Margaret Atwood is a celebrated, Canadian, dystopian author. One of her most famous works, The Handmaid’s Tale, outlines a terrifying future where women are property of the theocratic government composed entirely of men. They aren’t allowed to hold jobs or positions of power, and their lives are dedicated to serving the needs and desires of men, according to religious doctrine (of course). Serving these desires consists, at least for the main character, Offred, of acting as servant and concubine for a prominent and wealthy but infertile, older couple.
Offred is afforded little luxury and absolutely no freedom. She, legally, must follow the rules of the house as set forth by the Commander. A major part of her bizarre life is a ritual referred to as “the Gathering,” where the household gathers to pray and then Offred, the Commander’s wife and the Commander abdicate to the bedroom so that Offred and the Commander can have sex, with the intention of producing offspring. Possibly the most bizarre part of this ritual is the description of Offred laying between the legs of the Commander’s wife, holding her hands, while the Commander has sex with her lower body.
Ok, so you’re thinking, “that’s a really crazy book, but what does this have to do with abortion?” Well, that’s sort of the whole point. Women don’t have control over anything in this dystopian future, least of all their bodies. And this may sound like a dramatization on my part, but, if we elect officials like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell, this is the future we are choosing. The worst irony is that, in the future that we may be choosing, women are doing these horrible things to other women. Don’t want the freedom to marry who you would like to marry, elect Sarah Palin. Let’s go a step further, and elect Christine O’Donnell, and your freedom to masturbate in the privacy of your own home is at stake. In a world where masturbation is an illegal activity, can you imagine what the punishment for having an abortion would be?
In Atwood’s universe, the punishment for an infraction is death by hanging, or firing squad, or stoning. For us, who knows what it might be? What I do know is that this terrifying future is not that far out of the realm of possibility. Women’s rights are being attacked and, gradually, being limited. If we elect officials who hold ridiculously narrow and uncompromising views of the world, this is the future that we are inviting.