Keeping Score: Kamala Harris Is First VP to Visit Abortion Provider; Fani Willis Can Pursue Racketeering Case Against Trump; Birth Control Access Is Key Election Issue

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

“Those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women in America. They found out though when reproductive freedom was on the ballot and won in 2022, 2023, and they will find out again, in 2024.”

President Biden, addressing Congress in his State of the Union speech.

I’m here at this healthcare clinic to uplift the work that is happening in Minnesota as an example of what true leadership looks like—which is to understand it is only right and fair that people have access to the healthcare they need, and that they have access to healthcare in an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect.”

Vice President Harris, during her visit to a Minnesota abortion clinic—the first time a president or vice president has ever visited one.

“What happened to me as a result of the abortion bans in Texas directly impacted my fertility. After I recovered, after I survived, my husband and I were advised to go straight to IVF in order to try to conceive and grow our family—which we’re so desperate to have. And it took several rounds of IVF before we created a number of embryos. But now with this ruling in Alabama… I fear for the safety of my future and my embryos.

“It’s terrifying. Trump has already said that he supports a nationwide abortion ban, and this is his fault because he very proudly touts the fact that he overturned Roe v. Wade. Because of the Supreme Court justices that he appointed and the fall of Roe, now states have the ability to pass these draconian laws, and we have no idea how far it’s going to go, and that’s what’s absolutely terrifying.”

Amanda Zurawski, who almost died after doctors in Texas delayed a medically necessary abortion.

“Every single study of which I am aware that isolates and measures the effects of abortion restrictions on people’s lives finds that women of color experience greater effects of those restrictions, experience those restrictions as greater barriers than non-Hispanic white women.

The reasons are complex. Women of color, particularly Black women, have higher rates of unintended pregnancy—that’s driven by lower access to contraception, lower rates of insurance, more likely to live in contraceptive deserts. Also, race and poverty interact in complex ways that create greater financial barriers of traveling, taking time off work, accessing child care for women of color.”

—Dr. Caitlin Meyers, professor of economics at Middlebury College

“These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020! I’m not on trial. No matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

—Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. A judge ruled Friday that Willis should not be disqualified from prosecuting the racketeering case against former President Donald Trump
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis stands in the courtroom during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on Feb. 15, 2024 in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer-Pool / Getty Images)

Republicans want women to stay pregnant, but they don’t want to address the childcare crisis. They want to force women to stay pregnant—but today, House Republicans want to not fully fund WIC. Republicans want to force women to give birth, but they don’t want moms to have paid leave so they can recover from childbirth and spend time with their newborn. So it’s pretty clear that Republicans want to force women to stay pregnant, but won’t lift a finger to help new parents.”

—Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), speaking at a Senate Budget Committee hearing.


+ After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are considered children, multiple IVF clinics in the state were forced to pause services. Amid nationwide backlash, the state legislature rushed to pass a bill restoring IVF access. But the ruling could also lay the groundwork to ban contraception and abortion, and builds on the 25 state fetal personhood bills introduced just this year.

+ In response to the Alabama ruling, Democratic senators forced a vote on Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) bill to protect access to IVF and other reproductive technology. Republicans blocked the bill, despite Sen. Duckworth’s impassioned plea and her own story of using IVF to have her two kids.

“After a decade struggling with infertility after my service in Iraq, I was only able to get pregnant through the miracle of IVF. IVF is the reason I get to experience the chaos and the beauty, the stress and the joy, that is motherhood,” Sen. Duckworth said on the Senate floor.

+ Vice President Harris visited a Minnesota abortion clinic for her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour—the first time a sitting U.S. president or vice president is believed to visit an abortion provider. Her visit reinforces the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to opposing a national abortion ban.

“What I saw were […] two dozen healthcare workers who really care, really care about their patients and who understand that in the healthcare delivery system, regardless of your gender or your healthcare needs. And walking through this clinic, that’s what I saw, are people who have dedicated their lives to the profession of providing healthcare in a safe place that gives people dignity. And I think we should all want that for each other,” she said about her visit.

