Roe v. Wade is often compared with the Dred Scott case. Who or what was Dred Scott? M.M., St. John’s.

Dred Scott was a slave. He was taken by his owner to Illinois, a ‘free’ state where slavery was not allowed, and then to the federal territory, part of the Louisiana Purchase where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. When Scott was taken back to the ‘slave’ state of Missouri, he sued for his freedom, claiming that he had been freed when he was taken to regions where slavery was outside the law. Because precedence was on his side he was successful initially, but the decision was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court, and eventually the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unfortunately for Scott, and the American people, Chief Justice Taney and the majority of the Court were Southerners with political and economic interests in maintaining slavery. On March 6, 1857 the Court ruled that descendants of freed slaves were not citizens, and that a slave was not a ‘person’ but was ‘property’ to be bought and sold at the owner’s whim.

Taney’s judgment went further. He claimed that as a citizen had a constitutional right to own property and as slaves were property, there was, therefore, a constitutional right to own slaves and to take and hold slaves in any state or territory. Judge Bork wrote: “Taney was saying that there can be no valid federal law against slaveholding anywhere in the United States”; in other words the Supreme Court was overruling the States.

Justice Curtis of Massachusetts in his strong dissent in Dred Scott claimed that the judgment was political and not juridical. He issued this warning: “When a strict interpretation of the Constitution, according to the fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws, is abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we no longer have a Constitution, we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the Constitution is, according to their own view of what it ought to mean.”

Justice Curtis wrote that in 1857, and it is just as bitterly true today, both in the USA and Canada.

What proportion of embryos created in vitro actually result in a live birth? K.M., Waterloo.

It is known that the success rate is small. One world-leading IVF center in Australia has claimed a seven per cent success, but studies of many areas put the average around four per cent.

It is estimated that about 60 per cent of the embryos are discarded as non-viable. (Some are first dissected as human guinea pigs). Many of the remaining 40 per cent are cryopreserved, or deep-frozen, and the freezing damages between 50 to 75 per cent of these. There are further losses when embryos are transferred to the woman: some embryos do not implant; there are unusually high rates of ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, and miscarriages; multiple pregnancies may result in selective reduction by destroying some embryos in the womb. Finally, many “non-perfect” babies are aborted.

After a Life March in Washington, D.C., Cardinal O’Connor stressed the need to fight euthanasia as well as abortion. Have you the statement? A.M., Calgary

In 1989 the Cardinal said:

“I predict that the ‘right to die’ – which really means that hospitals and doctors and other health care ‘providers’ will be required to kill – will dwarf the abortion phenomenon in magnitude, in numbers, in horror. As mothers have become the legalized agents of the deaths of their children, so children will become the legalized agents of the deaths of their mothers and fathers. Fathers will have no more legal right to defend themselves than they currently have to defend their unborn babies – a right the courts have restricted to mothers. ‘Right to die’ laws will one day force a patient to prove that he or she has a right to live, just as we are now forced to prove that the unborn child has a right to live. As I see it, the ‘right to die’ movement is going precisely as the abortion movement has gone.” (Original emphasis.)