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
“A silent pediatric mental health pandemic [has been] building for decades, disproportionately impacting minoritized groups including racial, ethnic, and gender diverse youth, and those living in poverty. … The social disruptions, fear and grief caused by the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down for all children, especially those vulnerable to mental illness and substance use disorders. …
“Congress should consider solutions for increasing the uptake of collaborative care arrangements, including those in pediatric practices. These programs must be funded adequately to include resources for start-up costs, in addition to ongoing technical assistance as the programs become established.”
—Dr. Tami Benton, president-elect of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, testifying in a Democratic Women’s Caucus hearing on poor mental health in teenage girls. Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Kathy Manning (D-N.C.). chaired the hearing in response to a “mental health crisis” of depression and suicidality among teenage girls.
“Without congressional action, the expiration of child care stabilization funding at the end of September threatens to undo recent gains and destabilize the child care sector. There are already reports of providers needing to raise parent fees to help cover operating costs that were subsidized by child care stabilization funding, or reduce staff wages, exacerbating challenges in hiring and retaining qualified staff. Some providers may be forced to close without additional resources. If this trajectory continues, hardworking families will pay the price—parents will be left with fewer child care options higher costs—preventing parents from working and holding back our entire economy.“
—A release from the White House urging Congress to extend childcare coverage from the American Rescue Plan, among other important measures such as funding disaster relief and affordable internet connection.
“Extremism poses an existential threat to our democracy, and I take this threat very seriously. … This is a pivotal moment for our republic.
“That’s why I’m proud to announce the launch of Think Big America, an organization dedicated to safeguarding reproductive rights and standing up against the right-wing extremists who want to take us backwards. Think Big America is building on the successes we’ve achieved in Illinois and taking the fight across the nation. Women’s health. Abortion rights. The rights to choose: These are fundamental rights regardless of your income, regardless of where you live or who you are.”
—Illinois governor JB Pritzker (D) in a video announcement of his self-funded political advocacy group, published on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Think Big America will focus on “combating far-right extremism” through legislative protections for reproductive freedom.
“While we are trying to improve access to social services, ultimately what we’re really working on is social transformation. We’re working on changing norms so that there is no tolerance for abuse. So part of that success is how are we helping friends, family, classmates and coworkers see themselves in this work? Sometimes people feel like, ‘Oh we just call 911’ or, ‘We help someone go to a shelter,’ but they don’t realize that it really involves all of us as a community in terms of not only prevention but response.
“For me, how we measure success in the long term [is] raising awareness in broadening the types of coordinated community responses and bringing more people to the table to be a part of that effort.”
—Office of Violence Against Women director Rosie Hidalgo on confronting a culture of domestic violence under the Biden administration, both during and beyond National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
“At a time when Republicans across the country are fighting to ban abortion nationwide—bans that disproportionately harm people of color, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ people—it is critical that we ensure every person who needs it can access and afford contraception. That FDA advisory panel vote to approve the first ever over-the-counter birth control application is a historic step forward in the fight to expand access to birth control, and I hope the FDA will act without delay to accept the panel’s recommendation.
“But as we know, access alone without affordability is not true access. That’s why we need to pass this legislation to help ensure everyone who needs it can access birth control, regardless of their income.”
—Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in a statement after reintroducing the Affordability is Access Act alongside five other members of both houses of Congress. The bill would guarantee full insurance coverage of all FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control.
“Women’s reproductive freedoms are under attack across the country, and we know that far-right extremists won’t stop at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. It is essential that we put policies in place now that will provide timely access to over-the-counter birth control once approved by the FDA. Comprehensive coverage for contraception will help thousands of Nevada women stay healthy and in control of their own lives. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation and will keep fighting for women’s rights.”
—Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) on the importance of ensuring that birth control is not only accessible over the counter, but also affordable.
“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau has played an essential role in improving the status of working women and moms throughout our history, and that work is especially important right now as women—and especially women of color and moms—face a devastating wage gap, a child care crisis, and harms caused by our failure to provide paid family and medical leave. Defunding the Women’s Bureau would send a chilling message to everyone who cares about women and our economy and would rob the country of a powerful advocate for workforce fairness and opportunity. We urge you to reconsider this cut and restore its funding.”
—MomsRising Executive Director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner protesting House Republicans’ proposal to eliminate the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor.
+ On Tuesday, Oct. 10, the GOP-dominated North Carolina state legislature pushed forward two election policies that will make voting even more difficult for residents. Both were previously vetoed by Gob. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.).
The first, S.B. 747 “will ban private grants for election administration, launch a pilot program for signature verification and move up the deadline to receive mail-in ballots from three days after Election Day to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.”
S.B. 749 will secure the legislature’s right to appoint state election board members instead of the governor. The bill will also convert county election boards to consist of two Democrats and two Republicans, which will likely stall election-related decisions.
+ After being accused of censorship for a new policy separating some books about race, gender and sexuality at its book fairs, Scholastic backtracked on the practice.
I've been sitting with the news that Scholastic is self-censoring their Book Fairs since Tuesday. On Thursday I was invited to speak at a Scholastic Graphix party, and this is what I said. It's an earnest plea for the company with whom I have made so many books to do better. https://t.co/ivwzfSR0zd pic.twitter.com/Kv5aJcNw1A— Molly Knox Ostertag – Updates (@MollyOstertag) October 15, 2023
“We pledge to stand with you as we redouble our efforts to combat the laws restricting children’s access to books,” wrote Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic’s trade publishing division, in an apology letter sent to its authors and illustrators.
