Contraception Bill Fails to Pass in the Senate

On June 5th, a bill to protect Americans’ access to birth control was thwarted by Senate Republicans. Democrats unanimously supported the bill with two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), crossing party lines to back the legislation. However, the vote failed 51 to 39, short of the 60 votes needed for the bill to pass. 

Democrats have been working to frame the 2024 election as a battle for reproductive rights. The staunch Republican opposition to the vote gave Democrats an opening to criticize those who voted against the bill. After the failed vote, President Biden took to X, formally known as Twitter, to restate his and Vice President Harris’s stance on reproductive freedom: “@VP and I believe that women in every state must have the freedom to make deeply personal health care decisions. We’ll continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care and we urge Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law.” 

A large majority of Americans support access to contraception, with a 2024 poll stating that 79% percent of Americans think that contraception is very or somewhat good for society. As the 2024 election draws nearer, issues of reproductive justice continue to be brought to the forefront of politics and politicians’ stances on these issues are as fundamental as ever. The widespread support for forms of contraception points to the importance of advancing reproductive rights across the nation.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Silenced No More

VA NOW President Lisa Sales stands for survivors at the SAAM press conference.

On Wednesday, April 24th, survivors and activists gathered outside the Alexandria Federal Courthouse for a press conference organized by Lisa Sales, President of Virginia NOW, to raise awareness about the continued prevalence of sexual violence during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Speakers included Vice Mayor of Alexandria Amy Jackson, 56th Speaker of the VA House Eileen Filler-Corn, VA Delegate Mark Sickles, NOW President Christian Nunes, Policy Director of the VA Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Jonathan Yglesias, author of “Harasshole” Lisa Bowman, attorney Da Hae Kim from the National Women’s Law Center, Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, Kendra Sutton-El from Birth In Color, Bobbee Cardillo from Zonta USA, Joanie Hunn from the National Council of Jewish Women, Myra Smith-Jones, Representative for NAACP – Virginia, Susanna Gibson, founder of MyOwn, and Galina Varchena from Birth In Color.

During her remarks, Ellie Smeal emphasized the urgent need for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), especially to combat gender-based violence. With 1 in 3 women experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime, the ERA would provide a crucial guarantee of sex equality in the Constitution and enable Congress to take decisive action. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Violence Against Women Act cannot grant victims of gender-based violence the right to sue their attackers in federal court. The Supreme Court held that Congress did not have the authority to enforce this provision and, therefore, it was unconstitutional. However, the ERA would provide survivors this civil right to pursue justice in federal court. The legal system’s reliance solely on law enforcement to address sexual violence is evidently not enough.

To show the reality of these structural inadequacies, many speakers shared poignant accounts of sexual assault and harassment, including Lisa Bowman and Lisa Sales, both of whom bravely came forward with their stories despite facing severe backlash and a challenging legal system.

Bowman recounted her experience at United Way, where she faced sexual harassment from a male colleague and was subsequently terminated for speaking out, despite following company policy and properly reporting the incidents to HR. Bowman was pushed out of United Way, while her harasser received a promotion. Bowman announced at the press conference that she is suing United Way for $12 million in damages. She has also published a book titled “Harasshole,” detailing her ordeal and the retaliation that followed.

Sales shared a similar story of retaliation after her traumatic experience. She was assaulted in 2011 by her tenant Dmitry Mikhaylov, enduring severe injuries and multiple surgeries, while Mikhaylov served only a month in prison. In 2021, Sales spoke out about her assault and was subsequently fired by her employer. Sales has been fighting for justice for over ten years.

Despite an estimated 1 in 6 women being assaulted in the U.S. annually, only 5% of cases are reported, making rape the most underreported crime. Factors such as victim blaming, fear of retaliation, and the traumatic reporting process contribute to survivors choosing not to come forward.

“Cases of sexual assault and harassment are not isolated, but are emblematic of normalized rape culture and permissive silencing of women,” Sales said. “It isn’t any wonder why victims choose not to report, to stay silent, but we are here today to say: We will not be silent.”

