What’s Different This Time? A Lot.

Back in the 60s, Bob Dylan told us that “the times, they are a-changing.” They still are.

I’ve been thinking about about the Supreme Court’s efforts to reverse social change, and the extent to which their targets have become too firmly embedded in the culture to be reversed.

Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973–almost exactly 50 years ago–and we sometimes forget how much American life  has changed since then. I’ve been thinking about what those changes may mean for the radical Court decision to overrule the constitutional right of a woman to control her own reproduction.

Consider just a few…

  •  Roe was argued in a void of sorts.Tthere was virtually no public discussion of women’s experiences with abortion, because it had been illegal in many if not most states, and coming forward to publicly explain and provide context to a decision to terminate a pregnancy would have labeled the woman a criminal. As Dobbs made its way through the judicial system, however, women faced no such restraint, and their stories have illustrated the multiplicity of situations women face, and the intensely personal impacts of their decisions.
  • Columnist Jennifer Rubin has written about one outcome of that public discussion–widespread recognition of the cruelty of forced birth. How do you defend GOP insistence that a 10-year-old girl impregnated by her rapist carry that pregnancy to term? Yet in that very real case, at least two Republican gubernatorial candidates have affirmed their belief that this child should be required to give birth. As Rubin noted, those utterances by GOP candidates weren’t anomalous: Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said that, in his view, a 12-year-old impregnated by incest should be forced to complete her pregnancy. Herschel Walker, the Georgia Republican Senate nominee, insists he wants no exceptions, even to save the woman’s life. Ohio state Rep. Jean Schmidt has called forcing a 13-year-old rape victim to give birth an “opportunity.” Even people with qualms about abortion are likely repulsed by this sick lack of concern for the lives and health of living women.
  • Poll after poll shows that most people who want to restrict abortion don’t want to ban the procedure entirely. Yet–as The New York Times reports– “There are no allowances for victims of rape or incest in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee or Texas.” In Idaho, a woman would have to file a police report to obtain an abortion, something virtually impossible for incest victims and others who live in fear of their attackers.”
  • As legal observers have noted–and survey research has confirmed--the U.S. Supreme Court is in the midst of a full-fledged legitimacy crisis, worsened by a steady stream of extreme decisions handed down by the conservative supermajority. Opinions about the Court are far more negative than they were in 1973.
  • The decision in Dobbs, as I’ve previously explained, rests on an analysis that threatens other rights–rights that weren’t recognized fifty years ago (and thus were not “deeply rooted” in Justice Alito’s version of American history) such as same-sex marriage (2015), contraception (1965) and interracial marriage (1967). That threat is widely understood, and it significantly expands the number of Americans who (accurately) view Dobbs as a personal threat.
  • The media environment today is dramatically different from that of 1973. Whatever their negatives–and I routinely post about those negatives–the ubiquity of the Internet and social media means that very few Americans are unaware of either the Court’s decision or its likely impacts. Digital communication has also made it much, much easier to organize political movements and raise dollars–and we are already seeing a strong political response online to what is being described–again, I believe accurately–as a theocratic and profoundly anti-liberty decision.
  • Over the past fifty years women have become considerably more empowered.
  • The percentage of Americans following the dictates of organized religion is at an all-time low.

I’m old, and I remember 1973.

In 1973, my mother–who was considered pretty liberated for her time– was still saying things like “Men won’t buy the cow if they can get the milk for free.” Women who had sex outside of marriage were considered sluts. Women who dared to have both children and careers were  “obviously” bad mothers. Women who weren’t married were pitied and called “old maids.” Women who earned more than their husbands were “castrating.” Women who played sports were unfeminine–and the very few women who wanted to report on sports were barred from male players’ locker rooms…It was 1974 before we could even get our own credit cards.

In short, a lot has changed since 1973. As a recent car commercial puts it, “this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.”  

 In 1971, Helen Reddy wrote our anthem..

In 2022, I think women really are going to roar.


  1. Heather Cox Richardson writes in Letters from an American, July 6, 2022:

    Both the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association, the flagship organizations of professional historians in the U.S., along with eight other U.S. historical associations (so far), yesterday issued a joint statement expressing dismay that the six Supreme Court justices in the majority in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe v. Wade ignored the actual history those organizations provided the court and instead “adopted a flawed interpretation of abortion criminalization that has been pressed by anti-abortion advocates for more than thirty years.” Although the decision mentioned “history” 67 times, they note, it ignored “the long legal tradition, extending from the common law to the mid-1800s (and far longer in some states, including Mississippi), of tolerating termination of pregnancy before occurrence of ‘quickening,’ the time when a woman first felt fetal movement.”

