What’s Next?

I recently had a disquieting political discussion during an otherwise lovely lunch with my youngest son.

It probably won’t shock readers of this blog to learn that our children and grandchildren are pretty political…and I’m happy to report that they all have developed what I consider to be excellent values. The differences arise from our views of America’s probable future. One son has already moved to the Netherlands, a granddaughter lives in northern England, and this son–our youngest–expects that America’s descent into autocracy and White Supremacy will prompt his children to eventually relocate as well.

Our discussion wasn’t exactly an argument, but we had very different predictions about the likely political fallout when–not if, since we agreed it will happen– the Supreme Court eviscerates or overrules Roe v. Wade. I opined that their “victory” will lead to a reduction in the passion of the pro-fetal-life movement, and energize women who have previously felt protected by Roe. My son disagreed–he sees the anti-choice zealots taking their fervor to state legislatures and–thanks to gerrymandering–tightening their red state control.

I should mention that this son is a lawyer, and a very good one. He knows how to frame and present a convincing argument….Needless to say, I left lunch depressed.

A few days after that conversation, I was a guest on a podcast called Who Gets What–the brainchild of two longtime friends, Morton Marcus and John Guy. After the recording stopped, Morton and I were talking, and he made an observation that I found both fascinating and relevant to the consequences of a reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Morton said he’d been looking for a truly objective, scholarly analysis of the multiple ways in which women’s “liberation”–the growth/emergence of women’s participation in all the “nooks and crannies” of society–has changed that society. As he noted, there’s been a lot written about the subject, but it’s mostly advocacy (pro and con), or focused on relatively small parts of the bigger picture. He’d found no analysis encompassing the truly monumental social changes triggered by the steady expansion of women’s participation in all parts of our society.

Morton’s observation is accurate, at least so far as I can tell–I’m unaware of any scholarship that addresses the entirety of the immense social changes that have occurred as a result of women’s emancipation from the confines of “barefoot and pregnant.”

However one defines the “women’s movement,” however, its power depends on reliable birth control.

Yes, we can look to history and find examples of powerful women; we can point to the suffrage movement and similar efforts to assert or enlarge women’s rights–but real change, I submit, came only with the ability of women to control our reproduction. Only then could we enter fully into workplaces (most of which no longer required brute strength), an entry that gave us another form of choice: the economic means to leave unsatisfactory marriages, or to renegotiate the terms of more agreeable ones.

There’s a reason the people who want to return the U.S. to the social structures of the 1950s are so focused on controlling women’s reproduction. (It isn’t just abortion; if you don’t believe birth control is next, I refer you to the Hobby Lobby case…)

The future of American democracy may well depend upon the extent to which American women understand the far broader implications of a loss of control over their reproductive lives. Yes, there are compelling medical, economic and psychological reasons to allow women to exercise the self-determination men take for granted. Yes, the arguments advanced by pro-fetal-life activists are inaccurate gaslighting. But if women lose control over their bodily integrity, they won’t just lose the momentum that has been building toward their full participation in American society, they’ll do a U turn.

Women’s equality will lose considerable–critical– ground.

I think that–deep down, if not consciously–activists on both sides of the issue understand that this fight is really between continuing inclusion of half the population in the life of the nation, or a return to some version of male social dominance. The question is whether the majority of non-activist women understand the actual nature of the debate, care about continuing their progress toward equal civic participation, and are sufficiently motivated to protect the hard-won improvements in women’s prospects and status.

What happens next–whether my son’s predictions or my own hopes prove accurate–ultimately depends on the answer to that question–and upon who wins those statehouses.


  1. No sense asking the question, “What happens if we lose our democracy?”

    As I’ve been saying, our democracy is an illusion. I was going to write an article about the Summit for Democracy that we are hosting, but Alex Rubenstein beat me to it and so I republished it:

    “The United States, it turns out, has no intention of laying down its big stick. To mark the occasion of the summit, the U.S. Treasury Department revealed just days later that it would be imposing sanctions against those “who are engaged in malign activities that undermine democracy and democratic institutions around the world, including corruption, repression, organized crime, and serious human rights abuse,” as a Treasury Department official told the Wall Street Journal.

    It cannot be overstated how hypocritical it is that the United States is promoting its Summit for Democracy by taking actions that are illegal under international law. According to the United Nations Charter, Chapter VII, Article 41, only the United Nations Security Council may enact economic sanctions against United Nations members.”


