Margaret Atwood says rise of Trump has made The Handmaid's Tale popular again

Comments follow a series of attempts by politicians to restrict access to abortions

Jon Sharman
Sunday 12 February 2017 11:01 GMT
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Abortion is banned and women are categorised into legitimate and illegitimate groups in the Canadian writer’s novel
Abortion is banned and women are categorised into legitimate and illegitimate groups in the Canadian writer’s novel

Renowned author Margaret Atwood has said the return of the right to power in the United States has sent her classic dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale shooting back up the best-seller lists.

She said concerns about women’s freedoms under President Donald Trump have contributed to a resurgence in popularity for the book, which describes a repressive and highly stratified American society in which women are forced into domestic servitude and made to bear the children of the ruling class.

It follows a series of moves by conservative politicians to restrict access to abortions, and the leak of a draft executive order that would have enshrined conservative Christian beliefs on the subject, as well as on marriage and gender, in policy. It reportedly went unsigned by Mr Trump only after the intervention of his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner.

Atwood told Reuters during an interview at Cuba’s international book fair: “When it first came out it was viewed as being farfetched. However when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that human beings had not already done somewhere at sometime.

“You are seeing a bubbling up of it now. It’s back to 17th century puritan values of New England at that time in which women were pretty low on the hierarchy.”

Sales were also likely boosted by trailers for the book’s upcoming TV adaptation.

A bill was introduced in Oklahoma’s legislature in February that would require women seeking an abortion to obtain the written permission of the man who would be the father. Republican representative Justin Humphrey introduced a bill that would require a pregnant woman to provide the identify of the father in writing to her abortion provider before undergoing the procedure.

First look at the Handmaid's Tale new series released

“No abortion shall be performed in this state without the written informed consent of the father of the foetus,” the bill read.

Texas congressman Tony Tinderholt introduced a bill that sought to make it a criminal offence to have an abortion in his state at any stage, regardless of whether a woman had conceived following rape or incest.

He said: “Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘Oh, I can just go get an abortion’.”

And in Arkansas, a pregnant woman’s husband will have the power to stop her from having an abortion, even in cases of rape, under a new law.

Most second trimester abortions will also be banned by the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, which will make it possible for husbands to sue doctors who carry out abortions for civil damages, or get an injunction to block the termination.

In January Vice President Mike Pence attended the anti-abortion March For Life, for which Mr Trump also tweeted his “full support”.

Mr Pence told marchers: “This administration will work with Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers.” He added: “Life is winning again in America.”

In Atwood’s 1985 novel, a totalitarian theocracy is in power and employs a secret police force to maintain its grip. Abortion is banned and women are categorised into legitimate and illegitimate groups. “Handmaids” – re-educated women who have broken a law – are forced to bear the children of “Commanders of the Faithful”, the highest-ranking men.

“Unwomen”, who may be sterile, feminists, or politically incompatible with the regime, are made to work in agricultural colonies.

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