Supreme Court set to rule on Biden Administration’s ghost gun regulations

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case on whether the regulations placed on ghost guns by the Biden Administration are lawful. Ghost guns are privately assembled through “buy build shoot” kits or are 3D-printed. They also lack a serial number, making them untraceable, and do not require buyers to have background checks conducted. This means that it is very difficult to trace a crime committed using a ghost gun back to the perpetrator. The White House has called ghost guns a “major threat to public safety.”

In 2022, the Supreme Court upheld President Biden’s gun control regulations by a 5-4 vote after they were challenged by the lower courts. These regulations legally redefine firearms to include unfinished parts of guns, such as frames and receivers — requiring that the seller run background checks on all buyers, even for ghost guns. This effectively closed the background check loopholes, but now the regulations are being threatened by a lower court decision, which stated that the regulations were unlawful. In 2022, the Department of Justice seized 25,785 ghost guns in the United States. In 2023, the city of Philadelphia sued two manufacturers of ghost guns after it was discovered that the perpetrator of a mass shooting had committed the crime using two ghost guns.

If the decision of the lower courts were to remain in effect, anyone would be able to purchase a firearm regardless of age or previous criminal history. Gun violence and intimate partner violence are linked, as “abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their female victims.” Women of color are disproportionately impacted by intimate partner violence. By increasing background checks and treating ghost guns the same as any firearm, it will be easier to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have access to them. We need federal policies that will reduce violence involving firearms and these regulations will help to protect communities across the United States.

Supreme Court Denies Appeal from Black Lives Matter Organizer

On April 15th, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of Deray Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter organizer and activist who led a protest in Louisiana where a police officer was hit by a “rock-like object” and injured. While Mckesson did not throw the rock, he is being sued by the injured police officer because of his role as the protests’ organizer. 

The protest was organized after a Black man named Alton Sterling was killed by two Louisiana police officers, who pinned him to the ground and shot him. The officers were responding to a call that described a man with a gun. The shooting was captured on video and sparked local protests in Baton Rouge, where the shooting took place. 

In the lawsuit, the officer, referred to as John Doe, accuses Mckesson of negligence, arguing that he did not control the crowd and set up a police confrontation when he led protesters onto a highway. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means that the case will head back to the lower courts “for further proceedings on whether state law allows the lawsuit.” 

In 2017, the District Court of the Middle District of Louisiana dismissed the case citing Mckesson’s First Amendment right. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed the decision and the case made its way up to the Supreme Court. 

Implications 

If the ruling does stand, an organizer of a protest in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas could be subject to massive lawsuits. Organizers of protests could be held liable for any illegal actions committed by even a single protestor. 

“The goal of lawsuits like these is to prevent people from showing up at a protest out of the fear that they might be held responsible if anything happens,” said Mckesson, who is being represented by the ACLU in court. He reiterated that people should not feel afraid to protest, as they have the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly: “The Constitution still protects our right to protest.”

The ACLU stated that the Court’s denial of Mckesson’s appeal does not mean that the Fifth Circuit’s ruling should stand and that they will keep fighting to make sure that the decision “does not govern anywhere.” 

Betty Ford’s Legacy to be Honored with Commemorative Forever Stamp

On April 5th, three days before what would have been the former First Lady Betty Ford’s 106th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service held a dedication ceremony for a new commemorative Forever Stamp designed in her honor. The stamp’s design, which was unveiled at the White House by First Lady Jill Biden, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and Ford’s daughter Susan Ford Bales, is taken from the official White House portrait done by Felix de Cossio in 1977. 

Advocacy in the White House

Mrs. Ford used her role as First Lady as an opportunity to support women’s liberation. “Betty Ford was the first first lady to really be consistently, publicly (outspoken) about women’s rights and women’s issues,” explained Susan Hartmann, a historian of feminism. “She was the most visible Republican feminist.”

Falling into her new role quickly, Betty Ford began advocating for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She lobbied state legislatures, and when she received complaints that accused her of using taxpayer money to place long distance phone calls to lobby for the ERA, she had an outside line installed that served as a way for her to continue her advocacy in a new home office. 