  2. The Supreme Court has to realize that by overturning Roe, corpses will have more rights than women. You cannot remove body parts from a dead person without their consent, prior to their last breathe. If Roe is overturned, women in the states are going to be so angry, men may never have sex until it’s overturned.

  3. Yes, the US/UK has made a mockery of the international justice systems. What they did in Ecuador will be revealed. They cannot keep Rafael Correa silent. The US is heading into a very dark period.

  4. I think this issue goes beyond abortionrights of women. The bigger basic principle is the division of power. The kolonists who conquered America robbed land belonging to the Native Americans. The same people subdued black people, latino’s, non-heterosexuals and women, grabbing the power until this very day. Now is the great awakening; minorities see the inequalities in all aspects of the American society and are becoming self aware and demand equality. Compared to Europe is the United States a backward country with nineteenth century capitalistic features: a privileged small category super riches and an overwhelming majority of middle and lower class people that hardly knows how to survive financially. The differentiating social structure that keeps a society together is disappearing and a new structure is nowhere in sight. Maybe it needs another pandemic or civil war. I hope Trump was the last president of the “ancien régime » .

  5. As one who is trying to help organize Male support for Reproductive Justice – it seems obvious – that Despite All That Has Happened – even among the Male Activist Community – largely – we are still “the Good Germans” – waiting – Bothered, but Not (Yet) motivated to really do anything Substantive. Will We wake up? We’ll see. Will Women – Do 95+% of the work – as they’ve done on most issues – we – again will see. The forces opposing us – are cooperating with each other and are highly motivated. I’m not optimistic – but I still do Hope!

  6. I’ve often wondered but not seen anyone write on the possibility that the reversal of RvW could spur a rise in net out-migration from forced-birth red states to states where abortions rights are protected and services accessible. Of course this would affect exactly the same demographic that all states covet: young, professional, college-educated women and the men who court them or are married to them. I don’t see how it can be avoided given the extent of out-migration from states like ours and other red states in the Midwest over the past twenty years.

    Below is an article by conservative writer Aaron M. Renn in American Affairs that touches on the subject of migration and its relation to economic and social policies embraced by Indiana government dominated by Republicans since 2011. It’s quite damning and the Indiana GOP and Governor are obviously taking great exception to it but it’s hard to argue with his facts and conclusions. I found it interesting that his prescription for change was for the GOP to advance policies and laws going forward that are less hostile to workers and citizens to the advantage of businesses. I was floored by that in that he is suggesting that Republicans basically start acting more like Democrats!

    He doesn’t touch on abortion but depending on the fate of RvW Indiana could soon become a state that all but outlaws abortion or makes it impossible to get one safely within our borders. I cannot imagine a young woman who values choice and control over her own reproductive health wouldn’t consider migrating to a state that supported those values and choices as she starts her career. But young women with no higher education or specialized training will be left with few options as migrating is much harder for them as they struggle to meet the day-to-day challenges of just getting by. Over time would leave the state with a citizenry and workforce even less educated and skilled than it is today. And it’s not good today.


  7. My granddaughter died at age 24 having seizures when she was 5 months pregnant; a few months before Pence’s Indiana anti-abortion laws were passed. She had developed a possibly fatal seizure disorder between the ages of 19 – 20 and suffered a number of serious seizure episodes so was aware of the dangers but she wanted to carry her baby to term. We will never know the statistics of the number locally or nationally regarding those women forced to carry pregnancies to term who lost their lives or who survived. How many are as dead as my 24 year old granddaughter and my great-granddaughter she was carrying?

    Such laws are passed and that usually ends information of the results, good or bad, once they are the law. Fortunately Pence did not get to keep his campaign promise of making his Indiana’s anti-abortion laws the law at federal level. SCOTUS is now dealing with an opportunity to ultimately return full control of women’s health decisions into the hands of politicians, primarily old white men. In 1970 I needed the permission, a signed document, by my husband to have a tubal ligation for serious health reasons. In 1972 we were legally separated and in the process of divorce when I again needed his permission on a signed document to have a hysterectomy. This is the future we are facing; this is “What’s Next?”.

