Thursday Reads: Back To the 1950s (Which Were Not ‘Happy Days’ for Women)

Detail from a marching banner for the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment Banner, by Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon and Breda Mayock.

Detail from a marching banner for the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment Banner, by Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon and Breda Mayock.

Good Morning!!

There are plenty of interesting news stories out there today, but all I can think about is that the right wing Supreme Court is poised to reverse Roe v. Wade and attempt to return American women to the second class status we inhabited when I was a girl in the 1950s and early 1960s.

We fought for control over our own bodies and now they plan to take it away again. We won’t stand for it! I’m too old to march in the streets now. Younger women who are the ones whose lives are endangered will have to take up the fight. We can’t let the forces of fascism take destroy U.S. democracy–and there is no doubt that taking away women’s control over their own bodies and lives is a big step in that direction.

The GOP control of the courts is all part of the right wing effort to turn our country into a theocratic autocracy. Returning pregnant women to effective slavery status is an important part of their effort. You could hear the triumph in the voices of right wing “justices” yesterday during the public argument in the Mississippi abortion case. Read the transcript at CNN: Transcript of Supreme Court oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

In 2018, Irish women fought and won the right to choose whether to bear a child in a country long dominated by the the Catholic Church. We should be ashamed that the U.S.–supposedly a land of liberty and freedom–is now on a path back to the dark days when women frequently died from back alley or self-administered abortions.

Recommended Reads

Satirist Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: Opinion: Woman savoring last few hours before getting turned back into vessel.

It was hard to believe the time was running out. Maybe it would not, after all. It had been so long — nearly 49 years, with a few scares along the way — that the illusion had held, that she was a citizen, a person with rights to be respected in her own right. That not merely her life was worthy of protection, but also her ability to make choices for her own future. That she was just as good as any state legislator, and possessed certain rights they could not abridge!

Those 49 years had flown by. But when the court’s clock struck, her run would in all likelihood begin to end. She would stop being a person with autonomy over her own body that the law was bound to respect. She would go back to being a vessel that might potentially contain a person, a vessel whose rights ended once that possibility was considered.

It had been so nice, thinking that she could go anywhere in the United States and the laws would have to acknowledge her right to decide whether she wanted to be pregnant, that any doctor who treated her could give her correct information about what risks she faced, that if her life were threatened, her life would carry weight.

But no. Her rights were all the alienable kind, it turned out, and she was nothing more than a sort of empty clay jar into which, if she were sufficiently blessed, a person might one day be deposited. Her mistake!

I know I shouldn’t post so much of this piece, but I’m going to because this really says it all, as far as I’m concerned. Women are people! People endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

She pondered what to do while the Supreme Court heard arguments about Mississippi’s abortion law and deliberated upon them and formed an opinion. There were so many person things she had liked getting to do. She was glad she had gotten some voting in, earlier in the month….

My Body is Not Mine, by Dearbhla Ní Fhaoilleacháin Ryan

My Body is Not Mine, by Dearbhla Ní Fhaoilleacháin Ryan

There were so many choices that were wonderful if you made them for yourself and nightmarish if others forced them upon you….

She sat on a bench and watched the leaves fall. It had been nice while it lasted, being a person. Getting turned back into a vessel would be unfortunate. But maybe she would not stay a vessel long.

It was a little surprising they thought they had the power to do it.

She could see them salivating already at the prospect of having so many people transformed so quickly, and overnight. They seemed to think it was a real possibility.

As if they got to decide. As if she would not fight.

Women will have to fight. We can’t count on male legislators to stand up for us. Some may try, but women will have to win this battle.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: SCOTUS Will Gaslight Us Until the End.

Perhaps it would be refreshing if the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court no longer felt the need to lie to us. The lying, after all, is becoming nearly untenable—especially for an institution that relies on public confidence. After confirmation hearings in which they promised that stare decisis was a deeply felt value and that Roe v. Wade was a clear “precedent of the court” and “the law of the land.” there’s something sort of soothing about knowing the lying to our faces will soon be over. They were all six of them installed on the Supreme Court to put an end to Roe v. Wade after all, and that is exactly what they intend to do. There will be no more fake solicitude for women making difficult choices, no more pretense that pregnant people really just need better medical advice, and no more phony concerns about “abortion mills” that threaten maternal health. There is truly something to be said for putting an end to decades of false consciousness around the real endgame here, which was to take away a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy—rape, incest, abuse, maternal health no longer being a material factor. At least now we might soon be able to call it what it is….

If you want to pretend the Constitution has nothing to say about bodily autonomy even when it does, by all means. If you want to insist that equal protection is irrelevant to a discussion of forced maternity, do it. But if you really want to regulate women’s bodies, while claiming this is a teensy little issue, do, please, respect us all enough to call it what it is.