Mrs. Ford also openly battled breast cancer during her time as First Lady. She spoke publicly about her illness, destigmatized getting screenings and treatment for breast cancer. In the 1970s, there was a “traditional silence about breast cancer” and Mrs. Ford’s openness and honesty at that time led to a 15% increase in breast cancer diagnoses. She also spoke out on “60 Minutes” in 1975, stating that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing abortion was “the best thing in the world” as it would “bring it out of the backwoods and into the hospitals where it belonged.”

Work After the White House 

Betty Ford’s advocacy didn’t stop when she left the White House and she began supporting the coalition, ERAmerica. In 1980, the ERA was in a precarious position as the Republican party held the National Republican Convention in Detroit and decided to oust it from the platform. Betty Ford protested this decision, marching out of the convention with the First Lady of Michigan, Helen Milliken, and joining the National Organization of Women (NOW), then NOW President Eleanor Smeal, and 12,000 others who were protesting against the decision. 

In 1981, Mrs. Ford served as the National Honorary chair for the ERA Countdown Campaign alongside Alan Alda. When asked by Eleanor Smeal if she would co-chair the campaign, she didn’t hesitate to agree. The Countdown Campaign took place in the year ahead of the ratification deadline and Betty Ford helped strategize for the campaign, which included 172 rallies in 42 states. However, strong support for ERA had begun to diminish in the Republican party with the election of Ronald Regan and the ERA fell short of 38 states required to approve ratification. 

Mrs. Ford continued to advocate for women’s rights across the nation throughout her life. Her frankness and strength left a lasting impact on the American people and as we continue to push for the ERA, we thank Betty Ford for what she has done in helping pave the way for other feminist advocates. 

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Mifepristone Case

FMF attends rally in front of Supreme Court in support of mifepristone

The Supreme Court began oral arguments on March 26th for the case FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, diving into the contentious issue of access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, which is used in more than 60% of all abortions across the nation. The case focuses on two key changes by the FDA in 2021 that expanded mifepristone access: the availability of telemedicine prescriptions and mail delivery of the medication, both of which are now under threat. This is the first abortion centered case that the Supreme Court has heard since the Dobbs decision in 2022.

The challengers of the abortion pill argued for restrictions on the basis of the drug’s safety, but the judges, both liberal and conservative, seemed skeptical. Erin Hawley, representing the conservative anti-abortion group, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued that the FDA overstepped by broadening access to mifepristone in 2016 and 2021. However, much of the Supreme Court’s questioning centered around anti-abortion doctors’ claims of moral objections. They claimed that they were suffering because of the FDA’s actions and that having to distribute these pills was against their moral conscience

Both Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch pointed out flaws in this argument. They noted that while doctors may have moral objections, restricting access to mifepristone would harm patients in need. “They’re saying, ‘Because we object to having to be forced to participate in this procedure, we’re seeking an order preventing anyone from having access to these drugs at all,” Jackson said. “And I guess I’m just trying to understand how they could possibly be entitled to that.” 

Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, speaking for the FDA, also highlighted the absurdity of a nationwide ban based on a few doctors’ objections, emphasizing the extreme harm it would cause to women seeking abortions. She argued that a nationwide ban to restrict a widely used drug because of a few doctors’ objections was illogical: “They don’t prescribe mifepristone,” she said. “They don’t take mifepristone.”

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine’s claim that mifepristone is unsafe were refuted by the FDA, which has deemed it extremely safe with a 95%-98% effectiveness rate since 2000. They have said that “study after study” has shown that serious adverse events are exceedingly rare. The White House released a statement in support of mifepristone, saying that President Biden will “continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone” and his “Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.” Abortion providers often assert that the abortion pills are even safer than many common over-the-counter drugs, such as Tylenol or Viagra.

Despite a conservative appeals court supporting severe restrictions on mifepristone in August of last year, these restrictions are currently on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision expected in June.

State of Florida Comes to a Settlement Over “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

A settlement has been reached between a group of plaintiffs and the State of Florida in a lawsuit regarding Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill law — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics. The law was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis two years ago and has since sparked fear and confusion among students, parents, and teachers as the bill initially barred classroom discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through eighth grade in Florida public schools. 

In those two years, travel advisories for Florida were issued by organizations who saw the bill as diminishing the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color. Many people were unsure if they could identify themselves as openly a part of the LGBTQ+ community without being criminalized for it. 

