‘Big Mother Is Watching’: ‘Embryo Patrol’ Illuminates the Dystopian Aftermath of Overturning Roe


A prophetic quick story written in 1981 suggests what would possibly occur in our fast future, ought to the Supreme Courtroom overturn Roe v. Wade.

Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Pat Nixon, Richard Nixon and then-Senator George Murphy in San Clemente, Calif., in 1970. By means of the Eighties, Republican leaders reminiscent of Ronald Reagan received in elections because of the anti-abortion motion. Picryl / Creative Commons)

It was 1981 and Ronald Reagan had simply been elected president. The nation was swinging to the appropriate, and Roe v. Wade, determined in 1973, was already beneath assault.

I used to be a New York Metropolis author and a younger mom and was stunned at some point to be invited to Washington, D.C., to talk to an officer from the Nationwide Group for Ladies (NOW). It turned out that somebody on the group had observed my satires in Penthouse journal. They advised that I write one on abortion. They wished to succeed in males. Flattered and impressed, I went dwelling and wrote “Embryo Patrol.” Penthouse printed it in October 1981.

A few month in the past, I obtained an e mail by means of my writer’s web site, from a stranger, a retired doctor who lives on Cape Cod. He had stored the Penthouse with Embryo Patrol all these 41 years and would take it out to reread it when abortion got here up. He wrote to inform me it ought to be republished now. I scarcely remembered the piece, and requested if he may copy and fax it to me. Then I learn a brief story so darkish and grim I may scarcely consider I had written it.

I posited a grim future in 1994, which clearly didn’t come to go. However the story suggests what might happen in our immediate future. Forty-one years after penning this piece, it appears curiously prophetic.

Embryo Patrol

The foyer smelled of synthetic roses. At one finish was a coloured poster, too massive for indoor show. It depicted an infinite face: the face of a lady of about 40, with a quiet smile, sturdy tooth, and good-looking options. “BIG MOTHER IS WATCHING” ran the caption under it.  

Walker Smith crooked his center finger on the poster—however not earlier than placing his hand in his pocket. For the reason that improvement of the microphoto cell, you by no means knew the place that they had cameras; for the reason that election of ’92, you by no means knew once they’d be watching.

Walker opened the door to his house. His spouse, Tina, regarded frightened.

“What’s it?” Walker requested. “What occurred?”

Tina gestured together with her hand, and he noticed two strangers sitting in the lounge, a person and a lady. “Who’re they?” he mouthed.

“I went to the Heart on my approach dwelling from work in the present day,” she whispered.

He nodded, coronary heart sinking. Large Mom Facilities had sprung up all through america in response to the Canning-Dunn Regulation of ’89, which dominated that each feminine of childbearing age should take a month-to-month being pregnant take a look at. Each pregnant lady was now beneath authorities surveillance, as a result of each pre-born human being was beneath authorities safety.

The phrase “pre-born human being” was ‘newspeak’ for embryo or fetus—a shocking use of rhetoric, for some 60 percent of embryos miscarry naturally. To name all embryos “pre-born human beings” was like calling all little women “pre-mothers.”

A gray-haired lady was addressing Walker now. “My title is Captain Gatling of the Embryo Patrol. It’s my job to tell you that your spouse is wonderful.” She gave Tina a glance of false piety and love. “Wonderful” was ‘newspeak’ for pregnant. Tina didn’t look wonderful; she regarded white and strained.

To name all embryos “pre-born human beings” was like calling all little women “pre-mothers.”

“Congratulations, darling,” he advised his spouse, however his mouth was dry.

“I perceive this was not a deliberate being pregnant,” mentioned Captain Gatling.

Penthouse, October 1981. (Amazon)

 Walker mentioned, “We have already got two kids, —and Tina’s well being…”

“I do know all about her well being,” snapped Captain Gatling. “That’s one cause I’m right here. Her alleged coronary heart bother. That quack who tells her she shouldn’t have any extra kids.” She pursed her lips contemptuously. “It’s best to have considered Tina’s well being three weeks in the past,” Captain Gatling mentioned coldly. “You already know the legislation.”

Walker nodded. Abortion was in each case a felony. No exceptions have been granted for victims of incest, rape or unwell well being. All recognized abortions have been prosecuted as murders. “I do know the legislation,” mentioned Walker. 

“Good,” mentioned Captain Gatling. “Now I’d such as you to fulfill Henry Weston, the pre-born human being’s authorities appointed lawyer.”


