With The Handmaid’s Tale dominating our screens right now, it seems this cautionary fable of female enslavement is spilling over to real life too.
A group of women protesting legislation that would dramatically restrict abortion in the US state of Ohio have drawn inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s chilling dystopian novel.
Campaigners dressed in the same red robes and white bonnets worn by handmaids forced to bear children in Atwood’s story staged a silent protest at the first hearing of the bill motion this week.
Senate Bill 145 is a state-wide measure that, if passed, would ban the “dilation and evacuation” method of termination commonly carried out in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Opponents say it is an attempt to block a widely-used and safe method of abortion, and will particularly impact women who already struggle to access reproductive health services.
Senators continued to hail the proposed legislation at the committee hearing, even when faced with the mute but conspicuous group of handmaids.
As one Tweeter pointed out, “It's really a chilling visual. For a horrifying bill.”
In December last year, Ohio Republican governor John Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban into law but vetoed a bill that would have banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Pro-choice activists attached coat hangers to the fence of the Statehouse at the time, to remind lawmakers about the grisly methods women are forced to resort to when abortion is not legally and safely available.
“Kasich is on a mission to make abortion illegal in Ohio, and he’s intent on using smoke and mirrors and backdoor politics to do it,” said Dawn Laguens, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
“He may hope that by vetoing a six-week ban – which would have virtually banned abortion with almost no exceptions – he comes off as moderate. But Ohio women see right through this and reject this extreme agenda.”
The Handmaid’s Tale details a stark world where women are forced into roles of sexual servitude and surrogacy
Atwood herself has warned that her seminal book has sinister analogies to 21st Century America under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Referring to President Trump’s abortion gagging order, which he signed in a roomful of men earlier this year, she said: “It’s back to 17th-century puritan values of New England at that time in which women were pretty low on the hierarchy.”