Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment", by M. Rickert

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Provide links to Abigail Nussbaum and Niall Harrison

I first became aware of "Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account" sometime last year through the commentary of Abigail Nussbaum and Niall Harrison. Since F&SF has made the story available to read on their website, and because this is an M. Rickert story, it was time to see what the fuss was about.

The story opens with the following:

IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO deduce that many of the missing women could not be accounted for. Executions were a matter of public record then and it was still fairly easy to keep track of them. They were on every night at seven o'clock, filmed from the various execution centers. It was policy back then to name the criminal as the camera lingered over her face. Yet women went missing who never appeared on execution.

Then, the narrator mentions that her mother went missing and that her father could not find out where she went, or if she had been admitted to a hospital. Her mother was a criminal, one who would have been executed. At this time we do not know what the crime was, except that it is only women. No men.

M. Rickert hints early on about what the crime is, but the opening quote from the founder of Operation Rescue should leave little question: abortion.

Sometime in the future, perhaps the near future, America has outlawed abortion and ex post facto has criminalized those women who had abortions while it was legal. That's the basis for "Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment".

Logically, the premise of the story feels like a stretch, like it is an extreme reaction to Operation Rescue and uber-Conservative thought. So, that's my main issue with M. Rickert's story. I question how plausible it is.

Of course, I quite enjoy and appreciate the Marq'ssan novels from L. Timmel Duchamp, and that also presents a radical change in American (and World) society. From the perspective of accepting the premise of this story (suspension of disbelief), "Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment" is a solid story. If such a world could exist, and if the reader can buy into the basic premise, it is plausible that the narrating daughter of this story would react as she has. Disgust that her mother is a murderer of an innocent, shame that she (daughter) will be viewed as being tainted because of her mother's actions, still missing her mother.

Actually, the part of the story that still stretches credulity is that women are once again reduced to thinking about their marital options. Status determines her possibility. The father mentions that if she were lucky the daughter could still become a "breeder".

Seriously? Even granting the concept of such a complete and utter reversal of abortion law in the United States...to the point that prior legal abortions would be criminalized to death...that the "options" of women would be flipped again so far is a stretch...and that's in a story that has quite a stretch as a premise.

Despite all of that, "Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment" remains a compelling story due to the strength of M. Rickert's writing. Dystopian futures (such as the similar The Handmaid's Tale) are curiously compelling. Even when they don't make sense. Perhaps because they don't make sense.

Does "Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment" serve as a warning, that if we take seriously the concerns of Operation Rescue and pander to that organization, this is a future that we could face? So, take action?

I don't know.

Outside of the implausible premise, this is an otherwise well crafted story that drew me in early on. That I didn't believe for a moment that was a possible future did not matter. Sometimes the implausible is what makes a good story. It's just that when I stop to think about the story that the questions begin to jump out.

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