Keeping Score: Women Protest Hijab Law Across Iran; SNL and Sesame Street Casts Make History; U.S. Government Scores C+ on Repro Rights

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 this biweekly roundup.

Lest We Forget

“The people of Indiana don’t want to ban abortion. We just unfortunately have policymakers at the helm who want to coerce and control our communities. Today’s decision makes it clear that we will not sit back and accept these attacks. We celebrate this temporary restoration of our rights and are grateful for the leadership of local organizers and clinics as we continue the work to ensure every Indianan can make decisions without the interference of politicians.”

—Physicians for Reproductive Health board member and abortion provider Dr. Katie McHugh on the decision of an Indiana Judge to block the enforcement of a statewide abortion ban.

“You gotta figure out how to ban the pill from the state. … But you have to stop it at the border. It would be no different than fentanyl. The state has to ban it, and it should be banned. But it’s just an issue of how do you enforce it; how do you make sure that it stops? That’s your problem.”

—Michigan attorney general candidate Matt DePerno (R) at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas last month, where he compared Plan B to fentanyl and called for its criminalization.

“We will organize, we will strategize, and we will mobilize. … It ain’t over until November 9th. Because November 8th we will stroll to the polls with confidence knowing that democracy will prevail in West Virginia. We will stroll to the polls because we know justice and liberty for all includes each and every one of us with a vagina, with a uterus, and with ovaries. … What you saw today was not us going back, it was them going back—because we won’t go back.”

—Del. Danielle Walker (D-W.Va.), the state’s only Black female legislator, speaking to abortion rights advocates who had gathered in response to the passage of a near-total abortion ban in West Virginia.

“State and federal policies that restrict access to contraceptive services have direct implications for the sexual and reproductive well-being of individuals who rely on publicly supported care. Much like high-profile federal and state policy attacks on abortion, attacks on contraceptive access are designed to undermine reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.

“Rather than restricting contraceptive access, policymakers should improve people’s ability to access the care they want and need and more broadly ensure that the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare—including abortion—is available to all who want and need it.”

—Guttmacher Institute principal research scientist Megan Kavanaugh on contraception access in the U.S., speficially Iowa, where lawmakers opted out of the federal Medicaid family planning program in order to exclude abortion providers from associated resources.

“With stakes this high, we must find ways to hold governments accountable for the promises they make on SRHR. As the United States is the world’s largest donor to global health, we have seen firsthand how U.S. policies and laws have a ripple effect globally. Tools like the SRHR Index allow leaders and activists across the globe to challenge the monopolization of power that the U.S. has on the SRHR ecosystem by holding up a mirror to U.S. government and showing where it falls short on its promises and decisions.”

—Giselle Carino, director and CEO of Fòs Feminista, releasing the newest grades in the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Index


+ Saturday Night Live made history this season with the addition of Molly Kearney, the show’s first openly nonbinary cast member. Kearney is a stand-up comedian and was previously featured in the Amazon Prime relaunch of A League of Their Own.

+ Megan Piphus Peace became a full-time cast member of Sesame Street for its 52nd season, the first Black woman to do so—over 20 years after she first began puppeteering.

+ Kelley Robinson was hired on Tuesday, Sept. 20—the first Black woman president of the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy organization. Robinson previously served as executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“I am a community organizer, through and through, and I kind of look at the fight that is in front of me,” she said in an interview. “It has become clear that reproductive rights is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ issue in so many ways. They are coming for abortion rights, they are coming for marriage rights, they are coming for privacy.”

+ In a 220-page lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James against former President Donald Trump (R), James writes that within Trump’s financial statements, “the number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering.” She seeks to restrict members of the Trump family from running future businesses within New York state.

(Check out AG James’ feature on Ms.’s newly launched “Women Saving Democracy” page.)

+ Women-led demonstrations have erupted across Iran following the death of a 22-year-old woman in national custody. The rallies occurred in over a dozen cities, including the capital city of Tehran, where participants protested the hijab law that led to Mahsa Amini’s arrest.

+ A bill signed by governor Gavin Newsom (D) will make California a sanctuary state for transgender youth seeking gender-affirming care. Under S.B. 107, those who come to California from states with restrictive laws, as well as their families, will be protected from arrest warrants and subpoenas.

“In California we believe in equality and acceptance. We believe that no one should be prosecuted or persecuted for getting the care they need—including gender-affirming care,” Newsom said. “Parents know what’s best for their kids, and they should be able to make decisions around the health of their children without fear. We must take a stand for parental choice.”

+ An investigative report released on Monday, Oct. 3, by the U.S. Soccer Federation revealed high levels of abuse and misconduct within women’s professional soccer, and a lack of accountability among coaches.

“Players described a pattern of sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and sexual touching, and coercive sexual intercourse,” former acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates wrote in the report.

How We’re Doing

+ Four in 10 women ages 50 to 65 suffer from menopausal symptoms that interfere with their workplace productivity on a weekly basis, according to a survey by hormone optimization company Biote. For two in 10 women, it’s daily. A quarter “felt that their menopause symptoms negatively impacted their career development or work-related opportunities.”

+ Black women faced a wage gap of $24,110 compared to white men’s median earnings pre-pandemic, and research reveals that at this pace, that gap is unlikely to close within the next century. It is estimated that Black women and white men will not reach pay equity until 2133.

+ Home births increased by 19 percent during the pandemic, rising from 38,506 to 45,646 between 2019 and 2020. The percentage of births that took place at home increased 0.3 percent. Women with less than a high school education were more likely than those with bachelor’s degree to give birth at home, and White women were also overrepresented.

+ A CDC report released on Monday, Sept. 19, found that 80 percent of U.S. pregnancy-related deaths between 2017 and 2019 were preventable, especially amongst Indigenous pregnant people, for whom the statistic was 93 percent.

“The report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country. The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals, and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time,” said Dr. Wanda Barfield, director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

+ Twice as many teenagers reported a depressive episode in 2019 compared to 2008, and suicides amongst young people increased by 47 percent. However, members of Gen Z, especially those who are uninsured, are the least likely to be able to afford mental health care.

+ Adding to over a year’s worth of anecdotal evidence from those who were immunized against COVID-19, research confirmed suspicions that the vaccine can impact menstrual cycles, resulting in delays of about one day.

+ Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June, appointments for teenagers seeking long-term forms of birth control such as IUDs and implants have increased significantly. According to providers, even some parents have contributed to this surge out of fear that their children will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

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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Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior 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_.