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‘Handmaid’s Tale’ comes close to reality

May 23, 2019

Abortion, meaning termination of pregnancy, has been present since recorded history. It is again a major political issue in this country.

The current dominant Republican view of abortion reflects times past, particularly when the nation was a totally male-dominated society. It is for this reason that Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” seems so appropriate to relate to our politicians’ demand for the end of all legal abortion.

For the record, I haven’t read this novel and don’t plan to; I became familiar with it by using printed synopses such as CliffsNotes. This book, written over 30 years ago, takes place in the United States after a rebellion in which a totalitarian state is formed. It focuses on females’ loss of self-determination and their subjugation to males. Women are no longer permitted to own property or make financial decisions, but they are needed and used for procreation.

The book’s message is somewhat eerie considering the political atmosphere in our country today, which is reminiscent of “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s “1984.” When that book was written, in 1954, who could have imagined that social media and governments could so easily influence and control our daily functioning today?

America’s current political structure wants to rule that women can have little to no control over their bodies. If females are forced into sex by rapists or incestuous kin and a pregnancy results, they must give birth, raise and support that child. It doesn’t matter if the female is 10 or 50 years old or a virgin. The male? No responsibilities for him. Consider the dismal status of “rape kits” in our country. The fictional “Handmaid’s Tale” is now too close to reality.

Our country is returning to the early 1900s male-dominant procreation mentality. Abortions were illegal then but occurring with great frequency in back alleys with terrible results. It wasn’t until the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut case that it was ruled legal for married couples to obtain birth control. Not until 1972 did the Supreme Court rule, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, that unmarried people also had a right to birth control.

With Alabama’s governor signing the near-total abortion ban and stating that “every life is precious,” one must wonder what happens when babies grow up. After all, in the same week, CBS and NPR reported that courts ruled that treatment of Alabama prisoners was “unconstitutional” and “horribly inadequate.” Obviously, those grown-up Alabama lives are no longer “precious.”

Those who adamantly oppose all abortions love embryos and fetuses but care little about pregnant women or their children. Our nation has millions of children in and needing decent foster homes, suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), lacking adequate food and health care, and yet we insist that from the minute following intercourse any female who becomes pregnant in any situation must have and raise that child.

Outlawing abortion has never worked. The rich, educated and powerful find places near or far for safe and effective abortions. The poor and uneducated are left to have more children or seek illegal and dangerous abortions.

Abortions are not ideal. Rather, education about free and easily available birth control is the way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, though in cases of rape and incest that is useless.

In the meantime, our government is working, state by state, to make sure that back-alley abortions regain popularity and poor women have no choice in this matter. Unless women fight for control of their bodies, the fictional “Handmaid’s Tale” may become reality.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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