Historian suggests Fugitive Slave Act closest historical analogy to Texas abortion law

·1 min read

Historian Joshua Zeitz tweeted Friday night that he was asked earlier this week whether there was a historical precedent for Texas' restrictive new law, which allows private citizens to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers and anyone else who may have helped a woman obtain an abortion.

The closest thing he could think of, he said, was the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Zeitz's reasoning is that the law "required state and local officials to arrest alleged runaways on the simple say-so of a bounty hunter and criminalized interference with these abductions." He explained that the law "incentivized the abduction of free Black people, turned all Black people in free states into bounty, and compelled uncooperating white people to become agents of state brutality."

Zeitz acknowledged that the two laws aren't perfectly analogous, but he does believe the Texas abortion ban could similarly encourage a vigilante culture against women and doctors. Read Zeitz's entire thread here.

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