  8. What policies a nation pushes is what it reaps. That is exactly why on a national level we need democracy and not the courts create the law we live by.
    State by state there currently are differences in abortion law. We need to introduce national legislation to secure rights for both reproductive rights and rights of the viable child

  9. Thank you Patrick for the reference to Aaron Renn’s article. While I disagree with his “Conservative” approach in one section, his summary of Indiana’s history is excellent. In one extensive document he has put forth what I’ve been writing for thirty years about our state. Anyone interested in my weekly homily can “subscribe” (without charge) to Eye on the Pie by sending me an email at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com

    Sheila, excuse me for using your space to promote my own work.

  10. Women HAVE to get more involved in running for office at every level of government. Only when the offices are filled with independent (not hand picked to promote a white mans agenda) can our democracy more forward.

    Our public schools have become student college factories. Critical thought has been replaced by studentse learning the same state curriculum so they get good grades and they can become college clones. Teachers can no longer create there own curriculum in English and social studies. Every student at my high school in 1973 through the 80’s had the choice of fifthteen different different english classes. Some of the classes offered were science fiction, propaganda, humor, religion, sports special. mythology and short stories of every class offered A propaganda class do you think that would fly today. This was Elwood Indiana small town America.

    It is amazing how far we have fallen!

  11. Most likely abortion will become a state by state battle if SCOTUS overturns Roe v Wade. I heard former Justice Ginsberg in an interview many years ago state that SCOTUS may have acted too soon. SCOTUS did not give us gays and lesbians the right to marry until many of the states approved it. The same will happen with abortion.

    We have a huge challenge ahead of us because of GOP gerrymandering. If womens’ reproductive rights are to be restored, those who support these rights must find ways to elect state reps who support these rights despite gerrymandering. We will need activists who are as committed as the gay men who acted up because the government ignored the AIDS epidemic that was killing so many gay men.

    And yes, I think many well educated women will migrate to other states, maybe other countries. So those states will see a huge brain drain.

    George l applaud and thank you for creating an organization of male allies. I am certain that many if not most men want their wives and sweethearts, their daughters and granddaughters to have the right to terminate a pregnancy if they are raped, their life is endangered, there is incest and for other reasons as well. What the men who oppose the right to abortion don’t see is how restricting abortion will affect men.

    And, of course, we know that state reps and members of the US congress will still have access to abortion for their mistresses, daughters etc. They won’t suffer and therefore won’t be moved to act on this on a federal level.

    I guess Justice Amy Coney Barrett would force her daughter to give birth to a child even if she had been raped. That, to me, is child abuse.

  12. Unfortunately, I agree with your son. While my daughter and son-in-law have chosen to remain in this country for now, I foresee a time when they will chose to leave, and I would support that choice. Even here in very blue NYC, right-wingers are making inroads. I hold out little hope for our democracy.

  13. One of Dahlia Lithwick’s guests on her latest Amicus podcast is Julie Rikelman, who argued before the Supreme Court in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health case last week. Rikelman makes the same point about the advances women have made since Roe v Wade because of their ability to control their reproduction, only in a little more detail. (Lithwick’s other guest is Katherine Franke, who talks about at how “religious liberty” underlies the present Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, and will continue to in other cases as well as Dobbs.) It’s a great episode, and I think you’ll find it interesting, if you haven’t already listened to it.

  14. Entertainment is the process of monetizing illusions. Over the lives of people like me, we watched it go from 25 cent Saturday morning movies for kids to the atmosphere that we all exist in now. We willingly participated in every step of that process because, even though we maintained the illusion of being busier, the reality was we had zero survival issues so more free time and it felt good apparently to spend it alone in the dream of illusion. The monetizers continued doing what they do and now the illusions are most of what we know.

    Only one of them is the illusion of the Republican base that the Republican Party is theirs rather than what’s real which is the Party being a few leaders who create and hold the base. How? By entertaining certain kinds of people with several illusions including the illusion that they care about maintaining our country as it was founded. The few leaders monetizing the entertainment have a different reality and that is that they have enough wealth to not care about the future of anything. They can simply move to wherever their comfort can be maximized and can afford to leave with most of the wealth that this country created over its 250 years.

    The question for the rest of us is can we successfully rage against that dying light? It’s not our illusion/entertainment. Perhaps it can be argued that we are entertained by the Constitution’s illusion of a world of equality and freedom and self-government. I proudly plead guilty to that.

