Keeping Score: Voting Rights Act Weakened; Fighting Back Against Abortion Bans; Remembering Rosalynn Carter

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

In the 2023 legislative session, obsessive anti-abortion politicians tried to jeopardize the state’s application by targeting Missourians who seek abortions. Thankfully, advocates and pro-reproductive freedom lawmakers held off these political attacks and today’s victory is theirs. … Expanding postpartum care coverage from the wholly inadequate 60 days to the full postpartum year will save Missouri lives.

“Bans on abortion and restrictions on all forms of sexual and reproductive healthcare are directly correlated to high rates of maternal and infant mortality; so it is no surprise that Missouri, living under a total abortion ban, also has some of the highest rates of maternal/birthing parent mortality nationwide.”

Abortion Action Missouri executive director Mallory Schwarz, celebrating Missouri’s extension of their Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year. 

“Women who reside in states that have banned access to comprehensive reproductive care must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland, in a Department of Justice filing arguing that Alabama cannot prosecute those who travel or assist others in traveling across state lines to get an abortion. Idaho was recently blocked from instituting a similar law.
Abortion rights supporters protest a ban at the Georgia State Capitol on May 21, 2019, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images)

“Research on women’s health has been underfunded for decades. Many conditions that mostly or only affect women, or affect women differently, have received little to no attention… These gaps are even greater for communities that have historically been excluded from research, including women of color and women with disabilities.”

Dr. Jill Biden, announcing the first White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, which will provide recommendations on how the Biden administration can reach equity in health research. 

“He’s the most conservative speaker that we’ve seen in modern times—probably ever. I passed a lot of legislation on [opposing gay marriage and abortion access], a lot of it got struck down. Now the stuff is making it through the courts, and it’s in large part because of litigation from attorneys like Mike.”

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, who previously worked with Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. Johnson began his career bringing litigation against abortion clinics in Louisiana, and has played an influential role in the conservative Christian legal movement.

 “Meta’s representations to the public and in response to Congressional inquiries concealed and misrepresented its extensive knowledge about the threats to young people on its platforms. Rather than act on the stunning findings, Meta hid this information from the public and Congressional oversight while providing misleading statistics, ignoring recommendations to protect teens, and even rolling back safety tools.”

Senators Durbin (D-IL), BLumenthal (D-CT), Blackburn (R-TN), Graham (R-SC), Warren (D-MA), and Hawley (R-MO) in a bipartisan letter to Mark Zuckerberg. Newly unsealed documents reveal Meta executive’s knowledge of the mental and physical harms of their platforms on kids.


+ Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died on Nov. 19, after a long life as a global humanitarian, mental health advocate, and women’s rights champion. As first lady, she took an active political role, participated in Cabinet meetings, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment. After leaving the White House, the Carters were dedicated to humanitarian work, including Habitat for Humanity, and continued their fight for human rights.

Betty Friedan, Liz Carpenter, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, former first lady Betty Ford, Elly Peterson, Jill Ruckelshaus and Bella Abzug support the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment in Houston at the 1977 National Women’s Conference. (Bettmann Archives / Getty Images)

In 2016, Carter reflected on her advocacy for International Women’s Day: “Of all the projects I worked on, my greatest disappointment was the failure to achieve ratification of the ERA. At the end, there were only 13 legislators who held it up. Jimmy and I tried hard to get them to change their minds. … Although there has been progress, women still struggle to take their full, rightful places in politics, the media, business and athletics.”

+ The feminist website Jezebel is being sold to Paste. “The idea of there not being a Jezebel right now just didn’t seem to make sense,” said Josh Jackson, editor in chief of Paste. (Check out Ms.’ recent ode to women-focused media: Feminist Journalism Is Essential to Democracy.)

+ Justice Arthur Engoron rejected Donald Trump’s bid for a mistrial after his lawyers alleged that Engoron and his clerk are biased against Trump. Trump’s pointed social media attacks have led to Engoron’s office receiving hundreds of threatening messages.  

+ St. Paul, Minn., elected their first all-female council. Six out of seven are women of color, and all are all under 40.

“We are uniquely poised to fulfill the needs of St. Paul residents because we come from the very communities we aim to serve,” said newly elected Hwa Jeong Kim.

+ Twenty-two women are challenging Texas’ abortion laws after they were denied abortion care for their medically complicated pregnancies. The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in the case.

One plaintiff, Danielle Mathisen, is working to become an OB-GYN herself and hopes to be able to practice in Texas one day. “If I can provide a voice or a perspective or a story that resonates with one lawmaker that gets them to change their mind, then I want that to happen. I want this to happen to one less Texan.”

Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Molly Duane alongside other plaintiffs, after the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought on behalf of 22 women who were denied abortions even though they had serious complications with their pregnancies that were in some cases life-threatening. (Suzanne Cordeiro / AFP via Getty Images)

+ A Missouri judge heard arguments in a case brought by 13 faith leaders challenging the state’s abortion ban. They contend that state legislators are unconstitutionally imposing their own religious beliefs on the entire state through their severe abortion ban. 

+ Columbia University pledged $100 million to the sexual assault victims of former gynecologist Robert Hadden. They also committed to an external investigation and will review current patient safety policies to prevent further harm to students.

+ A recent federal court ruling weakened the Voting Rights Act, preventing individuals and organizations from suing over voting practices that discriminate based on race. This section of the law has previously been used to challenge gerrymandered districts, voter ID laws and more, but the new ruling states that only the federal government can bring suits going forward. It will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, where two justices have previously supported the judge’s argument.

“The ruling has put the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy, and is very cavalierly tossing aside critical protections that voters have very much fought and died for. We’re talking orders of magnitude of a difference in terms of enforcement of these rights,” said Sophia Lin Larkin, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. 

+ The Department of Labor is offering sample agreements for domestic workers for the first time, an important acknowledgement of the importance of domestic work. The agreements are not legally binding, but can be used to help caregivers and domestic workers advocate for their rights. 

+ The United Auto Workers Union voted to support new contracts with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, after six weeks of strikes. The new agreement raises the top wage for production workers by 25 percent, and includes increases to retirement plans and the right to strike over plant closures. 

+ Congress passed a bipartisan continuing resolution to narrowly avoid a government shutdown. The two-tiered stopgap bill funds some of the government until Jan. 19 and other parts until Feb. 2, setting up another funding fight in early 2024. Amid Republican infighting, Speaker Johnson was forced to rely on Democrats to pass the bill.

+ After Congress failed to fully fund WIC, state administrators fear they may have to institute wait lists for formula, breastfeeding support and other resources. The next opportunity to include additional money for WIC is a government funding package before the Jan. 19 deadline.

+ The Supreme Court unveiled their first formal code of conduct after months of pressure from Congress and the public to address undisclosed gifts from wealthy donors. But with no method to enforce the code, there’s still a ways to go to remove conflicts of interest from the Court.

How We’re Doing

+ American women are now projected to live six years longer than men, the largest gender-based gap since 1996. Researchers tie this increase to several causes, including gender disparities in COVID-19 deaths and unintentional drug overdoses. They also note that the gap would have been even wider, except for the recent increases in maternal mortality.

+ Since the Dobbs decision, 21 states have banned or severely restricted abortion. But the overall abortion rate has actually increased. This may be due to increased awareness and access to self-managed abortion care, thanks to advocacy by reproductive health organizations across the country.

+ Young voters are more empowered than any other time period, and Gen Z is ready to take action on abortion rights, mental health, and more in 2024. Over 70 percent of Gen Z is registered to vote, and women and nonbinary people reported that they would be even more likely to vote if there were more female candidates, candidates of color, and younger candidates on the ballot. 

The survey also found that most of Gen Z supports legal abortion under all circumstances, and have repeatedly called it a critical issue. Mental health is also a major concern, especially since the pandemic. But young people are split on how to combat gun violence, with men prioritizing improving mental health care, and women focused on restricting access to guns.

A protester attends the Warriors of the Garden Peaceful Protest Against President Donald Trump’s 74th Birthday that started at Trump International Tower on June 14, 2020, at Columbus Circle in New York City. (Ira L. Black / Corbis via Getty Images)

+ Power to Decide’s annual #ThxBirthControl survey found that 83 percent of respondents have used birth control, but over a third of young people have not received information about birth control in the last year. 

Teens are particularly at risk of misinformation and stigma, with a quarter reporting that they don’t have enough information to decide which method is right for them. Additionally, young people are likely to receive information about birth control from social media, and while 86 percent want to get information from their health care providers, less than half actually do. 

+ Only 1.6 percent of all philanthropic funding goes to women and girls’ issues, according to the Women & Girls Index.

+ Carbon emissions from the richest 1 percent are now greater than the poorest 66 percent. The 1 percent’s emissions would be enough to cause the heat-releated deaths of 1.3 million people in the future, which will disproportionately affect marginalized and impoverished communities, migrants, and women and girls.

“Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob from us, ruin our planet and renege on democracy. Taxing extreme wealth transforms our chances to tackle both inequality and the climate crisis. These are trillions of dollars at stake to invest in dynamic 21st-century green governments, but also to re-inject into our democracies,” said Oxfam International executive director Amitabh Behar.

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.


Katie Fleischer (she/they) is a Ms. editorial assistant working on the Front and Center series and Keeping Score.