Project 2025: A Dystopian Future

Project 2025. What exactly is it? The 920 page document was written by The Heritage Foundation– a conservative think tank that has outlined their goals for the transition period if Donald Trump were to be elected as President in November. Heritage Foundation President Kevin D. Roberts has made it clear that the focus of the plan is the dismantling of women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights: “The next conservative President must make the institutions of American civil society hard targets for woke culture warriors.” 

A simple search of the key words we use at FMF everyday leads to the alarming reality that Project 2025 calls for the deletion of “the terms… gender, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights, and any other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights out of every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.”

LGBTQ Rights

The foundation of the project centers around the “restoration of the family as the centerpiece of American life” and emphasizes the need to “protect our children.” In the opinion of the Heritage Foundation, the best way to protect vulnerable children is to rid them of any personal expression or identity, by describing the rainbow flag as a “divisive symbol” that is being imposed upon the children of America. 

Reproductive Rights

Unsurprisingly, they also recommend an anti-abortion approach that would force children who are survivors of rape to see through their pregnancies and accept the “heroism” of becoming a mother, even if it could kill the child forced to carry out the pregnancy. They advocate for a national abortion ban and an abortion medication ban. The document also describes severe restrictions on IVF access, as well as access to all forms of contraception, in order to decrease recreational sex. The backward nature of the outrageous arguments made within the policy proposal make them hard to accept as a possible reality, reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale.  

Education and Career Opportunities

Project 2025 threatens to completely reduce the educational and career prospects of young women by promoting policies that reinforce traditional gender roles. The plan lays out the creation of a “parents’ bill of rights” to allow parents to opt their children out of learning topics that go against their religious views and also bans education on race, gender, and slavery. The project advocates for a return to a more conservative educational curriculum, potentially reducing emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects, where women are already underrepresented. By prioritizing vocational training and traditional family roles over higher education and professional development, Project 2025 risks creating a generation of young women with limited opportunities and diminished aspirations, hindering their ability to achieve economic independence and career success.

Project 2025 presents a stark vision for America’s future, one that threatens to roll back decades of progress in women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights. As we look ahead, it is imperative to recognize the dangerous implications of Project 2025 and to advocate for policies that uphold equality, protect individual rights, and foster an inclusive society. The future of our nation depends on resisting efforts that seek to turn back the clock on hard-won rights and freedoms.

Abortion Bans and the Effect on Infant Mortality Rates

There is no doubt that abortion bans are dangerous – for the women whose choice is ripped away from them, for the doctors who are unsure how to provide proper care within the limits of restrictive laws, and especially for the women who are forced to give birth to a baby that is clearly unable to survive outside of the womb. A new study has proven just how life-threatening these bans are.  

A recent study released by JAMA Pediatrics investigates the impact of Texas Senate Bill (SB8), also known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” on infant mortality rates in Texas. The research highlights the alarming consequences of SB8, a law that bans abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected, with no exceptions for congenital anomalies. A population-based cohort study examined infant mortality rates in Texas from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2022, revealing a significant increase in infant deaths following the enactment of SB8. 

The study found that infant deaths in Texas rose by 12.9% from 2021 to 2022, significantly higher than the 1.8% increase observed in the rest of the United States. Notably, an estimated 216 excess infant deaths occurred in Texas from March to December 2022, with particularly high spikes in April, July, September, and October. Additionally, the increase in deaths due to congenital anomalies was stark, with a 22.9% rise in Texas compared to a 3.1% decrease in the rest of the country.

These deaths occurred before the infants’ first birthdays, due to fatal birth defects or genetic problems. Usually, these pregnancies would have been terminated to avoid this trauma for the parents, however, the Texas law does not provide exceptions for these conditions. The pregnant individual is legally obligated to carry these pregnancies to term.

These findings suggest that SB8 not only strips women of their reproductive rights, but also has profound and tragic implications for infant mortality. As states continue to pass restrictive abortion laws, the public health impact and the emotional trauma experienced by affected families must be taken into account.

Shinnecock Indian Nation elects first female chair in over 200 years

People often wonder what the world would look like if it were run by women. Would there be less war? Greater partnership between countries? Universal access to health and social care? Safer streets? 