  15. The answer, of course, is codification of Roe, which as universally applied would tend to end this feature of female migration from one state to another, or even as ex-pats. There may be other good reasons to migrate from right wing states, one of which I discuss below, but that would not be one of them.

    We purveyors of “democracy” have done a good post-WW II job of selling it to Europe but have remained mired in our version of 1945 democracy while the EU and others (notably the Nordics) have taken the ball and run with it, leaving us behind in our some 80 year version of democratic values which we are reluctant to change to match the European version (which I favor) for fear of economic retaliation by our Republican capitalist ownership, even worse gerrymandering etc. Imagine how in a (grossly misnamed “right to work”) state like Indiana would react to a federal statute requiring that union members sit on corporate boards like in Germany where unionized factory workers make $35-$40 an hour and have extended paid leave for births, sick leave etc.! If such were threatened to be implemented here, Fox and Friends would have immediately attacked local politicians and the now ex- leader of Germany, Merkel, the daughter of a minister from old East Germany who holds a PhD in Chemistry, as a communist!

    Wrong. She was and is a thoughtful capitalist, and one of the measures of her success is that even with such high wage scales Germany (behind only China) enjoys the biggest net import ratio balance of trade payments in the world. The secret? Emphasis on vocational education and “smart manufacturing.” We, not surprisingly, suffer by contrast the biggest continuing trade imbalance in the world with all our right to work and other anti-labor policies, where the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and its progeny still hold forth.

    Our “democracy” has clearly not kept up with the times, and we are rightly considered a backward state in the labor-management area these days by those we bequeathed democracy to some 80 years ago. Perhaps both men and women irrespective of how Roe is decided would be inclined to leave a state or even a country that (without federal relief) clung to these antiquated democratic social and economic values of another age. Perhaps given a choice, thoughtful Americans would have preferred to live under a Merkel than a Trump, for instance.

    The good news is that Biden has called an international conclave designed to prove that democracy is superior to authoritarianism in meeting the needs of their citizenry. I will be interested in seeing what comes of that since a noisy and substantial slice of the Republican Party appears ready to trade our democracy (tattered as it may be) for fascism in a last ditch effort to remain in charge or even relevant to our American experiment in self-government. Time (and our resolve to remain a democracy) will tell.

  16. I am too old to consider moving to another country, and too old for another country to want me. I would certainly consider moving if I were younger. Years ago I worked for a service organization and dealt with a client who was pleased with my assistance. He gave me the great compliment of telling me that I was pretty smart, for a woman. I have been seething ever since. Now that I’m old, I get the double whammy of being patronized because I’m (a) female and (b) old. I certainly agree that if we women cannot control our own reproductive choices, we might as well be slaves. Taliban, anyone?

  17. Those who agree with leaving this country rather than trying to change what is wrong should be welcoming the families of immigrants into your homes.

  18. I have thought of the pr-fetus movement as a proxy for the push toward Theocracy, and expect that that is a bg part of it, but never, previously,
    connected that to the rise of women’s liberation, and its attendant societal impact. However, I see no reason to see these issues as anything
    other than different facets of the same thing: most religions that I know of, aside from Unitarianism, traditionally see “barefoot and pregnant” as
    the “proper” status for women.
    I have to come down on your son’s side of the discussion, seeing the autocracy, if it progresses as it seems to be doing, as “fascism in America,
    wrapped in a flag, and carrying a cross,” or a bible. The country will be in for political, and religious autocracy. Further, as we have already seen,
    since no person, or country lives in a vacuum, (despite the clammorings of the Libertarians about being totally self-contained), this will most
    probably further encourage other countries to follow suit.
    If our species survives global warming, perhaps, some century hence, people will look back and call the era “Free lunch for Demagogues!”

  19. In a sense societies evolve like species, sometimes for the better (from my point of view) and sometimes not. The US has been, relative to Western Europe, stagnant in its evolution since WWII, and arguably has moved backward since 1980. Evolution, though, is not necessarily a gradual process, but at least as often a series of equilibria. The punctuated equilibria of the evolution of our nation consisted of pre-Civil War, post-Civil War to WWII, and post-WWII. The moment upon us now is one where we face the sudden adjustment to a new equilibrium, and the resulting culture may very well represent a step back.

  20. I have wondered how the debate would change if we could finally pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Verify women really are included in the constitution. As you say, the issue is much bigger than abortion.

Comments are closed.