I INVENTED GILEAD. THE SUPREME COURT IS MAKING IT REAL.

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  hallux  •  one week ago  •  34 comments

By:   Margaret Atwood - The Atlantic

I INVENTED GILEAD. THE SUPREME COURT IS MAKING IT REAL.
I thought I was writing fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



In the early years of the 1980s, I was fooling around with a novel that explored a future in which the United States had become disunited. Part of it had turned into a theocratic dictatorship based on 17th-century New England Puritan religious tenets and jurisprudence. I set this novel in and around Harvard University—an institution that in the 1980s was renowned for its liberalism, but that had begun three centuries earlier chiefly as a training college for Puritan clergy.

In the fictional theocracy of Gilead, women had very few rights, as in 17th-century New England. 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.

Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. 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.” True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all.

Women were deliberately excluded from the franchise. Although one of the slogans of the Revolutionary War of 1776 was “No taxation without representation,” and government by consent of the governed was also held to be a good thing, women were not to be represented or governed by their own consent—only by proxy, through their fathers or husbands. Women could neither consent nor withhold consent, because they could not vote. That remained the case until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, an amendment that many strongly opposed as being against the original Constitution. As it was.

Women were nonpersons in U.S. law for a lot longer than they have been persons. If we start overthrowing settled law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal votes for women?

Reproductive rights have been the focus of the recent fracas, but only one side of the coin has been visible: the right to abstain from giving birth. The other side of that coin is the power of the state to prevent you from reproducing. The Supreme Court’s 1927 Buck v. Bell decision held that the state may sterilize people without their consent. Although the decision was nullified by subsequent cases, and state laws that permitted large-scale sterilization have been repealed, Buck v. Bell is still on the books. This kind of eugenicist thinking was once regarded as “progressive,” and some 70,000 sterilizations—of both males and females, but mostly of females—took place in the United States. Thus a “deeply rooted” tradition is that women’s reproductive organs do not belong to the women who possess them. They belong only to the state.

Wait, you say: It’s not about the organs; it’s about the babies. Which raises some questions. Is an acorn an oak tree? Is a hen’s egg a chicken? When does a fertilized human egg become a full human being or person? “Our” traditions—let’s say those of the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the early Christians—have vacillated on this subject. At “conception”? At “heartbeat”? At “quickening?” The hard line of today’s anti-abortion activists is at “conception,” which is now supposed to be the moment at which a cluster of cells becomes “ensouled.” But any such judgment depends on a religious belief—namely, the belief in souls. Not everyone shares such a belief. But all, it appears, now risk being subjected to laws formulated by those who do. That which is a sin within a certain set of religious beliefs is to be made a crime for all.

Let’s look at the First Amendment. It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The writers of the Constitution, being well aware of the murderous religious wars that had torn Europe apart ever since the rise of Protestantism, wished to avoid that particular death trap. There was to be no state religion. Nor was anyone to be prevented by the state from practicing his or her chosen religion.

It ought to be simple: If you believe in “ensoulment” at conception, you should not get an abortion, because to do so is a sin within your religion. If you do not so believe, you should not—under the Constitution—be bound by the religious beliefs of others. But should the Alito opinion become the newly settled law, the United States looks to be well on the way to establishing a state religion. Massachusetts had an official religion in the 17th century. In adherence to it, the Puritans hanged Quakers.

The Alito opinion purports to be based on America’s Constitution. But it relies on English jurisprudence from the 17th century, a time when a belief in witchcraft caused the death of many innocent people. The Salem witchcraft trials were trials—they had judges and juries—but they accepted “spectral evidence,” in the belief that a witch could send her double, or specter, out into the world to do mischief. Thus, if you were sound asleep in bed, with many witnesses, but someone reported you supposedly doing sinister things to a cow several miles away, you were guilty of witchcraft. You had no way of proving otherwise.

Similarly, it will be very difficult to disprove a false accusation of abortion. The mere fact of a miscarriage, or a claim by a disgruntled former partner, will easily brand you a murderer. Revenge and spite charges will proliferate, as did arraignments for witchcraft 500 years ago.

If Justice Alito wants you to be governed by the laws of the 17th century, you should take a close look at that century. Is that when you want to live?


