Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, about a woman forced to serve as a sexual surrogate in a dystopian America, is a chilling reminder of the dangers of theocracy. And with Vice President Mike Pence and his ilk on the religious right in power, it’s more relevant than ever. The election of Pence and Donald Trump has emboldened pro-life conservatives to propose a number of new bills restricting abortion across the U.S.; Vice News counted 46 in January—a week before Trump’s inauguration—with more introduced in the months since.
Two of those newly proposed laws are Texas Senate Bill 415, which would essentially ban second-trimester abortion in the state by banning the most common procedure used to perform it, and Texas Senate Bill 25, which would give doctors discretion in deciding whether or not to tell pregnant women about fetal abnormalities. (That latter law is ostensibly designed to prevent malpractice lawsuits, but in practice would more likely be applied as an exemption similar to laws excusing pharmacists from dispensing Plan B if it violates their religious beliefs.)
And a group of activists have found a creative way to oppose the bills without saying a single word. At the start of the session debating both bills at the Texas State Capitol in Austin yesterday, the women, all dressed in the long red robes and white bonnets of the “Handmaids” in Atwood’s novel, silently filed into the chamber and sat in the gallery as a visual reminder of a world where women are valued only as breeders and servants. They also stood in the antechamber, holding signs listing restrictions used to slowly chip away at reproductive rights in the state:
Despite the protest, both bills eventually passed, and were sent to the Texas state House for approval.
It’s unclear whether this protest had any connection to another recent Handmaid’s Tale-themed stunt, where women dressed in similar red dresses and white bonnets silently creeped around the streets of Austin during SXSW. That was to promote Hulu’s upcoming limited series based on Atwood’s book, so the connection is presumably tangential. But as far as uses for leftover SXSW swag goes, it’s a good one.