Keeping Score: New Mexico’s Plan for Free Childcare; U.S. Median Age for Giving Birth Hits 30; Feminists Reckon With Likely Roe Reversal

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.


Lest We Forget

“In its drafted form, this decision’s level of smug sexism and legal violence against women (and others who need full reproductive autonomy) is extraordinary. Roe was not the start of people having abortions; it was the start of having them safely. Without Roe providing the bare minimum access to a fundamental piece of reproductive healthcare, women experiencing unintended or unwanted pregnancies will be forced to carry to term and give birth against their will. Women will be forced to endure this outrageous loss of personal liberty in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, a lack of paid family leave, and income inequality.

—Equal Rights Advocates executive director Noreen Farrell on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft decision, which would overturn abortion protections granted by Roe v. Wade.

Pro-choice demonstrators rally on Mother’s Day Rally in Boston on May 8, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso / AFP via Getty Images)

“Republicans have made clear that their goal will be to seek to criminalize abortion nationwide.  Republican state legislators across the country are already advancing extreme new laws, seeking to arrest doctors for offering reproductive care, ban abortion entirely with no exceptions, and even charge women with murder who exercise their right to choose.  These draconian measures could even criminalize contraceptive care, in vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care, dragging our nation back to a dark time decades into the past.

“Make no mistake: Once Republicans have dispensed with precedent and privacy in overturning Roe, they will take aim at additional basic human rights.  At this pivotal moment, the stakes for women – and every American – could not be higher.”

—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement on Alito’s leaked draft.

“This bill is the latest in anti-abortion politicians’ attack on our freedoms and health. If it becomes law, the bill will perpetuate misinformation and stigmatizing rhetoric, and force doctors to lie to their patients about medication abortion. There is no credible scientific evidence behind this bill—it is full of claims that are medically inaccurate, misleading, and could be harmful to patients’ health. 

“The extremist lawmakers who insist on continuing to push anti-abortion bills are pulling out all the stops to ignore medical best practices seize control over our reproductive health care decisions. We urge the Senate to halt this bill and any other anti-abortion measures that politicians concoct, which punish pregnant people and their doctors while doing nothing to address the real issues in our state’s health care system, including the staggeringly high Black maternal mortality rate.”

—In response to a bill passed by the South Carolina House, South Carolina Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) CEO Ann Warner released a statement condemning medication abortion misinformation. The bill would require providers to issue a “disclosure statement” which falsely advertises a method of reversing abortion after taking the first pill.

“That women can fight. That we can sell tickets—the Garden’s almost sold out. I mean, it’s incredible to see that. And that was definitely my goal for the newer generation of females in the sport. I never thought that I would be able to see this, but I’m seeing it, and I just hope this is not the end.”

—Lightweight boxer Amanda Serrano in an interview on her historic fight against Katie Taylor on Saturday, April 30 at Madison Square Garden. They are two of the top women boxers, making the matchup a historic one for women in the male-dominated sport.

Women wearing floral crowns and holding signs covered in fake blood demonstrate outside Downing Street in London on April 10, 2022, against Russian war atrocities targeting civilians, including killings and rape. (Wiktor Szymanowicz / Future Publishing via Getty Images)

“Reports of Russian soldiers terrorizing Ukrainian women through rape and other violence sheds light on Russia’s appalling use of women’s bodies as battlegrounds. … This vile conduct must not go unpunished while women are left to pick up the pieces from the physical and psychological trauma of the crimes committed against them. We condemn these horrific actions and call for Putin, his military leadership, and the perpetrators to be held accountable for these war crimes committed against Ukrainian women. We must also ensure that the U.S. takes all actions possible to provide survivors with adequate health care services, resources, and support.”

—The Democratic Women’s Caucus in a statement on reports of rape and sexual violence in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Milestones

+ The leaked draft of Justice Alito’s majority opinion would overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects abortion rights federally—allowing state governments to decide individually whether they protect or violate reproductive freedom.

