Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale has drawn attention to Margaret Atwood’s story of the same name, originally published in 1985, leading to women re-reading the book or, for some, encountering the dystopian novel for the first time. The novel is set in the near-future in New England in a state called Gilead where a totalitarian theocracy has overthrown the government and subsequently subjugated women and persecuted other groups, including gays, queers, transsexuals, intellectuals, and peoples of other faiths. If it sounds a little too much like real life, well, yes, there is that.
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas recently asked Texans to host Handmaid’s Tale House Parties to discuss the book, increase awareness of the recent laws going through the state legislature to limit abortion access, and to raise money for the organization. If you sign up for more information, NARAL will send you a complete organizing kit to host your own event.
I hosted a house party in my deep red, rural community Thursday evening and a group of us gathered to discuss the book and women’s health issues, including access to abortions but also to talk about how mostly male Members of Congress are attempting to determine women’s medical health and futures by repealing the ACA and implementing “Trumpcare,” which includes draconian measures against women like eliminating free birth control and declaring pregnancy a “pre-existing” condition.
This war on women’s health is an on-going concern and as the Republican-led state legislature continues to slash funds to reproductive health care clinics, continues to worsen. A recent study found that the mortality rate of Texas women has doubled in just two years. The jump in the death rate in the state puts Texas on par with third-world nations and is directly attributed to Republicans cutting the budgets on healthcare clinics where lower income women were receiving much-needed assistance.
The house party I hosted raised funds for the Greater Texas Planned Parenthood organization instead of NARAL, a decision I made because of my location. There is no access to ob-gyn services in my county. The nearest reproductive health care clinics are between 45 and 60 miles away. A recent health profile of this county conducted by the Texas Department of State Health Services found that only 61 percent of women received any prenatal care in the first trimester.
Access to a local ob-gyn would greatly increase the pre-natal care that local women receive, reducing their likelihood of facing pregnancy-related issues, including the death and illness of the mother and baby. A Planned Parenthood in a rural area like this would provide a much-needed service and yet many conservatives associate Planned Parenthood with abortions only, not realizing the extent of services offered by the organization.
Hosting a house party for Planned Parenthood allowed me to draw attention to the range of services that the organization offers women, a point I hope will help to break through many of the myths surrounding Planned Parenthood among conservative Republicans in my county.
In addition to having a variety of snacks, both savory and sweet, our group used a set ofquestions created by NARAL to discuss the book, tv series, and current events related to women's health and status. Then we played a game based on a recent video circulating the internet, "who said it--a Republican or Handmaid's Tale. I came up with about 8 quotes from the book and 12 from Republicans about women, rape, and abortion and printed them out on slips of paper. I placed the slips into a bowl and we passed it around, choosing a quote and then reading it while the rest of the group guessed who said it. Each quote sparked discussion and some uncomfortable laughter because some of the quotes are just ridiculous. It's hard to believe that anyone, including male lawmakers, could believe the things they have said about women. Nevertheless, they have said these things and implemented laws that reflect this high level of ignorance. The game provided a fun ending to an evening hinged on serious discussion. We then took up contributions to Planned Parenthood and some of us talked about how the organization had helped us in times of need.
Please consider hosting a house party of your own, especially if you are in a rural area where women’s health clinics are needed. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are both able to accept donations and beyond raising funds, these kinds of parties raise awareness.