War on Women Report: Anti-Abortion Group Tracks Planned Parenthood Visits; Texas Man Will Spend Five Months in Jail for Slipping Pregnant Wife Abortion Pill

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 governor of Oklahoma signed legislation effectively banning diversity and inclusion programs at colleges and universities throughout the state. And across the country, right-leaning legal groups have been targeting programs designed to uplift historically marginalized communities, arguing such programs are discriminatory. Among the programs facing litigation is Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm which has invested nearly $27 million in Black women-owned businesses since 2019. “You’re talking millions of dollars we’ve lost, and it’s truly impacting our operations,” said CEO Arian Simone.
  • The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024. The tax package will expand the child tax credit for the next three years, lifting 400,000 children above the poverty line by 2025. The bill will also boost the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and provide tax relief to individuals affected by disasters.

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

Monday, Feb. 5

Academic publisher Sage retracted two studies used by anti-abortion plaintiffs in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to justify banning mifepristone. The case, set to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 26, will determine when and how patients can access mifepristone, one of two pills in an at-home abortion regimen which has been proven to be as safe as taking ibuprofen.

An investigation into evidence submitted by the plaintiffs revealed two key studies were funded and produced by the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (SBA-PLA), a conflict of interest which was not disclosed in the publications. The studies were also found to have misleading presentations of data and display a “lack of scientific rigor.” In addition to funding pseudo-scientific studies, SBA-PLA is planning to spend $92 million this upcoming election cycle backing candidates with extreme anti-abortion positions, like Mayra Flores who supports Texas’ near-total abortion ban and is running for a congressional representative seat in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted petitions to hear the Food and Drug Administration and Danco Labs’ appeal of a ruling that would reinstate restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone and sharply roll back access nationwide. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

Wednesday, Feb. 7

Texas resident Mason Herring was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation for drugging his wife’s drinks at least seven times in an effort to induce abortion. He pled guilty to injury to a child and assault of a pregnant person, although the initial charge was felony assault to induce abortion.

Herring’s wife, Catherine Herring, had become suspicious over her husband urging her to drink cloudy water he gave her; she searched her house and found the packaging of misoprostol, a drug known to cause abortions. She installed hidden security cameras in her home, which recorded her husband mixing substances into her drinks. She reported him to the police, launching an investigation. Catherine said due to her husband’s drugging, their third child was born 10 weeks premature and has severe developmental delays.

She said she was unhappy with the ruling and did not believe the sentencing was long enough “given the homicidal actions of the defendant and the life-altering consequences of his attempts to poison her and her child,” wrote Randall Wilhite, a Houston attorney representing Catherine Herring, in an October filing.

Thursday, Feb. 8

Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, died in the hospital a day after being beaten in their school bathroom by three fellow students—a grim reminder of the dangers anti-LGBTQ+ legislation poses for vulnerable youth nationwide. Benedict blacked out during the fight, and came out of it with their face and eyes badly bruised, scratches on the back of their head, and head trauma. Benedict’s mother said her child endured over a year of bullying before this assault, particularly after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt passed legislation requiring students to use the bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. 

Many questions remain related to Benedict’s death, and the investigation is ongoing. Still, the effects of Benedict’s death are felt worldwide, with an Oklahoma LGBTQ+ youth hotline even reporting that their calls have increased by 300 percent.

Tuesday, Feb. 13

An anti-abortion group used mobile phone data to track people’s visits to 600 Planned Parenthoods in 48 states, according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). In a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission, Wyden states that Near Intelligence sold data to The Veritas Society, a nonprofit founded by Wisconsin Right to Life. This allowed The Veritas Society to deliver ads to targeted individuals’ social pages, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Near was also investigated in 2023 for selling location data to the U.S. government while stating on their website that they do not sell to defense or governments. The 2023 investigation dually uncovered the information sold was collected nonconsensually. 

An abortion rights activist holds a sign in support of Planned Parenthood at a rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021, in Austin. That same month, legislators enacted Senate Bill 8, which was, at the time, the most restrictive abortion ban in history. (Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty Images)

Modern surveillance tools pose an increasing threat to pregnant people and those helping them access care. “If a data broker could track Americans’ cell phones to help extremists target misinformation to people at hundreds of Planned Parenthood locations across the United States, a right-wing prosecutor could use that same information to put women in jail,” Wyden said.

But digital privacy laws may be changing soon: Congress must decide by April 19 whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law which was intended to allow the government to monitor foreign affairs but has repeatedly come under fire for enabling surveillance of U.S. citizens. At this time, four bills have been introduced to Congress that would reauthorize Section 702, and only two would incorporate new pro-privacy protections.

Thursday, Feb. 15

A groundbreaking study proving the safety and effectiveness of telehealth abortion services was released by the medical journal Nature Medicine. Telehealth abortion services have been crucial in recent years, particularly in states with strict abortion bans in place. In general, telehealth abortion services provide an online appointment for pregnant patients wishing to have an abortion, and the doctor prescribes misoprostol and mifepristone, two medications utilized to induce abortions.

In the study, the effectiveness of the telehealth program was measured by participants having a complete abortion, and the safety of the program was measured by the absence of serious adverse events following the abortion. The results of the study are highly encouraging, with 99.8 percent of abortions not followed by serious adverse events, and 97.7 percent of the abortions being fully completed. 

Friday, Feb. 23

Amanda Zurawski, a woman suing Texas for delaying in providing her a medically necessary abortion, plans to move her frozen embryos outside of Texas due to fears of in vitro fertilization (IVF) being banned soon. This follows the news of multiple fertility clinics pausing IVF in Alabama after a state Supreme Court ruling finding that embryos have the same legal protections as children, as well as Pope Francis’ call for a global surrogacy prohibition. “I don’t want them in a state where a similar ruling could very likely take place,” Zurawski said of her embryos. “Everything about IVF is very anxiety-inducing. It’s very scary. It’s very difficult and rulings like this one in Alabama are just adding another layer of fear and anxiety.”

Zurawski is not the only woman worried about the prohibition of IVF; even women from states with Democratic governors, such as Michigan, believe that an in-the-works law banning abortion could jeopardize IVF state-wide.

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.