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Welcome to The Handmaid's Tale

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Photo by cottonbro / Pexels
Photo by cottonbro / Pexels

The planet is burning, disease has filled the streets, and, as if there weren't enough reason to believe we have entered the dystopian future so many popular sci-fi books have warned us about, the American South is doubling down on attacks against women's autonomy. Over the last four years of President Donald Trump's conservative tyranny, hundreds of abortion laws were passed in rural counties and Southern states making access to abortion much more difficult for persons with uteruses. Although the reign of Trump has come to an end, these laws continue to sit on the books as a reminder of the supremacy men in power have over women's bodies.

In the early days of the Trump administration, Act 45, which also goes by the cheery name "The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act," was pushed through the Arkansas legislature in only two months; it gives to the husband of a woman seeking an abortion the right to veto the act. In fact, a woman who has filed a report of spousal rape against her husband can still be prevented from having an abortion if her husband opposes the procedure.

Act 45 not only gives husbands legal power over their wives' bodies but it also prevents all women, and people with uteruses, from receiving a dilation and evacuation procedure, a type of surgical abortion praised by physicians for being the safest procedure for those who have hit the 14-week gestation period. Anyone found guilty of performing or receiving the procedure can be charged with a felony and fined up to $10,000.

Act 45 was signed into law back in 2017, and it is still on the books, inspiring other red states to pass similar legislation. In May 2021, Texas Gov. Abbott signed SB 8 into law, making it illegal for anyone to seek an abortion after six weeks. For most, an unforeseen pregnancy isn't even detectable until the six-week mark. This legislation, known by many as the Heartbeat Bill, allows no exceptions for instances of rape or incest and allows anyone to sue active participants in abortion — not just the individual seeking the procedure but doctors, family, and friends who may have provided money or a ride to the doctor, even therapists.

In a report by the Washington Post, surveys showed that Black and Latinx people will be most affected by the bill, which will officially become law in September 2021, as nearly two-thirds of all abortions in Texas over the last five years have been performed on women of color.

Furthermore, a bill introduced in Texas in July 2021 offers a bounty of $10,000 to anyone who sues a woman seeking an abortion after just six weeks of gestation.

Southern states have been attacking abortion rights with new fervor, even after Donald Trump left office. In May 2021, Mississippi banned abortion procedures after 15 weeks of gestation; the Supreme Court has agreed to consider the legality of the law. The court, which now has a conservative majority, could very likely overturn the historic Roe v. Wade case if they rule in favor of Mississippi's latest restrictive law. (Roe v. Wade ruled in 1973 that a woman's right to choose an abortion procedure is protected under privacy laws and cannot be excessively restricted by the government.) If the court agrees to uphold Mississippi's ban, it could pave the way for more conservative states to pass heavy restrictions and bounties on women who seek control over their own bodies.

Body autonomy is a hot issue across America, and especially in the LGBTQ community. Power, in its simplest form, is the ability to control one's own body. The United States has worked to restrict the rights of all those who are not white, male, cis, able-bodied, and heterosexual when it comes to making decisions about their own bodies. Even with Trump out of the White House, his conservative cronies still continue to wage war on marginalized bodies, a war that could lead to many casualties and open the door to even more restrictions on the federal level.