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April 27 2017


Margaret Atwood explains how to know if you’re living in a totalitarian state

An interview with the author of The Handmaid’s Tale.


How do you view what's happening, say, with restricted access and funding for abortion providers?

Margaret Atwood 

Here's what I think. It's state-mandated childbirth. So the state is deciding for purposes of its own that it owns women's bodies, and that it can control what happens with those bodies. There is a parallel for men, and that would be the draft, in which men are drafted into the Army, told they have to do this and that and this and that, and risk their lives. But under those conditions, men who are drafted get fed, clothed, and sheltered.

So if they're going to mandate childbirth, if they're going to make it so that for state reasons the state owns your body and can tell you what to do, they ought to pay for it in the same way. You know, to feed, clothe, and shelter the people they are drafting into their childbearing army.

Because otherwise what you're going to have is a lot of poor people who can't afford to have, to support these babies. And they are going to be malnourished ahead of time. The impact of the health of the babies will be affected, not to mention the mothers. They will have no assistance, they will have no professional assistance. They won't be able to pay the hospital bills. And they won't have any support afterward. 

So what's going to happen then? You're going to have ... a lot of illegal abortions resulting in death. You're going to have a lot of children given up to orphanages. I know people said they would be adopted, but look at Romania — that didn't happen. That's the situation you're creating. If the state wants to mandate what happens to women's bodies, they should pay for it. And that should be a taxpayer-supported expense.

What do you think of that? Fair enough?

Hope Reese

It's still a bit terrifying to me.

Margaret Atwood

It is. If you think for one minute that the US taxpayer is going to go for that, you're quite wrong. So if they don't go for it, let the guilt be upon their heads. All those dead babies.


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