The previous post reminded me that I had intended to comment on Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, she of “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” issuing a mind-meltingly ignorant essay in The Atlantic claiming that her imagined Hell for women was coming true in the United States. Like so much of the utter offal that has been oozed out by pro-abortion fanatics since Justice Alito’s draft was leaked, the essay does serve as a useful test: anyone who reads it and exclaims, “By Jove! She’s exactly right!” is unfit for any substantive discussion about a topic more challenging than their favorite cookies.
Atwood’s screed, which, as usual,strongly suggests that she either didn’t read the opinion herself or, as a non-American without legal training, couldn’t comprehend it, is one howler after another but still capable of making dumb readers dumber still. In order…
1. “Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?” Charles Cooke nailed this one:
What is to prevent the United States from becoming “a theocratic dictatorship”? Nothing, I guess — other than that there’s no appetite for the United States to become a theocratic dictatorship; that the case against Roe is legal, not theological; that the case against abortion isn’t theological, either; and that the explicit text of the U.S. Constitution — not contrived, cynical, extraconstitutional nonsense cases such as Roe and Casey, but the explicit text of the U.S. Constitution — renders such a system illegal in every way imaginable. From separation of powers to free speech to due process to the establishment of religion to the guarantee of a republican form of government to the scheduling of elections to term limits, the Constitution flatly bars such an outcome. And nobody — nobody — on the Supreme Court has questioned a single one of the provisions that guarantee it.
Other than that, good point, Margaret!
2. “[Alito’s opinion] would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not ‘deeply rooted’ in our ‘history and tradition.’ True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all.”
Nor does pre-Roe jurisprudence include a legitimate precedent for finding a Constitutional right to abortion, which is why, as Alito meticulously points out, the 1973 case was wrongly decided. Not only was a right to abortion not in the Constitution, the Constitution’s authors, for reasons Atwood correctly states never considered such a right.
And there is a remedy for such oversights, if one believes abortion should be a woman’s right. The remedy is there in the document. Pass an amendment. There is a process. In Constitutional law, judges can’t just make up stuff they wish was in the document.
3. “If we start overthrowing settled law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal votes for women?”
Uh, because there IS an Amendment making women’s’ right to vote a Constitutional right, ratified by the states and Congress, Margaret. I can’t blame you for knowing nothing about the American system, but I can blame you for not doing your research. And she had just finished writing about the 19th Amendment! Did she not understand what she was writing?
4. “The Supreme Court’s 1927 Buck v. Bell decision held that the state may sterilize people without their consent. Although the decision was nullified by subsequent cases, and state laws that permitted large-scale sterilization have been repealed, Buck v. Bell is still on the books….Thus a “deeply rooted” tradition is that women’s reproductive organs do not belong to the women who possess them. They belong only to the state.”
No, in fact they don’t. Buck v. Bell concerned a Virginia law during the peak of the eugenics movement, and its upholding by the Supreme Court is tied with Dred Scott as the Court’s greatest embarrassment. Justice Holmes’ opinion was used by the German defense attorney during the Nuremberg Trials to highlight the proceedings’ hypocrisy. The Virginia law was an outlier (Virginia has officially apologized for it); it cannot constitute a “deeply-rooted tradition.” Buck is “on the books” in the sense that it was never overturned, and that’s because the issue became moot. No state permits forced sterilization, and if such a law could be passed, and it won’t be, it would be struck down at all levels of the court system.
5. “The hard line of today’s anti-abortion activists is at “conception,” which is now supposed to be the moment at which a cluster of cells becomes “ensouled.” But any such judgment depends on a religious belief—namely, the belief in souls. Not everyone shares such a belief. But all, it appears, now risk being subjected to laws formulated by those who do. That which is a sin within a certain set of religious beliefs is to be made a crime for all.”
Wrong. This is not only a religion-based position; it is also a logical one. Conception is when a new and distinct human organism is created. (The other clear demarcation point is birth.) Nonetheless, Atwood, unable to get past her “theocracy” fever dream, claims that “should the Alito opinion become the newly settled law, the United States looks to be well on the way to establishing a state religion.”
In fact, it is the pro-abortion zealots who treat abortion as a religion.
6. Then Atwood concludes by concocting an absurd analogy between laws restricting abortion and 17th Century laws against witchcraft. Wow.
Thank you for that nuanced and soundly argued treatise, Margaret.
Time to retire.