. Child squints, swallows, puckers up brow and frowns.

11 weeks: Baby urinates, makes complex facial expressions - even smiles.

12 weeks: Vigorous activity shows distinct individuality. Child can kick, turn feet, curl and fan toes, make a fist, move thumbs, bend wrists, turn head, open mouth and press lips tightly together. Breathing is practiced.

13 weeks: Face is prettier, facial expressions resembling parents'. Movements are graceful, reflexes vigorous. Vocal chords are formed (but without air baby cannot cry). Sex organs are apparent.

4 months: Child can grasp with hands, swim and turn somersaults.

4-5 months: Mother first feels baby's movements.

5 months: Sleeping habits appear, but a slammed door will provoke activity. Child responds to sounds in frequencies too high or low for adults to hear.

6 months: Fine hair grows on eye brows & head. Eye-lash fringe appears. Weight is about 640g (22 oz.), height 23 cm (9"). Babies born at this age have survived.

7 months: Eye teeth are present. Eyelids open and close, eyes look around. Hands grip strongly. Mother's voice is heard and recognized.

8 months: Weight increases by 1 kg. (over 2 lbs.) and baby's quarters get cramped.

9 months: Child triggers labor and birth occurs, usually 255-275 days after conception. Of 45 generations of cell divisions before adulthood, 41 have taken place. Four more will come during the rest of childhood and adolescence.


    Around 1970 American physician Dr. Russell Sacco of Portland, Oregon, became acutely aware of the highly developed human characteristics of aborted infants in a pathologist's laboratory.
    His striking photograph of the perfectly formed feet of a 10-week unborn child killed by abortion has been published world-wide.
    In 1974 it inspired Mrs. Virginia Evers, of Taylor, Arizona to create the "Precious Feet" lapel pin identical in size and shape to an unborn child's feet 10 weeks after conception.
    Now designated the international pro-life symbol, it is used by literally millions of pro-life supporters throughout the world.



Court Blunders on Slavery and Abortion

One of the more frequently used arguments to defend abortion goes like this: The United States Supreme has settled the issue. Because the Court has ruled that abortion is legal, it must therefore be a correct and moral act beyond challenge.

In an 1857 court case, known as the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves, even freed slaves, and all their descendants, had no rights protected by the Constitution and that states had no right to abolish slavery. Where would Blacks be today if that reasoning had not been challenged?

The reasoning in Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade is nearly identical. In both cases the Court stripped all rights from a class of human beings and reduced them to nothing more than the property of others. Compare the arguments the Court used to justify slavery and abortion. Clearly, in the Court's eyes, unborn children are now the same "beings of an inferior order" that the justices considered Blacks to be over a century ago.



The words "citizens" or "persons'' used in the Constitution were never intended to include Blacks/unborn children.

In the Dred Scott case of 1857 the Supreme Court said:

"... a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves. . . were not intended to be included under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can, therefore, claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States."

In the Roe v. Wade case of 1973 the Supreme Court said:

"The word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.... [T]he unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense."


The right to privacy protects the decision to own slaves/abort unborn children.

In the Dred Scott case of 1857 the Supreme Court said:

A slave is the property of the master and the Constitution has "provided for the protection of private property against the encroachments of the Government."

In the Roe v. Wade case of 1973 the Supreme Court said:

"This right of privacy... is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."


Slavery/abortion is justified because historically the rights of Blacks/ unborn children have been abused.

In the Dred Scott case of 1857 the Supreme Court said:

"...that unfortunate race...had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order [and] they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

In the Roe v. Wade case of 1973 the Supreme Court said:

"...abortion was practiced in Greek times as well as in the Roman Era.... Greek and Roman law afforded little protection to the unborn."


Slavery/abortion is for the victim's own good.

In the Dred Scott case of 1857 the Supreme Court said:

"...the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit."

In the Roe v. Wade case of 1973 the Supreme Court said:

"There is also the distress for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family unable, psychologically, and otherwise to care for it."

The following is just something I found interesting when comparing people's arguments for slavery and abortion.

Before you respond, I ask that you don't twist the words and/or take them out of context. I'm interested in hearing responses in a civilized manner.

[abortion_slavery.JPG (215 kB)]