The settlement clears up some of the ambiguity surrounding the law, as it finds that students and teachers are able to speak freely about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom as long as it is not part of the class instructions and lesson plan. LGBTQ+ references are not prohibited in classroom discussions, books, or in students’ academic work. References to teacher’s spouses or partners, or references to the LGBTQ+ community in other situations that are not related to class instruction are also allowed. Student-run LGBTQ+ organizations are still allowed as well as safe spaces for students. 

This development was needed in order to ensure the safety of the queer community. Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation such as the “Don’t Say Gay” law has major impacts on mental health for both LGBTQ+ students and parents. A majority of LGBTQ+ youth in American schools have reported being bullied in person or electronically in the past year according to the Trevor Project. In 2023 alone, there were a record number of anti-LGBTQ laws introduced, adding up to 510 — 16% of those bills passed. The others were defeated by LGBTQ+ advocates and allies. We will continue to combat these harmful laws because America needs more education on gender identity and sexual orientation, not less.

CVS and Walgreens Set to Dispense Mifepristone: A Game-Changer in Abortion Access

Robin Marty, Licensed under CC BY 2.0 DEED

CVS and Walgreens have received certification from The Food and Drug Administration to fill and dispense prescriptions for the abortion pill, mifepristone.  

Walgreens is set to start filling prescriptions in select stores in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois, while CVS will fill prescriptions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The pharmacies may expand the availability of the pill but for now, Walgreens has stated that they will not provide prescriptions in states where the laws on distribution are unclear. CVS stated that they are monitoring current laws regarding abortion bans and will dispense abortion pills in any state where it becomes legal to do so. 

Both pharmacies are cautious about distribution because, even in states where abortion is legal, there are restrictions on the distribution of mifepristone. Some of the restrictions on mifepristone include barring pharmacists from dispensing the abortion pill and mandating that only doctors, hospitals, or clinics distribute the pill to patients in need.

CVS and Walgreens are two of America’s largest pharmacy networks, so this new expansion into the availability of abortion pills has taken on an unprecedented level of importance. This new development will help make mifepristone more accessible to patients in these states, as doctors can now send prescriptions to the pharmacy, allowing for a quicker pickup time and more options when it comes to early pregnancy termination. 

The expansion comes at a time when the future of mifepristone access is uncertain. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments this month over whether the FDA properly approved the drug and if restrictions surrounding the drug should be upheld. Given this ongoing legal battle, this new expansion is even more crucial as it marks the importance of providing effective abortion options in new and accessible ways.

Crossing State Lines: The Vital Role of Telehealth Shield Laws in Reproductive Healthcare Access

Telehealth has emerged as a transformative force in healthcare, breaking down barriers to access and revolutionizing the way patients connect with their healthcare providers. Particularly in the realm of reproductive healthcare, telemedicine has become an indispensable tool, offering a lifeline to individuals facing obstacles in accessing vital services. From the convenience it offers patients to the crucial role it plays in circumventing restrictive policies, telehealth is reshaping the landscape of reproductive healthcare access.

Telemedicine abortion shield laws have become a critical resource for individuals living in states where abortion restrictions or bans prevent them from accessing medication abortion — or abortion through pills rather than a surgical procedure. Protected by these shield laws, medical professionals who live in states where abortion pills are accessible are able to meet online with patients, then prescribe and ship abortion pills to the patient. They then meet with the patient again online when they take the medication. In places where abortion is restricted or banned, telemedicine abortion shield laws have been used by the leading telemedicine abortion provider, Aid Access, to provide medication abortion to 7,000 patients a month.  

Legality of Providing Telemedicine Over State Lines 

Telemedicine abortion shield laws are active in Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, New York and California. So far, the laws have not been challenged by the courts but it is predicted that they will not go unchallenged for long. While telemedicine abortion shield laws are a breakthrough for pro-abortion advocates, shield-law providers are still on high alert as they prescribe and mail medications. Many avoid traveling to states where abortion bans or restrictions are in place for fear of being arrested. They also live in constant fear of being sued and some are putting away funds in case they face a civil suit. 

Who benefits from Telemedicine?  

