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Margaret Atwood once thought “Handmaid’s Tale” was “too far-fetched”.  Not anymore.

Author Margaret Atwood revealed on Friday that she initially put off writing her gruesome dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ because she thought it was “too far-fetched”. But after a Supreme Court draft opinion leaked, she will never feel that way again.

“How silly I am. Theocratic dictatorships are not just in the distant past: there are quite a few of them on the planet today. What will stop the United States from becoming one of between them?” she asked in a column published Friday in The Atlantic.

In Atwood’s novel, women in America are used as reproductive slaves, strictly governed by a male-led theocratic dictatorship. Atwood’s model was based on 17th century New England Puritan religious rules and jurisprudence – and imported to the United States

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito also looked to the 1600s to justify his leaked opinion that would render Roe v. Wade’s 1973 that made abortion legal, going beyond issues raised in a challenge to a Mississippi anti-abortion law. He repeatedly quoted the English jurist Matthew Hale, who opposed abortions and executed “witches”.

The leaked opinion (which has not been finalized) “would overturn established law 50 years ago on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned…. It’s true,” Atwood conceded. “The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all.

Women “have been deliberately excluded from the franchise,” she added, referring to the fledgling nation. Only men would no longer be taxed “without representation” or governed without “consent”. Women were banned from voting until 1920.

“Women have been non-persons in American law for far longer than they are persons,” Atwood noted icily. “If we start to overturn established law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal women’s suffrage?”

As for the prohibition of abortion, the belief regarding the beginning of life is based on personal or religious beliefs (some religions, for example, believe that life begins at birth or that the life of a pregnant woman is the existing life that must be protected).

Now, in Alito’s view, “what is a sin in a certain set of religious beliefs must be made a crime for all,” Atwood wrote. Yet the Constitution requires that “Congress make no law respecting the establishment of any religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If one religion allows abortion, how can a different religion restrict it for those with different beliefs?

“It should be simple: if you believe in the ‘soul’ at conception, you shouldn’t have an abortion, because having it is a sin within your religion. If you don’t believe it, you shouldn’t — under the Constitution — be bound by the religious beliefs of others,” Atwood explained.

Alito’s opinion “seems to be on the right track to establishing a state religion”, Atwood added, and goes back to the 17th century, when colonial women were burned at the stake based on religious evidence.

“If Judge Alito wants you to be governed by the laws of the 17th century, you should take a close look at this century,” Atwood warned. “Is this when you want to live?”

Check out the full column here.

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