+ The first over-the-counter birth control pill is now available. Opill is a progestin-only pill that will reduce barriers to contraception by not requiring a doctor’s appointment or prescription. 

+ Women received 32 percent of the non-acting Academy Awards nominations this year, matching the record from 2021. And for the first time in Oscars history, three films by women were nominated for Best Picture—Barbie, Anatomy of a Fall and Past Lives. In the major categories (Best Picture, Directing, Writing, and Editing), just 16 (29 percent) of the nominees are women, compared to nine women (15 percent) last year. 

+ Despite those record nominations, Barbie won just one Oscar, for Best Original song, and Emma Stone’s win for Best Actress for Poor Things disappointed fans of Lily Gladstone.

+ Olivia Rodrigo kicked off her Guts world tour, and announced that a portion of her proceeds will go to her “Fund 4 Good” and support reproductive health freedom. For the North American leg of the tour, Rodrigo is partnering with the National Network of Abortion Funds. And she’s also giving out free Plan B, condoms, and abortion resources to concert-goers.

+ Congress passed six appropriations bills, once again preventing a partial government shutdown. Despite threatening to cut funding for SNAP and WIC, Republicans eventually agreed to provide the much needed funding, and even included a $1 billion increase for WIC.

+ A bipartisan group of Congress members led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the DEFIANCE Act to address nonconsensual deepfake pornography by allowing victims to sue perpetrators.

“Victims of nonconsensual pornographic deepfakes have waited too long for federal legislation to hold perpetrators accountable. As deepfakes become easier to access and create—96 percent of deepfake videos circulating online are nonconsensual pornography—Congress needs to act to show victims that they won’t be left behind,” shares Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.

+ Cyberattacks on hospitals more than doubled in 2023, impacting patients’ trust in healthcare systems. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted, and as a result may be more hesitant to seek medical care in the future.

+ Native Hawaiian midwives are suing after state lawmakers required a specific midwifery license to provide maternal healthcare. They argue that the law criminalizes Indigenous birthing customs, and limits access to care.

“We are not against licensure, we have never been against licensure, for those who want to pursue that path. But the wisdom of our elders defies settler logic, which sees our teachings and rituals as less than,” explains plaintiff Ki’i Kaho‘ohanohano.

+ Students at 25 colleges led a day of action against Starbucks, in solidarity with unionizing employees. Strategic Organizing Center estimates that Starbucks has spent $153 million fighting unionization. 

+ On top of announcing a new haircare brand, Beyoncé’s charity is now awarding $500,000 annually to support cosmetology-school students and salons in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New Jersey.

“Hairstylists have an immense impact on the people in their chairs. They create a sacred space where we can show up how we want and express ourselves through our hair,” the statement explains.

+ Four states—Missouri, Texas, Arizona and Arkansas—do not allow pregnant women to get divorced. In Missouri, a new bill aims to change that, especially since there are no exceptions for domestic violence; the bill has yet to be brought to a vote.

+ For the first time in over 30 years, California will not have a woman senator next year. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and Republican Steve Garvey will advance to the general election for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat. 

+ Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new rule to cap the cost of childcare at 7 percent of income for families in the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. 

+ Equal Pay Day was this week, and 2022 data shows that women were paid on average 78 cents for each dollar paid to a man. Black women, Latina women and Native American women were paid even less. For a woman working full time, the current wage gap adds up to a loss of over $400,000 over her career.

In order to help workers know how their salary stacks up, the EEOC has launched a new pay data dashboard, with anonymous pay data from 70,000 employers and over 100 million workers. But just data isn’t enough. Sen Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. DeLauro’s (D-Conn.) Paycheck Fairness Act would combat wage discrimination and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Every Senate Democrat has already signed onto the bill.

