Maggie Gallagher

Here's a quick Zeitgeist check: First the two Kates.

A few weeks ago, Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL, released a political memoir "rebutting the pro-life movement's insistence that making abortion illegal is the American way," as Publisher's Weekly put it. In 1969, Michelman, a young Catholic mother facing divorce, had to get the approval of three male experts in order to abort her own child. The experience plunged her into a life of abortion rights activism, including most recently stridently attacking Sam Alito's decision upholding a Pennsylvania law requiring a wife to notify her husband of her intention to abort. Michelman's book, promisingly released in late December right into the media maelstrom surrounding the Alito hearings, "passionately, compellingly presents a living political drama that affects millions of lives," according to Booklist. As I write, it is also No. 54,770 on the Amazon sales list.

Meanwhile, National Review editor Kate O'Beirne's new book, "Women Who Make the World Worse," is an unsubtle assault on the ideas of Kate Michelman and her fellow aging, orthodox feminists. It stands at No. 73 (after a brief appearance on the best-seller list).

To add injury to insult, Sam Alito, with a public record of opposition to abortion, is about to become a Supreme Court justice despite the last-ditch, mean-spirited efforts by Senate Dems to impose a one-week delay.

Who'd have thunk it? Certainly not Kate Michelman in the heady days of her feminist youth as an abortion rights organizer.

Second sign of the times: the two photos. They are oddly juxtaposed in my head: One is a New York Times photo of Gail Sheehy in a puff piece dedicated to her latest book, "Sex and the Seasoned Woman." The one-time best-selling author of the influential book "Passages," Sheehy is suggestively sprawled in front a fireplace, wearing a black sweater, with peek-a-boo white lace at the cleavage, a black leather skirt, and fishnet stockings. At age 68, Grandma vamps.

The second photo is a picture of a dead girl, Nixzmary Brown, age 7, laid out in bridal white at the R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The Nation columnist Katha Pollitt, speaking of Sheehy's new book, explains that to aging feminist boomers, sex is still a political issue, perhaps the defining issue of her generation. "Feminism has taught women that your sexuality is something you should take charge of," Ms. Pollitt said. "We live in a very highly sexualized culture. Sex is how we understand happiness and why we are here."


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.