War on Women Report: Texas Teen Raises $2.2 Million for Abortion Funds; 43 Abortion Clinics Closed; WNBA’s Brittney Griner Sentenced to Nine Years

U.S. patriarchal authoritarianism is on the rise, and democracy is on the decline. But day after day, we stay vigilant in our goals to dismantle patriarchy at every turn. The fight is far from over. We are watching, and we refuse to go back. This is the War on Women Report.

Since Our Last Report….

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) attempted to humiliate a teenage girl during a speech he gave at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit. “Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions? Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.” (Turning Point USA is a conservative and outwardly pro-Trump youth organization known for spreading misinformation.)

Olivia Julianna, a 19-year-old abortion rights supporter, turned Gaetz’s fatphobic, misogynistic comments into more than $2.2 million in donations for abortion funds across the country.

Tuesday, July 26

+ Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) has launched an investigation into Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who helped a 10-year old Ohio rape victim obtain an abortion. The ob-gyn said her and her family have faced harassment since she shared the story. (Bernard is no stranger to harassment: In 2020, she was forced to stop offering services at a clinic after being alerted of a kidnapping threat against her daughter.)

Rokita has accused Bernard of using “a 10-year-old girl, a child rape victim’s personal trauma, to push her political ideology.” In response, Bernard’s attorneys took the first step in a possible defamation lawsuit against Rokita for “false and misleading statements.”

“Come spend a day in my clinic,” said Bernard. “Come see the care that we provide every single day. The situations that people find themselves in and in need of abortion care are some of the most difficult that you could imagine. And that’s why we, as physicians, need to be able to provide that care unhindered, that medical decisions need to be made between a physician and their patients.” 

“I’m not the only provider who has taken care of young children needing abortion care,” she added.

Wednesday, July 27 

+ Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sought unanimous consent to pass the Right to Contraception Act to protect birth control access—but Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) blocked the legislation. The bill had passed in the House of Representatives the week before, despite nearly all House Republicans voting against the bill.

“It has been nearly 60 years since the Supreme Court decided Griswold v. Connecticut—and affirmed Americans’ right to privacy and with it: their right to contraception. So you’d think this would be a settled issue. And for the vast majority of Americans—it is,” said Murray. “Yet, as we just saw, somehow—in the year 2022—this isn’t a settled issue for Republican politicians.”

Thursday, July 28

At least 43 abortion clinics across 11 states—all in the South and Midwest—have stopped offering abortion care in the first month post-Roe, a new Guttmacher Institute study shows. Prior to the Supreme Court decision on June 24, these 11 states had a total of 71 clinics that provided abortion care. As of July 24, there were only 28 clinics still offering abortions, all located in the four states with six-week bans—Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. Below are some of the key findings:

No Abortion Clinics

Seven states that have imposed total abortion bans since June 24—containing only very limited or no exceptions—no longer had a single clinic providing abortion care as of July 24:

  • Alabama (previously 5 clinics)
  • Arkansas (previously 2 clinics)
  • Mississippi (previously 1 clinic)
  • Missouri (previously 1 clinic)
  • Oklahoma (previously 5 clinics)
  • South Dakota (previously 1 clinic)
  • Texas (previously 23 clinics)

In 2020, these seven states accounted for 80,500 abortions or an average of about 6,700 abortions each month.

Fewer Clinics

Four states were enforcing a ban on abortion starting at six weeks of pregnancy as of July 24 and two of them had fewer clinics providing abortions than before the Supreme Court decision:

  • Georgia (13 clinics, previously 14)
  • Ohio (9 clinics, number unchanged)
  • South Carolina (3 clinics, number unchanged)
  • Tennessee (3 clinics, previously 7)

“Obtaining an abortion was already difficult in many states even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe,” said Rachel Jones, Guttmacher’s principal research scientist. “These clinic closures resulting from state-level bans will further deepen inequities in access to care based on race, gender, income, age or immigration status since long travel distances to reach a clinic in another state will be a barrier for many people.”

+ Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led 23 fellow senators to call on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents. Currently, more than 800,000—or half of women veterans in this country—live in states that are certain or likely to ban abortions.

Under current VA regulations, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is prohibited from providing abortions and abortion counseling as part of the medical benefits package. 

In a letter sent to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the members argued the VA has “the statutory authority and discretion to provide abortions.” Therefore, they must immediately begin a rule-making process to change the current regulations and update the VHA’s medical benefit package. McDonough recently admitted the VA has the statutory authority to provide abortions, the letter also notes.

+ Notre Dame Law School publicized a video where Justice Samuel Alito—appearing for the first time in public since writing the opinion that reversed Roemocked foreign leaders who criticized the decision during a speech he delivered in Rome. “I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders, who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” said Alito. 

Among the foreign leaders whom Alito mocked were President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

Friday, July 29

+ A jury found physician Ricardo Cruciani guilty on 12 counts of predatory sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape and other crimes, after about three days of deliberations. For more than a decade, Cruciani built a reputation as a gifted physician who could relieve chronic pain when other doctors could not. 

Then, dozens of patients accused him of sexually abusing them during exams, after he offered sometimes dangerously high amounts of medication to maintain control over them, prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office said during a trial this month. When they resisted, he would withhold their prescriptions.