+ Suzanne Somers—television star best known for sitcoms Three’s Company and Step by Step—died at age 76 on Sunday, October 15 after decades of battling breast cancer.
The actress advocated for equal pay throughout her career. She was fired from Three’s Company earlier than expected after being denied a salary equal to that of her male co-stars. When she asked for equal compensation during contract negotiations, “the show’s response was, ‘Who do you think you are?'” she said in a People interview. “They said, ‘John Ritter is the star.'” Instead of continuing on the show, she used the momentum to score roles on other television shows and success as an entrepreneur.
+ A gag order issued by Judge Tanya Chutkan will prevent former President Donald Trump from
“making public statements attacking the witnesses and specific prosecutors or court staff members involved in the federal case concerning his efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” according to The New York Times. He will still be allowed to publicly attack President Joe Biden and his Justice Department, as well as Judge Chutkan herself.
+ Lawyers filed a federal class-action suit on behalf of families separated at the border by the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018. On Monday, Oct. 16, they reached a settlement that, if approved, will allow the affected families to live and work in the U.S. while their asylum claims are considered.
“This agreement will facilitate the reunification of separated families and provide them with critical services to aid in their recovery,” attorney general Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Lead counsel Lee Gelernt of the ACLU said that “While we can never completely make these families whole again, or erase the moral stain of this abhorrent policy, we are thrilled for the families that will receive the settlement’s benefits, most of all the children who have not seen their parents in years and suffering families who will have a meaningful opportunity to remain in the U.S..”
+ At least 39 journalists have been killed covering the Israeli-Gaza war. At least five were women.
+ In Georgia, voting maps drawn by Republic legislators were rejected by an Atlanta federal judge on Thursday, Oct. 26 for discriminating against Black voters and violating the Voting Rights Act.
The state’s supreme court also voted on Tuesday, Oct. 24 to uphold a six-week abortion ban in the state. As most people do not know they are pregnant until after the six-week mark, this bill effectively prohibits most abortions in the state. The Court cited the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, making Georgia one of several neighboring states where abortion is inaccessible.
+ The Navy now exempts new mothers from postpartum fitness testing that is typically administered within a year of giving birth. The administrative memo instead instructs sailors to “participate in a progressive and appropriate exercise program, as soon as medically authorized.”
Special Election Day Update
+ Elections on Tuesday, Nov. 7, revealed national support for reproductive freedom, with several states—such as California, Michigan, Vermont and Ohio—passing pro-abortion rights propositions. Ohio’s Issue 1 will explicitly protect abortion in the state constitution, while the state also legalized recreational marijuana.
Other states, including Kentucky and Montana, rejected measures that endanger abortion rights through constitutional bans and targeting of healthcare providers.
“The overturning of Roe v. Wade has lit a fire under voters, and continues to be a powerful turnout issue,” Ms. executive editor Kathy Spillar said.
+ In Virginia, Democrats gained control of both houses, which will hinder Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) attempts to ban abortion and reverse Virginia’s ERA ratification.
+ Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D)—who would be Houston’s first Black woman mayor if elected—advanced to a Dec. 9 runoff.
+ Philadelphia elected its first woman mayor, Cherelle Parker.
How We’re Doing
+ Harassment and attacks against Jewish and Muslim communities in the U.S. have increased in frequency since Hamas launched attacks on Oct. 7. The Council on American-Islamic Relations recorded 774 documented instances of bias from Oct. 7-24, and the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism reported 312 acts of antisemitism between Oct. 7-23.
“Public officials should do everything in their power to keep the wave of hate sweeping the nation right now from spiraling out of control,” Corey Saylor, research and advocacy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.
+ According to a survey by BabyCenter, 82 percent of participating mothers report handling “more of the childcare logistics than their partner does,” with 45 percent having to cut down on work or leave their jobs entirely due to the high costs of childcare.
“The logistics of childcare is [sic] exhausting,” one mother told BabyCenter. “Even with a stable schedule, there are always unexpected things that come up and it is up to me to work it out. Since my husband makes more money, I am fine being the flexible parent, but it does come at a cost of my career advancement.”
+ A recent study found that pregnancy is far deadlier than inducing abortion, by a ratio of 35-39 in 2020. Between 2013 and 2017, the mortality rate of pregnancy was still 32-35 times higher than that of abortion, which was 0.43 deaths per 100,000 abortions from 2013 to 2019.
+ With abortion bans mounting in surrounding states such as Georgia and Mississippi, Florida saw 25 percent more abortion procedures as of Oct. 1, 2023 than the same time last year.
The spike occurred despite an impending six-week ban currently being debated by the state Supreme Court. If the state’s current 15-week window is narrowed to six weeks, abortion access would be severely restricted for pregnant people across the South.
+ Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a sharp increase in calls related to reproductive coercion. In the year after Dobbs compared to the year prior, the number of such calls nearly doubled, rising from 1,230 to 2,442.
“If you cannot make these decisions, it could mean unfortunately that you have to stay in an abusive situation longer than you want to,” Marium Durrani, vice president of public policy at the NDVH, said. “It could impact your escape, it could mean that potentially you’re forced to have a child with someone you don’t want to have a child with.”
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.