Letter to the editor: A closer look at Texas law

To the editor:

The Fugitive Slave Act empowered Southern slave chasers when they went North, hunting slaves. The law imposed $1,000 fines ($31,000 today) on people who refused to help arrest fugitive slaves. Persons accused of being fugitive slaves had to be arrested, the only requirement being a sworn statement of ownership from the bounty hunter — true or false/right or wrong. The silver lining was the law pushed Northerners toward the abolition of slavery.

Today, in Texas, anyone can sue anyone for helping a woman get an abortion. They get a $10,000 bounty. The chilling effect on physicians is obvious. But look more closely.

How can someone, a stranger, know the length of gestation? Medical records, of course. There goes HPPA. They might also want to know when the woman had sex and maybe with whom? Like those slave chasers, they’ll only need to make the claim — true or false/right or wrong. Was it 43 days or only 42?

And, how about you and me? Can I give a woman a ride to a doctor’s office? How about talking to her about her choices? Can I tell her what I think, or should I play it safe? Maybe the best way to stay out of trouble is join the bounty hunters. Being accused, just hiring a lawyer, is an expensive proposition.

Scarier yet, what’s next? There are other sins that’ll need saving. There’s always hope for a silver lining, but it might be better if we make ourselves heard, loudly exercising the power of democracy.

William Skepnek,



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