The benefits of telemedicine extend far beyond abortion access alone. From rural communities devoid of nearby clinics to marginalized populations lacking resources for travel, telehealth serves as a beacon of inclusivity, offering comprehensive healthcare solutions to those in need. Whether it’s access to birth control or therapy services, telemedicine represents a powerful tool in the fight for reproductive rights, countering the efforts of anti-abortion advocates and ensuring that essential medical care remains accessible to all.

New Reproductive Health Act Takes Effect in Michigan

Nick Youngson, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

This week, Michigan’s new Reproductive Health Act (RHA) took effect. The passing of the legislation, which was signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last November, comes after Michigan’s success during the 2022 election cycle, where voters passed a historic measure to enshrine the right to reproductive freedom in the state’s constitution. 

What is RHA? 

The Reproductive Health Act repeals legislation that required the purchase of a medical insurance rider to access abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest. An insurance rider is an additional cost to basic insurance coverage. Purchasing a rider adds a huge financial burden to someone seeking reproductive care. 

The repeal comes after a decades-long fight with Republicans that came to national attention in 2013 when Whitmer was Michigan’s Senate Minority Leader. In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Whitmer bravely shared her own story of being raped in college — an emotional appeal to Republicans to block the legislation. At the time, they did not listen. However, as of 2023, Governor Whitmer was finally able to sign RHA into law. Now, reproductive rights have been emboldened not only in the Constitution but in actual practice as well. 

RHA also repealed a state law that prohibited healthcare services at Michigan Public Universities from providing information about their medical options, including abortion access. It repealed an outdated 1931 law that criminalized health care providers who prescribe medication abortion, including mifepristone, and it repealed laws in Michigan that restricted abortion clinics by requiring them to meet unnecessary building regulations. 

Now that RHA has taken effect, many harmful restrictions against abortion have been lifted. RHA repeals and updates the archaic legislation that previously existed in the state of Michigan. Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, the persecution of pregnant people and healthcare providers has been a nationwide issue. Enacting the Reproductive Health Act in Michigan is a big win for pro-abortion advocates everywhere. As Governor Whitmer said when she signed the legislation, the Reproductive Health Act “lowers costs for patients and providers and protects every Michigander’s constitutional right to make their own decisions about their own body.”

Abortion on the Ballot in 2024

Steve Rhodes, Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

In the 2022 election, Michigan, California, and Vermont voters successfully passed abortion protection referendums, while Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana voters rejected anti-abortion ballot measures. This outcome proved to abortion advocates that it is possible to prevent abortion restrictions from spreading across the nation post-Roe. Currently, there are 12 pro-abortion referendums in various stages of the ballot initiative process for the 2024 election. As of now, two referendums have been officially placed on the ballot, one in Maryland and one in New York.

On the 2024 Ballot

The Maryland Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment would add the fundamental right to reproductive freedom to the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. Maryland currently allows abortions in the state but wants to ensure that abortion rights remain unchallenged by placing the right to an abortion firmly in the state’s constitution.

The New York Equal Protection of Law Amendment would amend the already existing Equal Protection Clause. If passed, the amendment would prohibit discrimination based on “ethnicity, national origin, age, [and] disability,” and “sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy.” The added language in the amendment offers a much-needed clarification. If the amendment is passed, those seeking abortions in the state of New York cannot be criminalized or discriminated against based on their pregnancy outcome. It would protect pregnant people against any adverse government actions, which have been happening all around the country since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022.

Qualified for the Ballot

The Florida Right to Abortion Initiative would provide individuals in Florida the constitutional right to an abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy or when necessary to protect the patient’s health.

Collecting Signatures

Pending official review 

The Arkansas Right to Abortion Initiative would prevent restrictions on abortion within 18 weeks of conception, in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomalies, and in cases that protect the mother.

Proposed

The Maine Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment has been proposed as an amendment to Maine’s constitution. 

Determined to be “legally insufficient”

The Montana Right to Abortion Initiative would have amended the state constitution to allow individuals to make decisions about their own pregnancy.

Anti-Abortion Referendums

There are also 6 anti-abortion referendums in various stages of the ballot initiative process for the 2024 election.

