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 ….
- After months of student activism, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) committed to signing a bill that requires CUNY and SUNY campuses to provide medication abortion at student health centers into law. The bill would serve over 500,000 students and goes into effect on Aug. 1.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a first-of-its-kind law to shield consumer health data in order to protect abortion access—including access to information from period tracking apps or location data from people visiting abortion clinics.
- Hadley Gamble, a former CNBC journalist and correspondent, filed a complaint accusing former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell of pressuring her for sex for years.
- After the May 6 mass shooting in Texas—which was the second-deadliest in the U.S. this year and killed eight people—Gov. Greg Abbott (R) shared on Fox News, “I think that the state in which the largest number of victims occurred this year is in California, where they have very tough gun laws.” In fact, states with fewer gun laws have higher gun death rates and red states have higher gun death rates than blue states.
- In Kentucky, Heather Maberry was unable to get an abortion even though her fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly—it was missing part of its head and skull. An Idaho woman, Jennifer Adkins, was denied an abortion despite her fetus having a severe abnormality that is almost always fatal (Turner syndrome). Finally, a 22-year-old woman in Arizona was forced to carry her pregnancy to term despite her daughter having a fatal diagnosis. Stories of women being denied abortion care are going to get worse.
- Eight additional women came forward and joined a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights against Texas, for a new total of 15 plaintiffs: 13 women, plus two ob-gyns. All 13 women on the lawsuit were denied abortions in Texas despite dangerous pregnancy complications.
- Some Republicans want to end no-fault divorce, which will force women to stay in unhappy marriages.
Let’s not forget what else was thrown our way last month.
Monday, May 1
+ Jane’s Due Process is now providing travel funding for Texas teens accessing abortion in states where care is legal. In February, Judge Robert Pitman temporarily blocked prosecutions of abortion funds helping people travel out of state for abortion care.
Jane’s Due Process’s hotline is fully open and operational, providing case management, travel coordination and booking, emotional support, and procedural funding. They will support teens through the entire process, ensuring they access the care they deserve. If you’re under 18, in Texas, and considering abortion, call Jane’s Due Process at 866-999-5263.
Tuesday, May 2
+ The American Civil Liberties Union is launching its new State Supreme Court Initiative to fight for the expansion of civil liberties and civil rights through state constitutions. The ACLU will build on the progress that it has already made in state courts on issues ranging from abortion access and LGBTQ rights to gerrymandering and criminal legal reform. The new initiative’s caseload will include existing cases, such as an abortion access case in Utah and a case regarding transparency for police misconduct in Massachusetts.
“Last year’s Supreme Court term was the most conservative in a century, as President Trump’s three nominees exercised their newfound power to rule against liberty and shrink our constitutional rights. But we’re not letting that stop our work,” said David Cole, ACLU’s national legal director. “We will continue to press the federal courts to meet their responsibility to protect rights. But we’re also taking the fight to the states—we’re showing up at the state level to ensure people receive the most protection possible in their state.”
Thursday, May 4
+ The Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed S.B. 254, which bans transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care. The bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) requested, would give Florida the ability to strip parental rights from parents who support their transgender children, penalize providers who give gender-affirming care and take their licenses away, prohibit Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for transgender youth or adults, and forbid public funds from being used to provide benefits that include gender-affirming care.
On May 17, Gov. DeSantis signed S.B. 254 into law and also signed bills targeting drag shows, restricting discussion of personal pronouns in schools and forcing people to use certain bathrooms. Florida joins more than a dozen other states that currently prohibit doctors from providing minors with gender-affirming care.
+ A Montana district court issued a temporary restraining order blocking H.B. 575—a new law that requires all patients in Montana to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion. The court found that the law cannot be enforced until the parties have been heard on the merits of Planned Parenthood of Montana’s motion for a preliminary injunction because the law likely violates the Montana Constitution.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued the following statement:
“This is a huge win for Montanans and all those who depend on this state for abortion access. Today’s ruling will ensure that Montanans can continue to make deeply personal decisions about their bodies, health, and futures without interference from elected officials. But the fight for our rights is far from over. Anti-abortion lawmakers in Montana and beyond have made it abundantly clear that they will not stop until abortion is eliminated or made completely inaccessible. Make no mistake, Planned Parenthood will keep fighting in courts across the country to ensure patients can get the healthcare they need and deserve. No politician should get in the way of people’s freedom to make decisions for their own lives.”