    The statement focuses less on politics than on the perversion of history, noting that “[t]hese misrepresentations are now enshrined in a text that becomes authoritative for legal reference and citation in the future,” an undermining of the “imperative that historical evidence and argument be presented according to high standards of historical scholarship. The Court’s majority opinion…does not meet those standards.”

  2. After reading Sheila this morning, I was just about to switch to Heather Cox Richardson, another astute woman I read and listen to everyday. John Street did it for me.

    This issue stirs complex emotions that range from deep personal to existential with a lot of ‘mileage’ in between. I feel compelled to stand for the most vulnerable who fear consequences right now to speak up. AND … as a lifetime career in youth development at home and abroad … I fear the consequences of a society unprepared to deal with the burden of intense anger of a generation of ‘unwanted’ babies then and now old enough to speak their truth … a few who act out in terror against innocent others.

    Now I just want to be especially attentive to all the wise women on this stream and listen to what they have to say.

  3. Evidently I’m old too. But I remember what it was like. I couldn’t rent my first apartment without my dad’s signature. I couldn’t buy my first car without my dad’s signature. I couldn’t buy that first couch on time (payments) without my dad’s signature. We have fought for the rights we have today – the rights that so many take for granted because that’s all they have ever known. We will not go back. This is not over.

  4. The Supreme Court ignored facts, history and the will of 70% of Americans in order to overturn long held rights. They will do it again as Justice Thomas has eluded in his written agreement. They won’t be satisfied until they have taken all affirmative action rights away…..

  5. It would be interesting to have numbers behind this issue because I don’t think it’s causing the uproar that older women would expect. Of course, the 10-year-old incest victim raises emotions, but I generally don’t see younger women giving a shit about abortion.

    I think women as a collective are much more secure and independent than women in the 70s. As several posters have mentioned, women were fighting for the right to be treated as equals, just as people of color were in the 60s.

    The “we the people” slogan was just that when signed. It was a white Euro-centric Christian male oligarchy society that became free from the Monarchy-rule. We went from monarchy to oligarchy.

    Everybody else had to fight to be considered part of WE – workers, immigrants, women, people of color, etc. As we are learning, even though Universal Law says we are all equal, man’s laws still discriminate on this planet across the globe. I believe we are coming to the point of a global citizen movement if we are going to live peacefully and save this planet. We must recognize that we are all connected and the earth. What we do to one, we do to all.

  6. Jane, 70% of Americans don’t support second trimester abortions. Roe v. Wade explicitly required states to allow second trimester abortions…said it was a constitutional right. So, when it is said that 70% of the people say they support Roe, it’s pretty obvious that many of those people don’t actually know the holding of Roe.

    Roe’s holding was a policy choice that didn’t reflect Americans’ long-standing opposition to second trimester abortions. In most industrialized countries, legislatures have legalized abortion, but just during the first trimester during which 90 – 93% of abortions take place. Roe in protecting second trimester abortions made the United States an outlier.

    I have faith in our democracy that Trump tried to destroy. I believe ultimately that most states will settle on allowing early first trimester abortion and also include exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. I also believe that, with those reasonable democratic compromises reached, we will finally be able to turn down the temperature on this issue after 50 years.

    But it’s going to be ugly and contentious for a while as legislative bodies wrestle with this issue. It’s like the old adage that you don’t want to watch sausage be made or you won’t want to eat it. But democracy is also cathartic as it allows people to work through issues. Roe short-circuited the process of Americans working through this very contentious issue that was being handled through the democratic process. (Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Roe supporter, said the decision was premature.) At the time of Roe, 20 states had legalized abortion and several more were on the verge of doing so. Most Americans lived in states where abortion had been legalized. We were working through the issue…then Roe happened.

  7. We must go to war. Making abortion illegal allows corporations to deny women jobs, opportunity and promotions on the basis of you might become pregnant. The patriarchy is trying hard to make us second class again. Not only is that morally wrong it is self-defeating because the men who bull their way to power are making a lot of mistakes.

  8. It appears to me that “…the Supreme Court’s efforts to reverse social change, and the extent to which their targets have become too firmly embedded in the culture to be reversed.” are comprised of repealing the basic civil and human rights of primarily women. Laws which we shouldn’t have needed to fight to get laws enacted to allow us to live those rights they are now taking away.

