The War on Women Report: SCOTUS Allows Idaho to Deny Emergency Abortions; Taylor Swift Subjected to Online Sexual Abuse

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…

+ In California, 130 former inmates at several women’s prisons in Chino and Chowchilla are suing both the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and 30 correctional officers for sexual assault, violations of civil rights and more. The lawsuit accuses officers of sexually abusing inmates repeatedly, with one of the officers, Gregory Rodriguez, being charged with 96 counts of sex crimes.

+ After swearing in Tameika Isaac Devine, South Carolina no longer has the least number of female senators. Women now make up 13 percent of the legislature, surpassing Alabama’s 10 percent, West Virginia’s 11.8 percent, and Louisiana’s 12.8 percent.

+ Four more women have joined a lawsuit against Tennessee over the state’s abortion ban after being forced to leave the state to access abortions, resulting in a total of nine plaintiffs. This case is only one of seven ongoing lawsuits challenging abortions bans and restrictions across the U.S.

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

Thursday, Jan. 4

+ In 2022, the U.S. National Labor Board (NLBR) accused SpaceX of unlawfully terminating eight employees for signing a letter accusing CEO Elon Musk of making sexist remarks and violating company policies, and which called upon SpaceX to go against them. Now, SpaceX has launched a lawsuit against the NLBR, alleging that the structure of NLRB is unconstitutional. SpaceX seeks to halt the unlawful termination case against them from moving forward. The lawsuit will be heard by an administrative judge as well as a U.S. president-appointed five-person board. 

Friday, Jan. 5

+ The Supreme Court announced its plan to hear the second major abortion case of the year in April. The central question is whether states have the authority to prohibit hospitals from providing medically necessary abortions. This announcement followed the Supreme Court’s temporary pause of an existing law that said that Idaho’s abortion ban must comply with EMTALA, a federal law mandating that hospitals and abortion services must offer care to pregnant patients facing emergency medical conditions. Due to this temporary pause, Idaho’s near-total abortion ban can disrupt EMTALA and Idaho can deny abortion services to patients with emergency medical conditions until the case is orally argued in three months. 

Monday, Jan. 8

+ Pope Francis called for a universal ban on surrogacy, the practice of a surrogate parent carrying the child of another person or couple who are unable to carry or conceive themselves for medical reasons. Pope Francis, however, calls the practice a “uterus for rent.” During his annual speech listing what he considers to be threats to dignity and peace worldwide, he said, “I consider despicable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs.” 

Despite the pope’s comments, surrogacy is an increasingly common practice worldwide, and is expected to grow by 1000 percent by 2032. As such, his remarks were met with resistance by activists and families alike. One couple interviewed by WKBW-TV went against Pope Francis’ claim that surrogacy is exploitative, saying, “Our journey and our surrogate’s decision to enter into surrogacy was on her end altruistic in nature. She truly wanted to help a family develop their own family that lacked the means otherwise.” 

Wednesday, Jan. 10

+ West Virginia Republican state Senator Mike Azinger introduced three anti-trans bills that would criminalize transgender people merely existing in public spaces. Senate Bills 194, 195 and 197 seek to amend the state indecent exposure law to criminalize “obscene matter,” which the bill hopes to include “transgender exposure, performances, or display to any minor.” Should a transgender person be found guilty, they would be prosecuted and face a $500 fine or a year in prison. 

These bills also pose a significant threat to the standard of care for transgender people, which includes reproductive options, mental health services, primary care services, hormonal and surgical treatments, and beyond. These bills would deter, and even prevent, transgender people from entering public spaces or seeking necessary healthcare without consequences.  

Wednesday, Jan. 17

+ Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) held a briefing on the state of abortion rights in the U.S. and the benefits of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which if passed would create federal rights to protect abortion access against medically unnecessary restrictions. The panel gave Senate Democrats an opportunity to hear from patients and providers directly affected by the bans, including Dr. Serina Floyd, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; Dr. Austin Dennard, an obstetrician, gynecologist, and patient who was forced to leave her home state for an abortion; and Jessica Valenti, a feminist writer and author, and the creator of Abortion Every Day.

Left to right: Dr. Serina Floyd, obstetrician-gynecologist and chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.); Dr. Austin Dennard, patient plaintiff in the Zurawski v. Texas case; and writer Jessica Valenti participate in a briefing about the state of abortion rights in America, at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 17, 2024. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The U.S. had the highest rate of maternal mortality among industrialized nations even before the fall of Roe, and a study by the University of Colorado Boulder projects a 14 percent increase post-Roe in states with bans. “You don’t ever forget losing a friend, or your wife, or your daughter because she couldn’t get the care she needed–because some politician thought their views were more important than her life,” said Murray.

Thursday, Jan. 18

+ Missourians for Constitutional Freedom (MCF), a coalition of statewide reproductive and civil rights groups, launched their campaign to pass an amendment that would enshrine access to in-state abortions and guard against medically unnecessary restrictions. This makes Missouri one of eight states seeking ballot measures to protect abortion access.

Sunday, Jan. 21

+ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his presidential campaign shortly after a second-place finish in Iowa, saying, “It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance.” He added that he is endorsing Trump, noting that Nikki Haley represents the “old Republican guard of yesteryear”.

In response, Trump announced that he is honored to have his endorsement, and that his nickname for DeSantis, “Ron DeSanctimonius” is now retired. Nikki Haley is now the only candidate facing Trump in the Republican primary. 

Wednesday, Jan. 24

+ Texas has a higher number of pregnancies resulting from rape than any other state, with an estimated 26,313 occurring in the 16 months following the total ban on abortion in 2022, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

A rally for reproductive rights at the Texas Capitol on May 14, 2022, in Austin, the day of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson. (Montinique Monroe / Getty Images)

The study also found that during that time over 64,000 rape-related pregnancies occurred in the 14 states with abortion bans, 91 percent occurring in states with no exceptions for rape. These figures highlight the magnitude of the bans’ effects.

“What’s happening in Texas should serve as a dire warning,” said Texas state Sen. Carol Alvarado, “we cannot allow this to be the new norm.”

Friday, Jan. 26

+ Fake, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift generated by artificial intelligence flooded social media, one of which was viewed almost 50 million times. In efforts to stop the spread of the photos X blocked users from searching Swift’s name and suspended accounts that had posted the images, stating “we’re closely monitoring the situation to ensure that any further violations are immediately addressed.” Rep. Joe Morell (D-NY), who introduced a bill last year that would make sharing non-consensually generated explicit A.I. photos a federal crime, said on X the spread of the images was “appalling” and added “it’s happening to women everywhere, every day.”

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

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.
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.