Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) that’s in its third TV season on Hulu, is a radical secularist and abortion advocate. This is how Wikipedia describes the plotline of the series:
In the near future, fertility rates collapse as a result of sexually transmitted diseases and environmental pollution. With this chaos, the totalitarian, theonomic government of Gilead establishes rule in the former United States in the aftermath of a civil war. Society is organized by power-hungry leaders along with a new, militarized, hierarchical regime of fanaticism and newly-created social classes, in which women are brutally subjugated, and by law are not allowed to work, own property, handle money, or read.
According to an extremist interpretation of the Biblical account of Bilhah, worldwide infertility has resulted in the conscription of the few remaining fertile women in Gilead called Handmaids. They are assigned to the homes of the ruling elite, where they must submit to ritualized rape by their male masters in order to become pregnant and bear children for those men and their wives.
When a member of the ruling class is unable to father a child, the new government sends her a “handmaid” to serve as a surrogate.
The thing of it is, there is no such “theonomic” — theos (God) + nomos (law) — parallel in the Bible that fits Atwood’s storyline. Women aren’t forced to get pregnant. The story of Rachel and Bilhah (Gen. 30) is one of the exceptions that proves the rule that God defined marriage as between one man and one woman. You will notice that it was Rachel, not a group of elders, who insisted that Jacob have sex with her handmaids. There are numerous examples of sexual sins in Scripture. Sarah and Hagar come to mind, and we know how that turned out.
Of course, for a theocratic state run by biblical literalists, emulating Sarah’s example is a mighty strange interpretation, since, as any kid in Sunday School knows, Sarah’s circumvention of God’s plan didn’t exactly turn out well for everyone involved. And unfortunately, that confusion is just one of the many narrative elements that make little sense in The Handmaid’s Tale. Much of this incoherence is the result of utilizing fundamentalist Christianity as the basic framework for this particular dystopia without demonstrating any understanding of what fundamentalist Christianity is actually about.1
This means that a society like the one Atwood describes would be condemned by the Bible. Slavery, for that’s what forcing a woman to get pregnant against her will would be, is a capital offense under the Older Covenant. Nearly every woman who gets an abortion today was never forced to conceive.
But even in the Handmaid’s Tale cases, the babies are innocent. They didn’t commit a crime. They didn’t do the raping. Why should they pay for the sins of others?
A significant point needs to be made about how this dystopian future came about: “fertility rates collapse as a result of sexually transmitted diseases.” In Atwood’s attempt to warn the world of these crazed “fundamentalists,” she unwittingly points out that it was a failed biblical morality that led to the creation of this oppressive future. We are always back to the fundamental question: By what standard? The abortionists don’t have a standard except, every person gets to do what he or she wants without any external moral restrictions because we live in an impersonal cosmos where there is no God so we become our own god. Arthur Leff described it this way:
[I]f total, final normative authority were assigned to each biological individual, and he were made morally autonomous, no rules to govern the interaction between those individuals–the Godlets, as I have called them–could be justified under the assumption of moral autonomy. There would be nothing but rights. If, on the other extreme, moral finality were lodged in “the people” as a class, then no claim for moral breathing space could be upheld for any atom out of which the class was constituted. If “the people” decided, by whatever process it validated, what was right, it would be unchallengeably right for each person: there could be no rights.2
Given a secular atheistic worldview, there is nothing inherently wrong in treating women like cattle and surrogate breeders. Who says it’s ultimately morally wrong? There’s no cosmic judge laying down laws about anything. In fact, Leftist morality is so skewed that in New York cats have more rights than unborn babies.
Animals seek out the healthiest females to “rape.” There’s almost no real consent. The strongest male gets his pick of the females. Humans are animals. Why can’t the strongest human-animal-males mate with the healthiest human-animal-females?
Speaking at New York City’s Book Con on Saturday [June 1, 2019], Atwood argued that when states obligate women into childbearing, they institute ‘a form of slavery,’ Insider reported. State-mandated reproduction has two outcomes, she said: That women die, and that orphanages fill up.
The issue is what is a pregnancy? What is a woman carrying through nine months of her pregnancy? If “it” is just a clump of cells, then she could sluff off those cells. But unborn babies are not a clump of cells. Their encoded DNA identifies them as human beings from the moment of conception. Human DNA is unique. This means that a woman only has a right over her own DNA. If she kills the other DNA human entity, then she’s a murderer.
Rarely do women die in pregnancy. Doctors do their best to save both mother and child. They took an oath to do that. Doctors have operated on babies in utero. Were they human babies?
“On August 19, 1999, photographer Michael Clancy, an abortion advocate, was asked by USA Today to capture a fetal surgery on-camera. Certainly.” Here’s how Clancy described what happened next:
Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted, and squeezed the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! I was totally in shock for two hours after the surgery… I know abortion is wrong now – it’s absolutely wrong. (Texas Right to Life)
Babies are often born prematurely. The most recent example is a baby weighing 8.6 ounces born prematurely at 23 weeks of gestation. That baby was not the mother’s body or part of her mother’s body either inside or outside her body.
Atwood said that she’s “waiting for a lawsuit that says if you force me to have children, I cannot afford, you should pay for the process.” Does this mean that if a woman who has, say, three children and finds herself in a difficult financial situation that it would be OK for her to kill one or more of her children?
Maybe one of her children is a real pain. Maybe there is a medical condition that’s expensive. Is Atwood saying that it would be morally acceptable for a family to kill the child?
Atwood argues that forcing a woman not to kill her unborn child is a form of slavery. Let’s get real. A mother is almost a “slave” to a born child for at least until the baby is weaned. A baby can’t take care of herself for quite some time. The baby is almost the master of the mother, turning the mother into a “slave.” Should a mother (slave) be given the legal right to overthrow her master (child) by abandoning or killing him?
- S.D. Kelly, “The Handmaid’s Tale’ Wants Us to Heed the Threat of ‘Fundamentalism,’” Christianity Today (May 20, 2017). [↩]
- Arthur Allen Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” Duke Law Journal (1979). [↩]