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  • Wendy Sibbison

The Fifth Circuit, Maps, and the Bible.

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

Yesterday, after I read about the Fifth Circuit’s order freeing Texan bounty-hunters to do their dirty work, a little map of the Fifth Circuit appeared in my legal head. What follows is based primarily on a coincidence of geography and of theological justifications for controlling other people's bodies. I'm not trying to prove anything. These are just observations. They're probably so obvious as to be non-controversial. Call it a rant.


It occurred to me that many of the states still fighting to control the bodies of people with uteruses are among the states that fought the longest to control the bodies of Black people. And what really fries my bacon is that, both in the past and the present, the loudest voices clamoring for control over those bodies invoke Christian theology to justify that control.


White slaveowners’ reason for owning slaves was profit, but they scoured the Bible for proof that God and Jesus were gung-ho on slavery and actually wanted them to own and use Black bodies as they pleased, for their own gain. “Christianity was proslavery,” said Yolanda Pierce, the dean of the divinity school at Howard University. “So much of early American Christian identity is predicated on a proslavery theology." These are the people who kept slavery going as long as they could.


Today, the Christians who carry around fetus pictures scour the Bible for proof that, according to divine pronouncement, 1) a fertilized egg is a full-fledged baby with greater rights than the adult human who carries it and 2) people with penises are the masters of people with uteruses, who must be forced to have babies against their will. These are the people who elect abortion ban legislators. These are the people controlling women's bodies as long as they can.

Of course I'm not talking about all Christians--far from it. Nor are these hateful ideas confined to the South. Misogyny and racism have no geographic boundaries.


Still, I'm thinking today about two maps. Here's one showing the states of the Fifth Circuit that stayed Judge Pitman's order.


And here's one showing the slave states at the start of the Civil War.



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