War on Women: Republicans Block Senate ERA Vote; Tennessee Wants Teachers to Carry Guns; Mifepristone Is Still on the Market—For Now

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 ….

  • A Texas law that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers has paved the way for legislation in New York that would empower state residents to sue the fossil fuel industry for the ravages of climate change

  • The shooting of Ralph Yarl, the Black teen who rang the wrong doorbell in Kansas City, revives concerns about expanding “stand your ground” and self-defense laws. 

  • Texas lawmakers say there is no plan to introduce exceptions to the state’s abortion ban. When anti-abortion groups were asked why they wouldn’t want clarifications to the law—given the horror stories coming out of the state, including one pregnant woman who ended up with sepsis in the ICU—the Texas Alliance for Life dismissed the problem: “Our laws are very clear.”
Amanda Zurawski was forced to wait until she was septic to receive abortion care, causing one of her fallopian tubes to become permanently closed. Zurawski v. Texas, a lawsuit announced last month, marks the first time patients directly affected by abortion laws have sought to challenge them. (Roxy Szal)

  • Black pregnant patients face more drug tests than white patients—regardless of their history of substance use, according to a new research letter published in JAMA Health Forum. “There’s no medical reason for Black patients to have a higher rate of testing than white patients,” said Marian Jarlenski, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, the lead author of the letter. “People deserve to have a supportive, dignified birth experience, without biased and unnecessary testing.”

  • There are growing ob-gyn deserts in anti-abortion states, putting women’s health at even greater risk. In 2018, over half of U.S. counties had ob-gyn deserts. “More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in so-called maternity care deserts with no hospitals offering obstetric care, obstetric providers or birthing centers, according to the March of Dimes. “An additional 4.7 million women of childbearing age live in counties with limited access to care.”

Let’s not forget what else was thrown our way over the last month.

Tuesday, April 4

+ In Florida, two Democratic leaders were arrested while protesting a proposed six-week abortion ban. The bill was passed by the Florida Senate with a vote of 26 to 13. Nikki Fried, who serves as the chair of the state Democratic Party, and state Sen. Lauren Book were both taken into custody by Tallahassee police and charged with misdemeanor trespassing after a warning.

Wednesday, April 5

+ One week after a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee House Republicans voted to advance a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in schools. 

Rep. Justin Jones (D-Tenn.) tweeted:

+ Kansas is banning transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports from kindergarten through college. This ban is the first of what could be several new Kansas laws restricting trans rights. The Republican-controlled Kansas legislature overruled Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) third veto in three years of a bill to ban transgender athletes and came one day after Kansas lawmakers passed a broad bathroom bill.

Nineteen other states have implemented similar bans—with the most recent ban one in Wyoming. The Kansas law takes effect July 1 and is one of many that Republican lawmakers across the U.S. have pursued this year to push back on LGBTQ rights.

Friday, April 7

+ Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled against the FDA to block its approval of mifepristone—including in states where the right to abortion is protected. Mifepristone is one of two medications typically used in medication abortion care—accounting for more than half of all abortion care nationwide and has been safely used for over 20 years.

Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, released the following statement:

“This ruling could block the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, further restricting abortion access in our country, even in states where abortion is protected. This is meant to be a ban, plain and simple, and nearly 65 million Americans could be robbed of this safe, effective abortion care option. Here’s the truth: medication abortion care has been safely used for decades—it’s safer than Tylenol. If there was ever any doubt that GOP extremists want anything other than a ban on all abortion, everywhere, today’s ruling should make it clear that they have no intention of respecting our freedoms.”

+ Less than an hour later, Judge Thomas O. Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an injunction blocking the FDA from “altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of mifepristone.” 

There are two different ways to have a medication abortion and end a pregnancy: using two different medicines, mifepristone (pictured) and misoprostol, or using only misoprostol. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

Wednesday, April 12

+ The Biden administration has proposed new stronger privacy protections to ensure women’s private information would be protected from being investigated to determine whether they might have received abortion care from another state. This action follows a ruling in Texas that poses challenges to accessing the abortion pill. More details of the proposed protections can be found here.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on mifepristone limiting its use up to just seven weeks of pregnancy, which reproductive advocates warn would significantly impair access to abortion. (It was later blocked by the Supreme Court.)