    Like Pamela’s need for her Dad’s signature to spend the money she earned to use as she pleased. Or requiring my husband’s signature for a much needed tubal ligation and 18 months later a more vital need for a hysterectomy. I had applied for and received a credit card at a local dress shop in my name only; we were separated at the time but legally he was my husband so, being honest, I filled in his name. He was going in the house while I was at work to search my drawers and my mail; he took the two family credit cards I was paying and my credit card at the dress shop and cancelled all of them, leaving me with the payments.

    I must once again return to Dilys Laing’s quote: “Women receive the insults of men with tolerance; having been bitten in the nipple by their toothless gums.” The Supreme Court appears to have a need to return us to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant to enact laws to maintain “it’s a man’s world” here in the U. S. of A.

    Suffrage was our (women’s) toughest battle for rights till we took on the basic healthcare rights, birth control and abortion is a major part of a larger war but not the war. The Supreme Court, with women well represented on it, continues being led by male based control over women.

  9. Paul, Late stage abortions are often necessary to save the life of the mother and even in countries that only legalized abortion through the first trimester, there is recognition that there are exceptions. I think that Roe was decided on fairly firm medical recommendations and with the expectations that late stage abortions would be rare and only in extreme circumstances. You may be keying in on the rhetoric used by abortion foes to make Roe sound it was a commandment from the devil.

  10. This current moment in history feels to me like a desperate attempt of a fading, and failing, group of people to cling to the last vestiges of power in the face of inevitable change. How much damage will they inflict before they are finally out of power?

  11. Scott County, Indiana Saturday July 2, 2022, I joined a handful plus young women making their voices heard about this ban on abortion.
    One passerby called them murderers and other words. Most honked horns in solidarity. I left after about 30 minutes and missed the thus videotaped altercation between a new store owner who marched across the street onto courthouse property and accosted these protesters. He called them bitc@@es told one young woman that her mother should have aborted her, and Yada Yada Yada, ripping their signs out of their hands. They tried to reason with him and finally stopped a city cop for help as he cruised by. The cop got out and escorted the store owner across the street back to his store.
    I have hope for these young women. HCR repeatedly tells us their are more of us than them. These young women marched in the county fair parade the next day, promising to be more organized for the future.
    So Todd they are out there. They need support.
    How about helping?
    I was the one who suggested the parade that they entered.
    Help us?.

  12. Thomas better remember if he cancels all he will be a criminal in marriage and become 3/5 a human.
    How far to original is too far?

  13. how do you justfy demanding a citizen to endure a child pregnancy? seriously degrading,along with mental issues.but the fact is the stigma designed to degrade the issue/child to whos who and where and when. didnt privacy ring a bell anywhere.are courts so oblivious to ignore human needs over the need for some asswipe politician/judge to degrade the issue for self determination? the whole issue of a child being in such a state should be very confidental,and between mom,or whoever that child trusts,without demands by any outside source. keeping the child open to thier own needs and help.convict if you like the person who,but,the childs safety is paramount.. to demnad that you have to know,is a bullshit piece of hipocracy..social media and alike to demand to know more,for some self satsfaction over a that childs is bullshit..any politician who used the subject,like noem,has become a self professed asswipe who demands to shove thier politcal views mainstream over a childs needs first.gov noem is a trumper,from the interview its obvious,the party insists on making any issue theirs,at anyones cost,to anyone,for any reason,for pure publicity,to degrade those who would think of that childs welfare first… republicans want to save every birth,for what,so they can starve them and deny them their rights.making them the next economic slaves to the next oligarchy..this type of talk and demands are out of line for any free country. we have now a party that demands we submit for their execution…now lets see the court approve that..

  14. Will seated Republicans and their voters who disagree with Trump be strong enough to demand his removal from power and the British have done to remove Boris Johnson from power? I include Trump’s SCOTUS members in that question.

  15. I feel like we’re beating a dead horse.

    The scotus has determined that women cannot and will not be able to decide, if and when they will have children. Less than 1% of second trimester abortions are done in the states and it’s not our business Paul. It’s the woman’s business and politicians and justices need to remove themselves from the doctors offices and those decisions. If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one!

    My neighbor had a child develop without a brain. She didn’t find out until her 20 week ultrasound. She was wanting her second child very much. 16 years later, she still mourns that child that lived a whopping 10 minutes before it died in her arms. She had a choice to carry or abort in Indiana and she chose to wait. The baby labor started when she reached 7.5 months.

