Never before has “may you live in interesting times” been quite the curse it is today. Things are crumbling on the edges of our vision, all around. The 21st century seems intent on fast forwarding through ages past at a breakneck pace and repeating all the worst bits of what used to be. So far we’ve had reruns of War (hello Ukraine sorry you were the bullseye), Pestilence (we call the Spanish Flu “Covid” now…), Famine (it’s coming, climate change is seeing to that…) and Death is always with us, in some form or another, mass shootings here, people trying to cross forbidden borders there, and now in a bran new looming guise it’s coming for women. Again. Carrying a wire coathanger and grinning in that deathy way that turns your bowels to water.
I was born and grew up in the age of universal suffrage – the women who fought for the vote waked this Earth long before I came upon it, and I and those like me stood upon their wretched bullied tortured shoulders and cast ballots in uncounted elections, sometimes (often!) grumbling about the candidates but offered at the very least the chance to choose the lesser of two evils. I was too young to matter when Roe vs Wade was first mooted in the USA, and I wasn’t even in this country yet, but a world has been built on the basis of that decision, a world that protected women from being gutted like trout in back alleys and dirty kitchens by people with filthy implements, in order to end pregnancies which simply could not happen for them. Abortions happened long before a decision about them was made in a court of law; it isn’t as though Roe (and Casey) created the possibility of them. Women who wanted to terminate their pregnancy badly enough would find a way to do so – all Roe did was offer them a way of doing so legally, safely, preserving their own lives and their futures and perhaps the very possibility of having other children somewhere down the line. None of those things were guaranteed with backstreet abortions with women dying from perforations or infections, scarred physically and mentally for life. The point was, they did it anyway. Somehow. Somewhere. The body in which the cells which were not remotely yet a “baby” was a higher priority than those cells themselves – a life already in progress, not a putative potential nebulous something which had no sentience and was only “Alive” in the sense that a liver was alive, a cluster of cells in a living organism which was NOT “itself”.
The “laws” being passed by old white men have been increasinly stupid and draconian over the years. People who clearly don’t (or won’t) understand how this whole thing works (remember the infamous “we can simply transplant a dangerous ectopic pregnancy and implant it in the womb to be carried to term” idea?) are in charge of the matter and we are so, so close to a moment that I thought I would never see again – a woman already living a life of her own being subordinated to something that isn’t even breathing, and being butchered and (let’s not put too fine a point on this, it’s true when decisions are made that WILL lead to her death) murdered in the name of “pro life” (which by the way stops being that the moment the”life” is actually born and then becomes nobody’s problem…) – and in between somewhere felonized for trying to do anything at all about it. ABortion bans that kick in before most women know they might be pregnant; snoop laws where peepies can dob in women they suspect might have been pregnant for having terminated, or deliver the abortion provider to be “punished” for it; in some places miscarriages are now felonies (again, it’s about how a female body works – LOTS of pregnancies spontaneously end in miscarriages without the woman’s direct input at all – and lord help you if you take an accidental fall while pregnant because that’s something that could land you in jail for murder). There are people out there who are positing a long con here – ban abortion, make procuring or providing or GETTING an abortion a felony, declare all women (and any people who help them) as felons, felons can’t vote, BOOM, you win elections on the strength of the fact that you have simply prevented people who would have voted against you from voting at all. I’ve seen right wing trolls declare that tne 19th amendment should be repealed forthwith. This is going downhill faster and faster and it’s scary as hell. They’re coming for the women (pregnancy, and now in some places even birth control); they will be coming for the POC (“get back to the back of the bus where you belong!”) and LGBTQ people who have only recently started to have any kind of a normal life that involves living openly and freely as themselves, or getting married to the person they love just like any other human being on the planet; they are coming for all of us and there doesn’t seem to be anything standing in their way. I am an old crone who would have been past childbearing in any case, even had not my “bits” being hacked out of me some years ago thus preventing any such possibility at all (which only makes me a useless dried up old widow and they have absolutely no use for me at all, I am sweepawayable with zero consequences…) but I am terrified for the girls, for the walking wombs who are still fertile and impregnatable and who are being cast as domestic livestock to ensure a healthy supply of “domestic” adoptable children (this was in the leaked SCOTUS Roe-overturning opinion document, verbatim – this, and citing as “legal” precendent things that root back to to the 19th century and earlier and coming from “authorities” who are on record as promulgating the wisdom of burning women as witches…). I keep on saying that “The Handmaid’s Tale” was supposed to be a warning, not a blueprint. I don’t know who (if anyone) is listening. All I can see is a future where freaking PUPPY MILLS are being damned because of the way that bitches are being bred for a pup supply and kept in appalling conditions while they are able to continue doing this job and then discarded like garbage when they no longer are – but the prospect of chaining down a young woman, denying her agency and education and dreams and any real existence of her own, while she is forced to carry a child she cannot support, does not want, is actively recoiling from (in cases of rape or incest), or is physically not formed enough to give birth to it without wrecking her own physical body to the point of actually dying from the attempt – that is just fine, somehow. I am angry and terrified and frankly this is way too much “history” right now. Could the human race (the part of it in charge, anyway) just stop being such monsters, please? Could we have that Star Trek future that we were promised, where hunger and poverty don’t exist any more and we are able to go out and touch the distant stars?
From the point of view of the writer, as opposed to just the human being, the question that starts to beg to be asked is, what kind of fiction do we write now? When living breathing dystopia is all around us, screaming at us from the headlines every day?
How did we GET here (again)? And where do we go now?
History is what happens while you are trying to live your life, to exist inside of that history. But I do wish, I do so vehemently wish, that I lived in less “interesting” times…