Margaret Atwood, who is the author of The Handmaid's Tale, compared the potential fall of Roe v. Wade. Wade to the Salem witch trials and prosecutions of suspected witchcraft that occurred in the 17th century.
In an op-ed published in The Atlantic on Friday, the author noted that the U.S. would establish a “state religion” if Roe v. Wade. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court where Justice Samuel Alito’s draft would become “the newly settled law.”
“Massachusetts had an official religion in the 17th century. In adherence to it, the Puritans hanged Quakers,” she wrote. “The Alito opinion purports to be based on America’s Constitution. But it relies on English jurisprudence from the 17th century, a time when a belief in witchcraft caused the death of many innocent people.”
The Handmaid's Tale is a fiction novel that was published in 1985, which explored issues related to power, religion, and gender-rights as it focuses on women who are controlled and the different ways they seek to gain power and freedom under a totalitarian regime in the Republic of Gilead.
Atwood’s remarks come after a leaked initial draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision suggested that the majority of the justices are ready to repeal Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion across the country.
Abortion-rights protests broke out across the country in response to the leaked draft amid concerns that some states could enact their “trigger” laws that would ban abortion almost immediately if Roe is overturned.
“The Salem witchcraft trials were trials—they had judges and juries—but they accepted ‘spectral evidence,’ in the belief that a witch could send her double, or specter, out into the world to do mischief. Thus, if you were sound asleep in bed, with many witnesses, but someone reported you supposedly doing sinister things to a cow several miles away, you were guilty of witchcraft. You had no way of proving otherwise,” Atwood explained, adding that "it will be very difficult to disprove a false accusation of abortion.”
“The mere fact of a miscarriage, or a claim by a disgruntled former partner, will easily brand you a murderer. Revenge and spite charges will proliferate, as did arraignments for witchcraft 500 years ago,” she said.
Towards the end of her op-ed, Atwood addressed readers about how they can choose to act in case Roe v. Wade. Wade is overturned. “If Justice Alito wants you to be governed by the laws of the 17th century, you should take a close look at that century. Is that when you want to live?” she asked.
The Canadian author has been outspoken about the push back against abortion-rights since Justice Alito’s draft was leaked. Last week, in an excerpt from her new book of essays called Burning Questions, Atwood compared forced pregnancies to “slavery,” The Independent reported Friday.
“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,” she wrote.
Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Supreme Court’s public information office for comments.
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