You Want A Fugitive Uterus Act? Missouri Will Give You A Fugitive Uterus Act
We’re described Texas’s grotesque abortion ban as a Fugitive Uterus Act, and unfortunately, our gallows humor proved prescient. Republican state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman has introduced a provision to her state’s own gross-ass abortion laws. It would reportedly allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion out of state. This is Coleman’s deranged response to the thousands of pregnant Missourians who traveled to Illinois, which is just a few hours and several centuries way, to exercise their constitutional rights. In 2019, Missouri passed its lunatic abortion ban after eight weeks with no exceptions for rape, incest, or humanity.
The trend has been apparent in Texas, where the majority of people seeking abortions since the state’s six-week abortion ban took effect in September have been able to obtain the procedure at clinics in neighboring states, or by ordering abortion pills in the mail, according to a report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. Demand for abortions has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and other nearby states. Planned Parenthood clinics in states that border Texas reported that patient traffic increased by nearly 800 percent, and independent providers reported comparable increases.
If or perhaps when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, it was assumed that people would leave their oppressive states and seek abortions elsewhere. Too many supposedly liberal men made this argument when downplaying the loss of Roe and the increase in state-level abortion bans. However, anti-abortion extremists will never be satisfied with these terms. They can’t stand anyone exercising their freedom anywhere.
Private citizens from the state of Washington have better claim to sue freeloaders who move to Vancouver to avoid paying income tax but then drive 20 minutes into Portland, Oregon, to do all their shopping sales tax free. Obviously, no private citizen is personally impacted financially or otherwise if someone helps another person cross state lines to do something that’s perfectly legal there. Nevada border towns have historically prospered thanks to Utah-based gamblers.
Coleman is a lawyer, but there’s no legal precedent or logic behind her actions. Still, we’re beyond expecting any sort of ideological consistency from the Trumped-up Supreme Court. The GOP-controlled Idaho legislature overwhelmingly passed a law that would not only make providing gender-affirming care to trans teens a felony punishable with up to life in prison. It also criminalizes leaving the state with your trans teen so they can receive care.
As writer and activist Lauren Rankin observed, the Idaho and Missouri laws are about “eradicating liberty and bodily autonomy for the marginalized."
Missouri is currently considering a bill that would criminalize leaving the state for abortion care, too. Anti-trans and anti-abortion legislation are two sides of the same coin: eradicating liberty and bodily autonomy for the marginalized.https://twitter.com/ErinInTheMorn/status/1501314842992467975\u00a0\u2026— Lauren Rankin (@Lauren Rankin) 1646779715
Now, let’s talk about the original, horrible Fugitive Slave Act.
Republican-run states probably won’t teach this because of all the hurt white fee-fees, but the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required that enslaved people in a free state must be returned to their captors. Officials and citizens of free states were legally obligated to cooperate. Anyone who refused to get blood on their hands was fined $1,000, or $31,110 in today’s money.
The act also made the federal government responsible for finding, returning, and trying Black people who’d escaped bondage. So much for Confederate apologists' supposed “states’ right” defense of the Civil War. The Southern states needed and demanded federal assistance in maintaining slavery.
Here’s the sickest part: A white person’s sworn testimony of “ownership” was sufficient to arrest someone on suspicion of escaping enslavement. Habeas corpus was dead and buried. These hearings had no jury and the "alleged refugee" couldn’t testify. Worse, the commissioner who oversaw the hearing received $10 ($360 in today’s money) if he found the accused guilty of fugitive slaving but only $5 ($180) if he didn’t. Those found guilty of aiding a fugitive were fined $1,000 and could spend six months in prison. Cops who captured accused fugitives were entitled to a bonus or a promotion, so not much has changed there.
The act was yet another shot in the War of Southern Aggression. The enslavers’ objective was clear: No state in the US could offer enslaved people freedom or peace. In practice, there were no free states, a horrifying reality that the Supreme Court would reinforce in its 1857 Dred Scott ruling.
Abolitionists called the Fugitive Slave Act the "Bloodhound Bill" after the dogs that were used to track down people fleeing enslavement. If you’re hunting down other humans with goddamn bloodhounds, you’re barely human yourself and don’t get to hide behind “the standards of the time.” The act demonstrates the extent to which the South wanted to impose its will on Black people and the Americans who willingly chose not to enslave humans and dared help them escape bondage. No one was safe from the South’s tyranny.
The Fugitive Slave Act accelerated the nation’s growing polarization over slavery and was one of the primary factors that led to the Civil War. We’re seeing history repeat itself.
Liberals can sometimes glibly suggest that the marginalized should simply leave Republican-dominated states. I hope now everyone can appreciate how pointless that is. We must stand and fight everywhere before there’s nowhere left to fight.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."