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FAIRFAX COUNTY (LifeSiteNews) — A judge presiding over a custody dispute involving frozen embryos drew a chilling parallel to the days of slavery in his deliberations, inadvertently highlighting the dark history of legally devaluing human life.

Newsmax reports that the case concerns Honeyhline Heidemann, who wants to implant frozen embryos created with her ex-husband, Jason Heidemann, who objects on the grounds that it “would force [him] to procreate against his wishes and therefore violate his constitutional right to procreational autonomy.”

Mrs. Heidemann contends that implantation is her only means of having children because cancer treatments left her infertile, her ex-husband would not be obligated to parent the children, and that the couple had agreed in writing that the embryos were “property” to be dispensed through the separation process.

This week, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard Gardiner issued a preliminary opinion on one of the arguments. Though initially siding with the ex-husband, Gardiner was persuaded by the ex-wife’s argument that a Civil War-era law governing the division of “goods and chattels” had once applied to human slaves. “As there is no prohibition on the sale of human embryos, they may be valued and sold, and thus may be considered ‘goods or chattels,’” he said.

The judge’s opinion was “repulsive” and “morally repugnant” according to Susan Crockin of Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and troubling and baffling according to Old Dominion Bar Association president Solomon Ashby.

Still, the opinion highlights a historical connection between legal abortion and legal slavery, the parallels between which extend well beyond the obvious.

Both practices denied the equality and humanity of an entire class of people in order to violate their fundamental rights (slaves on the basis of race; the preborn on the basis of developmental stage); both were sustained by intensely controversial Supreme Court rulings (Roe v. Wade; Dred Scott v. Sandford); and both even rested on similar arguments about personal freedom, America’s founding principles, and human progress.

The case also highlights the ethical perils of embryo-freezing and in-vitro fertilization, through which scores of “excess” embryonic humans are conceived only to be killed and human lives are treated like commodities to be bartered over.