We need to examine Historical, Misogynist dystopias now

never again

On Friday 24 June 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade—making a human right into a crime. The legal precedent for the catastrophic decision has witch hunting at its heart. The leaked Alito document circulated on 10 February, 2022 was unaltered in the final decisions. I have looked at this chilling statement setting out rights to the ‘unborn.’ Alito refers to two treatise from 1673 by a 17th century barrister and judge, Matthew Hale. Hale’s misogynist views may be part of early modernity but they have no place in a contemporary legal argument. Hale believed that rape within marriage was not a criminal act. He was also a judge at the witch trials of Bury St. Edmunds, condemning at least two women to be executed for witchcraft

The wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth has employed a legal argument from a witch hunter to justify this attack on women’s rights. This is not just shades of Atwood’s Gilead coming to pass, this is history repeating.

Coming of age in the USA, I never took my ability to access safe and legal abortion for granted. But as a teenager, I had no such illusions that I would be able to afford or access an abortion, despite being a survivor of sexual violence. It was a harrowing, vulnerable time for me, an experience I know millions of girls have faced and are currently enduring. In the US, the loss of this fundamental right will mean millions more will suffer and die trying access safe abortion.

The wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth has employed a legal argument from a witch hunter to justify this attack on women’s rights. This is not just shades of Atwood’s Gilead coming to pass, this is history repeating.

Rape is the most under reported crime in the world, with statistics varying widely— as many as one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, perhaps more. The repeal of Roe vs. Wade will affect the survivors in life threatening and traumatic ways. Women of colour, the young, vulnerable and poor won’t have the resources to find other ways to access healthcare.

Birth control is not 100% effective. Abortion allows women to control their lives and fates, to create a human being when they will be able to care for them, when the child will be wanted and welcome.

Never Again. I can’t believe that a new generation of young women will have to become acquainted with the horror of this human rights slogan, coupled with the image of a wire hanger from the years before abortion was legal. The terrible black and white photos of women bleeding out, dying alone after they had been butchered will circulate again–no longer artifacts of a backwards time but evidence of the very real danger of back alley abortions.

In the late 80s and early 90s I was an abortion rights activist and clinic defence volunteer. I have faced down zealots who threatened and cursed me in between prayers for the mythical ‘preborn.’ Sleep deprived, adrenaline filled, and indoctrinated with wild notions of evil women murdering babies, these men fuelled their holy war with hatred. They were terrifying, yet we stood our ground.

Many British folks I’ve spoken to think with relief, at least it isn’t us—we are above such things, yet abortion has not yet been decriminalised in Scotland. Consider the ramifications of the USA, this superpower of a nation, the global epicentre of cultural and tech production, the seat of multinational capital—carving out a vision of the future where women do not matter. The US is now a place where a few unelected, robed individuals take aim at the many of the gains made in the last 100 years that made the country and the world safer for women and queer folk. To quote Angela Davis, “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.” They are coming. The extreme right have an agenda and an entrenched, powerful cabal to do their bidding. They have come for women’s bodies and will come for queer rights next. Our struggles are inextricably linked.

When I set out to write this book on the witch hunts in Scotland, I was not thinking of that formative moment in my life as an abortion rights activist on the front lines where I faced an army of misogynists who believed God was on their side. I was only thinking of the dead, and the monuments all over Scotland that kept insisting I write, remember, and try to set the record straight. I didn’t realise that the atrocities I researched and recorded over the last five years would have a terrible resemblance to the Christian right wing in the US and their power centre in the Supreme Court. Then, as now, the marriage of church and state proves deadly for women, indigenous peoples and queer folk.

In the late 80s, I had friends who prepared for this eventuality that has come to pass. This was before the morning after pill was available, and access to abortion was costly. We were considering herbs and alternatives, building networks that could transport women to places where they could get a safe abortion, and donating and fundraising for these things. This is still happening, even after I am no longer in the US. Here is a wonderful list from my favourite astrologer (I don’t believe in astrology, but if you read Brezsny you will know how fascinating his horoscopes are.)

My book, Ashes and Stones, out from Sceptre in the UK in January 2023.