Keeping Score: California Schools to Provide Free Period Products; Title X Gag Rule Reversed; Texas Abortion Ban Reinstated

In every issue of Ms., we track research on our progress in the fight for equality, catalogue can’t-miss quotes from feminist voices and keep tabs on the feminist movement’s many milestones. We’re Keeping Score online, too—in in this biweekly round-up.


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Clockwise from left: Bretman Rock is first gay male cover star of Playboy (Instagram / Playboy); women’s soccer players stand in solidarity with National Women’s Soccer League members in light of abuse allegations (Twitter / Liverpool FC Women); a May 2018 protest in Chicago against Trump’s imposition of the Title X gag rule. (Charles Edward Miller / Flickr).

Lest We Forget

“The people certainly don’t have time to concern themselves with Washington process. They’re just desperately in need of impact. And so we want to get this right, so we want to move thoughtfully and deliberately, but also with urgency. These investments are popular. These policies are popular because they’re sorely needed by the people, and we have to meet the needs of the people and meet this moment.

—Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill intended to support pandemic recovery and equity amongst American workers.

“I have covered this country since 1986. I’ve never been the news but the only reason I’ve become the news is because I refuse to be stamped down, I refuse to stop doing my job the way I should. … The collapse of democracy starts with the breakdown of facts. And if you don’t have facts you don’t have the shared reality to find the right path. This is a global problem.”

—Nobel Peace Prize winner and Philippine journalist Maria Ressa on how her reporting contributes to defending the rule of law.

“After years of fighting back against the Trump administration’s cruel gag rule, I’m so relieved that today it’s finally gone. Now, our Title X family planning program can once again function in the way it’s meant to—by providing patients with birth control, STI screenings, and cancer screenings that keep them healthy, and by informing them about all their options, including their right to abortion. …

“This is an important victory, but with reproductive rights under attack across the country and at the Supreme Court, our fight doesn’t stop here. I’ll keep doing everything I can to ensure that everyone—no matter their zip-code, their income, or where they get their care—can get the reproductive health care they need.”

—Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on the reversal of former President Trump’s Title X gag rule, which prohibited clinics from educating pregnant patients on abortion if they receive federal funding through Title X.

“The Cuomo brothers are a symptom of an industry that uses the red herring of objectivity to protect and enable abusers, while punishing women, survivors, journalists of color, and anyone else who disrupts or otherwise disturbs the narrative of power. Yet, reporters who come out as survivors, like the Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez, are treated as ‘unreliable narrators’—an extension of how rape culture treats survivors writ large—while abusive men and their enablers lose nothing.”

—Freelance journalist Lexi McMenamin on the silencing of sexual assault survivors in U.S. newsrooms.

Milestones

+ A federal appeals court reinstated Texas’s six-week abortion ban, just two days after a lower court blocked it in a case brought Merrick Garland’s Justice Department. At least six local clinics had resumed post six-week abortions after the initial court ruling, but many never did in anticipation of a reversal.

+ R&B singer R Kelly was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking after a six-week trial in New York. Kelly’s scheme sexually exploited mainly Black women and children in Chicago for decades. “To the victims in this case, your voices were heard and justice was finally served,” acting U.S. attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said of the verdict.

+ A Trump-era gag rule, which prohibited clinics that receive Title X funding from providing or referring abortions, was officially repealed by the Biden administration on Monday, Oct. 4. The change will take effect on Monday, Nov. 8, allowing abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to rejoin Title X.

+ National Women’s Soccer League commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down on Friday, Oct. 1 following allegations of abuse and sexual coercion by male coaches. The league postponed all of the games scheduled for that weekend. “This was not an easy decision, as there is nothing we love more than playing for our fans,” the players’ union said in a statement. “… We also recognize, however, that mental health struggles are real.”

+ “School districts across the country have been cracking down on Black Lives Matter and Pride flags in a year that has seen escalating attacks on LGBTQ+ students,” Ms. social media editor Oliver Haug reported in them. “Utah’s Davis School District sent an email to teachers and administrators earlier this month claiming that banners in support of the Black and LGBTQ+ communities are banned under its official policies.”

According to a Salt Lake City district spokesperson, the board deemed Black Lives Matter and pride flags too “politically charged.” The ban was already in place, but was reemphasized at faculty trainings this fall.

+ Beauty influencer and MTV star Bretman Rock is the first gay man to land on the cover of a Playboy magazine. He is only the third male cover star in Playboy history, following in the footsteps of Bad Bunny and founder Hugh Hefner.

“For Playboy to have a male on the cover is a huge deal for the LGBT community, for my brown people community, and it’s all so surreal,” Rock said.

+ A three-year pilot program in California will record the sexual orientation and gender identity of those killed in violent crimes. The legislation is the first of its kind in the U.S., and will allow the state legislature to track and respond to the suicides and homicides of LGBTQ people.

Another bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday, Oct. 7—the “Silenced No More Act”—allows victims of workplace harassment to speak up even if they signed non-disclosure agreements.

A bill signed the next day requires public schools for grades six through 12, community colleges and the California State University System to provide free menstrual products in restrooms starting the next academic year.

How We’re Doing

+ As the pandemic slowly returns to pre-pandemic levels, burnout is disproportionately burdening women workers and managers. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, 7 percent more women than men are “often or almost always burned out” this year—an increase of 10 percent from last year. A third of the women surveyed have considered leaving the workplace or downshifting as of 2021.

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This year, as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on schools, daycares and nursing homes, women’s workforce participation hit a 33-year low. (Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels)

+ The child care industry is facing a crisis-level worker shortage, with 126,000 positions left empty in favor of higher paying jobs. As a result, many mothers have nowhere to turn when returning to work after pandemic shut-downs.

+ JP Morgan has contributed the most substantially to fossil fuel pollution of any bank, according to the 2021 Banking on Climate Chaos report. The bank financed $51.3 billion in just the last year, and $317 billion between 2016 and 2020.

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+ “There are 22 public monuments that include mermaids but only two of congresswomen,” the Washington Post reports. “Of the 50 historical figures most frequently honored with a monument, only three were women: Joan of Arc, Sacagawea and Harriet Tubman.”

Half of the men included on the top 50 list owned slaves, and four were Confederate leaders. Only three were men of color. No one on the list was openly LGBTQ.

+ Four or more Black women and girls were killed everyday in the U.S. last year, according to statistics released by the FBI, Overall homicides drastically increased by 30 percent during the pandemic, and violence against Black women was no exception.

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About

Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a freshman at Tufts University. She was a Ms. editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.