Monday, April 2, 2012

Linking Abortion to Sex Slavery

"Help! Come and see the violence inherent in the System! The Man has TOTALLY got me down!" Image source:

I think we can all agree that my flying monkeys have been hauling in some weird shit of late. And today's post is no exception: some femininsts are advancing the argument that the best way to defend abortion rights is to argue that the people who are advocating against abortion are attempting to continue the enslavement of (especially black) women from the days of slavery, and detailed by this article on The Nation's website.

I'd advise reading the article for the best understanding the argument, but to summarize: author JoAnn Wypijewski talks about the work of Professor Pamela Bridgewater, who has done a lot of historical research on slavery and discovered quite a few facts, like the fact that female slaves outnumbered male slaves two to one in the slavery era and for good reason: they were the preferred gender, being the gender that could produce more slaves. Allow me to quote:
We don’t commonly recognize that American slaveholders supported closing the trans-Atlantic slave trade; that they did so to protect the domestic market, boosting their own nascent breeding operation. Women were the primary focus: their bodies, their “stock,” their reproductive capacity, their issue. Planters advertised for them in the same way as they did for breeding cows or mares, in farm magazines and catalogs. They shared tips with one another on how to get maximum value out of their breeders

Now here comes the legal angle: when the 13th Amendment was passed, prohibiting slavery, the American courts ruled in a succession of cases that the Amendment also prohibited slavery's "badges and incidents," i.e., all the things that went along with slavery. So since inhibiting a woman's reproductive freedom was definitely an essential elements of slavery ... and the history is quite clear on this point ... then inhibiting a woman's reproductive freedom is illegal under the 13th Amendment.

It's a really nifty legal argument, linking the Civil Rights struggle for black women with the struggle of women generally to control their reproductive destinies. I personally doubt it would fly with the present Supreme Court, because although legal types LURVE a good, solid legal argument, my cynical self suspects that they tend to be more swayed by legal arguments that are in line with their personal belief systems ... and it's not for no reason that Republican presidents have nominated four successive middle aged white Catholic men to the Supreme Court.

"We've come a long way, baby!" Or ... not ... Rihanna in bondage for her video S&M.

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