Keeping Score: Biden Issues Mass Pardon for Marijuana Possession; 36% of U.S. Counties Are ‘Maternity Care Deserts’

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

“It was just a matter of time before the baby died, or maybe I’d have to go through the trauma of carrying to term knowing I wasn’t bringing a baby home. I couldn’t do that.”

Texas resident Lauren Hall, 27, who traveled to Seattle to have an abortion after she found out her fetus was developing without a skull or a brain.
An abortion rights demonstrator outside of the Harris County Courthouse during the Women’s Wave march in Houston, on Oct. 8, 2022. (Mark Felix / AFP via Getty Images)

“Despite constant reports in the media on inflation and rising prices as the top issues in this election, abortion and women’s rights are actually the most important for young women as they head to the ballot box.

—Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms.

“Systemic inequities such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, economic inequality, under-resourced schools, and medically underserved communities have disproportionately limited access to mental health services for young people … Parents and caregivers are also trying to manage their own mental health needs while supporting their families in the face of economic, housing, and nutrition insecurity. …

We need a robust and comprehensive mental health workforce strategy that prioritizes recruitment of underrepresented populations and ensures trained pediatric mental health and primary care professionals are adequately paid for the services they provide. There is much more work to do by the administration and in Congress. We urge you to join us in naming the youth mental health crisis exactly what it is—a National Emergency that requires all sectors to come together and take action.”

—A letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association, urging Biden to issue a National Emergency Declaration in children’s mental health. The statement came one year after the organizations declared a National State of Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

“The fact that some states are trying to criminalize an FDA-approved drug, is something we cannot pretend isn’t happening. These attempts are shutting down the willingness of healthcare providers to offer this care, whether in the context of abortion or miscarriage, which is amping up the pressure that patients might face as they do their own risk calculus in seeking this care.

As an advocacy community, we needed to make mifepristone’s potential clear.”

—Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project director Kirsten Moore on why the FDA should make mifepristone explicitly available to those managing miscarriages, as laid out in a petition by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, SisterReach, Physicians for Reproductive Health and the EMAA Project.
Mifepristone is used in combination with another medication—misoprostol—to safely and effectively end early pregnancy. (Robin Marty / Flickr)

Milestones

+ In states where abortion is banned, pregnancy is preventing some cancer patients from receiving chemotherapy. At least two cancer patients in Ohio were prohibited from starting treatment until they could receive an abortion out-of-state, according to affidavits by abortion providers.

“I don’t know anybody that would feel comfortable treating a pregnant patient with cancer because I don’t feel like they’re nearly dead enough,” Tennessee physician Leilah Zahedi-Spung said. “The threshold that I am holding in order to provide abortion care is basically almost dead to try to avoid being arrested and jailed.”

+ Runner Emily Sisson beat the American record time in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 9, finishing in 2:18:29. Three women who previously held the record awaited Sisson at the finish line.

+ Chinese American actor Anna May Wong (1905–1961) will be the first Asian American featured on U.S. currency, joining trailblazing women such as Maya Angelou and Sally Ride, when the U.S. Mint prints her image on over 300 million quarters.

+ Although he is yet to decriminalize marijuana, President Joe Biden offered mass pardons to those federally convicted of marijuana possession on Thursday, Oct. 6. He also prompted governors to follow suit, and ordered a review of the drug’s Schedule I classification.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs. … There are thousands of people who were convicted for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said.

+ Loretta Lynn, a pioneering woman in the world of country music, died at age 90 on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

White Stripes singer and guitarist Jack White said in 2004 that Lynn “was breaking down barriers for women at the right time … in the country realm, where a lot of women weren’t able to do what they wanted.”

Loretta Lynn’s songs reflected her pride in her rural Kentucky background. (Courtesy)

+ Cardi B became the first woman rapper to have two 11x platinum singles, the Recording Industry Association of America announced on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Her songs “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It” have each sold 11 million units in the U.S. since their release.

How We’re Doing

+ Sixty-six clinics shut down operations within 100 days of the June 24 Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade. These clinics include all providers in 13 states with total abortion bans, as well as clinics in Wisconsin and Georgia.

+ Forty-one percent of young women voters are feeling angry or worried about the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, according to new Ms. magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) polling by Lake Research Partners across the nine battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Among young women voters in the battleground states, abortion and women’s rights are the most important and highly motivating issues in determining their vote.

+ Among women voters of all ages in the battleground states, abortion and women’s rights are tied with inflation and rising prices in determining their votesaccording to the Ms. and FMF poll of all women voters.

+ A survey of voters released by MomsRising found high levels of support for candidates who support paid leave and universal childcare, especially among women (70 percent) and mothers (84 percent). Half of women reported they are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes such policies.

+ A study of women in the journalism industry found that they are disproportionately sexualized and objectified, and as a result, are more likely to restrict their utilization of social media. Because the platforms that their careers hinge on have become unsafe spaces, women journalists are faced with the difficult to decision to block audience members and post less.

+ “Maternity care deserts” comprise over a third (36 percent) of U.S. counties, where access to maternal health care is severely limited or nonexistent. 2.2 million American women live in these counties, and nearly 7 million total women live in areas that lack access to maternity care.

“Today, the U.S. is considered, among all highly industrialized countries, one of the most dangerous developed nations in the world in which to give birth. And part of the problem with that, and part of the reason for that, is because of these huge gaps in access to care,” March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey Stewart said.

+ An interactive map published by the Guttmacher Institute demonstrates the severity of abortion restrictions in the aftermath of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision. Twelve states, including Texas and Louisiana, are considered “most restrictive.”

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 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_.