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Omelas

August 19, 2010
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Le Guin remains one of my favourite authors to this day, and I have pretty much everything she’s ever written (the Catswings books in particular are delightful!) but as a person and an author, I find her challenging. Part of this is her stance on fanfiction and some of her political positioning. Not views, but the way they are dictated.

This discussion about Omelas made me suddenly think of abortion. To prep what I’m about to say, I went from being absolutely pro-choice to being very much in favour of legal access to abortion and medical training for abortions and very much against abortion as morally, socially or culturally acceptable. Abortion is a tragedy and a child dies. But sometimes, tragedies happen to prevent greater tragedies. A woman with no support or help to raise a child is a woman being forced to an abortion, a woman pregnant against her will is in a terrible situation that deserves only sympathy, but a woman choosing to use abortion instead of birth control, and damnit, I know personally of women who have deliberately done that, is selfish. And don’t get me started on how men get to ditch responsibility or are refused choice in the complexity of this.

No-one in the discussion mentions the most direct metaphor in The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas is abortion. A culture built on the pain and misery of a child locked away and never discussed. They get freedom from pain and problems by moving the pain totally onto one individual unable to defend itself, trapped and helpless.

I don’t think it’s a metaphor Le Guin would agree with as she is profoundly pro-choice, but at least here, I think she has written a far sadder and wiser story of abortion than bloody Horton Hears a Who.

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