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 Western world often turns its back on refugees and migrants fleeing the flames of conflict we’ve fanned, claiming it’s not our problem. Yet perhaps the real truth is unbearable: that we who watch others suffer and do nothing are responsible for the tragedies we witness. I write not to wash my hands clean of these crimes, but to honor those still in the water. ….
is not the same as a stated declaration.
The law is the instrument
a remedy.”—Amanda Gorman, “In Memory of Those Still in the Water“
“Every revolution starts with a conversation. This is the way Ms. magazine started.”—Gloria Steinem, Ms. co-founder, during the latest episode of Max’s “And Just Like That”
“In a truly just America, everyone is free to make decisions about their lives, their bodies, and their futures with dignity—including the decision to pursue abortion care without fear, shame, or systemic barriers. Abortion care is healthcare and a fundamental human right, but access to this right has been stripped away from far too many, exacerbating many of the inequities and disparities that harm our most vulnerable.
“Our Abortion Justice Act builds the infrastructure necessary to systematically expand access to care, and I am thankful for my colleagues and our advocates for their close partnership on this bill. A just America is possible, and I look forward to the day where our bodily autonomy is our own.”
—Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on her introduction of the Abortion Justice Act, which would urge federal investments in reproductive justice, mandate insurance coverage of abortions, and fend off judicial attacks against abortion providers and patients, among other measures.
“This is part of our ongoing conversation about the tensions around racism and around race. We’ve seen different iterations of: ‘What does it mean to be Black in America? Where do we fit into America? Whose America is this? And if we want to have equity, what does this equity look like?'”
—Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead, a professor of African American studies and communications at Loyola University Maryland, said of the Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action in the United States.
“I’d like to believe that we are a nation that doesn’t have to have affirmative action, but I fear we still need it.”
—School principal Johnnie Whitehead, Dr. Whitehead’s husband, on the necessity of affirmative action under the nation’s present circumstances.
“The Court’s ruling is an open invitation for businesses to discriminate against protected classes of customers—and it won’t stop with LGBTQ+ individuals. …
“It is not hard to imagine the return of signs in store windows that read, ‘NO BLACKS,’ or ‘NO JEWS.’ While it may seem unfathomable, today’s ruling invites that kind of blatant discrimination, under the guise of ‘religious freedom.’ It is a sad day for justice.”
—Equal Rights Advocates executive director Noreen Farrell on the Supreme Court ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, which allowed a web design business to refuse customers for celebrating a same-sex marriage.
“Today’s MAGA Supreme Court majority decision in Biden v. Nebraska is ludicrous. … It deprives tens of millions of Americans of desperately-needed relief from crushing student loans that stifle their life opportunities. By replacing the wisdom of elected representatives with the dictates of six unelected justices, this decision further erodes our constitutional order and inflicts economic pain on hard-working Americans who deserve a real chance to thrive and get ahead.
“Now more than ever, Congress has a moral and economic imperative to make college more affordable, improve student loan programs, and expand access to student debt relief by simplifying the public service loan forgiveness program and reforming income-driven repayment regulations for eligible borrowers.”
—Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in a statement on Biden v. Nebraska, in which the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s loan forgiveness program.
“Because my daughter might need puberty blockers in the next few months, I am temporarily relocating out of state with her and my other child. Her father will stay behind to continue working in Texas. …
“I am heartbroken to have to take my children away from their home and their father, even temporarily. But I know that Texas is not a safe place for my daughter if this law forbids her access to this care.”
—Mary Moe, mother of Maeve, a transgender nine-year-old girl in Texas, following the passage of Texas’s S.B. 14, which will ban gender-affirming care for transgender residents effective Sept. 1.
“The era of invasive and patronizing social welfare in the United States needs to end. Research has shown us that things like work requirements and possible barriers to eligibility do nothing to truly address poverty and just continue to criminalize poverty.
