Down the Slippery Slope: A Timeline of Social Revolution

It is certainly not breaking news to assert that America is in cultural decline. Many aspects of this decline have been widely documented: the breakdown of the family, threats to life, and ever increasing secularization.

My intent in this article is to draw together the consistent progression of this cultural decline so that we can step back and examine the path of the social revolution that has been underway in America for some time. As we see, the undermining of family and life is not something new.

I have broken the following timeline into several stages. That is not to say that the only developments of this time concerned a single matter. Rather, the name marks the major turning point of that stage. I have also included a few international events, when they seem indicative of broader social change.

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily

Email subscribe inline (#4)

The Eugenics Stage

  • 1873 Comstock Act outlaws contraception and abortion in the US
  • 1896 Connecticut passes first eugenics based marriage law
  • 1907 First forced sterilization law in Indiana (30 states had eugenic programs)
  • 1916 Margaret Sanger founds the first birth control clinic in the US in New York
  • 1921 Sanger founds the American Birth Control League, which supports eugenics
  • 1927 Buck v. Bell: Supreme Court upholds legality of forced sterilization
  • 1929 North Carolina Eugenics Board created (North Carolina was the only state where social workers could propose sterilization)
  • 1930 Lambeth Conference endorses contraception use for Anglicans
  • 1934 Dr. Gregory Pincus produces test tube rabbits, using IVF
  • 1937 American Medical Association accepts contraception as a medical practice
  • 1942 Planned Parenthood Federation of America formed
  • 1945 Dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • 1948 McCollum v. Board of Education: Supreme Court rules religious education in public schools with government support is unconstitutional

The Contraception Stage

  • 1951 George (Christine) William Jorgensen becomes the first US citizen to have a sex change
  • 1952 At instigation of Sanger, Pincus produces the pill (though it was invented the year before by Carl Djerassi); tests begin shortly with Dr. John Rock; Rock campaigns for its acceptance by the Catholic Church
  • 1953 First no fault divorce law in Oklahoma (other states follow in the 1960s); First sperm bank is founded by Jerome Sherman in Iowa City
  • 1960 FDA approves the pill for contraceptive use
  • 1962 Illinois is the first state to repeal its anti-sodomy law
  • 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut: Supreme Court decides laws banning contraception are unconstitutional (6.5 million women on the pill in the US at that time)
  • 1966 Beginning of prenatal screening (which later leads to Down Syndrome Holocaust)
  • 1967 Summer of love in San Francisco marks the rise of the hippie movement
  • 1968 Priests across America publicly dissent from Humane Vitae
  • 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City begin the gay rights movement
  • 1970 4 million students involved in Student Strike of 1970; First changing of birth certificate for sex change
  • 1972 Eisenstadt v. Baird: Supreme Court extends right of access to contraception to unmarried individuals, stating that sexual privacy is an individual, not a marital, right

The Abortion Stage

  • 1973 Roe v. Wade: Supreme Court pronounces abortion a right of the mother; American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from list of mental disorders
  • 1978 First birth by IVF
  • 1980 First post mortem retrieval of sperm
  • 1984 Mexico City Policy seeks to prevent US funding for abortion in other countries, followed by the withdraw of funding for the United Nations Population Fund, for its support of coerced abortions and forced sterilization (both policies revoked and reinstated numerous times)
  • 1986 Baby M born to a surrogate mother, who refuses to cede custody
  • 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey: Supreme Court upholds Roe v. Wade, with the famous line: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” First case of a child divorcing a parent

