COLORADO SPRINGS— At first glance it looked as if a dozen pilgrims had a problem with Vice President Mike Pence’s speech Friday at Focus on the Family, but the women wearing red cloaks and white bonnets had nothing to do with Thanksgiving.
They were dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Hulu series that premiered April 26 based on the 1985 feminist dystopian novel that has been embraced by the left, fueling a recent rash of costumed protests aimed at reviving the “war on women” message.
Ryan Barry, board president of United Colorado Springs, said the point was to “send a bit of a shocking message” by comparing the Trump administration and Focus on the Family to the Republic of Gilead, the totalitarian religious theocracy depicted in the show.
“If you know anything about the show, it’s kind of a dystopian future, a fundamentalist society,” said Mr. Barry. “I think they were drawing parallels between those two things and using pop culture as a way of making a commentary on the political situation right now.”
Friday’s demonstration outside Focus on the Family followed similar displays in Texas and Ohio, where bands of women dressed as handmaids have taken to the state capitols to protest anti-abortion legislation.
At a June 13 hearing in Columbus, Ohio, 16 women wearing handmaid garb sat in the front row of a committee hearing on Senate Bill 145, which would allow women undergoing abortions to recover damages from doctors who dismember the fetus during the procedure.
That’s a far cry from the plot line of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which the few remaining fertile women are enslaved and forced to bear the children of the male rulers, but the pro-choice movement has insisted that the comparison is valid.
“The handmaids are forced to give birth and, in so many cases, because of all the restrictions on abortion access, women in Ohio and across the country are being forced to give birth,” said Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in Cleveland.com.
President Trump hasn’t been spared. After the Colorado Springs protest, Occupy Democrats described “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a “dark, disturbing literary work that, as these women remind us, hits uncomfortably close to home in Trump and Pence’s America.”
“I think people are finding it so relevant and so frightening [with] what’s happening now, is because it feels like those things are sort of being put into place,” said the show’s star, Elisabeth Moss, in a Thursday interview with Netflix talk-show host Chelsea Handler.
Conservatives, meanwhile, have rolled their eyes at the “hysteria,” as columnist Heather Wilhelm put it, arguing that their commitment to slashing big government would seem to preclude a totalitarian takeover.
“I’ve had a packed social schedule and, as the old saying goes, you never notice the brutal rise of a women-enslaving dystopia when you’re attending a gala celebrating successful female entrepreneurs just a few blocks down from a clinic that cheerfully offers almost-free government-subsidized IUDs!” cracked Ms. Wilhelm in National Review.
Colorado’s Revealing Politics poked fun at the Colorado Springs “handmaids” with a video showing them focused on their phones.
“Apparently, dressing as the oppressed women from this fantasy movie? TV show? activist webinar? was meant to show the Vice President that women were passionately displeased by his existence,” said the conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics.
“Instead, they showed him that their passion for equality (is that what they’re protesting?) can be tamed by one thing – their cell phones,” said Peak.
Mr. Pence, speaking at the 40th anniversary celebration of Focus on the Family, reiterated the administration’s support for eliminating the federal government’s annual half-billion in funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
“And later this summer, when we repeal and replace Obamacare, we’re going to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all,” said Mr. Pence to cheers at the invitation-only event, which was shown online and drew a crowd of about 1,600.
The first U.S. vice president to appear at Focus on the Family, Mr. Pence commended the Christian organization for providing support for pregnant women.
“Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and their homes to children in need,” Mr. Pence said. “And life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations, like Focus on the Family, that provide and support for women in cities and towns all across the country.”