Wednesday, April 19

+ The U.S. Senate voted down an attempt to deny veterans abortion care in cases of rape, incest or to protect the health and life of the pregnant person. Last year, the VA (Veterans Affairs) issued a new rule making abortion services available to veterans in certain cases, even in states with abortion bans. The Senate rejected an effort to reverse that rule in a bipartisan vote of 51 to 48. The Biden administration said that the resolution “undermines patient safety and invites political interference into deeply personal decisions” and threatened to veto the measure if it passed the full Congress.

Thursday, April 20 

+ House Republicans passed a bill that bars transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports. No Democrats supported the proposed legislation, and it is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The bill, authored by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), is a two-page document that proposes to change Title IX’s definition of sex to one based solely on a person’s genetics at birth.  

The proposed law would risk the funding of recipients of federal aid who facilitate or operate women’s athletic programs and violate the new amendment by allowing transgender athletes to participate in girls’ or women’s teams. 

“This amendment perpetuates false arguments that allowing transgender girls to participate in school sports will undermine the well-being of cisgender girls,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

+ Wyoming‘s Wellspring Health Access has opened its doors to patients, becoming the state’s only surgical abortion provider and second abortion provider. The clinic also provides medication abortion services, family planning and gynecological services. The clinic—originally set to open in June 2022—was attacked by an anti-abortion arsonist in May 2022, causing $290,000 worth of damage and delaying the opening by 11 months. 

Lorna Roxanne Green, 22, of Casper, was arrested on Tuesday, March 21, for setting fire to Wellspring Health Access, the site of a Wyoming abortion clinic.

“We are delighted to finally be able to provide high-quality reproductive health care, including abortion care, in the state of Wyoming,” said Julie Burkhart, president of Wellspring Health Access. “It’s been a long journey, filled with obstacles and challenges, but we at Wellspring Health Access refused to give up because we believe that Wyomingites deserve access to abortion care. After nearly a year of renovations and legal challenges to keep abortion legal in Wyoming, we are overjoyed to be able to see patients and provide this much-needed care.”

Friday, April 21

+ The Supreme Court blocked an order seeking to revoke the FDA’s approval of mifepristone—allowing mifepristone to remain on the market under current rules. Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion that overturned Roe, dissented and Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have denied an emergency application to keep the drug accessible. The drug—one of two used for medication abortion—will remain available for now while a Texas ruling on its distribution is appealed. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case on May 17.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, issued the following statement: 

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a huge relief, but we’re not out of the woods yet. For now, providers and patients have the assurance that mifepristone is available and remains an FDA-approved drug. But we shouldn’t even be here. This case should have been thrown out way before it got to the Supreme Court. The lower court ruling out of Texas has zero basis in fact or law–and yet it has sowed chaos, confusion and panic for patients and providers across the country, including those in states with strong protections for abortion rights. That crisis was not resolved today. Just days ago, a new lawsuit backing the FDA’s approval was filed and undoubtedly more lawsuits will be coming. At the Center for Reproductive Rights, we will continue to pursue every legal avenue to ensure this unfounded legal attack does not succeed.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is a huge relief, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Nancy Northup

Monday, April 24

+ North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) signed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country—banning the procedure throughout pregnancy, with slim exceptions up to six weeks. Abortion would be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency, such as ectopic pregnancy.

The North Dakota law is designed to take effect immediately, but last month the state Supreme Court ruled a previous ban is to remain blocked while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds. Lawmakers said they intended to pass the latest bill as a message to the state’s high court signaling that the people of North Dakota want to restrict abortion.

“I don’t think women in North Dakota are going to accept this and there will be action in the future to get our rights back,” said state Rep. Liz Conmy (D). “Our Legislature is overwhelmingly pro-pregnancy, but I think women in the state would like to make their own decisions.

Thursday, April 27

+ The Senate had its first vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)—which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex—in 40 years. Due to Republican opposition, S.J. Res. 4—which would declare the ERA ratified—failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to bring it to the floor for debate and vote. Ultimately, 51 senators voted for and 47 against the motion, with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) joining all Democrats to express support for the resolution.

At a press conference after the Thursday vote, advocates and lawmakers vowed to not give up the fight for the ERA. (ERA Coalition / Twitter)

“It was very demoralizing to learn that there were colleagues who did not even deem this issue worthy of debate,” said Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) during the vote. “It was incredibly hurtful to see those colleagues come in to vote today and defiantly put their thumbs down, as if they were not birthed by women and don’t have women in their own families or daughters that they are raising.”

Up next:

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.

About and

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.
Kemira Mulholland is an editorial intern with Ms. and a senior at Smith College studying women and gender. She is interested in issues pertaining the development of the Global South and sociology.