Tuesday, May 9
+ After missing his May 7 deadline to testify, a Manhattan jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming former journalist E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages. But the jury of six men and three women did not find he had raped her, as she had long claimed.
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct; this is the only allegation to be affirmed by a jury.
Thursday, May 11
+ Incidents of arson at abortion clinics were up 100 percent in 2022 compared to the year prior, according to National Abortion Federation’s 2022 Violence and Disruption Report. And incidents of stalking of abortion providers, patients and staff in the year since Roe fell increased by more—229 percent. In states that sought to protect abortion access, clinics experienced a disproportionate increase in violence and disruption—stalking incidents increased by 913 percent in abortion-protective states.
“The threat of violence against abortion providers remains on the rise and is extremely concerning. In addition to an increase in major incidents, extremists are becoming more organized. For example, we’re seeing them target clinics on days when they know they will have more patients, are shorter staffed or have less security,” said Michelle Davidson, security director of National Abortion Federation.
Sunday, May 14
+ Happy Mother’s Day! Forward Together—a national multiracial reproductive justice organization—used art to challenge the traditional images and myths of Mother’s Day. This year’s theme—Black Mamas Reclaiming their Space in the Reproductive Justice Movement—celebrated Black “mamahood” and Black mamas who always push to work forward.
Lack of access to reproductive healthcare services, higher maternal mortality rates, and anti-abortion policies largely impact Black families. As Forward Together argued, the criminal justice system does not value Black bodies, which Black mothers consistently have to navigate. Black mothers deserve to parent children in safe and healthy environments. This Mother’s Day, Forward Together honored the love and sacrifice of Black mamas who are doing their best to create safe homes and communities for their loved ones.
Monday, May 15
+ Noelle Dunphy accused former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani of “abuses of power, wide-ranging sexual assault and harassment, wage theft and other misconduct” after he hired her as his business development director in 2019. In a 70-page suit, Dunphy claimed to have audio recordings of several interactions—including “alcohol-drenched rants that included sexist, racist and antisemitic remarks.” Giuliani denied all allegations by Dunphy.
+ An overwhelming majority of voters reject the argument that banning abortion at 15 weeks is a “compromise” on abortion rights, according to a new nationwide survey by Change Research. Voters instead believe decisions about abortion should be between patients and doctors. In addition, 75 percent of voters nationwide—including a majority of 2020 Trump voters, three in four independents and 55 percent of white rural men—believe restrictions have gone too far.
“There is nothing moderate about banning abortion, and there are simply no so-called compromises to be made when it comes to our fundamental freedoms,” said Mini Timmaraju, NARAL Pro-Choice America president. “This polling unequivocally reaffirms that. Voters across party, gender and racial lines continue to tell politicians to stop interfering with decisions about abortion care. It’s time Republican politicians start listening.”
Tuesday, May 16
+ In North Carolina, Republicans overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto and allowed their abortion ban to pass. Despite Republican claims that the ban is a “reasonable” and “commonsense” law, the bill is extreme.
- The ban is not a 12-week ban since medication abortion—which is used in 60 percent of abortions in North Carolina—is banned at 10 weeks.
- Obtaining medication abortion would require three in-person visits, even though the pills are safe to prescribe via telehealth; and surgical abortion requires an in-person consultation at least three days before the procedure. These obstacles are a direct attack on poor women and out-of-state patients, who can’t take multiple days off work or travel to a clinic.
- Doctors will be forced to lie to patients about the risks of abortion—including telling them they could become sterile—even though abortion is safer than getting a wisdom tooth removed.
- Women will be required to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds, during which they’ll be forced to listen to the fetal ‘heartbeat’ and a doctor’s detailed description of the embryo or fetus. Doctors will be forced to tell patients having a medication abortion that they “may see the remains of her unborn child.” (Which is not true.)
- The ‘exception’ for fetal anomalies is fake: The abnormality must be “uniformly diagnosable,” a requirement that will exclude most conditions.”
The law goes into effect on July 1.
