The Supreme Court’s recent decision to revisit a nearly 50-year-old decision is prompting comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973 and established a longstanding precedent regarding a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion. The landmark decision protects a pregnant person’s liberty to obtain an abortion based on how far into a pregnancy they are. In the first trimester, the decision ruled that the government cannot prohibit abortions. In the second trimester, the government can step in slightly more, and is allowed to require stricter⏤but reasonable⏤health regulations. In the third trimester, abortion can be prohibited entirely except in specific cases.
The Supreme Court’s decision to revisit the more than 45-year-old ruling has many people drawing comparisons between the current state of America and The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel published in 1985. The book, which was adapted into a popular television series on Hulu, presents an ominous future in which the United States government has been overthrown by the patriarchal Republic of Gilead. Women like the book’s main character, Offred, are forced to produce children for Commanders within the Republic.
The themes of the book, which include the subjugation of women, the threat of a purely patriarchal society, and resistance, are all being linked back to the Supreme Court’s decision to revisit Roe v. Wade. Social media sites are awash with comparisons, criticism, and plenty of memes as people try to process the Supreme Court’s move.
Calling on numerous other novels that imagine a dystopian future, one Twitter user wrote that they are “old enough to have read 1984, Animal Farm, and The Handmaid’s Tale while they were classified fiction; you know, before they got moved to current events.”
This idea of fiction becoming reality was common among posters, one of whom labeled the modern GOP as “the Handmaid’s Tale party.”
One brief GIF from the show⏤which features several Handmaids dressed in their recognizable, shapeless red dresses and white bonnets walking away from the camera⏤has been broadly retweeted. The message differs in each tweet, but generally carries the same message: This is what America could look like if the Supreme Court abolishes Roe v. Wade.
Another popular post from user Andrea Junker notes that “Today would be a good day for the Supreme Court to remind America that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual.”
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday surrounding the ultimate fate of Roe v. Wade. Until we know more, we can only hope that The Handmaid’s Tale will indeed remain fiction.