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Hallux
Sophomore Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    one week ago

Deaf ears will only see her lips moving.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2  Ender    one week ago

The republicans are the culture wars. Anything and everything they deem that goes against their religion is fair game.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3  Sean Treacy    one week ago

Charles Cooke offers a masters class in Fisking:

The only explanation I can come up with for how something   this profoundly illiterate   was published in the pages of the   Atlantic   is that the editors wanted the byline “Margaret Atwood” so much that they were prepared to let the author embarrass herself to any degree in order to obtain it.
Riffing off of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade , Atwood asks:

          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?

What is to prevent the United States from becoming “a theocratic dictatorship”?

Nothing, I guess — other than that there’s no appetite for the United States to become a theocratic dictatorship; that the case against Roe is legal, not theological; that the case against abortion isn’t theological, either; and that the explicit text of the U.S. Constitution — not contrived, cynical, extraconstitutional nonsense cases such as Roe and Casey , but the explicit text of the U.S. Constitution — renders such a system illegal in every way imaginable. From separation of powers to free speech to due process to the establishment of religion to the guarantee of a republican form of government to the scheduling of elections to term limits, the Constitution flatly bars such an outcome. And nobody — nobody — on the Supreme Court has questioned a single one of the provisions that guarantee it....

Atwood then falls into the classic First Amendment trap that is the favorite of semi-informed commentators everywhere. She writes:

The hard line of today’s anti-abortion activists is at “conception,” which is now supposed to be the moment at which a cluster of cells becomes “ensouled.” But any such judgment depends on a religious belief—namely, the belief in souls. Not everyone shares such a belief. But all, it appears, now risk being subjected to laws formulated by those who do. That which is a sin within a certain set of religious beliefs is to be made a crime for all.

First off, this isn’t true. I believe that life begins at conception, and I don’t believe in God or in the soul. There are many others like me. Second, it is telling that Atwood can only hint at the idea that there is a First Amendment problem here, rather than defend it with reference to the Constitution’s text. Vaguely, Atwood suggests that

the writers of the Constitution, being well aware of the murderous religious wars that had torn Europe apart ever since the rise of Protestantism, wished to avoid that particular death trap. There was to be no state religion. Nor was anyone to be prevented by the state from practicing his or her chosen religion.

This is true. But it’s also irrelevant, because the Supreme Court’s declining to pretend that the Constitution protects abortion neither creates a “state religion” nor prevents anyone from “practicing his or her chosen religion.” Unless Atwood believes that the First Amendment prohibits religious people from taking part in lawmaking entirely — and if she does, she ought to say so — it’s hard to see the relevance of any of this to the matter at hand.

The whole thing is worth reading. She's way over her depth.

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/margaret-atwood-profoundly-embarrasses-herself-in-the-atlantic/?utm_source=blog-landing&utm_medium=desktop&utm_campaign=continue-reading

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
3.1  Ender  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    one week ago

Just because one nut believes life starts at conception does not make it true.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Ender @3.1    one week ago
nut believes life starts at conception does not make it true.

Life obviously begins at conception. That's science.  

Everything else is magical thinking.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
3.1.2  Ender  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    one week ago

By that thinking a sperm is a living being. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.3  Sean Treacy  replied to  Ender @3.1.2    one week ago
y that thinking a sperm is a living being

Not at all. You should study your biology.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
3.1.4  Ender  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.3    one week ago

So a sperm is not a living thing?

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.5  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    one week ago
Life obviously begins at conception. That's science.  

You can argue that life begins at conception, but not personhood. There is no fully developed nervous system, which at conception, and about 4-5 months, does not exist, and that is also science.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.6  Sean Treacy  replied to  Ender @3.1.4    one week ago
So a sperm is not a living thing?

Why would you imagine a sperm is a human? Do you not know the difference?

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.7  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.3    one week ago

Sperm are alive as are most cells in your body.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
3.1.8  Ender  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.6    one week ago

Did I say it was a human? Why make shit up?

I asked if you think a sperm is alive.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.9  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.6    one week ago

He didn't say it was human. He said sperm was alive and he is not wrong.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.10  Sean Treacy  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.5    one week ago
ou can argue that life begins at conception, but not personhood.

