My son is in seventh grade. When I picked him up from school yesterday, he was reading a book for Book Club, titled "Unwind," by Neal Schusterman. I idly glanced at the blurb, and asked him if I could read it.
The book is set in a future after "The Heartland War," which was a civil war over reproductive choice. The "Life Army" raged against the "Choice Brigade." The net result was "The Bill of Life," which declared that life began at conception. EVERY baby had to be born. But parents had three options: "Storking," which was to leave the newborn baby on a doorstep and run away, place them in a State Home, or to "unwind" the children after age 13.
To get around the Bill of Life, the parents of unwanted children could sign an "unwind order," which meant that the children would be sent to a "harvest clinic." At the clinic, every part of their body would be harvested, to be used as transplants. So they continued to "live," but in "a divided state."
The story follows three main characters: Connor, Risa, and Lev. Connor accidentally discovers the unwind order after finding plane tickets to the Bahamas for three--not all four--members of his family. Risa was a ward of the State, which had to periodically winnow the population of the Homes. Lev is a "tithe," a tenth child promised to God for harvesting. He was raised from birth to be unwound. Their lives intersect and weave quite a tale, which I won't spoil in case anyone wants to read the book. But I must blather below the fold.
In this terrible future, there was no need for diseases to be cured. Any ill was corrected by a transplant from an "unwound" teenager. There's a story about a truck driver with an arm that can do magic tricks. He explains that it's "muscle memory," and that he often wonders about the kid whose arm it once was.
At one point, several teens discuss the existence of the soul. One says that he thinks that babies get a soul only when they're wanted and loved. That hit me particularly hard. I believe that every baby should be both wanted and loved. This book, fiction though it is, shows a world in which forced-birth has far-reaching consequences.
If the child scheduled to be unwound somehow escaped and made it to age 18, he or she was "safe," as a legal adult. The only other way to temporarily avoid it, for girls, was to become pregnant. That put off their unwinding for the duration of the pregnancy.
I read the book in one sitting last night, and then I had frightening dreams. The push for forced birth in this country is getting out of hand. The draconian and obscene laws passed by Republicans in North Dakota and Arkansas are a horrible foreshadowing of the futures of both women and unwanted children. There is no plan for these unwanted children, except perhaps private prisons. States used to have orphanages. But then along came the Pill, and far, far fewer unwanted children.
And yet, Republicans and religious wackos are now ranting against birth control, claiming that "the Pill kills," and that "your uterus is full of tiny baby corpses." And whining and howling against sex ed, event though "Abstinence Ed" has been proven NOT to work. Which is probably WHY the GOP keeps pushing it. More teen mothers kept out of college and the workforce! Yay! Forced-birthers don't give a flying fuck about the children once they're born. Republicans have and are still forcing cuts to services that HELP women and the babies they keep, whether wanted or not.
I have to wonder if the author has a truly fertile imagination, or if he knows something that we don't. The Republican population, as a whole, is aging. Imagine if they COULD have aging, unhealthy body parts replaced by young, healthy ones. That thought is really too awful. But...if this trend towards forced-birth laws continues, something has to be done about all the unwanted children...