Cleared for Signature Gathering

Proposed 

Protecting abortion rights through ballot referendums is a key strategy in safeguarding bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. The outcomes of recent elections, where voters have upheld measures regarding abortion access even in seemingly conservative states, underscore the significance of this issue. Advocating for and restoring abortion rights is not just a matter of policy; it is a fundamental step towards creating a more just and equitable society for all.

The Latest Developments in Trump’s Legal Cases

Former President Donald Trump is facing multiple lawsuits and 91 felony counts across four criminal cases. Here’s the latest updates. 

E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case  

Former President Donald Trump has been ordered to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million dollars for defaming her after she bravely came forward in 2019 to accuse him of sexual assault. On January 16th, the defamation trial began to determine the damages and resulted in the huge victory for Ms. Carroll and her legal team. Ms. Carroll was awarded $5 million dollars in a previous trial where they found that Trump did assault and defame Carroll. 

The defamation case was brought to court after Mr. Trump used his influence over supporters to attack Ms. Carroll on his Truth Social website, on the campaign trail, and in news conferences. In a 2019 interview, Trump denied the allegations, called Ms. Carroll a “whack job,” and stated, “she’s not my type.”

As the years-long trial draws to its conclusion, Ms. Carroll’s win in the defamation case sparks hope for justice. Ms. Carroll finally got the closure she deserved after years of suffering. In an interview after her case had concluded she stated, “It was like he was like nothing, like an emperor without clothes.” 

Trump Organization Civil Fraud Case 

On top of his defamation trial, Mr. Trump could also be ordered to pay up to an additional $370 million dollars after his civil trial wrapped up last Thursday, in which the office of New York accused him and his company of fraud. The trial accuses Mr. Trump of lying about the value of his assets for personal gain. Justice Arthur Engoron is said to be issuing a ruling that states how much Trump and the Trump Organization should pay on January 31st. 

January 6th Indictment

Trump was indicted on four charges in a federal case related to his role in the January 6th attack on the Capital and his attempts to remain in power after losing the election to President Joe Biden. A trial is scheduled for March 4th, 2024. The charges are:

  • One count of conspiracy to violate civil rights by attempting to reverse the 2020 presidential election. 
  • One count detailing the conspiracy to defraud the US government. 
  • One count related to obstructing the process of vote certification proceedings on January 6th. 
  • One count related to conspiring to obstruct the process of vote certification proceedings.

Georgia Indictment 

Trump and 18 others were indicted on 41 charges in Fulton County, Georgia on charges related to attempting to overturn the state’s election results and suppress voters. No trial date has been set but charges have been filed. 

The charges are: 

  • 22 counts related to forgery or false documents and statements.
  • 8 counts related to soliciting or impersonating public officers.
  • 3 counts related to influencing a witness. 
  • 1 count related to racketeering. 
  • 1 count related to perjury.

Classified Documents Case 

In June, Trump was charged with 40 criminal counts for unlawful possession and handling of government documents after he had left office. A trial date has been set for May 20, 2024. 

  • 32 counts related to illegally keeping classified documents post-presidency.
  • 7 counts related to obstructing the investigation by attempting to block document retrieval.
  • 3 counts related to false statements made by Trump regarding the investigation. 

Manhattan Criminal Case 

Trump was indicted on 34 charges related to falsifying his business records in order to reimburse his lawyer Michael Cohen after Cohen paid Stormy Daniels. 

A trial date has been set for March 25, 2024. 

  • 11 counts related to false invoices submitted by Cohen for legal fees. 
  • 11 counts related to checks written by Trump to Cohen as reimbursement.
  • 12 counts related to account records made to reimburse Trump for the payments.

President Biden hosts Restore Roe rally in Virginia

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a “Restore Roe” rally in Manassas, Virginia on Tuesday, signifying the importance of abortion rights in the 2024 election cycle. They were joined by their spouses, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who spoke  first as they rallied for the restoration and protection of reproductive rights. In Biden-Harris’s first appearance together since starting their campaign for the 2024 presidential election, they sent a vital message about how the nation’s overwhelming support for abortion rights will determine the outcome of the election. 

