War on Women Report: 14 States With Total Abortion Bans; Maternal Mortality Doubled Since 1999; Anti-Abortion Clinic Sued for Failing to Treat Ectopic Pregnancy

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… 

+ Total bans abortion bans are in effect in 14 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

One state—Georgia—bans abortion after around six weeks gestation, before most people even know they are pregnant.

(Iowa Republicans also jammed through a six-week ban, but it was only in effect for a few days before Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin blocked it. The ruling is a response to a challenge by reproductive and legal rights groups Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic and the ACLU of Iowa, who argued the ban was not constitutional under Iowa law.)

These photos show pregnancy tissue extracted at five to nine weeks of pregnancy, rinsed of blood and menstrual lining. The images show the tissue in a petri dish next to a ruler to indicate its size. (MYA Network)

+ As of this month, over 490 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 2023, and 77 have become law. But a majority of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the past three years that have been taken to court have been blocked by federal judges—indicating the importance of challenging this type of legislation.

Restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida have also been completely or partially blocked by federal judges. 

+ A Massachusetts lawsuit alleges that a local anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center failed to spot an ectopic pregnancy, which ultimately threatened the patient’s life. In addition, the patient claims that the center engages in regular false advertisement. The patient had “massive internal bleeding … necessitating emergency surgery” after suffering from a ruptured fallopian tube caused by their ectopic pregnancy, which was not diagnosed in their ultrasound. The suit hopes to highlight the dangers of some anti-abortion centers, such as these.

+ Nearly 10,000 more babies have been born in Texas since the state instated its six-week abortion ban, according to a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Senate Bill 8 took effect in September 2021 and was, at the time, the most restrictive abortion ban in history.

But new data released by CNN this month suggests abortion bans like Texas’ also increase infant mortality: Approximately 2,200 infants died in Texas in 2022—an increase of 11.5 percent compared to the previous year

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

Monday, July 3

+ The U.S. maternal mortality rate has more than doubled since 1999, according to a new study published in the medical journal JAMA. Most deaths were reported to be among Black women. (The study estimated there were 1,210 maternal deaths in 2019, compared to the 505 maternal deaths recorded 20 years earlier.)

“Our findings provide important insights on maternal mortality rates leading up to the pandemic, and it’s likely that we’ll see a continued increase in the risk of maternal mortality across all populations if we analyze data from subsequent years,” said Dr. Allison Bryant, the study’s leader. “Black individuals would likely still have the highest rate, but there may be a higher uptick in some of the other groups in the last few years.”

Wednesday, July 5

+ Gerson Fuentes, 28, was found guilty of felony rape of a minor for assaulting and impregnating a 9-year-old girl living in Ohio, and was sentenced to life in prison. Fuentes confessed to assaulting the child at least twice, and due to Ohio’s six-week abortion trigger ban enacted after Roe’s reversal last year, she was forced to travel out-of-state to Indiana to obtain an abortion. (She was 10 when she received the abortion.)

The case attracted attention when the physician who treated the girl, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, told a reporter about the girl’s case, which was found to have violated patient privacy laws by Indiana’s state Medical Licensing Board. She was fined $3,000 and formally reprimanded in a hearing lasting over 15 hours, but is still able to practice. 

“I think it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real-word impacts of the laws of this country,” said Bernard.

Abortion-rights activists gather on June 24, 2023, in Chicago, to mark the first anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Monday, July 10

+ A large majority of Americans (two-thirds) believe the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change, and 60 percent view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States—yet House Republicans are pushing back against corporate attempts to integrate climate and social change into large scale big-business plans and corporate investments.

Republicans leading the House Financial Services Committee hope to target firms that specifically invest in environmental, social and governance (ESG).

Tuesday, July 11

+ Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed into law a bill that allows 16- and 17-year-olds in Maine to receive gender-affirming care without parental consent. This law only applies to teenagers that: 

  • Have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
  • Are expected to receive harm, or are experiencing harm, from not receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy.
  • Have disclosed the diagnosis with a parent or guardian, but the parent or guardian refuses to support treatment.
  • Have received counseling prior to providing informed written consent. 

The bill was supported by all but one Democrat on the state’s Judiciary Committee. 

+ In Maine, state-level paid and family medical leave has been signed into law—a victory for feminists and family advocates. According to the law, “nearly all workers in the state will be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year when they have a serious health condition that makes them unable to work, need leave to bond with a new child, have to care for a family member with a serious health condition, to address certain military family needs, or to take safe leave to address needs arising from domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking.”

