The First Tool to Name Obstetric Racism Might Finally Push Policymakers Into Action

Awareness of the U.S. maternal health crisis has increased—but a parallel crisis of human rights violations against pregnant and postpartum people remains invisible or misunderstood. By convening two People’s Tribunals to End Obstetric Violence and Obstetric Racism before the end of the year, we aim to change that. The first will happen on Oct. 6 in New York City at the NYU Law School, and the second on Dec. 1 in Memphis, at BRIDGES USA. 

We cannot fix the maternal mortality problem without fixing the human rights problem at its core.

Single Moms Need Financial Support: ‘The Money We Receive Isn’t Enough to Cover Everything’

Front and Center is a groundbreaking series created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust (MMT), which aims to put front and center the voices of Black women who are affected most by the often-abstract policies debated at the national level.

Catrina first shared her story with Ms. in 2022. Since she stopped receiving funds through the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, she’s now on disability for ongoing health issues, but hopes to one day return to the job she loves caring for the elderly.

“The government thinks that the money we receive through disability is enough to cover everything, but it honestly isn’t. … I’m number one for believing that able-bodied people need to work. When I was a full able-bodied person, even though I had health issues, I still got up six to seven days a week and worked anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day. I worked my butt off. But right now, I’m not able to work.”

October 2023 Reads for the Rest of Us

Each month, we provide Ms. readers with a list of new books being published by writers from historically excluded groups.

Many of this month’s list of recommended new books seem to align with the theme of liberation. I hope you’ll find something here that gets you thinking about liberation and, more importantly, inspires you to work towards liberation for all.  

The Violence Against Women Act Turns 29. There’s More Work to Do.

Twenty-nine years ago, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), finally putting the full force of our federal government into efforts to stop domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking to help survivors. VAWA was transformative. In the years after it was enacted, domestic violence against adult women in the United States declined by more than 60 percent.

The pandemic set us back, and there’s much more work to do. We will keep working to improve VAWA, and to support the Biden administration’s National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence: Strategies for Action, a truly groundbreaking whole-of-government approach to addressing and preventing violence of all kinds. 

Laphonza Butler Tapped to Fill Dianne Feinstein’s Senate Seat

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday named Laphonza Butler, the first Black woman to lead EMILY’s List, to fill the Senate vacancy created by the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Butler was named two years ago to lead EMILY’s List, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion access, and has led the organization through the end of federal abortion rights. Butler will also be the first openly LGBTQ+ senator from California.

“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she’ll represent us proudly in the United States Senate,” Newsom said in a statement.

New College of Florida Eliminates Gender Studies Program, Leaving Students in the Crossfire

Professor Viki Peer was hired in the fall of 2022 to teach a course for the New College of Florida’s gender studies program. Instead, what unfolded before her and the student body was a complete conservative takedown of the institution by the Board of Trustees.

“The spirit of critical thinking, compassion and creative resistance is still alive at New College among the faculty, students and staff who remain.”

As Abortion Returns to the Supreme Court, It’s Critical to See the Bigger Picture

While the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade one year ago was a shock to our system, we must recognize that overturning Roe is not the anti-abortion movement’s end goal—it is to upend sexual and reproductive rights and freedom for millions of people. And number one on their list of priorities is banning abortion across the country, at any point in pregnancy.

Like other restrictions on reproductive healthcare, the harm that will be done if the Supreme Court decides to overrule the authority of the FDA and to further restrict access to mifepristone cannot be overstated.

Texas’ Voter Suppression Law Is on Trial

Civil rights groups and voting organizations are in federal court challenging a Texas law that makes it harder to vote, especially for people of color and those with disabilities. Over the course of the trial, which goes until late October, counsel will show how Senate Bill 1 violates the Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

While SB 1 is one of many anti-democracy laws enacted by 19 states in the year after the 2020 election, it stands out for its sheer number of restrictive and discriminatory provisions, which largely target Latino and Black voters. This is likely the only challenge to such an extensive restrictive voting law that will go to trial between now and the 2024 election.