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Keeping Score: Anti-LGBTQ Laws on the Rise; Wins and Losses for Abortion Representation on TV; Millions Sign up for Healthcare Coverage

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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.

“No one should be criminalized or punished for their miscarriage. Brittany should be able to focus on taking care of herself after losing her pregnancy, but instead she is being forced to to defend her actions in a moment that should have never been made public.”

—Traci Timko, lawyer for Brittany Watts, who could face jail time for “abuse of a corpse” after experiencing a miscarriage.

“I will continue to fight for our fundamental freedoms while bringing together those throughout America who agree that every woman should have the right to make decisions about her own body—not the government.” 

—Vice President Kamala Harris, announcing a Reproductive Freedoms tour starting on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Jan. 22, in Wisconsin.

“When I started Moms Demand Action, there was no tangible or empowering way for women across the country to band together and act on the issue of gun violence. I wanted to be part of a badass army of womenthe same kinds of armies that had demanded the right to vote, fought for civil rights, made drunk driving culturally unacceptable, and exposed the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. I also felt intuitively that women and mothers were the secret sauce to organizing, and I was correct: Women are just incredibly dedicated, organized, relentless and efficient activists.”

—Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, reflecting on her years of activism against gun violence.
Shannon Watts is an American gun violence prevention activist and the founder of Moms Demand Action.

“We’ve heard from all over the state how excited people are to sign this because the reality is they want to be able to vote on it because they don’t want politicians interfering in their private medical decisions. We’ve had women who have experienced medical emergencies who’ve been forced to travel out of state and that’s because providers are afraid to give care in Florida right now. Even in medically necessary situations, they may feel a real chilling effect.”  

—Lauren Brenzel, campaign director of Floridians Protecting Freedom, which officially secured enough state-certified signatures in support of putting an abortion rights amendment on the 2024 ballot.

+ The Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC) successfully opposed anti-abortion policies House Republicans attempted to include in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After the harmful language was dropped, President Biden signed the bill into law in late December.

“House Republicans have shown that they will stop at nothing to push their extreme, anti-abortion agenda. While they tried to poison this historically bipartisan national security legislation, I’m glad we were able to successfully push back on their radical social agenda and instead pass a serious NDAA that fulfills our sacred commitment to our armed services and the men and women who sign up to defend the United State,”said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.). 

Abortion rights supporters march to the Texas Capitol after the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022. (Suzanne Cordeiro / AFP via Getty Images)

+ Private arbitrators in New York have reinstated three out of four correctional officers who were fired for abusing or covering up the abuse of incarcerated people. Just two arbitrators handled half of these cases in the past 12 years, and they often required overwhelming evidence to fire guards, instead of the usual “more likely than not” preponderance of evidence standard. Nationwide, arbitrators reinstate police officers in about half of excessive force cases.

+ Pope Francis formally approved blessings for same-sex couples– but emphasized that the blessings should not be confused with marriage. Priests are not allowed to confer blessings during civil union ceremonies or use the rituals and clothing associated with weddings. While many are celebrating Pope Francis’ latest move towards making the church more inclusive, others warn that the new rules still treat gay couples as inferior.

+ Gypsy Rose Blanchard is finally free after serving eight years for her involvement in the death of her abusive mother. An upcoming docuseries and book will provide Blanchard’s perspective on her childhood and experience in prison.

+ The Supreme Court declined to block an Illinois assault weapons ban, leaving the law in place as appeals continue. The law went into effect on Jan. 1 and bans semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. 

+ Video game company Activision Blizzard will pay more than $50 million to settle a 2021 gender discrimination lawsuit. Former female employees spoke out about routinely being underpaid and denied promotions, and some also alleged facing sexual harassment. 

+ Seventy-five anti-LGBTQ bills became law in 2023. More than 500 bills were introduced, and the ones that passed will have devastating impacts on LGBTQ communities, especially transgender youth. Bans on gender-affirming care for minors were the most common type of anti-LGBT bill, and were upheld this year by judges in Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. 

Based on Human Rights Campaign data, state legislators are increasing their focus on anti-LGBTQ bills. In 2021, just 17 became law, and 29 became law in 2022. The ACLU is already tracking 212 bills introduced or re-introduced in 2024. 

Cole Ramsey, 39, holds a transgender pride flag in front of the Ohio statehouse to protest the passing of legislation against trans women playing sports in high school and college. (Stephen Zenner / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

+ A record-breaking 19 million people signed up for health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace in December, with several days left before the Jan. 16 deadline. This is the third record-breaking year in a row—but about 25 million Americans still don’t have health insurance. Before the ACA passed in 2010, that number was nearly 50 million. 

“Millions of Americans signing up for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act is good news. It means more Americans have the peace of mind of knowing that going to the doctor won’t empty their bank account,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The Biden-Harris administration will continue working to expand healthcare coverage and lower prescription drug costs, so taking care of your health is not a luxury.”

+ Millennials born between 1989 and 1999 are much more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than Gen X women, and have closed the wage gap slightly, a recent report found.

+ Women’s incarceration rates are declining for the first time in 50 years.

+ Suicide rates have nearly doubled compared to Gen X women, with disproportionate increases for Native American women and other women of color.

+ Homicide rates and maternal mortality rates are also surging, and Black women are at increased risk. Alarmingly, homicide is now the leading cause of death for pregnant people.

“Because pregnant and recently pregnant women are already more at risk, the rolling back of protections for women’s reproductive healthcare—including access to abortion—may increase the risks for all of these causes of mortality in young women,” warned research analyst Sara Srygley.

+ New research confirms what feminists have always known: Being a feminist does not equal hating men. Researchers found that feminists are generally positive towards men, despite the stigmatizing “misandry myth” that can deter women from learning about feminism. In addition, the study found that feminists believe that men and women are more similar than non-feminists do.

+ 2023’s Abortion Onscreen report evaluated TV representation of abortion care in 2023. Because of writer and actor strikes this year, there were only 49 abortion plotlines in 2023. Almost half of the characters receiving abortions were white, and they also were younger, wealthier, and less likely to have children than in real life. However, six of the stories featured medication abortion—the highest ever. And for the first time, there was one plotline featuring self-managed abortion.

Reese Witherspoon as Bradley Jackson and Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy in The Morning Show. Witherspoon’s character reports on a woman in Texas who’s traveling monthly to Mexico to get medication abortion for women with no other option. (Apple TV+)

+ Telehealth for medication abortion is under attack, but it can reduce inequities in abortion care in the post-Roe world. Forty-three percent of patients reported that telehealth made it possible for them to get timely abortion care, especially for young people, those in rural locations, and people experiencing food insecurity. Telehealth saved patients a median of 10 miles and 25 minutes of driving and almost 90 minutes on public transportation.

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.


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