Forty-two years ago today, America decided to adopt a state religious belief: that some humans are not people. It is necessarily a religious belief, because to that point, America had never doubted that humans were persons, in the same way it had never doubted that wheat is a grain; it is self-evident by both one’s senses and one’s common sense, by basic science and by the application of reason.
It also marked a new departure into human depravity. It is often said, fairly and correctly, that America’s Original Sin is slavery. The atrocity that was chattel slavery, like most atrocities, had its contours, its highs and lows — George Washington, a slaveholder, spent a large sum of his wife’s fortune maintaining the elderly, the crippled, and the sick among his slaves — but any system that renders humans to the same legal status as objects, who can be sold or bought or killed or beaten or abandoned or traded away without legal consequence, is undeniably an atrocity, a grave mortal sin with few peers. It is a sin that echoes to this day, we paid a terrible price in blood and hatred to end it, and despite that, we live in its awful wake.
Yet the wording of the so-called Reconstruction Amendments — the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution — take as a given that the newly-freed slaves were people, because of course, it was self-evident.
The Thirteenth Amendment states:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
No one felt the need to clarify that this only applied to human beings; it was self-evident. The Fourteenth Amendment states, in Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
(Other Sections refer to persons as well, but they’re not material here.) Again, this was one of those things that was self-evident; the freedmen were people because they were humans. No one seriously thought that one could deprive one of his life or liberty under this Amendment without due process of law by declaring he was human, but not a person.
The Fifteenth Amendment states:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Again, it was self-evidently not possible to render a man born in this country under its plenary jurisdiction a non-citizen, a non-person, by fiat; rightly-ordered reason (which is to say, an absence of insanity) made it clear he was a person, and a citizen.
Lest these be thought merely the product of a terrible, terrible war, it should be noted that the much-hated Three-Fifths Compromise — one of many enshrinements of our Original Sin — was an attempt by the Southern states to treat slaves as more than non-persons for the apportionment of Representatives. It was the Northern, abolition-inclined states who wanted the slaves treated as non-persons, a point reject on common-sense grounds as well as political necessity. (One of the signs of an atrocity is that even facially good acts are aimed at perverted ends; the Compromise treated men and women as almost-persons so that they could be treated as chattel.)
In 1972, Justice Harry Blackmun, one of those great men who was not nearly as clever as he thought he was, in order to find some way to mandate that States allow women to murder their children in utero, decided through the use of either contrived or illiterate history that those children were not persons (and therefore logically not protected by the Constitution). Blackmun’s reasoning was so unbelievably poor that to this day, the legal Left is at great pains to find rationales other than those he chose to defend the slaughter of millions of children.
Yet one idiot’s sophistry is not a cataclysm, even when it establishes by fiat the conditions for the cataclysm. The catastrophe came when over half of Americans either explicitly or functionally adopted Blackmun’s conceit — that a human being with a beating heart and a nervous system and tiny fingers and toes is not a person because that human draws her sustenance from an umbilical cord.
There is no scientific basis to this belief. There is no rational basis to this belief. Indeed, there is no consistency to this belief; anyone with pro-abortion friends blessed with children will note that when referring to their unborn descendants, they refer to the baby, and when referring to one scheduled for termination, they refer to the fetus. It is a religious belief devoid of the rationality attached to the world’s great faiths, a belief that makes a human’s value and full humanity entirely contingent on another’s will.
It is barbarism. And we, as a nation, have adopted it. There is simply no other way to describe the fact that a supermajority of Americans believe that there are at least some circumstances in which a woman may have her child terminated, entirely at her discretion. It is in its own way as awful as our Original Sin, because with slavery, we rationalized away the awful things we did to other people; with abortion, we pretend a human isn’t even involved.
It is a barbarism we have adopted, and that is not ending soon. One of our political parties, once the self-described champion of the helpless, is dedicated to perpetuating that barbarism at all costs. One, the party that freed the slaves, is functionally committed to maintaining the blood-soaked status quo. Our friends, our neighbors, our countrymen, even many of us, all subscribe to some variation on this belief.
A committed slaveholder, the founder of the party that fought to the death to maintain the terrible institution of slavery, and that now fights at all costs to continue the slaughter of millions of our children, famously said:
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.
May God have mercy on the dead, and on the living, dead without admitting it.