The Anatomy of Autonomy, by Róisín Blade

The Anatomy of Autonomy, by Róisín Blade

They won’t. Instead, they will fashion themselves heroes and champions as they make this decision—and the way they will do this was made apparent when both Kavanaugh and Alito decided to compare Roe v. Wade to Plessy v. FergusonPlessy isthe case that mandated separate but equal and was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education—to be clear, in this analogy, Roe is Plessy and Dobbs is Brown. Overturning Plessy was justified because it was wrong, Kavanaugh argued, a sentiment that is surprising from him and others because given the opportunity to compare Roe to Plessy at their confirmation hearings, none of these justices obliged. At their hearings, Roe was settled law, the precedent of the court. But now Roe is Plessy, which is why when the justices whisper softly that Lawrence v. TexasObergefell, and Griswold are not under threat today, you might wonder why you should trust them. They are all settled law—until they are not. They told us as much at their confirmation hearings and assured us today they were lying then, but aren’t lying now.

Please go read the whole thing.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: ‘Roe’ is dead. The Roberts Court’s ‘stench’ will live forever.

The six Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court left no doubt in oral argument Wednesday that they would end the constitutional right to abortion that American women have had for nearly half a century. The court will either overturn Roe v. Wade outright or cripple the landmark ruling by eliminating the “fetal viability” standard at its core. Both would return us to a time before most people living ever knew, when state legislatures controlled women’s reproductive decisions.

Public opinion hasn’t changed. The science hasn’t fundamentally changed. No new legal theory has been promulgated. The only difference is the court now has a majority hellbent on settling scores in the culture wars. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked her colleagues. “I don’t see how it is possible.”

There’s good reason, Justice Elena Kagan said, why the Supreme Court has given great weight to precedent — and particularly to “super precedent” such as the 1973 Roe decision, affirmed by the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. It’s “to prevent people from thinking that this court is a political institution that will go back and forth depending on what part of the public yells the loudest.”

You’re Pregnant, by Clare Foley

You’re Pregnant, by Clare Foley

Before Kagan spoke those words, I had spent the morning outside the court, watching abortion foes literally shout down the other side. Police used metal barricades to split First Street NE in front of the court into equal sections for the opposing sides, each with a soundstage. Not content with that arrangement, a group of antiabortion demonstrators invaded the other side and took turns drowning out the speakers there with a pole-mounted bullhorn at ear-shattering volume:

“Maybe some of you should have been aborted, you wicked, nasty disgusting, ungodly — I don’t even want to call you women! You are bloodthirsty animals!”

“This is what happens when you allow women to emasculate men! God hates you!”

“In the name of Jesus Christ, shut your vile, sick mouth!”

Irin Carmon at New York Magazine: This Is How Roe Ends.

This is how Roe v. Wade ends — without pretense or pretext, the conservative movement’s tireless dream of forced birth, brought to fruition through the naked promises of Donald Trump, who said if he could put “another two or perhaps three justices on,” Roe would be overturned “automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the Court.” On Wednesday, all three of Trump’s justices hearing a case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban seemed ready to prove him right. Even John Roberts’s feeble attempts at describing, if not actually finding, a compromise would mean overturning all the prior Supreme Courtdecisions that have made abortion legal….

By Supreme Court standards, the session was unusually blunt and at times heated. Stephen Breyer crankily noted that anyone could see it was the arrival of “new members” that had emboldened the right, perhaps hoping the justices Trump nominated might not want to be pawns. As Roberts noticed aloud, the solicitor general of Mississippi had technically been defending a 15-week abortion ban, a stalking horse for overturning Roe, but in later briefs had abruptly pivoted to openly asking for Roe to be overturned. Roberts didn’t say it, but the only thing that changed in between was that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died and Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Sonia Sotomayor asked pointedly.

It seemed obvious that only Roberts, who vainly tried to focus on the 15-week line even when everyone else made clear it was all or nothing, cares for such appearances….

Shackled, by Dearbhla Kelly

Shackled, by Dearbhla Kelly

Kavanaugh nattered on about how divisive abortion is and how neutral the Constitution is on it, and how, by golly, it’s a big country — “There will be different answers in Mississippi and New York, different in California or Alabama,” he said — with the implication that dominion over one’s body and future is just blue-state elitism.

Barrett did exactly what she was nominated to do, which was to say that forced pregnancy and birth are no big deal because, as she kept repeating, “safe haven” laws allow parents to relinquish their rights and surrender babies to be adopted by others. The concerns the pro-choice side expressed about the effect abortion bans would have on women’s equality, she said, were “focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy. Why don’t the safe-haven laws take care of that problem?”