Of course, the number of female leaders has increased dramatically in the last few decades. Then again, anything can be a dramatic increase from zero. From Iceland to Mexico, women are winning elections and, by doing so, finally have the opportunity to prove the benefits that come with female leadership. 

Despite never having elected a female president, there is one place you can find female leadership in the United States: indigenous tribes. Matriarchal structures in indigenous tribes hold huge cultural and historical significance. The Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Huadenosaunee or Six Nations, comprises the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora nations. They are divided into clans, which are maternal, and clan identity is passed down through the maternal line. The central figures in this matriarchy are the Clan Mothers, the elder women of the clan, and they hold important political power and responsibilities. They have immense power in choosing the male chiefs, known as Sachems, who represent the clans in the Grand Council. Along with this, they provide counsel and guidance to the chiefs. Other traditions in indigenous culture uphold the matriarchal structures that provide these tribes with positive leadership. Women traditionally control the land and its resources and oversee family and domestic affairs, raising the next generations to appreciate and respect female leadership. 

Recently, the Shinnecock Indian Nation elected the first female chair of its Council of Trustees in over 200 years, Lisa Goree. Located on the eastern side of Long Island, the Shinnecock were only recognised by the federal government after a thirty year effort. Goree’s election represents a historic milestone for women in the tribe who were not allowed to vote until 1994. She describes her election as a “changing of the guard” and looks forward to changing relations on and off the reservation. 

There are important factors that must be recognised when discussing the relations the tribe has with the surrounding community. The stark contrast between the reservation and the affluent Southampton next door vividly illustrates the legacy of land theft from indigenous communities and highlights how this historical injustice continues to strain the tribe’s relations with the Hamptons community today. Goree approaches her newfound leadership with an appreciation for how her female perspective may create a clearer path for the reservation to bring in much needed revenue that can only be achieved through partnership with outside communities. Having to negotiate for access to land that you know belongs to you is no easy task, but one that Goree through her years of leadership experience and female perspective has all the power to achieve.

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions holds hearing on abortion access

On June 4th, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on “The Assault on Women’s Freedoms: How Abortion Bans Have Created a Health Care Nightmare Across America.” Filled to the brim with women young and old, the room was tense as the audience waited for opening remarks from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sen. Sanders began by underlining the issue: the overturning of Roe v. Wade has abolished the constitutional right to an abortion, having devastating impacts on women across the country. 

The gavel was swiftly passed to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) as Sen. Sanders explained that it was more appropriate for a woman to chair the meeting. Sen. Murray provided another historical overview of the issue at hand, circling back to the fundamentals of freedom being at stake. “The joy of raising a family is a decision women should make for themselves,” she said, emphasizing that a third of women currently live in states where they do not have this choice. “The attacks on our freedoms do not stop at abortion,” she reminded us, “Republicans are seeking a swift way to gain control over the bodily autonomy of all women in the US.” 

Importantly, Sen. Murray reminded the committee, and in particular the minority members, that while abortions may have an overwhelming amount of media coverage at the moment, forced pregnancies do not. She described a teenager who had been forced to deliver a baby, while clutching a teddy bear. A forced pregnancy does not need to make headlines before making someone’s life a living hell. As she yielded to the minority leader, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), she underlined that abortion has won every time it has been on the ballot. “We will restore and protect abortion rights for every woman in America” she said as she began the hearing. 

The panel of witnesses for the hearing included Madysyn Anderson, an abortion patient, Dr. Nisha Verma, MD, MPH, OBGYN and Fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, Destiny Lopez, MPA and acting CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, Dr. Allison Linton, MD, MPH, and Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin and Fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, Chrtistina Francis, MD and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Pro- Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Melissa Ohden, MSW and Founder of the Abortion Survivors Network. The respective first four witnesses were called by the majority members of the committee, with the next two speaking at request of the minority members. 

Each witness served an important purpose. Anderson opened with a personal testimony recounting the abortion she chose to have as a college student. As a Texas resident, she was unable to receive reproductive healthcare in her state. She was forced to spend $2850 to travel out of state several times in order to eventually receive the care she desperately needed. Her experience left her acutely aware of her legislature’s deep mistrust in women making their own decisions as she faced several holding periods and judgements from the state. It made her even more certain of her decision. Following Anderson, the doctors on the panel were able to offer the perspective of the health providers who are also fighting tough battles in attempting to provide essential healthcare in the face of a highly politicized issue. 

