Keeping Score: Democrat Wins in Alabama on IVF and Reproductive Rights; State Lawmakers Fight Over Contraception; Gloria Steinem Turns 90

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 suspicion of mine is that there are too many preachy females. …‘Don’t drink beer, don’t watch football, don’t eat hamburgers, this is not good for you.’ The message is too feminine: ‘Everything you’re doing is destroying the planet. You’ve got to eat your peas.’”

—Democratic strategist James Carville, blaming women for President Biden’s low support.

“The Bayer Company invented aspirin. Put it between your knees.”

—Arizona Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, in response to Democratic lawmakers attempting to protect access to contraception.

“I wish I could tell you otherwise, but after numerous ultrasounds and blood draws, we have determined that my pregnancy is once again not progressing, and is not viable. And once again, I have scheduled an appointment to terminate my pregnancy. My experiences in this space, both as a provider and as a patient, have led me to believe that this legislature has failed the people of Arizona.”

—Arizona state Senator Eva Burch, sharing her plan to have an abortion on the floor of the Senate. Since speaking out to push back against stigmatizing narratives about abortion patients, Sen. Burch has received an outpouring of support across the country and from Vice President Harris.


+ Feminist icon, writer and Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem turned 90 this week! Ms. readers and feminists around the world are celebrating her incredible impact.

+ Jasmin Paris became the first woman to ever finish the Barkley Marathons, completing it less than two minutes before the 60-hour time limit. The notorious ultramarathon trail race is 100 miles, and has only been conquered by 20 competitors.

+ Congress finally passed the last fiscal year 2024 funding bills, avoiding a government shutdown and funding the government through Sept. 30. After he was forced to compromise with Democrats to pass the bills, Speaker Johnson now faces an attempt from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to oust him from the role.

+ Pharmacists in New York can now dispense birth control without a prescription, eliminating a common barrier to accessing contraception. Surveys show 85 percent of pharmacies plan to take advantage of the new law, but training will take time.

+ The League of Women voters filed a federal lawsuit against the people responsible for AI-generated “deepfake” robocalls attempting to suppress votes in the Democratic New Hampshire primary. 

“Fraudulently made robocalls have the potential to devastate voter turnout by flooding thousands of voters with intimidating, threatening, or coercive messages in a matter of hours,” says Courtney Hostetler, senior counsel at Free Speech For People.

+ Sixteen Republican attorney generals attacked a Maine bill protecting healthcare providers that provide gender-affirming care or abortion care. Eleven other states have already passed similar shield laws allowing practitioners to treat patients from states where the procedures are banned. 

+ The Democratic Women’s Caucus announced their executive action agenda, calling for the Biden administration to take action on access to healthcare, education and equal work opportunities, protecting reproductive freedom, preventing violence against women, advancing women’s rights abroad, building an economy that supports care work and including gender equality in the Constitution. 

“Our fundamental rights are on the line and we need to urgently enact policies that support women and families in every chapter of their lives. Presidential authority is powerful, and with women’s rights under attack by Republicans nationwide, we must use all tools available to create a just America for all,” said co-chair Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)

+ The National Women’s Soccer League uniforms no longer include white shorts, thanks to advocacy from players to prevent self-consciousness while on their period. Athletes hope this is a step towards addressing gender-based concerns that are often overlooked or dismissed. Companies have only recently created cleats actually made for women’s feet, not just by shrinking men’s shoes. And only 6 percent of sports science research is based on female athletes, leading to women being much more at risk of serious injuries like ACL tears.

+ State lawmakers are diligently trying to protect access to contraception, amid nationwide attacks on reproductive freedom.

  • In Tennessee, a pending bill would require health insurance plans to cover a 12-month supply of birth control.
  • In Arizona, bills that affirm the right to contraception are being blocked by antiabortion politicians.
  • In Virginia, lawmakers are working to include the right to contraception in the state constitution and require health insurers to cover contraceptive drugs and devices.

+ Midwest abortion funds were prevented from launching a billboard campaign in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. After initially agreeing, Lamar Advertising later backed out of the campaign. Luckily, the coalition was able to find another vendor for their billboards, digital ads and sidewalk decals. Now, their message is—“In the heartland, we look out for each other. Abortion funds are here for you”—can help reduce stigma and support abortion care patients.

+ The Republican Study Committee, which represents House Republican leadership and 80 percent of their members, endorsed a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. They also want to ban mifepristone and prevent contraception access for low-income and uninsured women. 

+ A Tennessee bill intending to protect access to birth control and IVF died in the House. After the Alabama Supreme Court threatened IVF by ruling that frozen embryos are considered children, other states are rushing to affirm access. But Tennessee Republicans claimed that contraception is not currently under threat, and that the bill includes ambiguous language that would add to confusion about the state’s abortion laws. 

+ The “Women of Color in U.S. News Leadership 2023” report spotlights 20 top executives, uplifting the ways they’ve championed inclusive newsrooms, especially since 2020. However, only around 9 percent of newsroom leaders are women of color.

“It’s critical to lead in a way that leverages the opportunity and lived experience of everyone in the room while we’re going after accuracy, authenticity, and the truth,” says Catherine Kim, senior vice president of NBC News’ editorial division.

+ President Biden signed an executive order expanding research into women’s health, and called for Congress to approve a $200 million investment into sexual and reproductive issues. 

President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a meeting of the Reproductive Health Task Force on Jan. 22, 2024. Biden met with the task force to discuss reproductive health and to mark the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. (Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

“Medications, treatments and medical school textbooks are based on men and their bodies but that ends today. Finally, women will get the healthcare they deserve,” announced First Lady Jill Biden.

