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Margaret Atwood On the Right To Abortion

‘Enforced childbirth is slavery’: Margaret Atwood on the right to abortion

The US supreme court draft ruling on abortion is an assault on fundamental individual freedoms. The Handmaid’s Tale author reflects on the issues at stake.

By Margaret Atwood

Nobody likes abortion, even when safe and legal. It’s not what any woman would choose for a happy time on Saturday night. But nobody likes women bleeding to death on the bathroom floor from illegal abortions either. What to do?

Perhaps a different way of approaching the question would be to ask: What kind of country do you want to live in? One in which every individual is free to make decisions concerning his or her health and body, or one in which half the population is free and the other half is enslaved?

Women who cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have babies are enslaved because the state claims ownership of their bodies and the right to dictate the use to which their bodies must be put. The only similar circumstance for men is conscription into an army. In both cases there is risk to the individual’s life, but an army conscript is at least provided with food, clothing, and lodging. Even criminals in prisons have a right to those things. If the state is mandating enforced childbirth, why should it not pay for prenatal care, for the birth itself, for postnatal care, and – for babies who are not sold off to richer families – for the cost of bringing up the child?

And if the state is very fond of babies, why not honour the women who have the most babies by respecting them and lifting them out of poverty? If women are providing a needed service to the state – albeit against their wills – surely they should be paid for their labour. If the goal is more babies, I am sure many women would oblige if properly recompensed. Otherwise, they are inclined to follow the natural law: placental mammals will abort in the face of resource scarcity. Read the full piece at the Guardian.

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