Cloning and Euthanasia Stage

  • 1994 West does not intervene to stop the genocide in Rwanda; First sale of GMO food (a sign of our broader genetic manipulation of organisms, which has included animals and even human beings)
  • 1995 First assisted suicide law in Australia (later rescinded; Switzerland and Holland follow); Curtis v. School Committee of Falmouth: Supreme Court of Massachusetts rules that schools can provide condoms to students without parental consent
  • 1996 Cloning of the sheep Dolly; President Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
  • 1997 Assisted suicide in Oregon (2008 Washington, 2009 Montana, and 2013 Vermont); Reno v. ACLU Supreme Court strikes down restrictions on Internet pornography
  • 1998 First hybrid human clone; Gay rights summit in Waterloo, VA, which sets forth the successful strategy of desensitize, jam, and convert to change popular opinion (see Kirk and Madsen, After the Ball)
  • 1999 Columbine High School Massacre (a model for many later shootings); Jack Kevorkian, the “Death Doctor,” is convicted of second-degree murder

Gay Marriage Stage

  • 2000 Vermont passes first civil union law; First designer baby is born
  • 2001 First gay marriage law in Holland; President Bush limits federal funding for stem cell research to existing lines (Obama later lifts this restriction); Kansas appellate court decides chromosomes are not the only factor for sex identity; First 3 parent embryos (the FDA is currently re-considering the legality of this practice)
  • 2002 Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition: Supreme Court rules that anti-child pornography laws are too broad
  • 2003 Lawrence v. Texas: Supreme Court decides anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional; Completion of Human Genome Project
  • 2004 Gay marriage in Massachusetts; First fusion of animal and human cells, which leads to the creation of chimeras
  • 2005 Marriage after sex change considered heterosexual by Immigration officials and the Justice Department; Death of Terri Schiavo
  • 2006 FDA approves Plan B emergency contraceptive (an abortifacient) over the counter for ages 18 and older
  • 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart: Supreme Court upholds the partial birth abortion ban
  • 2008 First successful cloning of human embryos
  • 2010 Obamacare passes, which gives rise to the HHS contraception mandate
  • 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Supreme Court unanimously rejects the Obama Administration’s attempt to force equal opportunity employment practices on churches; New York City provides morning after pill to high school students
  • 2013 United States v. Windsor: Supreme Court deems DOMA unconstitutional in its imposing of inequality; the Court also overturns California’s Proposition 8; Courts hear cases concerning Contraception Mandate with mixed results; Germany allows third gender on ID cards; Plan B for sale without restriction; California passes the first law to allow transgender students to choose bathrooms and sport teams; Human brain cells implanted in mice; Association for Molecular Pathology et al. v. Myriad Genetics: Supreme Court rejects patents for human genes, but upholds them for synthetic genes
  • 2014 legalization of recreational marijuana use in CO and WA; Supreme Court refuses to hear the Romeike asylum case, affirming the Obama administration’s attempt to demonstrate that there is not a right to homeschool; Belgium legalizes euthanasia for children

What is the end result of this gradual social revolution? Today, at least 40 percent of births in US are out of wedlock.  Divorce rates are about 50 percent. The fertility rate has hit an all-time low of 1.88, below the replacement level of 2.1. The marriage rate is also at an all-time low of 31.1, which represents 31 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women. In 1950 it was 90.2. We also have seen a drastic, recent shift in popular opinion over gay marriage, with a majority in favor beginning in 2013.

This timeline, along with these recent statistics, demonstrates that the eroding of family life in the United States is not something sudden, but rather the result of a gradual process of social change. The events listed are not a random collection, but show a determined and coordinated decline of our culture, rooted in our changing understanding of sexuality, marriage and family, and even life itself (which is now a commodity, which can be engineered). The link between contraception, abortion, and homosexuality itself can be demonstrated simply by examining the Supreme Court decisions concerning these issues, which in their opinions directly build one upon the other.

Although the direction of our country is very troubling, to say the least, let this recent history be a motivator to begin the renewal!

  • R. Jared Staudt

    R. Jared Staudt, PhD serves as Director of Content for Exodus 90. He is author, most recently, of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN, 2023) and editor of Renewing Catholic Schools (Catholic Education Press, 2020).

Join the Conversation

in our Telegram Chat

Or find us on

Editor's picks

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Signup to receive new Crisis articles daily

Email subscribe stack

Share to...