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Dred Scott??

October 10, 2004

So it turns out that the 1857 decision Dred Scott v. Sandford, which President Bush clumsily referenced during Friday’s debate after a question about who he might name to the Supreme Court, was not an absurd non sequitur. For more than a decade, abortion opponents have likened Roe v Wade, which legalized abortion, to the reviled Dred Scott case–in which a slave sued for his freedom and lost–on the legal theory that slaves cannot be citizens and have no rights under the U.S. Constitution. (Ironically, that decision was arguably in line with so-called “strict constructionists” in its day, but nevermind that). Today, among a segment of the anti-abortionists, Roe is Dred’s equal in the pantheon of bad supreme court decisions. Here’s a good example of that argument, dating from 1994.

So while most people scratched their heads in befuddlement, Bush’s digression on Friday signaled his base once again that he will, if given the opportunity, appoint a judge who is ready, willing and able to overturn Roe and outlaw abortion in all 50 states. Given that many observers think just one more vote on the court is needed to achieve this, Bush’s veiled reference is worth pondering for voters on all sides of this issue.

Er uh big shout out for this one.