Keeping Score: Rep. Ernst Blocks Birth Control Access Bill; Democrats Urge Biden to Extend Student Loan Pause; Amelia Earhart Statue Unveiled in U.S. Capitol

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

“This is a game-changer for young people like me. University health centers already provide access to birth control and forms of contraception on campus, to over 150,000 students in the commonwealth. It’s both right and sensible for these health centers to also offer medication abortion, and it eliminates the need for students, often located in abortion deserts, to travel far distances to access care.”

—Youth organizer Sarah Fitzgibbons on the passage of new bill that will strengthen access to medication abortion on Massachusetts college campuses.

“I had the honor this term of writing the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders.”

—Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, author of the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, in a speech for Notre Dame Law School defending religious liberty.

An abortion rights activist in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on May 3, 2022. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

“For over two years, the Department has provided critical flexibility to millions of federal student loan borrowers by pausing payments, as many have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. This much needed pause has helped many borrowers to keep a roof over their heads, secure childcare, and purchase food, health care, and medicine during the course of a pandemic responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million people in the U.S. … Resuming student loan payments would force millions of borrowers to choose between paying their federal student loans or putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, or paying for childcare and health care while costs continue to rise and while yet another COVID-19 variant increases hospitalizations nationwide.”

A letter to President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona signed by more than 100 congressional Democrats, urging the administration to extend the federal pause on student loan payments.

“This extreme ban rooted in white supremacy … will disproportionately hurt Black women—who in Georgia are more than twice as likely as white women to die from pregnancy complications. We are committed to our vision for reproductive justice for Georgians, in which everyone including queer, trans and low-income people all have the freedom to decide to have children, to not have children, and to raise the families they have in thriving communities.”

—Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, on a lawsuit that activists filed in Georgia to challenge the state’s six-week abortion ban.

“We know that in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Americans will be denied access to essential health care services across the United States; however, the repercussions also go beyond our borders. This disastrous decision will be felt around the world, setting back many countries who have long used Roe v. Wade as the basis to strengthen abortion rights protections in their own countries. We must take immediate action to mitigate the global impact of this decision.”

—Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on introducing the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which would repeal the Helms Amendments to permit the use of U.S. foreign aid for abortion care.

Milestones

+ The Protect Sexual and Reproductive Health Act, introduced by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), would create reproductive health support through the Department of Health and Human Services. A new office would be established to fund reproductive care and education.

“This bill speaks to that comprehensive look at sexual reproductive healthcare services,” Bush said. “So, in this space of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we need to see immediate, tangible solutions to alleviate these new burdens.”

+ WNBA player Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison for drug smuggling on Thursday, Aug. 4. American officials suggested a prisoner exchange to negotiate her release, though neither they nor Griner’s lawyers have succeeded in appealing Russia’s decision. Griner was carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil when she was arrested in the Moscow airport in February.

+ Senate Democrats passed their signature climate, tax and healthcare package Sunday afternoon, and it heads to the president’s desk. The congressional action, focused on clean energy and reduced healthcare costs, stemmed from an agreement between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The $433 billion measure would be paid for by tax changes, expected to raise $739 billion over 10 years.

“After more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history,” Schumer said shortly before final passage. “This bill will kickstart the era of affordable clean energy in America … and it’s been a long time coming.”

+ As of Wednesday, July 27, advertisements aired on Hulu can contain political messaging, including on guns and abortion. The streaming platform’s guidelines had previously differed from Disney’s cable networks, which allowed candidate and issue-based ads.

+ A statue of Amelia Earhart is the 11th statue of a woman in the National Statuary Hall, honoring the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic.

+ Currently, women make up about 16 percent of corporate board members in Hong Kong. A new rule, however, will require every board to include at least one director of the non-majority gender within three years, and will create 1,300 director positions for women by the end of 2024.

+ Amidst devastating conflict in Ukraine, human traffickers are increasingly targeting refugee women and children for sexual exploitation. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Thomson Reuters initiated a new “Be Safe” campaign to educate at-risk refugees and provide resources for those seeking help.

+ After the House passed the Right to Contraception Act to enshrine a federal right to contraception access, Senate Republican Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) blocked the legislation.

“My Republican colleagues are adamant in dragging this country back to a time when women had little or no autonomy over their choices,” co-sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.

+ Alt-right Infowars host Alex Jones was ordered to pay $45.2 million by a Texas jury after he spread lies that parents of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims staged the tragedy as part of a government scheme.

How We’re Doing

+ A poll by Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote found that the majority of AAPI voters surveyed, 60 percent, had never been contacted by the Republican Party, and 52 percent hadn’t been contacted by Democrats.

“[The parties] are leaving out people who are actually interested in voting, but they are not really getting the information and being engaged,” APIA Vote executive director Chen said.

+ More women are running for Senate and gubernatorial seats in the 2022 midterms than in any previous election, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP). There are also a record number of Republican women candidates running for governor or Congress, although slightly fewer women are running in House races or as Democrats.

Transgender and non-binary candidates are also breaking records in 2022, with 55 transgender candidates on the ballot and in addition to 20 gender non-conforming, 18 non-binary and four Two-Spirit candidates. Over a thousand LGBTQ+ candidates are running for office this year as of July, the Victory Fund reported.

+ As of July 24—one month after Roe v. Wade was overturned—clinics had shut down their abortion services in 11 states that had banned or restricted the procedure, including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Texas. Additional states such as Kentucky and Florida have limited abortion after 15 weeks, and 26 total states are expected to eventually ban abortion.

Abortion advocates outside the Pennsylvania Capitol building on May 4, 2022, the day after the leaked draft of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health signaled the end of Roe. Inside, abortion advocates met with Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) to discuss the future of reproductive health access. (Tom Wolf / Flickr)

+ Of individuals murdered by U.S. police since 2015, 2,500 (nearly one-third) were fleeing.

“There are bad apples in police departments, and if we just charged or fired those particularly bad officers, we could save lives and stop police violence. This data shows that this is much bigger than any individual officer,” data scientist and founder of Mapping Police Violence Samuel Sinyangwe said.

+ “States that have banned abortion, or are expected to, have among the nation’s weakest social services for women and children, and have higher rates of death for infants and mothers,” the New York Times reported, citing their analysis which found that those 24 states have higher rates of maternal mortality, teen births and uninsured women and children.

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

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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_.