Keeping Score: California Funds College for Foster Youth; Katie Ledecky Surpasses Michael Phelps in World Titles; Anti-Abortion Leader Arrested for Child Sex Abuse

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

“Let me be very clear: The Defense Department is not funding abortions. It simply allows service members reimbursement for travel if they are forced to make their way to a state with less draconian reproductive policies. There, they can receive a range of healthcare services, from IVF to, yes, legal abortions.

“Yet Sen. Tuberville has decided to obscure these facts, making it seem as if the Department of Defense is actually bankrolling abortions. … He’s endangering our national security because he’s so anxious to earn a pat on the back from Fox News that he’d throw a fit over a policy that, in this post-Dobbs world, preserves military women’s rights to bodily autonomy. … When do anti-choice folks like Tuberville think that we military women no longer have that basic human right to make our own decisions about our own health?”

—Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) after Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blocked all senior Defense Department nominations. The stall has interrupted about 250 military promotions.

“Unfortunately, childcare, again, remains too expensive for too many families in our nation.  In some places, childcare can cost almost $20,000 per child per year. Low-income families often spend one-third — one third—of their yearly income on childcare. More than they spend on their rent or mortgage. No family should have to choose between high quality care for their child or to give up their career or put food on the table.”

—Vice President Kamala Harris in a press call on the Biden administration’s progress towards more affordable childcare, including a proposed 7-percent cap on childcare co-payments. This would mark a dramatic decrease from the amount of income that would typically be spent on childcare by a low-income family.

“Although election deniers had some important defeats in the midterms, they aren’t going away. And state legislators haven’t stopped passing bills that restrict the vote or create openings for meddling in elections. The Freedom to Vote Act would safeguard access to the ballot and make our democracy more sustainable in the face of these threats.

“Along with the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act’s protections against racial discrimination, the Freedom to Vote Act has the best solutions available to strengthen our democracy for all. It would create national standards for voting and elections, fix partisan gerrymandering in congressional elections, establish new safeguards for election officials and workers, and blunt the problem of dark money in politics.”

—Brennan Center for Justice president and CEO Michael Waldman pushing for the advancement of the Freedom to Vote Act in Congress after it was reintroduced on Tuesday, July 18.

A march participant holds a sign that reads “Pass The Freedom To Vote Act!” during the 2022 Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Day Parade and Rally on Jan. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (Paras Griffin / Getty Images)

“We could think about diversifying the healthcare workforce so that the individuals who are taking care of the community look like the community they’re serving—so diversifying the healthcare workforce, inclusive of physicians, midwives, doulas, mental health care providers.

“I think funding studies that center the lived experience of Black women and Black birthing people is super important. And I truly believe that if we were to ask the Black community what do they need, they would tell us. And rather than us … researchers and physicians pontificating from our silos about what we think a community needs, how about we spend the time asking the community, what is it that they need?—because they know better than we do.”

—Professor Karen Sheffield-Abdullah, a nurse-midwife, in an episode of NPR’s All Things Considered on the U.S.’ maternal mortality rate, which is twice as high for Black women.


+ New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the first Black woman to be speaker of the General Assembly in New Jersey and first to serve as lieutenant governor, died Tuesday, Aug. 1. She was 71.

“She was devoted in both her private and public careers to improving the lives of ordinary New Jerseyans and to creating a just, equitable New Jersey that elevated all of its citizens,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics.

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was the second Black woman in U.S. history to lead a house of a state legislature. (Twitter)

+ Sinéad O’Connor, legendary Irish singer and activist, died on July 26. She was 56. She made history in 1992, when she ripped up a picture of the pope on live television, in protest of pervasive child abuse in the Catholic church.

“I grew up in a severely abusive situation, my mother being the perpetrator,” O’Connor told NPR in 2014. “So much of child abuse is about being voiceless, and it’s a wonderfully healing thing to just make sounds.”

+ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed S.B. 12 on Sunday, June 18, banning public drag performances in the state. Though the bill’s text doesn’t explicitly mention drag, it penalizes any business that permits “sexually oriented performances on public property, on the premises of a commercial enterprise, or in the presence of a child.” Businesses face a $10,000 fine and risk losing their liquor license.

“I will not allow Texas children to be sexualized and scarred for life by harmful drag performances,” Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said in a statement.

A similar ban was passed in Montana in May, but on Friday, July 28, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing it, as the bill “contains no carveout for speech or expression with serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” which are rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

+ Released in theaters on Friday, July 21, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie made the most at box office of any film directed by a woman, bringing home $356 million during opening weekend. Ticket buyers were 65 percent women, and 40 percent were younger than 25.