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Alito wrote.

+ The Brooklyn Public Library officially launched Books Unbanned, an initiative that will grant library cards to teens so that they can access hundreds of books banned from some schools and libraries. BPL has already received over 700 applications.

“Intellectual freedom, the right to read, is foundational to any functioning society,” BPL chief librarian Nick Higgins said. “Any hope for civil discourse among people of a diverse community requires having access to multiple points of view, and it just makes us richer in the long run.”

+ The Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, passed by Oklahoma legislators on Thursday, April 28, and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) less than a week later, bans abortion as soon as physicians can detect a fetal heartbeat. It provides no exceptions for rape or incest.

+ A program announced by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Thursday, April 28 will grant free childcare to about 30,000 families in the state earning less than $111,000. “It’s free, no more co-pays, no more waiting,” said Lujan Grisham. “This is the road to a universal childcare system.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced New Mexico will cover the costs of childcare for most residents through June 2023, making it the first state to offer no-cost care over such a broad range of incomes. (Instagram)

+ Angel City FC is bringing women’s soccer to Los Angeles for the first time since the L.A. Sol’s played its single season in 2009. Angel City played an inaugural game against North Carolina Courage at the Banc of California Stadium on Friday, April 29. Team investors include actresses Natalie Portman and America Ferrera.

+ Ukrainian refugees in neighboring Poland are struggling to obtain abortion care in the midst of war and violence, according to Ukrainian ob-gyn Myroslava Marchenko. Many of them lack the resources or familial stability to carry the pregnancy to term, but are halted by strict abortion restrictions under the Polish healthcare system.

+ The Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act, sponsored by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and passed by the House, would increase federal funding to women-run businesses and female entrepreneurs.

+ With White House press secretary Jen Psaki set to leave her current position to work at MSNBC, her deputy Karine Jean-Pierre will become the first Black and openly gay White House press secretary in history.

+ An order by the Taliban regime will require women in Afghanistan to cover their faces in public, threatening to jail their “male guardian” if they do not comply. The rule will be especially enforced in government offices, where women employees face termination for not wearing a burqa or other garment.

How We’re Doing

+ If Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned, 52 percent of women of reproductive age (ages 15 to 44) live in states where their right to choose is in danger. This includes 13 states that have already passed “trigger” laws to outlaw abortion as soon as possible.

+ Half of women voters are more likely to vote in upcoming elections due to the recent uptick in state-level abortion restrictions. Thirty-five percent said they are “much more likely” to vote. Thirty-seven percent of both Democratic and Republican women reported being much more likely to vote, as compared with only 30 percent of Independents.

+ Gender bias still has an impact in political races between women candidates, a report by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation found, with women being held to higher standards of likability.

+ Asian American and Pacific Islander women were disproportionately impacted by pay inequity during the pandemic, as they are overrepresented in frontline, low-wage and caregiving jobs.

“There are millions of Asian American mothers living in multigenerational households, shouldering the brunt of caregiving not just for their children, but for elderly parents and extended family members too. More often than not, they’re also the breadwinners. And to make up for lost wages, AANHPI women have no choice but to work longer hours and multiple jobs which often don’t provide paid medical or family leave. These are women who will never ‘catch up’ to their white male counterparts,” National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum chief policy and government affairs officer Yvonne Hsu said in a statement on AANHPI Equal Pay Day.

+ According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fertility rates of 20 to 24-year-old women declined by almost 43 percent between 1990 and 2019, but increased by more than 67 percent for women ages 35 to 39. The trend has pushed the median age of U.S. women giving birth from 27 to 30, the highest on record. Some women report deferring motherhood in order to invest more time in education and careers, in hopes of being more financially secure when the time came to support a child.

+ An analysis of media coverage on the overturning of Roe v. Wade found that Fox News hosted majority (64 percent) male guests to speak on the decision, and that 87 percent of guests were White.

About

Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a rising sophomore at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.