+ Idaho is asking the Supreme Court to allow it to enforce a gender-affirming care ban for minors while appeals continue. Previously, a federal district court judge issued an injunction and the Court of Appeals denied the state’s request to remove the injunction.

+ A music producer, Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones, has sued Diddy (aka Sean Combs) for sexual assault and harassment, and is seeking $30 million in damages. This is the fifth lawsuit in the past year accusing Combs of sexual abuse, rape, sex trafficking and more.

+ Drake expressed support for Tory Lanez on Instagram, after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting Megan Thee Stallion. This isn’t the first time Drake has attacked Megan—one of his songs appears to accuse her of lying about the shooting. In 2020, Megan wrote, “Black women are still constantly disrespected and disregarded in so many areas of life,” and the “way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault” proved that her fears about speaking out were warranted.

+ Tennessee is attempting to attack gay marriage by allowing public officials to refuse to grant a marriage license for any reason. 

“Regardless of whether this bill was intended to target marriages of same-sex couples, interfaith couples, or interracial couples—it’s unconstitutional because the Constitution prohibits public officials from discriminating against members of the public based on their personal belief. The effect of forcing same-sex couples to go through a different process is to stigmatize them and communicate that their government thinks their marriages are less worthy than everyone else’s,” says Camilla Taylor, deputy legal director of litigation for Lambda Legal.

+ For the first time in U.S. history, a federal jury has convicted someone for a gender-based hate crime. Daqua Lameek Ritter was found guilty of murdering a Black transgender woman he was in a relationship with. He now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

+ CVS and Walgreens will begin dispensing mifepristone this month, greatly expanding access to abortion care. Until now, only a handful of independent pharmacies dispensed mifepristone, so patients had to receive the medication directly from their healthcare providers or from mail-order pharmacies.

+ The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas law requiring minors to have parental permission to access contraception.

Clare Coleman, president & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association responded, “We are saddened that yesterday’s ruling seeks to keep in place dangerous barriers to care for young people across Texas who need prescription contraception and information from their trusted Title X provider. The right to confidential care is particularly important for Black, Latino, Indigenous and other people of color, people with low incomes, and people in rural communities who are disproportionately targeted by harmful barriers to healthcare and experience difficulties accessing birth control.”

+ The Democratic Women’s Caucus led over 150 members in Congress in urging health insurers to comply with the Affordable Care Act and fully cover birth control. The letter comes after multiple investigations found that plans routinely refuse to cover certain products, and impose administrative hurdles like prior authorizations.

+ After a pastor went viral for blaming women for being raped if they wear shorts, Reverend Bobby Leonard posted a message on his church’s sign saying “I am sorry for any hurt, I was wrong.”

+ A Kansas bill would require reporting twice a year on the demographics of abortion patients, including stigmatizing questions like “Is the patient unable to afford a child? Does the patient lack family support to raise a child?” Even more inappropriate questions, including asking if the abortion was sought to prevent people from knowing the patient is sexually active, were dropped from the final bill.

In response, female Democratic lawmakers introduced amendments requiring clinics to provide information on men seeking erectile dysfunction care, and if their self-confidence was affected. Unfortunately, those amendments were rejected, and the bill now goes to the state Senate.

+ Books that include transgender themes are no longer allowed in kids sections in libraries in Greenville County, SC. Under a new policy, all materials for kids under 12 that discuss trans issues in any way will be moved to the parenting section, and require parental permission to check out. 

“[Books] are being restricted in the public library, too—exemplifying the slippery slope of censorship as book bans—overwhelmingly those about LGBTQ+ identities—spread from schools to public libraries. We call on the board to reverse the decision and urge them to remember that libraries are for everyone, and the First Amendment is non-negotiable,” said Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America.

+ Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez, the Texas prosecutor who brought murder charges against Lizelle Herrera in 2022 for allegedly inducing an abortion, has been disciplined by the State Bar of Texas. Ramirex will pay a $1,250 fine and have his license suspended for one year.

