War on Women Report: New House Speaker Is Anti-Women and Anti-Gay Rights; Shooting at Montana Planned Parenthood; Maine’s Deadliest Mass Shooting


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…

+ The U.S. Coast Guard covered up an investigation of systemic sexual misconduct at the Coast Guard Academy from the late 1980s to 2006, according to a CNN report. Under the leadership of Commandant Karl L. Shultz, the investigation, code-named Operation Fouled Anchor, exposed more than 60 reports of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment—yet was hidden from the public and Congress for four years. 

+ The U.S. House has a new speaker: Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.). Among some of his most eyebrow-raising beliefs:

  • He does not believe the burning of fossil fuels is changing the climate, and has described a Democrat-backed climate protection plan as “a thinly veiled attempt to implement the policies that would usher in a new socialist society in America.”
  • He worked as a senior spokesperson and attorney at the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, a group which helped to overturn Roe v. Wade and advocated for same-sex intimacy to be criminalized in the U.S. and abroad. 
  • A statement on his wife’s Christian counseling service website equated homosexuality with bestiality and incest. 

+ Nov. 7 is the last day to vote in several key elections:

  • Pennsylvania: Pennsylvanians will vote to choose a new member for the state Supreme Court. The primary candidates are Democrat Daniel McCaffery, who supports abortion rights, and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, who is anti-abortion. Following the Dobbs decision, which devolved abortion access rights to the states, state supreme courts wield significant influence over the protection– or restriction– of these rights. The court’s current makeup leans Democrat 4-2.
  • Virginia: Elections for the Virginia state Senate will determine control of the General Assembly. Republicans hold the House and the governorship now; if they win the senate, Virginia will have a Republican trifecta and will be able to carry out Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda, which includes a 15-week abortion ban and limiting classroom discussions of race and gender, among other extreme positions. 
  • Ohio: Ohians will decide on a new constitutional amendment. If approved, it would codify access to abortion, contraceptive care, miscarriage care and fertility treatment. 

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

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) surrounded by House Republicans after he was elected as the speaker nominee on Oct. 24, 2023. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Thursday, Oct. 6

+ A man fired two rounds from a shotgun into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Montana. There were no injuries as the shots were not directed towards any persons within the clinic.

Across the U.S., anti-abortion violence has increased in recent years. Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) connected the incident to anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from some lawmakers: “Every political figure who drums up fear around abortion, sex ed., etc is fanning the flames of real violence.”

Planned Parenthood of Montana will remain open; communications coordinator Mary Sullivan said, “Planned Parenthood will never step back from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that Montanans rely on and trust.”

Tuesday, Oct. 10

+ 60 Minutes producer Alexandra Poolos is suing CBS for gender discrimination after claiming she was fired unfairly. Poolos’ termination resulted from her being labeled a bully and an associate producer saying she did not respect boundaries. In her lawsuit, Poolos points to disparities in how her termination was handled compared to male colleagues, highlighting instances of sexual misconduct and harassment that held no ramifications on her male counterparts. She contends that the workplace environment was marked by sexism and misogyny. 

Wednesday, Oct. 11

+ Miranda Michel, 26, shared that Texas abortion laws forced her to give birth in early August, despite her twins being given a 0 percent chance of viability. During her pregnancy, an ultrasound examination revealed Michel’s twins’ spines were entangled, their organs were not developing properly, and there was a high likelihood that they would be born conjoined. In this dire situation, two harsh realities became apparent: These twins would not survive beyond the moment of birth, and Texas’ restrictive abortion ban left Michel with no recourse to prevent this tragic outcome. Michel carried the twins for eight months; Helios and Perseus Langley were born on Aug. 9, 2023, and died just four hours after birth.

This story is just one among many others who experienced traumatic health concerns as a result of Texas’ anti-abortion restrictions. 

Monday, Oct. 16

+ In 2021, Alabama sent Ashley Caswell—then two months pregnant—to Etowah County Detention Center for “endangering her fetus,” after testing positive for methamphetamine. Now, she is suing the county and the sheriff’s department for being denied care repeatedly throughout her pregnancy and labor period. 

Caswell was denied prescribed medication both before and after giving birth, she was not allowed to have prenatal visits despite having a high-risk pregnancy, and she was forced to give birth alone in a shower stall for 12 hours—according to her lawsuit. Instead, Lynda Dillard, an EMT at the detention center, gave her Tylenol and told her to “deal with the pain.” Caswell’s case reveals the alarming mistreatment of pregnant women within the confines of jails nationwide.

Wednesday, Oct. 25

+ In Lewiston, Maine, a U.S. Army reservist went on a shooting rampage at a bowling alley and a restaurant, leaving 18 dead—the deadliest mass shooting in state history. Authorities identified the attacker as Robert Card, whose body was found two days after the incident, the apparent cause of death a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The state of Maine on Friday released photos of the 18 victims killed Wednesday in the mass shooting in Lewiston. (Maine Department of Public Safety)

About six months before the shooting took place, the Army had requested local police conduct a wellness check with Card, since a soldier voiced concern that Card was “going to snap and commit a mass shooting.” However, local police were unable to locate him and eventually closed the case just 24 days before the massacre.

Mass shootings are a highly gendered phenomenon, with 98 percent committed by men. Our culture glorifies violent and individualistic masculinity while labeling emotionality as feminine and negative, which encourages men who are struggling to turn to violence against themselves and others instead of seeking help. To have any hope of preventing mass shootings, men need a new cultural construction of “manhood” that does not look down upon receiving emotional support from others.

Central Maine Medical Center chief nursing officer Kris Chaisson arranges 13 tea light candles on a table to commemorate the survivors of the mass shooting that were treated at the hospital. Another 18 candles were placed for those that lost their lives in the mass shooting. (John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

+ Following Kevin McCarthy’s removal from a speaker of the House of Representatives, Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson was elected, bringing an end to a tumultuous three-week period marked by an absence of leadership. Johnson’s appointment as speaker marked the fourth attempt by Republicans to find a suitable leader following McCarthy’s departure. 

Johnson, a staunch Trump supporter, is widely recognized for his prominent role in contesting the 2020 election results and his unyielding anti-abortion stance, often employing charged rhetoric to equate abortion with “a holocaust.” In his new role, Johnson is tasked with navigating the looming government shutdown deadline before Nov. 17.

Wednesday, Oct. 25

+ In a request to Congress, President Biden called for $16 billion in emergency childcare funding, which would ensure that childcare centers across the U.S. remain open and maintained for another fiscal year.

Also included in this request was $23 billion for disaster relief, $6 billion to expand internet access, and funds directed for international aid and energy assistance, totaling $56 billion.

Monday, Oct. 30

+ Nearly every single Democrat in the Senate joined together to urge the Biden administration to require insurers to fully cover Opill, the first over-the-counter birth control pill in the U.S. Opill is set to become available in early 2024. While its retail price remains undecided, insurance coverage would mean no out-of-pocket costs or prescription requirements. 

“The FDA’s approval of Opill is a milestone; however, for an OTC birth control pill to meet its potential and be truly accessible, federal departments must ensure that it is covered without cost-sharing and without the need for a prescription as a condition of coverage,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

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

Emmaline Kenny is an editorial intern at Ms. and senior at Smith College, where she is pursuing majors in the study of women and gender and studio art.
Jules Hanisee is an editorial intern for Ms., originally from Albuquerque, N.M., and based in New Orleans, LA. They are a junior at Tulane University studying international relations, French, and English. Their interests include voting rights and elections, LGBTQ+ relations and intersectional public policy.