The topics frequently revisited by the majority members and their witnesses were the importance of access to telehealth abortions, the protection of abortion medication, and the increasing lack of providers and medical students in states that have laws banning abortion. Doctors have become afraid to practice their profession in their own communities, as they are often forced to tell their patients that there is nothing they can do for them. Medical students who are of reproductive age no longer want to train in states where their own medical choices are limited. 

This hearing highlighted how polarizing the issue of reproductive healthcare has become. Abortion will inevitably bring people to the polls in November. We must vote like our lives depend on it, because, unfortunately, for many Americans, they do. 

Swiss women win climate change case in European Court

On April 9th, Europe’s top human rights court delivered a landmark ruling, finding that the Swiss government had failed in its duty to safeguard the human rights of its citizens against the harmful impacts of climate change.

The case originated in 2016 when a group of 2,000 Swiss women, all aged over 64, initiated legal proceedings against Switzerland. After an arduous eight-year battle in domestic courts, they leveraged the international law principle of “exhausting domestic remedies” to elevate their grievances to the European Court of Human Rights. Their argument centered on the detrimental effects of climate change on their health, highlighting the increased risks faced by women, especially those over 75, such as dehydration, fatigue, and loss of consciousness due to rising temperatures.

The court’s verdict carries significant global implications, setting a precedent for future climate change litigation where citizens can hold their governments accountable. This decision marks a pivotal moment, empowering similar pending cases and establishing a clear legal pathway for climate-related lawsuits. The victory is not just legal; it also injects renewed vigor into the climate action movement, serving as a catalyst for motivation.

For many of the women involved, winning the case seemed improbable, yet the court’s ruling underscores the importance of persistence in advocating for our planet’s well-being and the power of collective action.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to include abortion protections

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has now been finalized by federal regulatory authorities, ensuring that workers are entitled to receive “reasonable” accommodations in line with their conditions arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This also includes the right of a person to receive accommodations to have and recover from an abortion.

This development follows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) publishing a set of guidelines that included abortion in its draft rules. The legislation establishes a basic structure for pregnant workers or those with related conditions to have their job conditions modified, a provision that should be granted without question. The law does not require employers to cover abortion costs, just to provide time off for the procedure and any related recovery time.  

While the legislation garnered robust support from Congress, it unsurprisingly faced backlash from many anti-abortion groups. They believed it was an attempt by the federal government to impose a nationwide abortion mandate. The EEOC received over 50,000 comments demanding that abortion be excluded from the legislation, but they also received nearly an equal amount commending the decision. However, the criticism from anti-abortion activists and some lawmakers centers not on abortion itself but on the argument against federal mandates on abortion at a national level. This includes Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who called it the Biden administration’s attempt to “smuggle an abortion mandate” into legislation.

The EEOC has defended their decision to include abortion in the final rules based on the longstanding interpretation of Title VII, which “protects workers from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and requires covered employers to treat workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as others similar in their ability or inability to work.” The Bipartisan Policy Center found in 2022 that 20% of mothers have personally experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, clearly showing the need for this strengthened legislation.

Republicans’ Wavering Abortion Platform

Former President Donald Trump made headlines on Monday by releasing a video on Truth Social, where he expressed his view that abortion laws should be determined by individual states. 

“My view is now that we have abortion where everyone wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land. In this case, the law of the state,” said the former president in a video posted on his social media

Trump’s video arrives amidst a growing focus on reproductive rights, which is poised to be a pivotal issue in the upcoming November general election. While abortion has historically been seen as a partisan topic, recent events, such as the success of reproductive freedom referendums in Republican-leaning states, reveal a shifting landscape. A majority of Americans from both sides of the political aisle now believe that abortion decisions should rest solely with the pregnant individual. 

Trump’s new position has sparked backlash from various groups. His anti-abortion supporters are outraged by his lack of advocacy for a nationwide abortion ban, while proponents of reproductive freedom express disbelief given Trump’s history on the issue and his previous statements claiming full responsibility for the overturn of Roe

This controversy highlights a broader shift. Ultra-conservative measures, such as Alabama’s bill threatening IVF, have polarized voters across party lines. The intrusion on personal autonomy by anti-choice movements no longer resonates uniformly within party demographics and bipartisan support for abortion rights is emerging. Even Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake, who has branded herself as being “100% pro-life” and has called abortion the “ultimate sin,” has now backtracked on her support for the state’s total ban on abortion.  