Reports of Cruciani’s actions date back more than 15 years.

Monday, August 1

+ Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Larry E. Thompson reinstituted the state’s near-total abortion ban, reversing a lower court’s order two weeks ago that temporarily allowed abortion services to continue. Thompson’s decision means abortions are illegal in the state again, unless a woman or pregnant individual is at risk of death or serious permanent injury. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. 

Healthcare workers who provide abortion services can face up to five years in prison.

“Kentuckians deserve better than extremist politicians who will risk your bodily autonomy to score cheap political points. No Kentuckian should ever be forced to remain pregnant against their will,” said Samuel Crankshaw, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. “Despite this setback, we will never stop fighting for your right to make the best decisions for yourself.”

Tuesday, August 2

+ Victory in Kansas! Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Republican-led legislature to severely restrict access to abortion.

The proposed constitutional amendment would have amended the state Bill of Rights to say there is no right to abortion or public funding for abortion, allowing the state to pass laws restricting abortion. If the amendment passed, more than 20 laws restricting abortion would be allowed to stay in effect, including mandatory ultrasounds and biased counseling to discourage abortion, a 24-hour waiting period, parental consent for minors, a 20-week abortion ban, a ban on telemedicine abortion and limitations on public funding and insurance coverage for abortion. 

Participants at the Women’s March in Topeka, Kan., on Jan. 21, 2017. (mmrogne / Flickr)

“The people of Kansas have spoken,” said Rachel Sweet, campaign manager for the Kansas For Constitutional Freedom, the main abortion rights group opposing the amendment. “They think that abortion should be safe, legal and accessible in the state of Kansas.”

Wednesday, August 3

+ Facebook has earned tens of thousands in revenue from anti-abortion organizations running ads with misinformation about medication abortion procedures and so-called “abortion pill reversal,” according to Media Matters. Facebook claims to prohibit advertisements that make “deceptive, false, or misleading” health claims but these anti-abortion ads have been surprisingly seen millions of times so far.

Thursday, August 4

+ A Russian judge sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in a Russian prison, rejecting her plea for leniency and her apology for “an honest mistake” in bringing cannabis oil into the country back in February. The athlete’s supporters and fans in the U.S. continue to see her as a political pawn being held hostage by Russia but Griner chose to distance herself from such language in hopes that it wouldn’t affect the court’s decision. 

“I never meant to hurt anybody, to put in jeopardy the Russian population or violate any Russian laws,” said Griner. Her fate now rests with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will make the final decision on any prisoner swap. She also was fined 1 million rubles ($16,590). 

President Biden pledged that his administration would “continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue” to return Griner and former security consultant Paul Whelan to the United States. Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence of hard labor after being convicted of spying in 2020. He argues he was framed.

+ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Andrew H. Warren, the top prosecutor in Tampa, accusing him of incompetence and neglect of duty for vowing not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions. In April, Florida imposed a 15-week abortion ban but in June, Warren, a Democrat, vowed not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe

“Today’s political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition,” said Warren. “The people have the right to elect their own leaders—not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and again he feels accountable to no one.”

Friday, August 5

+ Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed a new abortion ban into law, making Indiana the first state to pass new legislation for an abortion ban since the Supreme Court struck down Roe. Several states have banned abortion since June, but have done so through existing trigger laws that were set to take effect once the Roe decision had been reached. Indiana’s new legislation is set to take effect on Sept. 15.

Abortion rights activists in the Indiana Senate during a special session to ban abortion rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Gov. Holcomb signed the bill into law. (Jeremy Hogan / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

The bill was passed by the state House 62 to 38 before being approved by the state Senate 28 to 19. No Democrats voted in favor of the bill. 

The law, Senate Bill 1, takes effect on Sep. 15. S.B. 1 makes Indiana the first state to pass an abortion restriction after Roe v. Wade‘s overturn and ninth state to ban abortion outright, alongside Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.

Tuesday, August 9

+ A Nebraska woman has been charged with helping her teenage daughter end her pregnancy at about 24 weeks after investigators uncovered Facebook messages in which the two discussed using medication to induce an abortion and plans to burn and bury the fetus afterward. Nebraska prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. 

In one of the Facebook messages, Jessica Burgess, 41, tells her then 17-year-old daughter that she obtained abortion pills for her and gives her instructions on how to take them.

In June, the mother and daughter were only charged with a single felony for removing, concealing or abandoning a body, and two misdemeanors: concealing the death of another person and false reporting. But in July, investigators reviewed the private Facebook messages and added the felony abortion-related charges against the mother. 

The daughter, who is now 18, is being charged as an adult per the prosecutors’ request.

#DeleteFacebook trends online this week in response to this news—that Facebook shared a Nebraska teen’s messages to her mom with cops investigating her for allegedly getting an abortion in violation of Nebraska state law. 

Ms. is keeping track of the changing landscape of abortion care and will continue to update this piece as state policies continue to morph and change.

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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Michelle Moulton (she/they) is a former editorial intern with Ms. and a graduate of Smith College, where she majored in the study of women & gender and sociology. Her beats include reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, domestic violence intervention and pop culture.