Philip K. Dick and His Anti-Abortion Short Story

For those who may not be familiar with his writing, Philip K. Dick is a sci-fi author best known for his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (adapted for the film Blade Runner); his short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," (adapted for the film Total Recall); his short story "The Minority Report," (also adapted for film as Minority Report); and his novel, The Man in the High Castle, (adapted for the Amazon television series). He is classified as a postmodern writer, and his stories, delve into metaphysics, theology, and alternative universes, among other things. 

The man had an interesting (and sad) story himself. He was haunted by the death of his twin sister, who died in infancy, and he suffered from amphetamine abuse, survived a suicide attempt, and experienced hallucinations, which he was convinced were spiritual in nature. He died in 1982 at the age of 53 after suffering two strokes.

He left behind a plethora of work with 44 published novels and an estimated 121 short stories, which were mostly published in science fiction magazines. I have read some of his work, and I find it thought-provoking and entertaining. 

But here, I want to discuss one story in particular, "The Pre-Persons."

I found out about this short story purely by accident--through a pro-life posting on Facebook. Being both pro-life and a fan of Philip K. Dick's work, I had to read the story, and I did through this link

It was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in their October 1974 issue. For those of you who may not remember, the Supreme Court handed down the decision on Roe v. Wade in January of 1973, thereby legalizing abortion in all fifty states. "The Pre-Persons" is Dick's response to that decision.

Philip K. Dick was anti-abortion. 

Who knew?

I didn't, but I was excited by that fact and wanted to own my own copy of the original publication of "The Pre-Persons." Why? I'm not sure. I probably want a copy as historical evidence of the absurdity of the world we live in, and proof that a certain science fiction author could see the truth in the lies.

So the hunt began. 

The story has never been published again, not in any of Dick's collections, and the original magazine is difficult to find. 

But I found it . . . 


. . . my very own copy of what I see as a step back in time.

Dick uses absurdity to tell the story of pre-persons who can be aborted any time before the time of reason, which in Dick's world is around the age of twelve. The test of personhood? Being able to understand basic algebra. Absurd, right? Umm, not really. That's what makes his story particularly disturbing.

The story is a good one, one most feminists will hate, I imagine. He doesn't portray the women in his story in a positive light, but I don't mind. I know exactly where he's coming from, and I give him credit for speaking the truth. Looking back now, it was actually a pretty brave thing to do.

Catherine DePasquale