Life obviously begins at conception. "Personhood" is a subjective point  of human development that starts at conception and ends in the  20s.  When "personhood" begins is a metaphysical question

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.11  Sean Treacy  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.9    one week ago

It's not alive, unless you think every cell in your body is alive.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.12  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.10    one week ago

The point of the discussion of personhood is at the core of this. Since most abortions occur long before we can debate that, there is no person to consider, but the mother. 

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.13  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.11    one week ago

Every cell in your body is alive. They have a complete life cycle, and the fact that you don't know that makes me wonder. 

https://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=1903#:~:text=Your%20cells%20have%20metabolic%20enzymes,is%20being%20able%20to%20reproduce.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.14  Sean Treacy  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.12    one week ago
Since most abortions occur long before we can debate tha

First; that's your opinion on when personhood is. Lots of people have different ones. 

So what is the exact time a non person transforms. in your opinion? That's something you'd need to know exactly before you end life isn't it? Can't use generalities and take a human's life, right? 

 
 
 
pat wilson
Professor Guide
3.1.15  pat wilson  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    one week ago

The first sign of life is irritability (Biology 101).

Most studies indicate that to be around 20 weeks post fertilization for a human fetus.

That's science.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1.16  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    one week ago

Undeniably, something happens at conception. The question is it life that should be legally protected at the expense of the will of the woman carrying it inside her? 

That is not only far from crystal clear, the majority of Americans say no.  Then we are left with whether or not individual states should ban abortion. There is no rationale for piecemeal banning of abortion. If abortion is a serious offense against morality and decency then it has to be banned in every state. But there is no such consensus available. The very fact that it will be allowed in some states (according to the leaked opinion) is in fact a great argument that it is an individual choice and thus should not be banned anywhere. As I said before , states want to make choices about abortion that they are not willing to give to the women. 

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.17  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.14    one week ago
First; that's your opinion on when personhood is. Lots of people have different ones. 

I'm giving you the science of it. You seem to want to bounce back and forth between the two. 

So what is the exact time a non person transforms. in your opinion? That's something you'd need to know exactly before you end life isn't it?

I can tell you when it isn't. It isn't before there is a fully functioning nervous system, so clearly before 16 weeks and that is when most abortions happen.

Can't use generalities and take a human's life, right? 

What are you trying to say?

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.18  cjcold  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.9    one week ago

And fast little swimmers they are!

 
 
 
Hallux
Sophomore Principal
3.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    one week ago

Ah, Charles the Idiot interviewed by an idiot

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.2.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Hallux @3.2    one week ago
Resorting to logical fallacies so soon? Tsk Tsk.

 
 
 
Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
3.3  Thrawn 31  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    one week ago
I believe that life begins at conception, and I don’t believe in God or in the soul.

And there is the problem, how literal do you want to be with the word "life"? And at which point does one "life" usurp the liberties and freedoms of another? 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
3.4  Sparty On  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    one week ago

Nothing new for many liberals and progressives.

That is, thinking that they more intelligent than they actually are.

See it here nearly every day.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
4  JBB    one week ago

original

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
4.1  Sparty On  replied to  JBB @4    one week ago

Lol .... the memenator strikes again

Stop grasping, all your straws have been used up.

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
4.1.1  Texan1211  replied to  Sparty On @4.1    one week ago

Looks like a typical Democratic meme.

Did you notice he has posted a picture of a male lion?

You know, the one marked "women"?

LOL!

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
4.1.2  Sparty On  replied to  Texan1211 @4.1.1    one week ago

Lol yeah, funny .... very funny.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
6  JohnRussell    one week ago

Alito is a fanatic. It was masked somewhat when the Court was more evenly balanced. Now he is going to go for it. 

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
7  JBB    one week ago

original

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
8  JBB    one week ago

When women were warned their rights were on the line many did not believe it. And now, it is too late...

 
 
 
Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
8.1  Thrawn 31  replied to  JBB @8    one week ago
I believe that life begins at conception, and I don’t believe in God or in the soul.

The stripping of reproductive rights is the first, and BIG, step to putting women back in their  "place".

 
 

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