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The Origins of Blaming Women for Household ‘Crimes’

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On Wednesday, a Texas law banning most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo (in most cases at six weeks) went into effect. The law is highly controversial and means that Texas now joins Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio as one of a growing number of states with “heartbeat” laws. Texas is the only state, however, whose legislation has not been delayed by legal challenges. Part of the reason for this is that the new legislation bars state officials from enforcing it. Instead, it deputizes private citizens who can sue anyone who performs or “aids and abets” the performance of a termination. Uninterested civilians can win legal costs plus up to $10,000 if they win.

The legislation has elicited strong reactions from those who support abortions rights and a women’s right to choose. There are, additionally, legal observers concerned about the unusual manner in which abortion will be targeted. Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, has set up a “whistleblower” website where people can submit tips about those they believe have violated the legislation. A spokesperson for Texas Right to life told NPR that “These lawsuits are not against the women…[they]would be against the individuals making money off of the abortion, the abortion industry itself.” While many would contest whether or not the legislation is about women, it is striking that accountability is being assigned to third parties: doctors, nurses, volunteers, and even Uber drivers.

This is not the first time in history that culpability for abortion has shifted. Around the turn of the Common Era the Roman Emperor Augustus introduced moral legislation designed, among other things, to encourage marriage and childbearing among Roman elites. The legislation required citizens to marry and prohibited cross-class marriage. The descendants of senators were prohibited from marrying freedwomen (formerly enslaved........

© The Daily Beast

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