The author of The Handmaid's Tale says her dystopian story of a world in which women are forced to become pregnant and give birth is coming to life as evidenced by the Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. In a piece at the Atlantic, Margaret Atwood writes that she almost gave up on what became the hit novel, a story centered around a future theocratic dictatorship "based on 17th-century New England Puritan religious tenets and jurisprudence." The reason: "I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me," the Canadian poet and author writes, noting such a world is exactly where Justice Samuel Alito's draft opinion looks to be leading the country.
It "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.' True enough," Atwood writes. But neither are rights for women. For much of US history, women (also unmentioned in the original Constitution) were to be represented or governed "only by proxy, through their fathers or husbands." Until gaining the right to vote in 1920, "women could neither consent nor withhold consent." So under Alito's arguments, "why not repeal votes for women?" she asks. Or why not conclude women's reproductive organs belong to the state, she asks. After all, the Supreme Court's 1927 Buck v. Bell decision "held that the state may sterilize people without their consent."
This isn't the only slippery slope Atwood sees. "Should the Alito opinion become the newly settled law, the United States looks to be well on the way to establishing a state religion," forbidden by the First Amendment, she writes. To claim a life is born at conception "depends on a religious belief—namely, the belief in souls," she writes. "Not everyone shares such a belief. But all, it appears, now risk being subjected to laws formulated by those who do," she continues. "That which is a sin within a certain set of religious beliefs is to be made a crime for all." Read the full piece here. (Read more Margaret Atwood stories.)