Boisterous chants of “Four More Years” and “Let’s Go Joe” echoed throughout the Hylton Performing Arts Center as President Biden took the stage to advocate for the reversal of destructive anti-abortion policies created when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through their Dobbs v. Jackson decision: “The extreme laws passed by Dobbs have no place in the United States of America. But what does have a place is your voice! The Dobbs decision practically dares the women of America to be heard.” 

Biden then called on the audience to vote for the restoration of the protections that were once recognized by the Supreme Court. “Today isn’t just a day to remember the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said President Biden. “Today is a day to call to action. With your voice, with your power, with your vote, we can restore the protections that have been around for over 50 years under Roe v. Wade.” 

The Biden-Harris administration was joined by reproductive rights advocate Amanda Zurawski, who made a moving speech about her traumatic experience of being denied access to abortion care in post-Roe Texas. “The near-total abortion ban had gone into effect just after my water broke. Ending the pregnancy would have been considered an illegal abortion and my doctor would be at risk of loss of her license or even jail time. I was told to wait. I had to wait until I got so sick that my life was considered in danger.” The Texas law punishes abortion providers with fines of at least $100,000, bans them from practicing medicine, and sentences healthcare providers with up to 99 years in jail. 

Zurawski’s speech was a sobering, emotional case for abortion access; a case that has played out time and again in 21 states where extreme Republican legislatures have moved to dismantle women’s health care after the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. Audience members wiped tears from their eyes as Zurawski recounted how she was denied abortion care even as she faced death from sepsis. After her doctor finally provided her with the health care she needed, she spent three days in the intensive care unit fighting for her life. Zurawski’s speech reminded those in attendance at the rally of the real-life consequences that come from restricting abortion access: “It was in that dark and lonely hospital room that I realized I was actually lucky. I lived. Others would not be so lucky.” 

The Future of America’s Abortion Laws 

The rally captured the growing momentum of the national movement to restore the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade. Access to healthcare and abortion rights are driving election results.  Many politicians were held accountable for their anti-abortion campaigning during the midterm elections of 2022. When women’s health care is on the ballot, such as constitutional amendments in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, and Wisconsin, the vast majority of Americans showed they were willing to turn out to vote in support of abortion rights for all. But restoring abortion rights on the basis of Roe v. Wade is not enough. 

By enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, a strong legal foundation of sex equality would be established to protect the right to abortion and the full range of reproductive healthcare. Many feminist activists and legal scholars point out that abortion rights established by Roe were based on a right to privacy, which is a weaker argument than a decision based on equality. 

The future of abortion access depends on the ERA explicitly guaranteeing equality in the Constitution – definitively protecting abortion access and giving women autonomy over their bodies.

The 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade

January 22nd should be a day to celebrate Roe v. Wade’s landmark ruling and look back on how far abortion rights have come in the United States. Instead, we find ourselves in unprecedented times where the right to an abortion is being challenged across the country. 15 states have now passed extremely restrictive abortion laws with very limited exceptions. These laws have not stopped pro-abortion advocates as they continue the fight against these egregious restrictions on the right to an abortion. 

Background

On January 22nd, 1973, the Supreme Court announced their decision in Roe v. Wade, siding with “Jane Roe,” the anonymous woman who filed the lawsuit. The court struck down a Texas law that made it a crime to perform an abortion, leading to a federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States.

“Jane Roe” was actually a woman named Norma McCorvey, who was denied an abortion in 1969 because her pregnancy didn’t pose any medical risk. In the 1950s and 1960s, an estimated 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year. Abortion was completely banned in 30 states and restricted in 22 more. McCorvey was denied an abortion because of Texas’s restrictive anti-abortion laws and ended up placing the baby for adoption. So, with the help of a friend, she met with a group of Texas lawyers, led by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who wanted to challenge the abortion ban in the United States. After three years, the case finally made its way up to the Supreme Court, where a new precedent was set and abortion was legalized. The landmark decision made the medical procedure more accessible to those who needed safe and easy access to an abortion. 

What Changed? 

Now, on the cusp of the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are witnessing reversal after reversal of abortion protections. On June 24th, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through their Dobbs v. Jackson decision, overruling 50 years of precedent and setting off a wave of abortion bans across the country. 

