On Friday, writing for The Atlantic, Canadian author Margaret Atwood — author of the patriarchal dystopia "The Handmaid's Tale" — said that the Supreme Court's impending decision to strike down Roe v. Wade creates the nightmarish world she was depicting.
"In the fictional theocracy of Gilead, women had very few rights, as in 17th-century New England," wrote Atwood. "The Bible was cherry-picked, with the cherries being interpreted literally. Based on the reproductive arrangements in Genesis — specifically, those of the family of Jacob — the wives of high-ranking patriarchs could have female slaves, or 'handmaids,' and those wives could tell their husbands to have children by the handmaids and then claim the children as theirs."
Atwood went on to reveal that she actually stopped writing the novel multiple times because she considered its premise to be too extreme to be taken seriously.
"Silly me," she commented. "Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them? For instance: It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not 'deeply rooted' in our 'history and tradition.'"
This argument, noted Atwood, is only true because the original Constitution didn't mention women or protect women's rights in any form — not even being given the franchise until the 19th Amendment's passage in the early 20th century.
"Women were nonpersons in U.S. law for a lot longer than they have been persons," wrote Atwood. "If we start overthrowing settled law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal votes for women?"
Moreover, she noted, the time period Alito calls back to featured witch trials, where women were powerless to prove their innocence — something that would, in effect, come back with accusations of illegal abortions.
"If Justice Alito wants you to be governed by the laws of the 17th century, you should take a close look at that century," Atwood concluded. "Is that when you want to live?"
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