Wednesday, May 17
+ Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill prohibiting Michigan companies from firing or otherwise retaliating against workers for receiving an abortion. “No one in Michigan should face discrimination because they exercised their constitutional rights, including their right to reproductive freedom by having an abortion,” said Whitmer. The new law will go into effect next year.
+ PEN America, Penguin Random House and several authors, parents and students filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Escambia County (Florida) School District’s removal and restriction of books discussing race, racism or LGBTQ individuals from public school libraries.
“Children in a democracy must not be taught that books are dangerous. The freedom to read is guaranteed by the constitution,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “In Escambia County, state censors are spiriting books off shelves in a deliberate attempt to suppress diverse voices. In a nation built on free speech, this cannot stand. The law demands that the Escambia County School District put removed or restricted books back on library shelves where they belong.”
Tuesday, May 23
+ In Kentucky, a crowd of more than 200 people demanded that Jefferson County School Board not comply with S.B. 150 and instead pass a Resolution for the Physical, Mental, and Emotional support for all students at Jefferson County Public Schools. S.B. 150—passed by the Kentucky legislature in March—violates Title IX and the rights of trans students. Legislative attacks are detrimental to all students regardless of gender and sexuality.
“Trans youth have the right to be called the right names, the right pronouns and be able to use the right bathrooms. All students have the right to be able to be taught the truth about gender, sexuality, race and class,” Z! Haukeness, Louisville resident and national organizing co-director at Showing Up for Racial Justice, shared after the rally. “This is an attack on trans youth that is connected to the right’s attack on public education and their advancement of an authoritarian agenda. It is an attempt to divide working people who need better housing, healthcare and public education.”
Thursday, May 25
+ Indiana’s medical licensing board decided to issue a letter of reprimand and fine Dr. Caitlin Bernard—who treated a 10-year-old rape victim last year after being denied abortion care in Ohio—$3,000 for violating ethical standards. For about a year, Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) has ruthlessly tried to punish Bernard for her actions. In a statement, Rokita praised the board’s decision:
“Like we have said for a year, this case was about patient privacy and the trust between the doctor and patient that was broken,” said Rokita. “What if it was your child or your parent or your sibling who was going through a sensitive medical crisis, and the doctor, who you thought was on your side, ran to the press for political reasons?”
Not all heroes wear capes.— Right Side of History™️ (@xxclusionary) May 31, 2023
On behalf of women and girls, thank you Dr. Caitlin Bernard. pic.twitter.com/7p8FNBdEpc
Donna Shalala—former U.S. Secretary of Health of Human Services under President Bill Clinton and an author of the federal HIPPA patient privacy law—disagreed with the board’s finding. “They’re criminalizing the practice of medicine and they’re literally asking doctors in this country to do harm,” said Shalala. “This is the opposite of what they went to medical school for and what their oath is. It’s the criminalization of American medicine and it’s outrageous.”
The board cleared Bernard on two other counts—determining that she did not improperly report child abuse and is fit to practice medicine.
Friday, May 26
+ Judge Clifton Newman of the South Carolina Circuit Court temporarily blocked the state’s new six-week abortion ban (S.B. 474) until it can be reviewed by the state Supreme Court—one day after it was signed by Gov. Henry McMaster (R). S.B. 474 contains limited exceptions for the life and physical health of the pregnant person and for cases of a fetal diagnosis “incompatible” with life. Survivors of rape and incest can only access care until 12 weeks of pregnancy and only if their physician reports the assault to law enforcement—including the survivor’s name regardless of their wishes. This ruling means abortion access in South Carolina is again legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Caroline Sacerdote, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, released the following statement in response:
“The court made the right call today by blocking this blatantly unconstitutional ban. For the past year, we have seen the dangerous consequences of these extreme laws across the country. Even still, state legislators have continued to cruelly gamble with people’s health and lives, betraying South Carolinians and their fundamental rights. We will keep fighting to ensure South Carolinians’ reproductive freedom is protected.”
Tuesday, May 30
+ Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill banning transgender women from playing on women’s sports teams in college—becoming the latest state to place restrictions on trans athletes. The legislation expands the state’s existing 2021 ban on trans athletes on K-12 sports teams. “Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,” said Gov. Ivey in a statement.
In opposition, Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.
“In just two years, [Gov. Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” said Anderson-Harvey.
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.