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Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again

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Source: Women Have Options | Twitter

Some may recall this sign as one that stood out during the Women’s March back in January. In recent months, protesters across the country, from Texas to Ohio to Washington D.C., are trying to keep Atwood’s world, depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale, a work of fiction as lawmakers move closer to making it a reality.

The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel by Margaret Atwood published in the 1980s, which has recently become a Hulu series, has resonated deeply with some women across the country.

Protesters have mimicked the costumes worn in the show, including blood red robes and large white bonnets that cover the entire head. The “handmaids” of the story are a group of women who are kept as breeders and exist to have children for infertile couples, usually of high-ranking government officials in the dystopian Republic of Gilead.

Kelsey Shimp is a rising junior at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where she is a women and gender studies major with a concentration in queer studies. This summer, she is an intern at Naral Pro-Choice Ohio and participated in a stunning protest at the Ohio Statehouse, where the protesters dressed as handmaids.

On June 13, the protesters attended a hearing by the Senate judiciary committee for Senate Bill 145, which bans Dilation and Evacuation (D &E) abortions.

D&E abortions make up 95% of abortions between 13 and 24 weeks of pregnancy in Ohio, Shimp declares. The bill makes an exception when the mother’s life is in danger, but not for rape or incest.

When the hearing began, the two senators who sponsored the bill–both men–began making “jabs” at the handmaids. According to Shimp, the state senators made comments like, “Women just need to calm down about this” and “It’s a decision of right and wrong.”

Senator Matt Huffman, one of the sponsors, argued that the Constitution protects the unborn and that the advances made by medical science should impel the country to protect life, rather than ending it.

Shimp disagrees. She explains that the Naral protesters decided to portray Atwood’s handmaids because in the Republic of Gilead, they are forced to endure pregnancy and birth.

“They do not have the option to decide whether they want a child or not; childbearing is their job. Therefore, “when you take away this option of abortion, when you take away any type of abortion at all, you basically are forcing someone to keep a pregnancy that might not be wanted or that might be of high-risk.”

“If a person doesn’t want to be pregnant, they should not be forced to be pregnant,” Shimp adds.

Shimp believes that the protest did not go unnoticed by the senators or by the public. Major news sources as big as BuzzfeedHuffington Post, and BBC reported on the protest.

After the hearing, the “handmaids” walked to the statehouse rotunda and stood in a circle, where Governor John Kasich walked past ignoring the protest completely. According to Shimp, Kasich has signed 18 or 19 anti-abortion measures, during his time in office, including the most recent 20-week ban.

“I don’t trust him when it comes to women’s rights. I genuinely don’t think he cares,” Shimp reveals. She is positive that if the anti-abortion measure is successful and is added to the budget bill, Kasich would sign off on it and make it law.

“When you take away the right of woman to have autonomy over her body, you are taking away her most basic human right.”

On June 27, protesters returned to the statehouse as “handmaids” for the final hearing and voted on SB 145, where the bill passed to the full Senate, which, two days later, passed 24-9.

The day the bill passed, Senator Peggy Lehner argued for the “sanctity of human life” while protesters argued for a women’s right to choose.

After the summer recess, the bill will move to the Ohio House in the fall. Shimp’s group and her allies are prepared to continue to protest for women’s right to choose, in an effort to stop America from becoming the “next” Republic of Gilead.

By: Ella koscher

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