+ The Department of Veteran Affairs finalized a policy of providing abortion care in certain cases, including in states with abortion bans.  

+ 145 Republican Congressmembers asked the Supreme Court to restrict access to the abortion medication mifepristone. They cite the currently unenforced Comstock law from 1873, which could be used to ban abortion nationwide. In contrast, 263 Democratic lawmakers asked the Court to maintain the current access to mifepristone.

+ Black reproductive justice leaders with In Our Own Voice are urging the Biden administration to continue to promote reproductive justice policies and recommend policy solutions for Black maternal mortality.

+ Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the John R. Lewis Voting Advancement Act, to update the original Voting Rights Act and prevent voter suppression efforts across the country.

+ The Utah state Senate protected the use of ranked-choice voting in certain cities, after the House attempted to repeal the pilot policy a year before its expiration date.

+ New Mexico’s new law rewards businesses that produce cleaner fuels, aiming for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels by 30 percent by 2040. California, Oregon and Washington already enforce low carbon fuel standards. 

How We’re Doing

+ An estimated 9,000 women have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza. At the current rate, 63 women, including 37 mothers, are killed each day the war continues. In addition, four in five women in Gaza report that their family eats half or less of the food they used to, and at least one family member had to skip meals during the past week. In 95 percent of those cases, women are the ones eating last and least. Soon, Gaza’s entire population will be facing acute starvation.

+ A new study on women in STEM workplaces found that 1 in 10 know they’re paid less than their male counterparts, and 18 percent have been told to smile at work. 25 percent of women working in STEM have never received a promotion, and 15 percent of women believe that a lack of women in leadership prevented them from receiving a promotion. In addition, only 50 percent believe that people respect their expertise, and a significant amount reported working overtime without receiving extra pay.

+ The costs of childcare are a significant barrier to parents having more children. The average cost of childcare per child in the U.S. is almost $17,000 per year. And about half of moms say that childcare has negatively affected plans to have more kids. 

+ Seventeen researchers from around the world have called for the retraction of four studies linking abortion with negative mental health outcomes. Their article shows that the studies have inaccurate results and invalid conclusions, even though they have already been cited in at least 25 court cases and 14 hearings across six countries.

“Failures of scientific integrity pose a real threat to public health and safety. The journal editors and their publishers should take immediate action to correct the record and retract articles in light of the incontrovertible evidence of their inaccurate results and misleading conclusions,” said Julia H. Littell, professor at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College.

+ In the past three years, an unprecedented 16 million new business applications were filed. Black business ownership is growing at the fastest pace in 30 years, and Latino business ownership rose from 7 percent to 10 percent between 2019 and 2022. Even more impressive, the growth of women-owned businesses was 94 percent greater than men-owned businesses from 2019 to 2023. 

+ There is a discrepancy in perceptions of gender-based treatment, polling on gender equity in the workplace reveals: 71 percent of men think men and women are paid the same where they work, but only 28 percent of women agree. And 64 percent of men believe their female colleagues are treated equally, but only 27 percent of women agree.

Men and women also disagree on access to opportunities, with 60 percent of women but only 12 percent of men believing that men get a seat at the table more often than women in their workplace. When asked about the most important employee benefits, women focused on fair and equal wages, a clear vision for the future of their career, and maternity leave and childcare benefits.

+ Access to contraception has become a key election issue, with polling showing that voters are more likely to vote for their member of Congress if they support the Right to Contraception Act, and that Democrats gain almost 10 points when they talk about access to contraception. In addition, a majority of voters believe that contraception is at risk in their state, and 61 percent are concerned the Supreme Court will overturn the right to birth control. 

+ Tennessee has the highest rate of workplace discrimination charges, with Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Alabama making up the top six. On average, there are 2,973 charges per year in each state. Retaliation for making a complaint about harassment is the most common form of workplace discrimination, followed by racial and disability discrimination.

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.