As Carmon notes, Barrett even had the nerve to compare the effect on bodily autonomy on pregnant women with vaccine mandates!

So it’s essentially over. Right wing “justices” will try to force women back to second class status. In my lifetime, we will have gone full circle. This will just be another step in the GOP/Trumpist dream of “making America great” by turning it into a fascist state. We can’t let it happen!

NOTE: The images in this post were created by Irish women artists during the fight to make abortion legal. Read more at these links:

The Irish Times: ‘Motherhood is a choice’: artists respond to ‘Repeal the Eighth.’

The Guardian: The hateful Eighth: artists at the frontline of Ireland’s abortion rights battle.

That’s all I have energy for today. I could barely sleep last night. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

37 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Back To the 1950s (Which Were Not ‘Happy Days’ for Women)”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I’m going to try to have a peaceful day even though in a few more months I will no longer be seen as a person by the powers that be.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:


  4. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      Women’s health clinics and pharmacies are going to have to start operating in the Gulf of Mexico in international water and we’re going to have to get a fleet of boats to get them to it. Hopefully, they can still get these prescriptions by mail and go around these idiots.

  5. Beata says:

    Democrats are not powerless. They control the White House and the Congress. So why don’t they use that power to:
    •Abolish the filibuster?
    •Codify Roe through passage of the Woman’s Health Protection Act?
    •Expand the Supreme Court?

  6. quixote says:

    I know I keep hammering at this, but it’s the way to understand where we are, and therefore how to get out of it.

    The whole anti-abortion BS was never pro-life. It was always to control women.

    Fetal viability was always a dumb distraction, to keep women from noticing that *women’s* rights didn’t exist in their world. A complete adult woman has no rights to her own body the minute somebody else decides something else, anything else, is more important.

    There’s a name for that. It’s called slavery. No, women don’t wear shackles in public. The beatings and torture, usually sexual (the most damaging kind, think Abu Ghraib), are individual and done by volunteers. There are laws against it, but unenforced. Almost none of the perps are ever punished. That’s how you know it’s part of the system. (Same as cops freely killing blacks, but on a gigantic scale. Too big to see, apparently.) There’s also the other hallmark of not owning yourself: women are supposed to work for nothing, for room and board.

    It’s worth understanding what the anti-abortion fight is really about because it makes it possible to see what it took to get rid of other slaveholding systems, other caste systems. Short answer: a lot. Usually revolution and war and all the hurt that goes with it. Be nice if we could avoid that.

    It means we can stop boggling about why They don’t respect equal rights.

    Not having equal rights is the point.

    • NW Luna says:

      Yep. As illustrated by the misogynist screaming this (from the article BB quoted above): This is what happens when you allow women to emasculate men! at the uppity women demanding to be in control of their own bodies.

    • bostonboomer says:

      As I have said again and again, it’s a bloodbath that no one wants to acknowledge. Women are raped and murdered every day and pregnant women are frequently murdered because they are pregnant. Women’s murdered bodies are used for entertainment. That’s the world we live in.

      • djmm says:

        If Mississippi were actually pro-life, they would work to improve their dismal records on infant mortality and deaths of pregnant women.
        One of the most dangerous things for a woman to do is to get pregnant.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Conspiracy theories, explained
    Americans are embracing dangerous conspiratorial beliefs, from QAnon to coronavirus denial.

    By Aja Romano@ajaromano Nov 18, 2020,

    • dakinikat says:

      • NW Luna says:

        Don’t think those people really are “smart and educated” but I agree they sure think they are. I cringe whenever I hear someone say “I’ve done my research.” Yeah, right, on Facebook.

      • dakinikat says:

        I was wondering Dr BB if you ever read any of the articles he cited and what you think?

        • bostonboomer says:

          I think some conspiracy theories are legitimate. All you have to do is understand that our government has done some horrific things like MKULTRA and COINTELPRO. I have a serious problem when I see questions about the JFK assassination in the same category as UFOs.

          On the Qanon stuff, I have no clue. I will try to read some of that, but it tends to make my eyes cross.

  8. NW Luna says:

    • quixote says:

      As I keep saying, that’s the point. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. No caste system survives for long without terror in the background (or the foreground, when it’s losing hold). The misery is the point.

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. NW Luna says:

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. dakinikat says:

  14. NW Luna says:

    As quixote says, it’s about controlling women.

    • quixote says:

      Yeah. Men can be quite clear-eyed about it if you get them in a quiet moment when they’re not playing to an audience. Nothing like feeling safe to be able to see the truth.

  15. NW Luna says: