♫ I left my home in Norfolk, Virginia
California on my mind ♫
— This Mother’s Day, get them a gift you know they can use. Send them a Drinking Gourd.1
Content Advisory: Readers will know the history recounted below. Uvular wants to caveat the content regardless. Much of the subsequent analysis and analogizing presents as hyperbole. Uvular will endeavor to show otherwise. Additionally, the past and ongoing stories belong to communities among which Uvular can never claim membership. He accepts responsibility for each instance of unwelcome appropriation and apologizes upfront for every slighting of harmed individuals’ experiences. Expect few jokes.
Your overly credentialed Weekend Politics Thread host wrote his undergraduate U.S. history thesis on the evils of forcibly separating enslaved people from their families. He relied on the woefully underutilized Slave Narratives2 to tell the terrible tale of children ripped away from parents in the pursuit of profits. Using victims’ own words, he wrote of the psychological terror and emotional trauma resulting from making people, rather than cotton or tobacco, the actual cash crop of the Antebellum South between 1808 and 1865.3
Given a second run at the report, Uvular would add many details about how slaveowners ensured a steady supply of enslaved persons to offer for purchase. Rape perpetuated the practice of slavery as both a means of control and a way to feed the market for bodies.
Enslaved people who could become pregnant had no legal or, often, physical way to deter sexual assaults. And make no mistake, every sexual act between an enslaved person and an owner, overseer or “assigned” partner constituted a rape. Allow no dishonest historian or Margarets Mitchell to contend otherwise.
Once pregnant, an enslaved person faced severe punishments for attempting to abort the fetus. Pleas to keep resulting families together availed nothing. Consequently, many Black Americans spent the too-brief Reconstruction Era searching for husbands, wives, siblings, sons, and daughters—usually and sadly with little success.
Knowledge of violative and violent impregnations, forced births, and family destructions informed the drafting, adoption and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Go here for exhaustive details or read about it in the context of a broader analysis of what the U.S. Constitution really intends for family values.4
The promised and delivered reversal of Roe v. Wade has Uvular more than worried about a broader project to negate the Thirteenth Amendment’s guarantee that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Damn that subordinate clause enabling Jim Crow, mass incarceration, and un- and barely compensated prisoner labor. Damn it straight to Hell. Focus instead on what constituted conditions of slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States and crosswalk those reprehensible realities with the results of rescinding Roe’s promise of accessing reproductive health care.
- Government-sanctioned rape? Check, in states that provide no exceptions to bans on abortion.
- Severe penalties for seeking an abortion? Check, in states that define abortion as manslaughter and consider even miscarriages homicide.
- Separation of families? Check, every time a lawmaker, judge, pastor, or antichoice activist smarmily spews sanctimony over safe havens and adoption constituting the only options for unwanted or unsupportable births.
- Baby and child sales? Check, when people salivate over growth in the domestic supply of infants.
One need not look far to also find shocking examples of Republican-led states reducing people who become pregnant to nothing more than wombs containing much more valuable lives. Texas and its literally felonious Attorney General Ken Paxton just sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services demanding the right to watch preteens, teens, and adults die instead of complying with rules requiring lifesaving interventions for common and easily resolved conditions such as ectopic pregnancies.
Going Back to the Fifties … the 1850s
That same “let God sort ‘em out” perversion infects rightwingers on Capitol Hill. While filing to filibuster the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said the bill aimed primarily at allowing impregnated people to cross state lines without getting arrested “is not just about the right to travel and the right to health care it’s deeper than that, it’s the right to live.”
Yes, you read that correctly. According to Lankford, people who become pregnant have no right to live if the fetus does not also survive. Pregnancy becomes a death sentence once you commit to a purportedly pro-life philosophy.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives5 did pass a version of a law protecting border-crossing pregnant people and reproductive health care providers from prosecution. The legislation will not make it to a vote in the Senate. Instead of lamenting that, though, think about what needing a freedom to travel law means.
Republicans have rolled back the culture clock to Dred Scott. A pregnant person in Missouri has no rights that clinics and hospitals in Illinois must respect. In Texas, under SB 8, vigilantes receive incentives for suing anyone involved in the termination of pregnancy that has proceeded past six weeks. Add those current realities to the seeming inevitability of the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that each state must enforce every other state’s abortion bans and travel restrictions, and it takes no imagination to see a reauthorization of the Fugitive Slave Act.
At the same time, potential lives increasingly receive protections denied living people. A judge in Arizona recognized the establishment of a “fetal estate” for an embryo aborted at seven weeks of gestation. That permits the sperm deliverer to sue his ex-partner for wrongful death damages. Forget the truth that the embryo never lived, the individual who exercised bodily autonomy—the living person who refused to take on the unwelcome, uncompensated, and, in light of this harassing lawsuit, likely physically and emotionally unsafe labor—deserve fiscal punishment. Expect courts to authorize post facto criminal consequences soon.
Where does it all end? Fuck if Uvular knows. Share your ideas for preventing the plunge into Perdition below.
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