By: Dani Langevin – 10/22
In 1868, the United States government issued the Fugitive Slave Acts. With the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the attack on women’s rights, America is regressing to that era. Let’s breakdown the Fugitive Slave Acts in comparison to what many states are doing when it comes to women’s rights.
The Fugitive Slave Acts (FSA) were passed to placate the slave owners of the south. The regional split between the North and South was growing larger when it came to the question of slavery. New laws would not allow slave owners to move to new states because these new states did not allow slavery. Southerners saw this as an infringement on their right to own property. In my opinion, those who do not support a woman’s right to choose, see abortion as an infringement on their right to own women and anything they produce. Many southerners/Christians wouldn’t allow Black Americans autonomy and now they will not allow it for American women. Being a pregnant woman today smacks of reproductive slavery.
The FSA mandated that any runaway slave be returned to their owner. There are many states that are trying to make it illegal for a woman to leave their state where lifesaving medical treatment is illegal and travel to where it is not. Charges can be brought against them and anyone who helps them. Just like what would happen if a slave ran away, and someone helped them. There were no legal protections for anyone who escaped or helped an escaped enslaved person and now there may be none for women and those who help her receive necessary, life-saving, medical attention. I’m sure you heard of the young pregnant woman who was not allowed to terminate her pregnancy after finding out that her baby would have no head. As she said, she was being forced to, “…carry her baby to bury her baby.” America! We can do better.
Another part of the FSA is that the fugitives had no legal right to defend themselves. They weren’t allowed to testify on their behalf. Have you heard of the 16-year-old girl who does not have any legal guardians and is not allowed to get an abortion because she’s not mature enough to make that decision? Seeing any similarities? Many free African Americans were returned to the South but, because they couldn’t testify on their behalf, they could not explain that they were not enslaved, nor have they ever been enslaved and, therefore, they were then enslaved. That 16-year-old girl is basically being subjected to the same illawful enslavement. Let’s not forget about the 10-year-old who was raped by a family member and wasn’t believed when it was revealed she was pregnant. It’s much like a free person being told they’re not free when they most certainly are.
Citizens who assisted slaves or did not turn them in or help in their recapture when they could have, were fined, or jailed. In “trigger law” states, Citizens who help a woman get medical assistance can be fined or jailed or they will be rewarded for turning them in. It kind of reminds me of Nazi Germany when neighbors were peeking through keyholes and curtains, turning in their neighbors for possible subversive behavior. This is the America that is being sowed.
The Fugitive Slave Acts only had the white slave owner in mind and not the enslaved. The reversal of Roe v. Wade and the attack on women’s reproductive rights only have men and the fetus (a non-citizen) in mind and not that of the woman inflicted. FSA ignored the humanity of the enslaved, as well as the compassion and empathy of those trying to help them gain independence, autonomy and the freedoms that our Constitution promises but wholly denies. Our founding document promises freedom and justice for all, but America has built itself on denying and depriving the majority of its citizens these rights over the profit of a few. Frederick Douglas summed it up best when he said, “For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”
You cannot say that these are different cases. With the Fugitive Slave Acts, our government forced humans into slavery. They forced others into treating a whole culture of people as subhuman.
They were considered property to buy, sell, rape, beat and murder at the discretion of a white owner. The reversal of Roe v. Wade is forcing Americans to treat half of its citizens (women) into being property for the sole purpose of reproduction.
Many Christians didn’t care about the life of the enslaved and now, some don’t care about the life of a pregnant woman. White slave owners were looking to maintain power and control and now certain religious factions are forcing women to give birth so they can keep power and control over them. This has nothing to do with saving lives and everything to do with complete indoctrination and power. ◊