America Ferrera, Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie promote Barbie in Seoul, South Korea, on July 2, 2023. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP via Getty Images)

+ Following the release of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” in July, superstar Taylor Swift topped Barbara Streisand for the most No. 1 albums (12) by a woman artist, tied with Drake and only surpassed by Jay-Z and the Beatles.

+ A budget agreement signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, July 10, will designate $25 million towards a new Fostering Futures Program. The funding will cover tuition—as well as additional costs such as housing and textbooks—for foster youth in the state that attend any California public college.

“For foster youth who have lost everything, this bill provides hope that they can attend college without crippling debt—taking one critical step toward our state’s goal of making college attainable for all, and making foster youth the first to achieve debt-free college in California,” the bill’s author Sen. Angelique Ashby said.

+ Twenty-six-year-old U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky officially tied and later surpassed swimming star Michael Phelps for most individual world gold medals, celebrating her 16th win on Saturday, July 29, in the 800-meter freestyle.

“I’m just always trying to think of new ways to improve. I mean I’ve already got everything turning in my head right now. I kind of wanted to be better than I was tonight,” she said after finishing with her seventh-quickest time in the event.

+ Cheri Pies—a professor of public health and author of the groundbreaking Considering Parenthood: A Workbook for Lesbians—died on July 4 at her home in Berkeley, Calif. She was 73. At the time of Considering Parenthood‘s publication, the concept of openly gay parents was still taboo. Her work led to the Best Babies Zone initiative, which helped improve health conditions in economically challenged neighborhoods around the country.

“Babies are the canary in the mine,” Pies said. “If babies aren’t born healthy, you know that something isn’t right in the community.”

+ Katie Early, Ipas’ longest-serving employee, died on June 26. Early’s leadership helped shape Ipas programs, fundraising, workplace culture—as well as Ipas’ visibility on the global stage as a bold advocate for abortion access.  

Katie Early speaks at Ipas’ 40th anniversary celebration in 2013. (Courtesy of Ipas)

+ President Joe Biden nominated Admiral Lisa Franchetti to lead the navy as a Pentagon service chief, which would make her the first woman in the role and first woman on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She is currently the vice chief of naval operations.

+ Marty Decole “Cole” Wagner, an employee of the Alabama Education Department and former chair of the anti-abortion committee Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama, was arrested for child sexual abuse on Wednesday, July 19, after being indicted by a jury in June. He faces a prison sentence of two to 20 years.

+ After self-managing an abortion at 29 weeks, resulting in a stillbirth, 19-year-old Celeste Burgess was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of probation by a Nebraska judge. She was 17 when she took the abortion pills in April 2022, but was charged as an adult in August and pled guilty in spring. Her mother, who acquired the medication, is also awaiting a sentence.

“When [prosecutors] are faced with the limitations of state law and the fact that a self-managed abortion or a pregnancy loss is not illegal under state law, it’s almost as if they start throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks,” said Emma Roth, a staff attorney with Pregnancy Justice. “They’re desperate to file some kind of charge to ensure that they criminalize what they view as immoral behavior.”

How We’re Doing

+ Infant deaths substantially increased in Texas the year that S.B. 8 was implemented, banning abortions after six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. In 2022, 2,200 infants died in Texas, which is 11.5 percent more than in the year prior.

This change is in part due to the unavailability of abortion even in cases where “pregnancies that don’t turn into healthy normal kids,” according to Dr. Erika Werner, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center.

+ In the aftermath of Dobbs, several states continue to restrict medication abortion, despite its proven track record as a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy. A study by Ibis Reproductive Health found that nearly 90 percent of study participants “had a complete abortion without procedural intervention,” and 5.3 percent had a complete abortion with additional procedures.

+ In Georgia, two-thirds of voters believe that medication abortion be allowed in the U.S., while only a quarter disagree. Among Black voters that number is even higher, with nearly 80 percent agreeing that medication abortion should remain legal. Fifty-two percent of Georgia voters want general abortion care to become more accessible in their state.

+ More than a quarter (77 percent) of surveyed workers have witnessed workplace discrimination, a poll on workplace discrimination found. Only 9 percent of respondents had not experienced it themselves. Half of respondents reported experienced age-related discrimination when applying for jobs, and 40 percent reported race-based discrimination.

Despite these high numbers, 45 percent were “unaware of their company’s policies against workplace discrimination,” deeming paid leave, anti-retaliation and other policies as more important.

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.


Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior 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_.