“Guaranteed income can serve as an extension to existing social programs, like Medicare and Social Security. Those were, in their time, cutting-edge, innovative concepts around income security. Those were game-changing, life-saving policy initiatives that took a while to get done, and I believe we can get there with guaranteed income.”
—Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell championing the expansion of guaranteed income programs, which have been piloted in cities across the U.S.
+ Vice President Kamala Harris announced new steps to lower the cost of childcare for U.S. families, with a proposal that would cap co-payments under a block grant program—the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program—which serves 1.5 million children and their families each month with income below 85 percent of their state’s median income level. The proposed rule would limit working parents’ co-payments under to no more than 7 percent of a family’s income.
Since day one, @POTUS and I have worked to strengthen and expand access to affordable, high-quality child care.— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) July 12, 2023
Yesterday, I announced new actions that will cap child care co-pays at 7% of income for families benefiting from federal child care assistance. pic.twitter.com/wHtILiBZM8
“This fight is personal for me,” said Harris when she announced the plan. “My mother had two goals in her life: to raise her two daughters and end breast cancer. My mother was a breast cancer researcher, and she would work long days and often on weekends. And when she did, my sister and I would walk two doors down to the home of Mrs. Regina Shelton. Ms. Shelton ran a childcare center, and she became a second mother to my sister and me. My mother often said that but for Mrs. Shelton, she would never have been able to do the work that she did. She would have never been able to contribute as she did to the fight to end breast cancer. Those are the stakes of this work: bringing childcare to all families who need it.”
+ Senators reintroduced the Kira Johnson Act in Congress, which would provide the Department of Health and Human Services with a five-year, $50 million grant to address the impact of racial discrimination on maternal health.
“This legislation serves as a critical step towards rectifying the systemic failures that have long plagued our healthcare system, particularly when it comes to maternal care,” Charles Johnson, husband of the late Kira Johnson, said. “No family should ever have to endure the tragic loss we experienced, nor should any woman face unnecessary risks and complications during what should be one of the most joyous moments of her life.”
Due to systemic disparities & racial bias in our health care system, Black women are dying at alarming rates in childbirth.— Senator Alex Padilla (@SenAlexPadilla) July 16, 2023
I teamed up with @SenatorWarnock to address our maternal health crisis by introducing the Kira Johnson Act. pic.twitter.com/nnAcJhHE9q
+ A U.S. appeals court ruled on Saturday, July 8, that the state of Tennessee can immediately implement a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors. The ban had previously been suspended by a lower court following challenges by activist organizations and affected families.
+ After an appeals court ruled against a requirement for girls to wear skirts in a North Carolina charter school, the Supreme Court refused to hear challenges to the ruling. The decision marks a victory for charter school students, who “have the same constitutional rights as their peers at other public schools—including the freedom to wear pants,” ACLU Women’s Right Project director Ria Tabacco Mar.
+ House votes on Thursday, July 13, approved three Pentagon policy changes: The first overturned service members’ guaranteed right to abortion care, and the second will prevent the military health plan from covering gender-affirming surgeries and hormone therapy. The last vote eliminated the Pentagon’s offices of diversity, equity and inclusion and their staff.
“The MAGA majority is using our defense bill to get one stop closer to the only thing they really care about: a nationwide abortion ban,” said Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.).
+ A new hotline in New Mexico will offer assistance to those seeking abortion care, as one of few states in the region maintaining legal access to abortion. The hotline was implemented by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) administration and is staffed by the state Department of Health.
+ In the neighboring state of Arizona, Governor Katie Hobbs (D) signed an executive order on Friday, June 23, to prevent the prosecution of individuals for seeking, aiding or providing abortion procedures.
“I will not allow extreme and out of touch politicians to get in the way of the fundamental right Arizonans have to make decisions about their own bodies and futures,” Hobbs said.
+ Iowa legislators passed a bill on Tuesday, July 11, to ban abortion after six weeks with few exceptions. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) referred to the bill as “justice for the unborn,” and initially called the one-day legislative session specifically to move forward anti-abortion bills. She signed the bill into law last Friday.