    My Sister in law was pregnant with her second child and woke up one morning in her 7th month and realized that the baby stopped moving. My brother was working in Dayton and she called her own brother in Indy who drove her to her doctors hospital to get checked out. They had a heartbeat from the child but the maternity ward was full. Her brother drove her to another Indy hospital but by then, the baby’s heart had stopped. They performed a c section while my brother drove 100 mph back to Indy. He got there while they revived the baby and spent 10 minutes with their son who died. That was 22 years ago. How do these pregnancies relate?

    Well, those woman don’t have choices anymore. I have to remind you that corpses have more rights than pregnant women. When you die, unless you have prearranged activities, your body cannot be moved or touched without proper authorities like a coroner.

    Women are pissed off about this all over the world. Pregnancy is a life threatening condition and denying us healthcare is an abomination.

    Remember January 21, 2017? That was the day after IQ45 was inaugurated and women all over the world, even here in Europe, marched for women’s rights. We are not going back. We are 51% of the population and we’re pissed. Winter is coming.

  16. Pamela:
    i remember too, i was 17 in the navy,and had my step dad go to juvenile court with me to,pay it.1972.
    but the signature stuff kinda disappeared with the fair credit reporting act bout 1986,now we all can now be in debt forever,instead of a living wage..

  17. Jack, you were 17, so still a minor. If you had been 18, you wouldn’t have to have your father go with you to pay. It actually was even worse than that. When I was trying to go to college, I still needed to have my father sign my application. I was over 18 at the time. I thank God for my mother who decided to forge his signature.

    Let me just mention a few other things here. One night my friends and I had to take a friend to the ER, after she developed sepsis from her illegal abortion. Another friend would never be able to have children, after falling down the stairs in her parents home in an effort to self abort that permanently damaged her uterus. Another didn’t have long term effects, but she was in excruciating pain after using a coat hanger to end her pregnancy. When you outlaw abortion you don’t end abortion, you just end safe abortions.

    I would also like to note that (in)Justice Thomas didn’t lump Loving in with the decisions he would love to overturn. I wonder if he would recuse himself if that came to the high court.

  18. As I have written here and elsewhere, there is change and there is the pace of change. Change is going to happen one way or another whatever any court decides but the SCOTUS can by its holdings affect both its substance and pace. Dobbs suggests that this court has decided to tamper with both on the issue of abortion and with several other social issues in the future.

    I suppose it is heresy for a lawyer to question whether this high court has jurisdiction over the substance of social change and its pace, but given certain “inalienable” rights that existed and were noted in the Preamble before we had a Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights by implication I do question whether certain rights are so private to citizens that they are out of the reach of the judiciary, while recognizing that just what those rights are may be subject to judicial interpretation and thus keep such litigation in the pipeline of appeal all the way to the SCOTUS, thus perhaps effectively rendering my objection meaningless.

    The Supreme Court has in many cases rightly refused to engage in litigation involving political matters on grounds of Separation of Powers. Perhaps the court can find a niche in which to refuse engagement in litigation involving social change and pace, though Dobbs and predictions therein suggest otherwise. I don’t know and am shooting in the dark with this offering. Perhaps some constitutional lawyer who might read this can enlighten us on what the role of the judiciary should be in re social change and its pace against the background of our “inalienable” rights. Are you a constitutional lawyer, Paul?

  19. The Dobbs decision is a kick in the head, for women, and those who care about them!
    But, Una’s first point, about desperate men, is on the money. That is why the “Replacement” concept has such traction,
    why DT’s idiotic comment about building the wall resonated as strongly s it did. I have a Republican neighbor, with whom
    I have been discussing the validity of news sources, just recently, who insists that Pres.Biden is (secretly?) having plane-loads
    of illegal immigrants flown to various cities across the country, in the dark of night. Yes, demographics are changing, but I do
    not believe that that is the way it is happening.
    Much more that is at stake that brings this country closer to the ideals it has sometimes tried to live up to, than even the not at
    all trifling, rather major, cause of women’s empowerment!
    These 6 conservative justices may represent the flailings, and failings, of the despairing but, they are going to inflict a lot of pain
    as their ship sinks below the trajectory of the moral arc of justice.

  20. I’m pro-life, but even I recognize that abortion needs to be legal in cases of rape and incest, when the woman’s life is in danger, and for everyone else up to some point (that I’m not qualified to determine) in the pregnancy. Pro-life is my _personal_ position but it’s not my business to tell anyone else how to live, especially when there are well-reasoned pro-choice positions.

