It’s Tax Season. Who’s Budgeting for Women’s Futures?

For too many—especially women of color—paychecks aren’t keeping up. Inflation is inching downward, but costs for groceries, childcare and rent feel out of reach.

But congressional fights over taxes and spending are really about fundamental questions: What do women, our families and communities need? What kind of future do we want to build? Recent budget proposals by the Biden administration and Republicans in Congress show how our two major political parties answer those questions. The answers were starkly different, revealing high stakes when it comes to women’s ability to participate in the economy, care for their families and control their own reproductive lives. 

They Never Deserved to Be Called ‘Pro-Life’

Less than three weeks after Alabama’s State Supreme Court unleashed massive chaos and hardship by ruling that frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) must be considered children, the state legislature passed a bill providing immunity to clinics that provide IVF and people who access that care. Alabama’s stridently anti-abortion governor hastily signed the legislation into law. Are we supposed to be grateful?

Protecting and supporting families is not the focus of the Republican Party. They prove that every day by opposing food and nutrition assistance, childcare subsidies, paid family leave, Medicaid expansion and other programs that help families be healthy and thrive.

Abortion Bans = Sex Discrimination

On Jan. 29, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a law banning Medicaid funding for abortion discriminates against women, in violation of the state’s Equal Rights Amendment. The decision overturned a 1985 case saying the ERA did not apply to abortion.

“The Pennsylvania case is so sweeping and strong in the way that it identifies interference with reproductive decision-making as a form of sex discrimination and as part of the historic pattern of oppression of women. It’s really beautiful,” said Susan J. Frietsche, co-executive director of the Women’s Law Project, which filed the case on behalf of Pennsylvania abortion providers.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection. It also appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Ms. Join the Ms. community today and you’ll get issues delivered straight to your mailbox!)

‘Small But Mighty’: Abortion Funding in New England

Since the fall of Roe, states in New England have been fairly protective of abortion. In spite of these protections, there are still abortion seekers in New England who need help accessing costly procedures. That’s where abortion funds come in—local nonprofits that pay for someone’s abortion, plus extra costs, like transportation or lodging.

We interviewed representatives from Tides for Reproductive Freedom (Tides) in Massachusetts, the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire (ReproFund), and the Women’s Health and Education Fund of Rhode Island (WHEF). More than one fund activist called their group “small but mighty”—acknowledging both the community-based approach, but also the power that comes with their smallness.

(This piece is the second in a series of articles spotlighting interviews with fund representatives across the U.S.)

Keeping Score: Trump Ordered to Pay $450 Million; OB-GYNs Avoid Abortion Ban States; Young Women Lean to Political Left, While Men Veer Right

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.

This week: Trump must pay $450 million; OB-GYNs are avoiding states with abortion bans and 93 percent say they or a colleague have been unable to follow standards of care because of bans; new data on women in the workforce; harmful sex ed and anti-trans state bills introduced; postpartum Medicaid coverage; the political gender gap is growing; Missouri Republicans block amendments to add incest and rape exceptions to their abortion ban, claiming, “God does not make mistakes”; Beyoncé becomes the first Black female artist to top the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart; and more.

Pennsylvania ERA Applies to Abortion Restrictions, Says State Supreme Court: ‘This Is a Big Victory’

Abortion providers can challenge the Pennsylvania ban on Medicaid coverage for abortion as sex discrimination under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment and Equal Protection provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The decision overturned a 1985 case that said the ERA did not apply to abortion. The ban on Medicaid funding will now be reviewed as sex discrimination.

Two justices of the court explicitly stated that the Pennsylvania Constitution “secures the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes a right to decide whether to have an abortion or to carry a pregnancy to term. … Whether or not to give birth is likely the most personal and consequential decision imaginable in the human experience. Any self-determination is dependent on the right to make that decision.”

Far-Right Players Behind Latest Attacks on Abortion in Emergencies

In April, the nation’s highest Court will hear a pair of cases that will determine whether the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) preempts state laws that impede emergency abortions needed to protect the health of pregnant people even if they are not on the brink of death. 

Both of these cases have ties to the main anti-abortion zealots that helped overturn Roe: Leonard Leo and Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Do Pregnant Women Have the Same Rights Under the Law as Everyone Else?

Feminists often say that abortion bans make women second-class citizens. And it’s true: Abortion bans strip from pregnant women the basic right to bodily autonomy, which other people enjoy. This is true for any abortion ban. But this concept—that banning abortion puts pregnant women in a different class from “regular” people—is particularly apparent in laws that do not allow for a full range of emergency care to preserve a pregnant woman’s health. These laws put fetal life ahead of maternal life, and render women little more than fetus-sustaining objects.

In the coming months, the same Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade will now be asked to answer the question: Are pregnant women full people under the law?

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.

This week: Federal judge weakens the Voting Rights Act; Congress fails to fully fund WIC; Attorney General Merrick Garland defends women traveling to receive abortion care; Jill Biden launches an Initiative of Women’s Health Research; American women are living six years longer than men.