(Image from Wikipedia does not reflect my personal views)
There’s a famous quote from Margaret Atwood in which she says that she included nothing in The Handmaid’s Tale that hasn’t already happened somewhere in the world.
Take a moment to think about that. The book features a barbaric ritual which amounts to rape of a woman in order for a couple to have children. It includes people being left hanging ‘on the wall’. And it shows women having their assets confiscated and being stripped of all their rights.
I haven’t researched all these events but I have no reason to think Atwood would be lying.
And it got me thinking: could the events in Unborn actually happen?
I believe they could, based on what’s already happening in the US. When I orginally wrote the first draft of the book over ten years ago, I set it in the UK. It felt much more like a work of fiction that way.
The book that was eventually published is totally different from the original, which was actually a subplot of A House Divided. I had Jennifer imprisoned because of an abortion she had and the place where she was held became the blueprint for the British Values Centre in part 2 of the trilogy, Divide and Rule.
An editor told me I’d effectively written two books, and needed to pull them apart. So I did. I took the political events of A House Divided, fleshed them out and created three books out of half a book (the imagination can work that way). And I put the abortion storyline on hold.
Last year, I was inspired by events in the US to rewrite the book from scratch, with new characters and a new setting – Texas.
Why do I think it could happen? And why did I think the story should be set in the US?
- Roe v Wade is 47 years old this year but it’s been under constant challenge. The looming election, and the presence of a man who seems to hate women in the White House, makes that more of a threat.
- 2019 saw so-called ‘heartbeat bills‘, which outlaw abortion after six weeks, passed by state legislatures in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio (in addition to Iowa in 2018). Those bills are all currently overriden by federal law but they show a trend for states to seek to outlaw abortion. Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks.
- In Ohio in November 2019, legislators passed laws forcing doctors to reimplant ectopic pregnancies. Regardless of the fact that an ectopic pregnancy is not a viable fetus.
- Alabama introduced a law in 2019 (blocked by federal legislators) that would impose jail sentences on doctors performing abortions.
- The Supreme Court is the final arbiter on all laws in the USA, and its integrity is under threat. Trump has demanded this week that liberal judges recuse themselves from cases relating to himself, and cares nothing for the impartially of the court and the importance of due legal process.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that if a Supreme Court vacancy arises in 2020 (and let’s hope for the sake of the existing judges that it doesn’t), he would help Trump fill it. They’re hardly likely to fill it with a liberal judge.
I’m going to stop there, because to be honest I’m depressing myself. I’m pro-choice; I wouldn’t have written this book otherwise. In the prequel story Good Girl, Cindee almost kills herself trying to abort her unwanted baby. This happened before Roe v Wade; as part of my research, I read real life stories of women who had done just this. A world in which abortion is illegal is a world in which women die. Not to mention a world in which women don’t have control over their own bodies and their own lives.
My point is that the events of Unborn could happen. That’s why I wrote the book. It’s a warning. It wasn’t an enjoyable book to write, and the reviews are saying that it’s a challenging book to read. But reviewers are also saying that it’s a book that ‘will stay with me’ and ‘a story that needs to be told’.
As I have many times in the past, I really hope my fiction doesn’t turn into fact.
If I haven’t put you off reading Unborn completely, please buy it and find out why it’s getting such glowing reviews! It does contain a light at the end of the tunnel and you will feel more positive when you finish it, I promise!
She killed her unborn child. The punishment will fit the crime.
Feminism has been defeated.
Equality is a memory.
And abortion has been criminalized.
Three women find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Kate, carrying the child of a sexual predator. Grace, whose baby will be born with a fatal deformity. And Cindee: abused, abandoned and pregnant.
Can these three very different women come together to fight an oppressive system and win their freedom?
Find out by reading Unborn, a chilling dystopia combined with a gripping legal thriller.