They're Firing Up "The Wayback Machine"

April 10, 2024

When it comes to current laws around abortion, it seems that everything old is new again. Arizona just dusted off an old chestnut written in 1864, a state law essentially banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother.

In 1864, women couldn’t vote, and African Americans were considered only three-fifths of a person. The Civil War was still raging. So, for 21st century rightwing legislators to lovingly embrace an arcane 19th century law is pretty on brand.

What’s next?

After overturning Roe v Wade in 2022, certain Justices on the Supreme Court hinted that they might want to revisit established laws that allow for access to contraception and IVF or make interracial and gay marriages legal. After all, they’d just turned the clock back 50 years; why not go a little further? At this rate, and with increasingly strong ties between evangelical and political leaders, I wouldn’t be surprised if witch trials made a comeback.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to freed slaves and gave them equal protection under the law (we’re still working on that bit). In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Considering the path that we seem to be on, wanna bet that some ambitious Federalist Society clerk digs out an old statute or three making the case that those Amendments are somehow flawed? Even if that doesn’t happen, there are workarounds happening right now to essentially hollow out hard-won rights.

For example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to shore up the 15th Amendment which, in 1870, gave African Americans (men) the right to vote. However, more laws restricting or limiting voter access or rights have been sneaking onto the state books.

Don’t even get me started on Project 2025, a 1000-page blueprint for transforming the federal government into some kind of autocratic hard-right paradise. It’s terrifying.

It’s safe to say we’ve recently seen that our established laws and legal system don’t automatically “hold” on their own. There are loopholes that can be exploited and boy, have they been exploited.

Sorry to add more to your plate, but it’s up to each of us to be informed and vigilant about changes in the laws affecting our lives. This is a great resource to keep an eye on the issues important to you and connect with your legislators.

You can do your bit to inform others in your community by writing Letters to the Editor, posting (politely, and with facts) on social media, and letting lawmakers know that you’re on top of the issues…and that you vote.

Voting. You know, that thing women and African Americans couldn’t do back in 1864?


Cindy Grogan is a writer, lover of history and "Star Trek" (TOS), and hardcore politics junkie. There was that one time she campaigned for Gerald Ford (yikes), but ever since, she's been devoted to Democratic and progressive policies.

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DemJones on Aug 23, 2022 8:01 AM
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