If you want to exercise dominion over someone, strip him of his humanity. In some cases, it's not just a metaphor. Africans were brought here naked, in chains. But that's rare. Usually, the dehumanization has little to do with exterior insults and more with intangibles, like abusive psychologies and oppressive laws. Blacks were still slaves under Jim Crow, even though they were clothed. Women were second-class citizens until we obtained the right to change government, that precious vote, but even before the 18th Amendment we were fashion plates.

No, the real way to debase and demean another human is to tell him through our laws and customs that he doesn't matter. And this is what we have done with the unborn. But that's changing. And while the steps are incremental, they are leading towards a glorious summit.

The only way that Roe v. Wade could ever get a foothold in constitutional orthodoxy is by essentially denying the personhood of the unborn being. That's exactly what happened in Justice Blackmun's decision. Recognizing that unless he denied the humanity of the unborn child, he was essentially legalizing murder, Blackmun made the following observation: "[Texas] argues that the fetus is a 'person' within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment … if this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case (or Roe's case) collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed by the 14th Amendment."

In other words, if Blackmun had accepted the fact that an unborn child was a "person," he would have been prevented by the due-process clause from giving an almost-absolute veto to mothers (which is the essential holding in Roe). But he got around that sticky issue by simply refusing to recognize the humanity of the unborn child. The rest was easy: no person, no murder, no problem.

Abortion advocates were delighted, because Blackmun had just removed the only legitimate obstacle between a woman's desires and a child's right to be born. And the true damage of Roe was not in the decision itself, but in the arrogance it bred in abortion supporters. Even though the states were graciously permitted to enact some "limits" to a woman's newfound "right to choose" (oh, how I detest that euphemism), this seminal Supreme Court decision allowed Americans to start thinking about unborn babies as the chattel of their mothers.

Unclothed, unborn, and unprotected. Sounds vagely familiar, doesn't it?

And it's become a very powerful assumption in society. Women have grown up for the past four decades believing that they have the right to determine their autonomy regardless of the rights of their unborn children. They have been able to do this because Justice Blackmun told them that their children were not human. And when you hear something long enough, and want to believe it, it becomes the de facto truth.

But now, some people are beginning to challenge that "truth."

First came the realization that certain forms of late-term abortion are so gruesome and brutal that they should be banned. And the Supreme Court did just that, in 2006.

At the same time, we started to see laws that made murdering a pregnant woman a dual-victim offense. In other words, that unborn child in the murdered mother's womb becomes a "person," even if only to be used to get a killer like Scott Peterson the death sentence.

And then there were states like good old Pennsylvania that passed laws requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion. Feminists were outraged at this invasion of privacy, after four decades of being told that their wombs were off-limits. This is where Roe's insidious influence is really felt. Women truly believe that since that thing in their bodies is theirs to control because it's not a "person," any infringement on their autonomy is an assault. Some even call it rape.

Fortunately, not everyone agrees. Nebraska recently passed a law that would provide prenatal care to all pregnant women, regardless of immigrant status. That means that even illegal aliens who were pregnant were entitled to that care. The governor of Nebraska didn't like that at all, and so he vetoed the bill, saying that "providing preferential treatment to illegals while increasing taxes on legal Nebraska citizens is misguided, misplaced and inappropriate." He was basing his decision on another law, which prevented benefits from going to illegal aliens.

But something interesting happened. The pro-life forces managed to overcome the anti-immigrant sentiment expressed by the governor, and came out with this brilliant legal solution: The legislature ruled that "unborn children do not have immigration status."

Those opposed to illegal immigration will surely find this to be a ridiculous legal boondoggle. Frankly, I don't care.

Life is sacred, whether in the form of a confused Supreme Court justice or an unborn immigrant child. n

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Send email to cflowers1961@gmail.com, and read her blog at philly.com/philly/blogs/flowersshow.