On Thursday, House Republicans finally voted through legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), replacing it with a bill that would, among other consequences, make things like pregnancy, postpartum depression and rape pre-existing conditions.
As a result, the new American Health Care Act (AHCA) ― yet to be passed in the Senate ― could put women in particular at risk of being denied coverage or having to pay the higher premiums that Obamacare previously banned. According to HuffPost’s Catherine Pearson, an amendment to the bill “effectively gives states permission to discriminate against women.” (Though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has denied this.)
It didn’t take long for people on Twitter to respond with a meme that’s become terrifyingly relevant to American politics: images from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s eerily prescient 1985 novel.
Screenshots of women in red robes and white bonnets began flooding social media, accompanied by chilling parallels between today’s health care chaos and the book’s depiction of a theocratic regime that subjugates women after taking control of their reproductive rights.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s dire account of a near-future United States called Gilead, an authoritarian government rises to power and quickly decides to drain women’s bank accounts, the first step in a series of shockingly quick policy moves that seem to strip women of their status as equal citizens before they even had a chance to fight back.
“I was asleep before,” Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss, proclaims in a trailer for the Hulu show. “That’s how we let it happen.”
Even Atwood herself has admitted that her book seems more relevant now than ever.
Women had already been protesting state senates by dressing as handmaids in an attempt to raise awareness of certain lawmakers’ pushes to limit reproductive health in states like Missouri, Minnesota and Texas. On Thursday, opponents of the AHCA followed suit, posting images and references to Gilead in the hours after the House decision in order to make their stance clear.
In a piece titled “Women In The U.S. Don’t Live In A Dystopian Hellscape. Yet,” HuffPost’s Emily Peck rightly pointed out that, despite the setbacks that have occurred under President Donald Trump’s administration, women in the U.S. have helped push for progress in 2017, too.
“The resistance in the U.S. is very much alive and well,” Peck wrote. “And in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, it’s been remarkably effective.” She cited the ousting of longtime Fox news host Bill O’Reilly, the “unprecedented” numbers of women considering running for office in upcoming elections, and the failure of other policies like Trump’s anti-immigration orders, which was fought by a huge number of female immigration lawyers.
Still, as Congress mulls a health care plan that could potentially put individuals’ lives at risk, women (and men!) are quick to voice their opposition to anything that resembles Gilead.