  21. Una:
    damn nice piece the 3/5ths ,marriage. but the rich have their lawyers,and politicians to
    undermine the workings of ,hell, by then the rich will be the goverment,and then its corp
    law..the USA will be a wall street ticker symbol…
    nice to see new faces,er,wit here..
    best wishes all..

  22. Paul, please share the source of your 70% number.
    Exactly what question was asked
    “do you support second trimester abortion”?
    or “do you think that second trimester abortion should be illegal”.
    I believe that most people who answer NO to the first question will answer “it depends” to the second one.
    Pretty much any survey that asks abortion questions as a binary support/oppose answer is not a reliable barometer of public opinion.

  23. It’s baffling, but most of the virulent anti-abortion protesters one sees on the news are women. Notably, many of them cite religious reasons for their position– “sanctity of human life,” “abortion is murder,” and “satanic” are common phrases. Even the religious objections are largely ahistorical, but try arguing with them. The biggest challenges we face are two: first, the antiabortionists are True Believers, single-issue voters, absolutists, in-your-face about the issue that gets them out of bed in the morning. They are a tough, persistent crowd, and– particularly for male antis– violence including murder is in their repertoire. I suspect that many women who are pro-choice are intimidated by all that, and unwilling to go public with their views. Who wants bullhorn-wielding, screaming, sign-waving antiabortion bullies in front of her house? Second, too many women do not vote. Some states are so lopsidedly GOPer that no matter what pro-choice people do, the antis will prevail. But in at least half the states, if pro-choice women voted in solidarity, they could make a difference. Sadly, the right wing wave has the wind at its back; it may take decades to undo what this last gasp of white male supremacy will wreak.

    One more thing: Clarence Thomas. He may be the most corrupt Supreme Court justice in our history– his refusal to recuse himself from issues that his wife is deeply into– including her being an advocate for illegally overturning a federal election– and other matters utterly disqualify him for office. He is relishing his role as a bomb-thrower, but it is bemusing to see a Black man as a constitutional originalist. We need to do away with lifetime appointments of the justices; an 18 yr fixed term, say, would work, in addition to an age limit (or would that be unconstitutional? One can guess the present SCOTUS’s view of *that*). Such changes would preserve independence of the court while reducing judicial sclerosis.

  24. Peggy Hannon; the unfair situations your friends were in and the life-long results of attempts at self-aborting are statistics we will never see because of unfair laws and unfair forced shame on victims. Many states have moved back to those days and we will never see the statistics of those new victims due to the same unfair laws and unfair forced shame as “boys will be boys” now those old white men in power who walked free then and are creating a new generation of “boys” given a free pass by state laws, upheld by the Supreme Court. The never talked about statistics of those dead babies are forgotten except by those who continue to grieve today and will be grieving into our future. My 24 year old granddaughter with a possibly fatal seizure medical condition wanted to try to carry her baby to term. She died having seizures at 5 months pregnant along with her daughter. Here I am 13 years later still grieving the loss of my beautiful granddaughter Jennifer and the great-granddaughter I never got to know. If they are going to pass those laws forcing pregnancies they need to develop a way to maintain statistics of their forced death tolls as the bodies show up in hospital ERs and morgues.

    “What’s Different This Time? A Lot” We are aware of who are authoring and passing these laws and what is happening is public information daily. The guilty parties are those we are electing into offices and we are guilty if we do not vote them out.

  25. I don’t know where Paul’s numbers come from, but Gallup says otherwise
    Do you favor or oppose each of the following restrictions on abortion? [RANDOM ORDER]
    Favor Oppose No opinion

    A ban on abortions after the 18th week of a pregnancy 41 56 3
    A ban on abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus 38 58 4
    A ban on abortions that are done if a fetus is found to have a genetic disease or disorder 38 57 4

    May 3-18, 2021; All items asked of a half sample

  26. Part of cultural diversity is the balance between control of, versus respect for, others. Some (authoritarians) learn to believe that they are entitled to control. Some (liberals) learn to believe that the human race is inherently diverse in many ways and all of them are worthy of respect.

    Personally I’m glad that what I was born with and into put me into that latter category.

  27. I do believe so called gov abbott is transporting immigrants to the DC area, several weekends now.
    Several churches are helping with sanctuary and supplies until relatives can get to them.
    Not Biden but abbott.

    And Todd, you can get that email you need from other sources. I am not interested in inviting arguements with anyone at this period of time

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