‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Women Treated as ‘Vessels’ for Babies

July 17th, 2019 11:52 PM

In this latest season of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the series has been unusually spiteful towards religious people. Of course, the premise of a religious takeover of the United States forcing women into slavery was never going to be flattering, but this year has been much harsher with Christians defacing monuments and priests being called child molesters. This week, we see a retread of the old pro-choice claim that pro-lifers and religious people treat women as “vessels” for growing babies.

The July 17 episode “Heroic” focuses mostly on the hospitalization of the pregnant Handmaid Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop). Last week, she was shot by an officer after threatening another handmaid with a gun and now lies in critical condition. Our protagonist June (Elizabeth Moss) has been assigned to pray over her for the duration of her stay, so we mostly follow her inner rantings as the stress of constant kneeling and praying drives her insane.

Despite that, however, she remains lucid enough to provide progressive commentary. As June watches doctors work on the handmaid, she notes to herself that Ofmatthew is “just a vessel now, and the baby is all that matters.” In a more sardonic tone, she remarks, “I suppose that it’s all that ever mattered.”

It’s the usual drivel we hear about pro-life defenders, that they treat women as just baby vessels and sending them back to the dark ages. To hammer the point home, she makes a similar comment to a doctor as he stitches her hand. She even manages a reference to her feminist, pro-abortion mother.

[Slightly graphic with hand stitching]



June: Thank you.

Doctor Yates: I took an oath.

June: First do no harm.

Doctor Yates: Am I harming you?

June: You’re torturing her.

Doctor Yates: She’s not my patient, the child is.

June: That’s bullshit. Sir.

Doctor Yates: Hold still.

June: My mother was a doctor. She treated pregnant women. And she always put her patients, the women, first.

Doctor Yates: Oh, things were different when she practiced medicine. Did she get out?

June: No.

Doctor Yates: I’m sure you miss her.

When a woman is pregnant, there are two patients, but the pro-abortion side always wants to pit the mother against her child in a zero sum game.

Because of the context of The Handmaid’s Tale, namely that they’re in the middle of a fertility crisis, it’s not like the show’s going to start advocating abortion. Unfortunately, the characters still seem determined to push the idea that protecting the unborn baby is somehow not protecting women. And this is supposed to make real-life pro-life and religious leaders look bad. 

“Do no harm” means doing no harm to all living, human beings, and that includes the unborn.