It was the worst of times, and it was the worser of times.
In the town of Orwell, USA, not so far from now, a woman is at a clinic informing her physician that she wishes to terminate an unexpected pregnancy. Betty is familiar with the legend of Roe vs. Wade, a mystical tale that she never paid much attention to until she needed it. She has heard the myth that women are people who should be trusted to make decisions about their bodies in private with the physician of their choosing, but now has found that in the town of Orwell, this isn’t really true anymore.
Betty tells the doctor that after serious consideration she and her partner have decided having a baby right now isn’t right for them, and she’d like to terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible before any physical or emotional effects begin to take their toll.
“So you want an abortion,” the doctor says.
“Well, I never wanted an abortion. I’m not excited about this situation but it’s still the right choice for me,” Betty explains.
“Of course you may have an abortion,” the doctor says reassuringly. “After all, the Supreme Court made it legal almost forty years ago.”
“Okay, great,” Betty says, feeling a sense of comfort and relief at the thought of having this unfortunate but necessary procedure done and over with so that she can get on with her life. “So can we get this done right now?”
“Oh, ho!” the doctor scoffs at Betty. “Hold on, you eager beaver, you! First you need to have an ultrasound.”
“But I don’t want an ultrasound,” Betty says. “It’s pointless. I want the mass of cells growing in my uterus to be removed. Why do I need to see what it looks like?”
“Big Brother says that you couldn’t possibly understand the consequences of your actions. I’ve also been told that as a medical professional I’m not qualified to give you advice on the matter,” says the good doctor. “No, you must have an ultrasound to give you another chance to reconsider.”
“Trust me, I have thought this through.”
“My dear,” the doctor says pleasantly, “I’m unable to agree or disagree. Our opinions are irrelevant because the state legislature says so.”
“But you’re a doctor.”
“I’m not wealthy,” Betty says with a sigh. “Will my insurance cover a medically unnecessary ultrasound?”
“Nope,” says the doc. “You can pay a few hundred bucks for one here, or you can go to a place staffed by people with no medical or psychological training where they will give you an ultrasound for free while heavily lobbying you with guilt, shame, and scripture to carry the baby to term so a nice religious family can adopt it, thus fortifying the ranks of the faithful.”
“But I don’t want to have a baby at all, let alone a baby that I’ll be pressured to give away,” the woman says.
“Well, then, that will be two hundred bucks on top of what this visit costs so you can have an ultrasound here without having to reveal your identity to people who despise you,” the doctor says cheerfully. “But then, of course, you’ll have to wait three days before you can come back for the abortion itself.”
“That will be difficult,” the woman says. “I already had to take today, Friday off, in the hopes that I’d recover over the weekend. My boss won’t let me have another day off so soon.”
“Well, you should have thought of that before your contraception failed,” the doctor says.
“I can’t afford to pay for the ultrasound here,” Betty sighs. “I guess I’ll have to go to the Crisis Pregnancy Centre, try to get another day off from work, and come back to have the abortion.”
The Crisis Pregnancy Centre is staffed by people more interested in The Good Book than the Hippocratic Oath. Not that they are really much for reading, however, because everything they try to read is full of silly “facts” and “research” that contradicts what their religious leaders tell them. The workers at the Crisis Pregnancy Centre aren’t doctors. In fact, they have no qualifications at all other than a strong interest in telling women that they should never, ever, terminate a pregnancy. They aren’t licensed and regulated by any professional or legal organisation, so they say things like “abortion is murder” and “God wants you to keep this baby.” Betty tries to sit through the counselling session with quiet patience, but is afflicted with shame and anxiety as a plump middle-aged, Mrs. Church lectures her about her thoughtless consideration of abortion.
“Now we’ll perform the ultrasound,” Mrs. Church says, and a technician pushes in a cart carrying a device equipped with a ten-inch probe.
“What’s that?” Betty asks, horrified.
“At your stage of pregnancy an abdominal ultrasound won’t show us anything, so the Pro-Life society from the Our Lady of Eternal Suffering parish bought this enormous shaft manufactured by ShameCo. Big Brother says it has to go up your ladyparts and we jam it against your cervix to get a peek,” Mrs. Church said cheerfully.
“But I don’t want that thing jammed up my ladyparts,” Betty insists.
“Oh, my dear,” Mrs. Church laughs heartily. “You know that’s not true. You wouldn’t be pregnant out of wedlock with a bastard child if you didn’t love having things shoved up your vagina.”
“Do I really have to do this?” Betty asks, growing increasingly distressed. She begins to wish that she had brought her partner or a friend with her, and the elevated levels of hormones in her body don’t help with the sudden panic she feels.
“My dear,” Mrs. Church says benevolently, “You don’t have to do this if you just do the right thing and keep this little gift from God and never go on welfare and raise it to be a good little heterosexual Christian American. If you really want the abortion, you can have this enormous shaft shoved in your ladyparts for free here at the Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering Crisis Pregnancy Centre, or you can go back to your doctor and pay him to do it. But then, you’re probably into that sort of thing, or you wouldn’t be here to begin with.”
“Just get it over with,” Betty sighs.
“Now, we may or may not be able to find the glob of cells at all, but just in case there is a heartbeat to hear, we need to make sure you hear it,” Mrs. Church explains as the technician greases up the large wand with its bulbous tip. Before he inserts the shaft into her body, Betty notices some words printed on it. They read “USA ALL THE WAY.”
“Maybe it won’t be that bad,” Betty reassures herself. “Just try to relax and maybe it will be over with soon.” She closes her eyes as the technician happily jams the plastic rod into her body.