Laws that restrict abortion in this way “rely on ‘scientific’ claims that have very little grounding in actual science,” and fly in the face of medical expertise. After all, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant when only six weeks along, as Jennifer Weiss-Wolf wrote in Ms.: “A ‘six-week ban’ on abortion is emphatically not the same as a six-week window to obtain one.”
+ Team U.S.A. star gymnast Simone Biles will compete in the U.S. Classic in early August, marking her first competition since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which were delayed to 2021. She has seven Olympic medals under her belt.
+ The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began accepting charges of pregnancy- and childbirth-related discrimination on Tuesday, June 27, under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The legislation requires that reasonable accommodation be provided by employers as an expansion of Title VII.
+ The FDA officially approved Opill on Thursday, July 13, making it the first birth control pill to be available over-the-counter in the U.S. The medication is expected to hit store shelves in early 2024 with no restriction based on age.
“Young people absolutely need this,” said 19-year-old Dyvia Huitron, a member of Advocates for Youth which champions contraception accessibility. “For them to be able to get something so important in terms of taking care of their bodies, at an age when historically we have not been allowed to … it will have a really significant impact on our lives and our ability to plan for the future.”
+ The Northwest Abortion Access Fund, the Indigenous Idaho Alliance, and attorney Lourdes Matsumoto are suing Idaho for its new “abortion trafficking ban,” which targets minors who seek abortions in other states without parental consent.
The plaintiffs claim the law violates First and Fourth Amendment rights, “ignoring that some of the minors may seek an abortion because they were sexually abused by a parent or guardian, that they have consulted with trusted adults who support their position, or that they are actual victims of human trafficking.”
How We’re Doing
+ There were at least 100 women journalists in prison during the first quarter of the year, and 47 were harassed or physically assaulted, according to the Coalition for Women in Journalism.
“She’s not had one phone call with family, with her children. Nothing,” journalist Cheng Lei’s partner said of her detention in China. “I can’t imagine what it would be like for them … they’re dealing with things as well as they can deal with them. I think it’s tough.”
+ In the year since the Supreme Court Dobbs ruling, the National Abortion Hotline saw a substantial increase in travel needs for abortion care. From July 2022 through May 2023, the Hotline helped fund 1,090 hotel rooms and 982 plane, train and bus trips. These mark annual increases of 195 percent and 235 percent, respectively.
“Until we restore abortion rights for everyone and remove the barriers that made accessing abortion care difficult even before Roe was overturned, there will always be people without access to the care they want and need,” National Abortion Federation CEO Veronica Jones said.
+ During the same time period, the National Domestic Violence Hotline saw a 99 percent increase in calls from people saying their partners are trying to control their reproductive choices—known as “reproductive coercion.”
“With abortion bans, state laws have really put controlling someone’s access to reproductive health care in the toolbox of abusive partners,” Crystal Justice, chief external affairs officer for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told Jezebel. “We’ve really emboldened those who are causing harm to use reproductive coercion, to use the right to control one’s own body, as a means of harm.”
+ State-level changes in Medicaid eligibility led 1.5 million Americans to lose coverage, the Associated Press found. Several states expanded eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to receive federal pandemic assistance, but a federal spending package signed in 2022 allowed states to again drop hundreds of thousands of people.
Florida, far surpassing all other states, has dropped several hundred thousand people. In second place, Arkansas has also dropped more than 140,000 people from coverage.
+ Fifteen states have banned “at least some forms of best-practice medical care for transgender youth,” while more states are considering such policies, according to a report by the Movement Advancement Project documented extensive legislative efforts targeting transgender individuals in the U.S.
Nine states prevent Medicaid from covering transgender health care, and two more ban Medicare coverage for transgender minors’ gender-affirming care. More than half of states “lack explicit health insurance nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.”
+ Despite technology being a male-dominated industry, women comprised 45 percent of Big Tech layoffs between October 2022 and June 2023. This is in part due to the disproportionate layoffs in female-dominated departments like human resources.
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.