“As you most likely know,” mentioned the lawyer, “the Human Life Act of the early ’80s dominated that for authorized functions, personhood begins with conception. The fertilized egg is taken into account a person, entitled to the entire privileges of any American citizen. I’m right here to characterize my consumer’s authorized rights.”

“Your consumer is smaller than this match-tip proper now,” mentioned Tina. She held up a match, then lit a cigarette. “Your consumer is not more than a cluster of cells.”

“My consumer is a pre-born human being,” corrected Henry Weston, reaching for her cigarette and snapping it in two. “No extra tobacco for you, younger girl. Throughout your baby’s residence in utero, you might be required to maintain the surroundings wholesome. In the event you pollute it with alcohol, espresso or medicine, you’ll be closely fined. And if Large Mom sees you doing something dangerous—carrying packages, participating in energetic sports activities—you’ll be charged with reckless conduct, with intent to kill.”

He stood up. Captain Gatling stood up, too.  “Get pleasure from your glory,” she mentioned to Tina. Then all of them murmured, “Large Mom is watching.” It was the frequent mode of greeting or farewell, but it surely struck Walker Smith as particularly vile that day.

He rejoined Tina on the sofa. “I’ll have to go away my job by New Yr’s,” Tina mentioned. She was a vp of a neighborhood financial institution. Ladies have been now not allowed to work previous their sixth month of being pregnant or allowed to renew working till their baby was 4 years previous.

“Your job?” mentioned Walker. “That’s the least of it. What about your well being?”

“Your concern’s a bit late,” mentioned Tina. “If it weren’t for you insisting…” However her tone was tender, not offended. 

“Don’t blame me,” mentioned Walker. “Blame Large Mom. After I was younger, all the women used tablets and IUDs. Nobody I knew obtained pregnant.”

Now, nevertheless, these easy and dependable types of contraception had been outlawed: IUDs as a result of they prevented the implantation of the pre-born human being within the uterus wall, and most types of contraception tablets as a result of they contained chemical compounds that made the uterine lining reject the pre-born human being. In 1994, most individuals didn’t do not forget that a mere 15 years earlier, abortion had been a authorized, protected process, freely chosen by one million and a half American girls a 12 months.

“Walker,” mentioned Tina. “I’m frightened. What are we going to do?”


The pill was pale inexperienced in opposition to Tina’s palm. It had price $1,500. Medication to terminate being pregnant have been often obtainable for those who may pay the value. Now, as soon as once more, solely the decrease financial teams have been compelled to bear undesirable infants.

Tina swallowed down the pill with champagne. “To life,” mentioned Walker. “Yours!”

“Now it’s my very own once more,” mentioned Tina. “My life.” The couple smiled at one another.

Captain Gatling and Henry Weston burst into the house.  “You’re each beneath arrest.”

“We haven’t achieved something unsuitable!” cried Tina.

“Oh, no? Henry, hand me that Geiger counter.” She superior with the Geiger counter and handed it over Tina’s shirt. It started ticking loudly. “There’s my proof. Proof of intent to homicide.”

“I don’t perceive,” mentioned Walker.

“The capsule was phony. We made positive you bought a radioactive tracer as a substitute. We’ve obtained state’s proof in opposition to you now.”

“You imply, I’ll nonetheless be pregnant?” requested Tina.

“That’s proper.”

“And also you’ve given me a dose of radioactivity?”

“You took it your self.”

“But it surely may harm the embryo.”

“That may be a chance,” mentioned Captain Gatling.

 Tina screamed, “No!”

“Mrs. Smith, relax. Yearly tens of 1000’s of badly deformed infants are born. Many are recognized to be significantly faulty from early within the being pregnant. The moms carry them to time period realizing they’re bringing a baby into the world who’s blind and deaf or who has no backbone. These moms present respect for human life. That’s what you need to be taught.”

Six months later, Tina Smith went into labor prematurely, throughout which she had a coronary heart assault and died. By performing an emergency Cesarean, the docs managed to rescue the newborn. She weighed 2.7 kilos and was born with tooth embedded in her cranium the place her ears ought to have been.

Captain Gatling was of two minds in regards to the end result. She was sorry that the newborn was deformed, after all, and sorrier that it may not survive. Then again, individuals like Tina and Walker deserved to be punished. 

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether or not you your self have had an abortion, or just stand in solidarity with those that have—to let the Supreme Courtroom, Congress and the White Home know: We won’t hand over the appropriate to protected, authorized, accessible abortion.

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