Keeping Score: Montana Judge Rules Climate Change Denial Harms Young People; S.C. Court Upholds Near-Total Abortion Ban; Interest in Women’s Sports Sets New World Record

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 bottom line is that this decision does not change the availability of mifepristone today or in the immediate future. Despite the attempts by rightwing judges and politicians, medication abortion remains available. It is a safe and effective option for abortion care that has been used by millions of people for decades. As this baseless lawsuit makes its way to an extremist Supreme Court, we will continue to fight with our allies to protect and expand access to medication abortion for all.”

—NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju in a statement on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to block FDA approval of abortion pill mifepristone.

“This Supreme Court now has an opportunity to actually help women instead of continuing its erosion of bodily autonomy. We demand that the Supreme Court uphold the FDA’s existing access rules for mifepristone. To do anything else would add another item to the long list of ways court cases and legislation dictate women’s health care versus science and medical professionals. … The Supreme Court has already severely limited women’s choices when it comes to reproductive rights – don’t take away this option too.”

—National NOW president Christian F. Nunes on the implications of the court’s ruling.

Mifepristone (Mifeprex) and misoprostol. There are two different ways to have a medication abortion and end a pregnancy: using two different medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol, or using only misoprostol. (Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

“Texas law is worse than discriminatory; it’s downright hypocritical. However self-righteously they might bleat about ‘election integrity,’ state legislators are telling their own citizens, ‘We think anyone 65 or older is inherently honest and incapable of election fraud crimes with their mail ballots — while the rest of you simply can’t be trusted.'”

—Phil Keisling, chair of the National Vote At Home Institute and former Oregon secretary of state, on Texas’ law which allows only voters over age 65 to vote by mail without an excuse.

“The law in place in Texas, and six other states in the nation, unequivocally violates the 26th Amendment by allowing regular voting methods to be provided to one set of voters, while — simply on account of age — another set of voters is left without. Age discrimination in voting-by-mail untowardly impacts the rise of youth voters and minority youth in particular, given emerging voting patterns and the changing demographics of Texas and the nation.”

—Yael Bromberg, Esq., supervising attorney in the Rutgers International Human Rights Clinic, said of the Texas law.

“We are extremely disappointed and concerned that the Supreme Court substituted politics
for the rule of law to deny as many as 43 million hard working Americans life-changing relief
from crushing student loan debt. … Although the Supreme Court has chosen to stand in the way of your initial student debt relief plan, we recognize that as President of the United States, you have additional tools to provide relief. Working and middle class families need this relief to come as soon as possible. We urge you to continually find ways to use your authority to bring down student debt, address the rising cost of college, and make postsecondary education affordable for all students who choose that path.”

—A letter signed by nearly 90 Democratic congressmembers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), demanding that President Joe Biden find new methods for federal student loan cancellation despite pushback from the Supreme Court on his recent debt relief plan.

“We cannot sit idly by and ‘pray’ or ‘hope’ that these racist atrocities will stop happening. Our history and this latest attack demonstrate the danger of white supremacy and the existential threat it poses to our future. Neutralizing it requires truthful education, critical thinking about its contemporary manifestations, and dedication to multiracial democracy. Yet, it is this precise education that is now branded as ‘woke,’ divisive, and ‘un-American.’

“It is not an accident that history is now repeating itself. When we let down the fortifications and pretend the threat is no longer there, or worse still, when we allow efforts to fight racism to be framed as racism itself, loss of life is not far behind.”

—The African American Policy Forum in a statement on the murder of three Black residents in Jacksonville, Fla.—Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Jarrald Gallion, 29, and Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19—by a 21-year-old white supremacist with an assault weapon on Saturday, Aug. 26.


+ On Friday, Sept. 1, a Texas ban against trans kids’ gender-affirming care took effect. The ACLU called the law “cruel” and said it will make kids “fearful of what awaits them.” Texas joins 19 other states with some kind of ban on transgender care for minors.

+ Over 92,000 fans gathered at the University of Nebraska to watch the Nebraska volleyball team beat Omaha 3-0—setting a world record for attendance at a women’s sports event.

+ Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs was sentenced to 17 years for seditious conspiracy crimes on Jan. 6, 2021—the second longest federal prison sentence among Capitol riot cases.

+ A federal jury convicted five anti-abortion defendants of federal civil rights offenses in connection with a reproductive healthcare clinic invasion and blockade in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22, 2020. The case marks the first time the Justice Department charged anti-abortion activists with a violation of the civil rights conspiracy statute, in conjunction with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act—a historic moment in the ongoing fight to hold anti-abortion extremists accountable for their unlawful behavior. 

“This important victory vindicates the rights of women, patients and abortion providers across the country,” said duVergne Gaines, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project.

Lauren Handy outside the Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, the day the Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (Eric Lee / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

+ Six professors and two teachers’ unions filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho for criminalizing classroom discussion of abortion through the 2021 No Public Funds for Abortion Act, which they claim contradicts the First Amendment.