+ West Texas A&M University has enforced a ban on drag shows for almost a year, after the school’s president argued they run against the “basis of Natural Law.” Despite the president himself acknowledging that his ban is unconstitutional, a Trump-appointed district judge upheld it, and the Supreme Court recently denied the students’ request for an injunction during the appeal process.

+ Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has called to repeal the Comstock Act of 1873. The act, which criminalizes the sending of “obscene” materials through the mail, is currently being weaponized as a potential way to a national medication abortion ban. In 2023, 63 percent of abortions were done with medications—up from 39 percent in 2017.

+ Democrat Marilyn Lands won a seat in the House of Representatives in a suburban district of Alabama that has long been held by the GOP. Lands campaigned campaigned on abortion rights and IVF in the highly conservative state and her victory comes just weeks after IVF services were paused in the state due to the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling regarding frozen embryos as children.

“Voters want something different, and I think they are tired of women’s freedoms and reproductive healthcare not being addressed,” said Lands in an interview with the Associated Press.

How We’re Doing

+ Louisiana’s abortion ban has dramatically worsened healthcare for pregnant people. Doctors are avoiding anything resembling abortion, resulting in unnecessary C-sections, denying treatment for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies and delaying prenatal care until the second trimester.

“I want to emphasize that this is not what’s in the best interest of the patient,” said one OB-GYN. “This is what’s in the best interest of … the physician in protecting themselves from criminal prosecution.”

+ Louisiana already has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. Black women in the state are more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy than white women, and low-income women make up two-thirds of maternal deaths. Now, the abortion ban is increasing those risks even more–and as doctors flee the legally risky environment, a shortage of OB-GYNs will exacerbate the problem.

“State-level abortion bans are fueling a public health crisis, threatening the lives of patients, and disrupting the day-to-day practice of medicine. Abortion bans undermine the state’s health system by tying clinicians’ hands, blocking them from providing evidence-based care,” said Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, PHR medical director and professor of public health and internal medicine at University of Michigan.

+ As the country awaits a Supreme Court decision on abortion pill availability, 57 percent of likely voters, and 79 percent of Democrats, believe that mailing abortion medication should continue to be allowed. And a majority oppose the Supreme Court restricting access to mifepristone.

+ Millennial women are now the main demographic force in 19 major economies, including the U.S., Australia and Japan. Compared to men in their late twenties and early thirties, women participate in the workforce more, have more productive roles and put more of their wages back into the economy.

+ The gender gap in business schools leadership is closing, with women making up 30 percent (368 schools) of deanships in 2023-2024. In 2007-2008, that number was just 17 percent. In addition, women are now 43 percent of associate deans, signaling that the path to leadership is now more accessible for women.

+ The Bureau of Labor Statistics wants to include unpaid household labor in the consumer price index inflation measure. Women provide almost 80 percent of the invisible household work necessary to spending and living standards, like childcare, cooking and DIY repairs.

+ There are more men named John/Jon in the Senate than Republican women. In fact, three men named John—and no women—are in the running to succeed Minority leader Mitch McConnell. Representation of women in Congress falls starkly along party lines: There are 15 Democratic senators and 91 representatives; but only nine Republican senators and 33 representatives.

Author Laurel Elder wrote, “When women run they do just as well as similarly qualified men, and that’s true for both Democratic and Republican women. But overall, women don’t run for office as much as men. And that’s particularly a problem on the Republican side.”

+ In the last year, 70 percent of trans and nonbinary people assigned female or intersex at birth reported negative interactions with healthcare providers. Those receiving gender-affirming care had eight times the odds of a negative interaction, revealing that stigma and transphobia prevents patients from receiving the high quality care they need.

+ A new study found that medication abortion plotlines on TV affect the audience’s perceptions of abortion care. Medically accurate plotlines portraying abortion care as safe led to greater awareness of medication abortion and its safety.

+ Women are no healthier now than during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to this year’s Hologic Global Women’s Health Index. Rates of physical pain and negative emotions like anger and worry remain high, and over a third of women struggle to afford food.

+ Cervical cancer rates are declining overall, but cases and deaths are increasing in low-income regions of the U.S. More research is needed, but scientists suggest that inadequate screening and inability to follow up on treatment may be contributing to the disparities.

+ A report analyzing over 32,000 ads found that dark-skinned and older women are significantly underrepresented and stereotyped. Darker-skinned women were shown in just 21 percent of ads featuring women, and were much less likely to be shown in leadership roles or professional settings. In addition, women over age 60 appeared in only 1.5 percent of ads, and were twice as likely to be in domestic roles than older men.

Overall, portrayals of women has made some progress, with rates of domestic settings dropping from 66% to 30%. But only 3.7 percent of overall ad spend features women in leadership or professional roles.

“The intent in our industry is really high—a lot of people talk about wanting to change—but then when you look at the numbers, not that much is changing,” says CreativeX founder and CEO Anastasia Leng. “It seems like there’s mental block on the media side of, ‘is [inclusive portrayal] going to hurt performance?’”

+ Anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric is effecting mental health: 70 percent of LGBTQ adults say that LGBTQ American are experiencing a “national state of emergency,” according to a new survey by Data for Progress.

+ The New York Times did not quote transgender people in two-thirds of their stories on anti-trans legislation over the last year, according to a new report from Media Matters. Another 18 percent of these articles included anti-trans misinformation, displaying a lack of fact-checking.

Up Next:


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