“You have to watch,” says Mrs. Church. “The law says you must look at the ultrasound to see your precious baby before you decide to murder it, damning both yourself and your unbaptised bastard child to Hell for all eternity.”
“I don’t want to watch,” Betty says. “I’m just trying to make it through this. I don’t need to see something that isn’t there to see. It’s not a baby. It’s just a few cells that you may not be able to see anyway.”
“You have to watch the screen while we jam this thing inside you,” Mrs. Church says. “Or the ultrasound doesn’t fulfil the letter of the law. You must see your baby and–”
“It’s not a baby,” Betty snaps. “Right now its a glob of cells that doesn’t even look like a tadpole yet. It has no brain and no beating heart, and foetuses at this stage of development frequently spontaneously abort anyway because so many of them develop incorrectly.”
“I don’t know about that dear,” Mrs. Church laughs gently. “That sounds like Evolutionist blasphemy to me. Now look at the monitor.”
With great anxiety, Betty turns her head and stares at the monitor to observe the images produced by the thing that is probing her body. The ultrasound goes on for fifteen minutes as they search in vain for the sound of a heartbeat or the image of a clump of cells the size of a blueberry. They don’t find anything, so after shoving some papers laden with crosses, bible quotes, and the bloody images of aborted late-term foetuses into Betty’s hand, they ask her if she will reconsider her abortion, do the right thing, and carry the baby to full term so it can be adopted by a nice religious family.
“No thanks,” Betty says. “I don’t want a baby at all, let alone a baby that I have to give away.”
After a few more minutes of probing, Betty is sent home with the pictures of late-term aborted foetuses and a lengthy pamphlet about the tortures that await baby killers in Hell. She spends the weekend feeling stressed out, sore, and has panic attacks when she recalls the uncomfortable bump of the ShameCo wand against her cervix. In a few days she has the abortion she wanted anyway, but it takes her a long time to get over the confusion, shame, and pain of her state-mandated vaginal probe.
Meanwhile on the other side of town, a mother of three who has unexpectedly become pregnant again sooner than would be healthy for herself and her family is at her clinic.
“My partner and I would eventually like more children,” Sally says, “But I’m still nursing my newest baby and we’d like more space between the kids. I’d also be worried about the effect that another pregnancy would have on my body and my ability to perform as a parent just now.”
“Yes, I know that because I’m your doctor and I have looked after you and your family for years, and that sounds like you understand that this is the right choice for you.” the doctor says sympathetically. “But the law says you have to have an ultrasound first.”
“I don’t need an ultrasound,” Sally says with the stoic resolve of an experienced mother. “I’ve had plenty during my previous pregnancies. I know what they are and what they will show.”
“Plus it’s medically unnecessary and I feel it violates the Hippocratic Oath,” the doctor agrees. “Tell you what. We can use doctor-patient confidentiality, skip the ultrasound and just get this business out of the way so you can move on with your life and get back to your family.”
“Gee, thanks, doc!” Sally says with a gentle smile. “It sure is swell getting personalised treatment from someone who understands and respects me. But aren’t you worried about Big Brother?”
“Big Brother can get stuffed,” the doctor says defiantly. “My patient’s health and well being has to come first.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Sally says thoughtfully. “If I needed a blood transfusion you wouldn’t make me go to some Christian Science clinic to hear why it’s bad. I also suppose if I needed to have a limb amputated because it was riddled with tumours you wouldn’t make me go to a Rastafarian clinic to hear about how keeping the body whole is required by God. If I needed psychopharmacological treatment, you wouldn’t make me listen to Scientologists about how mood-altering medication is a fantasy. In fact, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at all that legislators should be able to cherry-pick issues like birth control and abortion to suppress while ignoring the fact that there are plenty of medical procedures that could be prohibited if this precedent is set.
Sally has her abortion, performed safely, respectfully, and in private at her doctor’s office. She goes home and returns to her family to recuperate with her loving and sympathetic spouse at her side.
The next day, Sally hears fists pounding on her front door. She looks out her window, and what did she see? Jackbooted priests with a warrant for three. Sally, her husband, and their family doctor are all carted off to be interrogated in Room 101, for they have conspired to murder a human being and refused to be bound up in unethical, needlessly restrictive and humiliating legislation. After being released on bail, Sally and her family pack up and leave Orwell, USA, settling in lovely Toronto, Canada, where people mind their own goddamn business. They settle happily into a new life where state sponsored terrorism against women is eschewed in favour of politeness, maple syrup ice cream, and basing medical legislation on scientific evidence and respect for human dignity. They raised their many children in happiness and joy, paying no heed to the silly, immature jibes of the USA, which eventually changed its name to the United State of Orwellia to honour the town of Orwell’s “exemplary” record of respecting the quality of human life.
Both doctors were eventually lynched by an angry mob of sexually unsatisfied church ladies as the law required their names and addresses to be made fully available online for The Anti-Abortion Pro-Doctor-Murder Society to see. Seeing this as the final straw, Betty followed her friend Sally to lovely Toronto, Canada, taking her reproductive system, dignity, and common sense with her. Not so many years later, the United State of Orwellia is populated only by religious extremists, who die off due to a deliberate refusal to participate in any form of Survival of the Fittest. Medicine, education, and eventually food are gradually replaced by prayer, and several days later when everyone in Orwellia drops dead of starvation, the rest of the world is too busy to notice what with all the science they are doing now that they aren’t being bossed around by gun-toting maniacs.
And they all lived happily ever after. Especially the people in Toronto.