“In Idaho, the legislature has determined these ideals no longer apply to academic inquiry about abortion — one of today’s most urgent social, moral, and political issues,” the lawsuit by ACLU-Idaho reads.

+ Trans women have been barred from competing in the International Chess Federation (FIDE) chess tournament until they provide proof of their transition to be reviewed by federation officials. The organization noted, “Change of gender is a change that has a significant impact on a player’s status and future eligibility to tournaments, therefore it can only be made if there is a relevant proof of the change provided,” though the review process can take years.

The policy change was met with outrage and confusion. Two-time U.S. champion player Jennifer Shahade called it “ridiculous and dangerous.” She continued, “It’s also sinister timing that this comes out just as chess is finally reckoning with sexual assault and harassment in chess highlighting the links between misogyny and transphobia. I strongly urge FIDE to reverse course on this and start from scratch with better consultants.”

+ The FDA approved Pfizer’s new RSV vaccine for pregnant people on Monday, Aug. 21, which allows recipients to pass antibodies onto their babies. RSV is a respiratory disease that disproportionately affects infants, with 2022 seeing a substantial increase in severe illness amongst babies with RSV. The clinical trial included 7,400 participants and documented an 82 percent decrease in risk of severe disease within a baby’s first three months.

+ Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) promoted Justice Natalie Hudson to be the first Black chief justice of the state’s supreme court on Wednesday, Aug. 23, calling her “one of our state’s most experienced jurists.”

+ A Texas lawsuit is attempting to bankrupt Planned Parenthood. Texas is suing Planned Parenthood in United States ex rel. Doe v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America for violating the False Claims Act, alleging that the organization committed Medicaid fraud. The case will be decided by Matthew Kacsmaryk, the same Trump-appointed federal judge that ruled to reverse FDA approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.

+ With little fanfare, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill that solidifies medical exceptions to the state’s abortion ban. The law, which will go into effect on Sept.1, was introduced by state Rep. Ann Johnson (D) and makes no specific mention of abortion. Instead, it focuses on clarifying guidance for OB-GYNs and other physicians in the case of ectopic pregnancies or premature labor.

+ The U.S. Postal Service announced the release of a Forever stamp depicting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday, Oct. 2, just over three years after her death in September 2020. The unveiling will take place in the National Portrait Gallery.

+ After a lawsuit was filed against the state, a Montana judge ruled that a law prohibiting the consideration of climate change in policy development violated the state constitution, which promises “the right to a clean and healthful environment.”

Judge Kathy Seeley wrote, “There is overwhelming scientific consensus that Earth is warming as a direct result of human GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels,” resulting in disproportionate harm to the young plaintiffs, ages 5 to 22.

+ Despite having blocked a statewide abortion ban in January, the South Carolina Supreme Court voted 4–1 on Wednesday, Aug. 23 to uphold the six-week ban. “To be sure, the 2023 Act infringes on a woman’s right of privacy and bodily autonomy,” Justice John Kittredge admitted, writing for the majority. Previously, abortion in the state was allowed up to 22 weeks.

+ U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles won her eighth U.S. all-around title at the U.S. gymnastics nationals on Sunday, Aug. 27, setting a national record.

How We’re Doing

+ Dr. Bethany Samuelson Bannow at Oregon Health & Science University was the first to conduct a study on the efficacy of period products using human blood. The study, released on Monday, Aug. 7, included several menstrual products and will hopefully help to develop improved diagnostic guidelines for heavy menstrual bleeding.

“I think with women’s health, including menstrual health, we’ve been a little bit behind the eight ball,” Bannow said. “They didn’t even require women to be included in NIH studies until 1993. I think that that’s telling of what we prioritize as a society.”

+ Trust in the government amongst Americans has declined substantially since the National Election Study began documenting trust levels in 1958, according to the Pew Research Center. At the time, about 73 percent of the public “trusted the federal government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time.” In 2021, that average fell to just 24 percent.

+ Of the at least 749 bills introduced this year related to sex education and LBGTQ+ issues, 65 percent aimed to suppress rights to gender-affirming care, education, reproductive freedom and other liberties. This percentage marks a 24 percent increase from 2022.

“What this report clearly shows is that those who believe in protecting our human and civil rights must push back against these attacks because the opposition have evolved their tactics and improved their legislative success rates in 2023. They are clearly emboldened and this is a dynamic that will be in play through 2024,” SIECUS President and CEO Christine Soyong Harley said in a statement.

+ Women soldiers in special operations units confront sexism in all aspects of their roles, according to a report by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. One male soldier stating “the idea that women are equally as physically, mentally and emotionally capable to perform majority of jobs is quite frankly ridiculous.” Five thousand members were surveyed.

+ When federal funding from the American Rescue Plan drops off on Sept. 30, approximately 3.2 million children could lose their childcare, with 70,000 programs closing, the Century Foundation found. The cut will result in hundreds of thousands of jobs lost and billions of dollars in economic costs.

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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_.