medical abuse

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a dystopian novel from the 1980s that I read for my 10th grade Advanced Placement literature class. It features the life of an unnamed main character in a futuristic and archaic society, Gilead, where people view women as breeders for wealthy elite men whose wives cannot have children themselves.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a horrifying reflection on a society that undermines women’s value, and now I fear it is slowly becoming a reality. First, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and now professor Anna Smajdor at the University of Oslo is suggesting braindead women be used as surrogates, according to Women’s Health Magazine.

Smajdor claims this procedure would reduce risks of mortality during pregnancy and give children to those who are unable to carry their own. She also said women would consent beforehand. The Norwegian philosophy professor, who has no medical background, compared this procedure to organ donation and believes it should be seen as a straightforward process of safer reproduction, according to Health News.

“Donating organs is not the same as being kept alive by machines to carry babies,” Heavy Sports copy editor and HuffPost authorMara Brooks tweeted Feb. 4. “This would normalize equating women’s bodies with incubators, an existence even less dignified than that of farm animals. It’s bad for society to go in this direction and terrible for women.”

I completely agree with Brooks. Organ donation is a conscious choice people make when getting their driver’s licenses, and the process will take place after death. Surrogacy using braindead women is a questionable practice that would take place on a woman kept alive by incubators and treated as a living womb with no soul or autonomy.

This surrogate procedure would be eerily similar to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and continue the cycle of objectifying women and reducing them to just breeders. It is a scary thought and not something as straightforward and emotionless as Smajdor proposed when discussing it.

The backlash Smajdor garnered was promising, but the fact that she was able to write an entire research paper on the barbaric idea leads me to think about the other implications and concepts people will pitch to the public for speculation.

This concept Smajdor proposed would be an upsetting and disturbing idea coming from any gender, but it is especially disappointing because it came from another woman. Considering the immense, scary history of women being abused, undermined and exploited within the medical industry, this just feels like another step into the dark past of women’s medical objectification.

Black women in particular have experienced some of the most appalling medical exploitations in our country’s history. Female slaves in particular were used without their consent in gynecology experiments by James Marion Sims, later dubbed as the father of gynecology for his work.

Sims conducted horrible experiments on enslaved women without anesthesia in the name of science, and he took any inhumane means necessary to return the women to their slaveholders fully recovered from ailments affecting their reproductive organs. Sims also excused his horrid actions through his notion that Black people did not feel pain. He did not truly help any of these women as he claimed, instead conducting a series of trials with no regard for their humanity, according to

Today, while these specific atrocities have ceased, mistreatment of Black women by medical professionals continues. Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women, according to National Partnership.

Women in general have reported that when visiting emergency departments with chest pain, they waited 29% longer than men to be evaluated for possible heart attacks, according to AHA Journals.

Furthermore, doctors are twice as likely to diagnose middle-aged women with chest pain and other symptoms of heart disease with a mental illness or disorder compared to men with the same symptoms, according to an NIH study.

Seattle-based neurologist Ilene Ruhoy was told she worked too hard, and the doctors attributed her pain to stress and anxiety, according to The Washington Post. She ended up having a brain tumor that grew too large to be entirely removed, and during her operation, she was sure she would die. Fortunately, she did not, but now there are many smaller versions of the initial tumor that will need further operations, all because doctors undermined her pain and did not treat her when they should have.

With all of that horrific history in mind, it truly puts into perspective why Smajdor’s surrogate proposal is so concerning and drenched in misogyny. Especially for women in marginalized communities, medical mistreatment is becoming a problem we can no longer ignore or pass off as a means toward medical exploration. Procedures of this nature are demeaning and would make fictional dystopias a terrifying truth.

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