Past Present Podcast: Pat Summitt, Hellerstedt, and the Democratic Sit-In

Pat Summitt

On this week’s episode, Neil, Natalia, and Niki debate the legacy of basketball coach Pat Summitt, the place of Women’s Whole Health v. Hellerstedt in America’s abortion debate, and the House Democrats’ sit-in over gun control.

Pat Summitt

The winningest college basketball coach, Pat Summitt of the University of Tennessee, died last week at the age of 64. Neil commented on Summit’s incredible achievements on the court and argued she was the most important figure in the history of women’s college athletics. Natalia cited the importance of Title IX in the Summitt’s career and recommended Mary Jo Festle’s Playing Nice, a history of women’s college athletics. Neil noted Summitt’s most important legacy may be her 45 former athletes who went on to become basketball coaches. Neil also recommended the HBO documentary “A Cinderella Story: The Lady Vols Fight Back” and Summitt’s 2013 memoir Sum It Up.

Women’s Whole Health v. Hellerstedt

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court overturned Texas’ abortion restrictions. Natalia noted that since Roe v. Wade, states have placed various restrictions on the right to abortion, including the recent TRAP laws. Niki viewed Hellerstedt as a real reversal for the Supreme Court that has historically supported these earlier restrictions, such as the Hyde Amendment. With Hellerstedt, Niki argued the Court had given power to the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey that established the “undue burden” test. Neil noted the pro-life movement had shifted to talking about abortion through the language of “religious liberty” rather than as a single issue. Niki and Natalia noted there had been a shifting language about abortion that sought to normalize it as a routine medical procedure for women, including the recent trend of “I had an abortion” essays.

Democratic Sit-In

Democrats recently staged a sit-in of Congress to demand a vote on gun reform. Neil argued that the sit-in drew on the moral authority of the Civil Rights Movement, made all the more powerful since they were led by Congressman John Lewis who had been a civil rights activist in the 1960s, and because social media turned the sit-ins into a viral sensation. Niki observed the Civil Rights Movement had been a media story too as the news networks televised the sit-in protests to a national audience. Natalia noted that conservative media had also covered the Congressional sit-ins, blasting the Democrats for ordering catering and using the sit-in to fundraise. Niki recommended David Greenberg’s article for The Sixties that showed how the idea of “liberal media bias” came out of the mainstream coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. Niki has written about the divisions within the Democratic Party over the proposed gun measures, particularly those that focus on the terror watch lists.

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