A handmaid stands in between an American flag and a GOP elephant.
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In Margaret Atwood’s dystopian world of Gilead, women have lost all their rights and are governmental property. Fertile women are forced into sexual servitude, and infertile women are deemed as lesser than. The “Commanders,” husbands and heads of the household, hold ceremonies to rape their handmaids and force them to carry their baby until birth, where they then force the handmaid to give up said baby to their Commander and his family. They have outlawed birth control and IVF, and the punishment for using such measures is death by being torn apart by dogs. While the entire concept of Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the book in which Gilead exists, seems completely ridiculous and inhumane to most, Republican lawmakers may be driving America down a similar road.

On May 2, 2022, Politico leaked a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, which shows that the Supreme Court will almost certainly vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade is most famously known for giving women the right to their own bodily autonomy by federally guaranteeing them the choice for safe, legal abortions — but overturning it could potentially open doors to outlaw so much more than just abortion. As mentioned on MSNBC by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the argument to outlaw abortion is based on the fact that the word “abortion” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, and according to Alito, “right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.” This statement triggers the question of what this may mean for other things not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, like the right to contraceptives, gay marriage, interracial marriage and even the right to privacy. 

In Hulu’s rendition of Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there is a flashback scene where June Osborne/Offred has to be given permission from her husband to obtain birth control pills. This flashback was to a time where Gilead was first making its emergence into America, but nobody knew of the horrors to come. This raises questions like: how do we know that right now is not the “before” in the story? What should I do to protect myself and other women? Do I have to do something as drastic as flee the country? I’m unfortunately led to believe that this is how it starts, seeing that Republican lawmakers like Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt want to go as far as to ban abortion even in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is in danger.

With these barbaric cases presented by GOP lawmakers like Stitt and Ohio state Rep. Jean Schmidt, who is recorded saying pregnancies caused by rapes are an “opportunity,” there is concern to be had about what other rights may be at stake. The support to ban a right not “explicitly” stated in the Constitution could likely lead to a Gilead-type situation where even contraceptives are banned. In Arizona, U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters stated he would not elect a judge unless they vote against Griswold v. Connecticut, which would overturn the right to use contraceptives. This would not only outlaw contraceptives for birth control, but also for regulating periods, managing painful and dangerous disorders like PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) and endometriosis and lowering the risk of reproductive cancers. 

Such actions are not about being “pro-life” but rather about controlling women. In fact, this past week, 192 Republicans voted against an emergency spending act to help get baby formula back on the shelves due to the recent baby formula shortage, proving that they only care about the “baby” when it is in the womb. So if it’s not about saving the women, and clearly not about saving the babies, then what is it about? Control, and maybe even far worse than that. If these rights do get overturned, there is no reason to think that many other rights could have the same storm coming.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has frequented the conspiracy “great replacement theory,” which essentially is a racist and anti-Semitic theory stating immigrants are being brought into America (implicitly and sometimes explicitly by Jewish people) to “replace” white voters. With these racist beliefs embodied by many Americans and lawmakers as well, there is reason to think their next attacks on rights could be interracial marriage or even minority rights. Raskin stated he believes that Republicans want to “carve out and destroy” the rights of the people, which is based on the potential domino effect of what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Although anything as extreme as “The Handmaid’s Tale” is unlikely to happen in America, it parallels the terrors that could potentially happen if we ourselves do not wake up and take action against barbaric, misogynistic laws.

Katie Maraldo is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at kmaraldo@umich.edu