With the change, lawmakers hope to create more economic security for citizens and families in the state. 

Thursday, July 13

+ The FDA approved the first non-prescription contraceptive. Known as Opill, this new daily oral medicine can be purchased without a prescription online, as well as at grocery and drug stores. Almost half of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States every year are unintended—meaning Opill has the potential to reduce unintended pregnancies by providing an avenue for women to receive reproductive care without the assistance of a healthcare professional. 

In a Kaiser survey last year, more than three-quarters of women of reproductive age said they favored an over-the-counter pill, citing convenience as the primary motivating factor. Most birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin. In contrast, Opill is a “progestin-only” pill. Progestin-only pills are 93 to 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

(Screenshot from FDA)

+ Since the fall of Roe, there has been a 99 percent increase in victims who report that their abusers are trying to control their reproductive choices, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline—meaning domestic abusers are using abortion bans to harm their victims.

“When you limit reproductive access, you automatically increase the lethality risks for women because so many of them are incredibly vulnerable when they’re pregnant,” said Emilee Whitehurst, president and CEO of The Houston Area’s Women’s Center.

Saturday, July 15

+ Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. have been revising their admissions policies, following a surge in applications immediately following the Supreme Court’s cut to affirmative action programs.

Many believe the Court’s ruling will lead to a decline in racial diversity in colleges across the country. Some expect this gap to be partially filled by HBCUs, which have long been systemically underfunded and devalued: A report conducted by Goldman Sachs on the case for investing in HBCUs explains that despite their “pivotal role in the education and equality of Black Americans for almost two centuries,” HBCUs “continue to face large gaps in state and federal funding, private donations, and endowments relative to their predominantly white peers. For these institutions to thrive, financial commitments need to be broad, intentional, and sustainable.” 

Wednesday, July 19

+ Following the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling barring colleges from taking race into consideration in admissions, Wesleyan University ended legacy admission and vowed to stop giving preferential treatment to prospective students with familial alumni. Legacy admission is widely-known to disproportionately benefit white, upper-class male students with generational wealth. 

Wesleyan joins other selective schools in the nation in making the change, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Amherst University.

Thursday, July 20

+ Texas Department of State Health Services data reveals at least, 2,200 infants died in the state in 2022—an 11.5 percent increase from the reported 227 deaths from the previous year.

+ The second and final day of testimony wrapped in Zurawski v. State of Texas, a lawsuit filed against the state of Texas by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) that seeks to block both of Texas’ abortion bans—Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion after cardiac activity is detected, roughly around six weeks of pregnancy; and Texas’ Human Life Protection Act, colloquially known as the trigger ban, a total abortion ban which took effect shortly after the fall of Roe. The plaintiffs also ask the court to clarify for doctors which circumstances qualify as exceptions to the bans, and to allow providers to use their own medical judgment without fear of prosecution. 

The historic case is the first time women have directly sued a state over abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. 

Samantha Casiano and Luis Villasana outside Travis County Courthouse in Austin on July 19, 2023. Casiano was forced to give birth to her daughter Halo, who died just four hours after birth. (Suzanne Cordeiro / AFP via Getty Images)

Sunday, July 23 

+ Greta Gerwig’s new film, Barbie, has made history in many ways this month, but particularly for having the most profitable opening weekend in history for a female-directed film. Warner Bros. projected the film to accrue $75 million in the opening weekend, but the film went above and beyond projections with $155 million in ticket sales in the opening three days.

Gerwig also now holds 2023’s top single-day film debut of the year, at $70.5 million. 

Monday, July 24

+ The U.S. Justice Department has sued Texas over the installation of a barrier to stop people from swimming across the Rio Grande River. The suit alleges that the barrier, which was installed in the river without federal approval, is a violation of federal law. 

“This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns,” Vanita Gupta, an associate attorney general, said in a statement announcing the suit. “Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”

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

Jules Hanisee is an editorial intern for Ms., based in Albuquerque, N.M. They are a rising junior at Tulane University studying political science, French and gender-based violence. Their interests include voting rights and elections, LGBTQ+ relations and intersectional public policy.
Alecia Hodges is an editorial intern for Ms.; she is a current law student whose writings focus on the theoretical and juridical aspects of both anti-Blackness and misogyny in public policy, as well as political and popular culture.