Category Archives: Pregnancy

The Parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and the United States Today

By: Rachel Harmon

*Spoilers below*

While I may be late in the game to finally watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I am certainly glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale is a Hulu original series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel by the same name. This dystopian, fictional story centers around Offred, a handmaid, who is forced to bear children, as she is one of the very few women who is still fertile in her society. Offred defies her commander and stands up for herself to escape the horrible life in which she lives. The series presents many ideas that are strikingly similar to current issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, such as: women fulfilling their “biological purpose” as bearers of children, and women degrading themselves to avoid the tortuous consequences of rebelling against patriarchy. These ideas are not farfetched, for there many governments around the world that subjugate women’s bodies and reproductive rights.

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It does not shock me anymore in our current social climate that some people would fall into the notion of following strict Conservative Christian values. The women in The Handmaid’s Tale were reduced to serving men and the home by being servants, gaining permission from their husbands to do anything, and being stripped of their jobs. This was only achieved by a huge following (mostly men) that would enforce this because the women had passions and jobs that were outside of strict Conservative Christian values. Thus, it was degrading and disgusting the way the men of the society treated the women since they were forced to completely change their way of life.

In addition to changing their way of life, the women were treated in the most horrifying ways I have ever seen on television. This treatment seemed counterintuitive, because the men were treating the handmaids as the lowest of all women, despite their being the only fertile women of their society, and in my opinion, the most valuable. You would think they would receive the best treatment, considering the circumstances, but no. The handmaids were raped, beaten, cattle pronged, isolated, and tortured. You would think the most valuable people in that society would be treated like royalty, but they were hardly treated like human beings. In Atwood’s society, the commanders trade the handmaids as commodities with other countries that do not have fertile women. The handmaids were only seen as concubines; once they give birth, they were sent to another family to start the process all over again.

The Handmaid’s Tale made me think about how women are treated today. We are still demeaned in our workspaces, cat-called in the street, and seen as sexual objects. It is ridiculous that we have to try more to be seen more, believed more, and heard more. Even though we are human beings, it is still like we are fighting to prove this to everyone.

In an article about the similarities between the TV show and today’s political climate, Jennifer Armstrong corroborates the notion that Margaret Atwood’s novel cannot be categorized as science fiction because it “mirror[s] the United States’ embrace of conservatism…as well as the increasing power of the Christian right and its powerful lobbying organizations” (Armstrong, 2018). Atwood’s novel confronts the United States’ concerns of “the rising political power of Christian fundamentalists, environmental concerns, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights” (Armstrong, 2018). These are no different than the concerns in 2019.

While The Handmaid’s Tale presents a scary alternate reality that seems removed from our current American society, it is not as strange as we might believe.

This is what truly scares me. Women have come so far in terms of living outside of the home and being their own individual person that it would be heartbreaking to see this progress all be for nothing. We cannot dismiss Atwood’s story as pure fiction because women are being oppressed by society now. We cannot be naïve as we watch this show, and more importantly, we cannot believe that this could never happen to the United States. It could, and we should be active in supporting organizations that will uphold abortion rights, access to equitable pay, contraceptives, and education. We cannot become complacent in believing that we are done fighting for our rights and we must continue to fight every day.

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin. “Culture – Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is so Relevant Today.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Apr. 2018, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180425-why-the-handmaids-tale-is-so-relevant-today.

“Watch The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1 | Prime Video.” Amazon, Amazon, www.amazon.com/dp/B073X7TYY2?tag=moviefone-20.

 

A Story Like Mine

We highly recommended watching Halsey’s incredible performance. If you are unable to listen, you can read the transcript full transcript below via Billboard.

It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying
Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a whole through the seam of my jeans
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone
I can’t tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son
He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive
And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep
He says I can’t say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please
And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs
He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It’s 2017 and I live like a queen
And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams
I’m invincible and I’m so fucking naive
I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute

You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18
I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can’t put your hands on me
You don’t know what my body has been through
I’m supposed to be safe now
I earned it

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilletos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian 
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there’s a war to be won

The Importance of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

By Kelsie Merrick

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was, and still is, a controversial case that passed through the Supreme Court. The ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally unless a woman was in the third trimester then the state had a right to enact abortion regulations to protect the fetus. The only exception to this rule was if the pregnancy was a threat to the mother’s life. Then in 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey reintroduced the controversy around abortion this time about whether consent from a spouse or parent and a 24 hour waiting period is necessary before an abortion. In this case, the court ruled that “states may not impose an ‘undue burden’ on access to abortion: a law is invalid ‘if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.'” Now, abortion has reentered our court system with the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.

In previous abortion cases, there has been a clear argument with two clear sides: pro-life and pro-choice. That is, the concern has generally been about the baby not about the mother, but with the introduction of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the conversation is shifting from the baby to the safety of the mother. This case began in 2013 when Texas created a law requiring “doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, and set clinic standards that are similar to those of surgical centers.” Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider, argues, “the law isn’t medically necessary, is demanding and expensive, and interferes with women’s health care.”

Since 2011, “at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure” with at least 30 of those closures coming from Texas alone. One of the main reasons behind the closures was the new state regulations that have made these facilities too expensive to remain in operation. Texas is the primary case study of these new regulations and the repercussions of stricter regulations are already noticeable. According to certain providers, “full implementation of the law would leave almost a fifth of Texas women 150 miles or more from a facility.” Texas has already dropped from 42 to 19 clinics since 2013 and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the new law, Texas would be left with nine abortion clinics. This is a problem for women who need an abortion, whether it is for personal or health reason, and are incapable of traveling that far. A more serious problem caused by the extreme distances of abortion clinics is that “more women would now die of complications from self-induced abortions.”

Another issue facing the abortion world is the discriminating views that then lead to the vandalism of buildings and clinics. Susan Cahill from Kalispell, Montana was unable to rebuild her practice after it was vandalized due to the cost of repairs. Planned Parenthood, one of the leading abortion clinics, has had their fair share of tormenting and vandalism from people protesting outside to fires being started at their facilities. About a third of the facilities that closed or stopped performing terminations were operated by Planned Parenthood. This is detrimental to Planned Parenthood’s operation as a whole since their main goal is not to give abortions but to education society, mainly young adults, about safe sex and contraceptives available to the public.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were “210 abortions for every 1,000 births in the United States.” Even with abortions being almost one-fifth of the births that year, abortions are decreasing without implemented regulations. Since 2010, the Associated Press estimates abortions have decreased 12 percent. Possible explanations for this could be that teen pregnancy rates are decreasing which leads to the reason for more access to birth control. If abortion rates are already decreasing, is it necessary to regulate the clinics? On the other hand, verifying that clinics are safe and healthy and that properly trained doctors are performing the surgeries is also highly beneficial to women that need and want an abortion. Hopefully, the Supreme Court can figure out how to ensure women’s safety without the closure of abortion clinics.