Texas is just one of the states reinstating previous extreme bans on abortion. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on January 2nd, 2024 that emergency abortions can be banned in the state of Texas, despite federal guidelines, in the case Cox v. Texas. 

When Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from Dallas, learned her fetus had a fatal diagnosis, she filed for an emergency court order to access an abortion in the state. While Texas’s abortion ban ban does have exceptions, they are written so unclearly that many healthcare providers. will not perform abortions as to avoid criminal prosecution. Cox ended up leaving the state to get an abortion, but not before facing serious physical and mental health struggles from forced pregnancy. 

President Biden and Vice President Harris are set to address the critical state of abortion rights on January 23rd in a rally in Manassas, Virginia. They are expected to speak about the rise of abortion bans across the country and the impact on women in these states, making reproductive rights a critical focus of the November election. 

Supreme Court set to rule on Mifepristone access

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding the restriction on the use of mifepristone in the United States. Mifepristone — when taken in conjunction with misoprostol — is a pill that can end a pregnancy that is less than 10 weeks along. 

In August 2023, Texas’ ultra-conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that would deny women access to the medication mifepristone. Previously, a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas attempted to completely ban the use of mifepristone by suspending its regulatory approval. However, this decision was remanded back to the lower court by the Supreme Court. The restrictions imposed by the new lower court ruling have made their way back to the Supreme Court. The restrictions include: shutting down access to mifepristone by mail, banning those who are more than 7 weeks pregnant from using mifepristone, and forcing direct physician supervision for anyone taking or administering mifepristone. 

Background

The Feminist Majority Foundation’s President, Eleanor Smeal, was one of the first activists to bring attention to mifepristone as a life-saving medication for women across the US. With Smeal’s help, the Feminist Majority Foundation fought for the right to access the medication, built widespread public support through an 11-year education campaign, and pressed for FDA approval. 

In September of 2000, the FDA finally approved mifepristone as a method for abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. This approval was the result of four years of review and scientific study. Twenty years of FDA scrutiny including follow-up research has proven the medication to be safe. In 2020, over half of abortions in the United States were done through a pill and 98% of those abortions involved mifepristone in combination with a second pill. This means that five million people relied on mifepristone when they needed abortion care or had a miscarriage. This method has been shown by the FDA to be safe and effective for over 20 years.

Implications

New mifepristone restrictions are another way in which anti-abortion advocates are threatening people’s rights to medical care. Since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion in June of 2022, basic care is being denied as healthcare providers risk facing criminal prosecution from performing what were once routine life-saving procedures and prescribing life-saving prescriptions. Other doctors are fleeing jurisdictions that have criminalized healthcare procedures for women. As doctors leave, maternity deserts are cropping up all over the country, causing pregnancy complications to increase and dangerously reducing or destroying access to reproductive care. If the Supreme Court allows for the mifepristone restrictions to take effect, this problem will be exacerbated; gaining access to mifepristone will become nearly impossible for those who do not have the resources to drive hundreds of miles to see a physician just to get medication.  

Anti-abortion advocates argue that the FDA overlooked studies and rushed the approval of mifepristone when they approved it in 2000. In addition, they claim that mifepristone is a dangerous drug and should be banned. This claim is false. For over 20 years, mifepristone has been used safely and has an efficacy rate of 95% when used in combination with misoprostol. All medication has the possibility of side effects, but mifepristone has such a strong safety record that abortion providers say it is safer than taking Tylenol

By restricting access to the drug mifepristone, the Supreme Court will continue to bolster the power of conservative anti-abortion groups. Restrictions such as banning the availability of mifepristone by mail allows for anti-abortion groups to dictate how women can or cannot access reproductive resources. Anti-abortion strategies seek to create false narratives about mifepristone and create even more complicated barriers to abortion. 

Retaining access to mifepristone with no restrictive rules in place would be a lifesaving win for women in the United States. It would help women deal with the complexities of their everyday lives while also enabling them to make the best medical decisions for their own body. Anti-abortion groups are actively making it difficult for oppressed groups of people to access reproductive care. We must continue to fight back to ensure that mifepristone will stay legal in the United States.

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