As the election nears, it is clear that abortion is poised to be a deciding factor.

State Equal Rights Amendment provides huge win for abortion access in Nevada

The Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County has overturned the Medicaid abortion coverage ban in Nevada using the state’s Equal Rights Amendment. Following the overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022, the people of Nevada overwhelmingly voted for adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the state’s constitution. The lawsuit challenging the coverage ban was filed by the Silver State Hope Fund and represented by the ACLU, who cited the state’s ERA as its leading legal argument. 

The Silver Spring Hope Fund is a Nevada based nonprofit that provides financial aid to help low-income individuals pay for abortion care. Medicaid is meant to help low income people achieve equal access to quality healthcare. However, the abortion coverage ban denied anyone who relied on Medicaid from receiving abortion funding, except in cases of rape or incest or life-threatening health complications. Instead, they had to turn to organizations like the Silver Spring Hope Fund to fund their treatment.  

The state ERA played a massive role in this win for reproductive health. The judge on the case overturned the ban on the basis of it being a sex driven inequality. There has never been a clearer reason why we must enshrine the ERA in the United States Constitution. It is the single most important tool at our disposal to ensure that women’s rights are protected, enforced, and taken seriously.  

The grassroots fight for equality in Nevada has been pushed forward by State Senator Patricia Spearman, who also led the successful movement to ratify the federal ERA in 2017. The state ratified the federal ERA in 2017, thanks to groups such as NOW and Emerge Nevada, who trained Democratic candidates to run for office. In 2018, Nevada became the first state to have a majority of women elected to the state legislature — a testament to the organizing power of women and feminists throughout the state.

The Persistent Wage Gap: When Education and Hard Work Still Aren’t Enough

March 12th marks Equal Pay Day, a sobering reminder of the persistent gender pay gap in the United States. Across the country, women typically earn just 84 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts in equivalent roles. This disparity translates to a sum of $9,900 less in annual income for women. 

The Pay Gap describes the persistent wage disparity between men and women performing equivalent work. Despite its pervasiveness, this issue garnered little substantive action from Congress until the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The roots of legislative efforts trace back to the 1940s when the first bill was introduced to outlaw “discrimination against any employee, in the rate of compensation paid, on account of sex” as an unfair labor practice. However, this bill never passed.

It took until the 1960s for the breakthrough Equal Pay Act to finally become law, prohibiting employers from paying unequal wages to male and female workers for “jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” This groundbreaking act represented the initial federal stride toward mandating pay equity between genders performing commensurate labor.

However, the Equal Pay Act still allowed loopholes for pay disparities based on factors like seniority and merit-based compensation structures. The campaign for pay equity expanded in the 1980s to encompass racial dimensions, as it became clear women of color faced even wider pay gaps. The language shifted from the “pay gap” to “comparable worth,” scrutinizing pay discrepancies between jobs requiring comparable levels of responsibility and value, even if not identical roles. These inequities were linked to long-standing discrimination.

The pay gap’s compounding effects reverberate far beyond the workplace. With lower lifetime earnings, women continue to receive diminished Social Security benefits and pensions upon retirement. Consequently, their overall retirement income amounts to a mere 70% of what men receive, perpetuating economic inequity into their golden years. Despite claims of progress toward equality, this day underscores the deep-rooted inequalities ingrained in our society. 

Even higher education offers no refuge from the pervasive gender pay gap, a recent U.S. Census Bureau report finds. Women still earn a mere 71 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts at equivalent levels of educational attainment, and yet women are now comprising over half of college-educated workers and are participating in the labor force at unprecedented rates. 

Closing the gender pay gap requires a multi-faceted approach to address the various factors contributing to the disparity. Raising the minimum wage would have an immediate impact, as women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs. Increasing pay transparency by allowing open compensation discussions and prohibiting retaliation for wage disclosures can narrow the gap by up to 30%, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Implementing fair scheduling policies that provide predictability and flexibility is important for working mothers and those with caregiving responsibilities, while expanding paid family and medical leave would allow more women to remain employed after having children. Finally, conducting pay audits and correcting any gender-based disparities within the workplace is crucial for promoting pay equity.

The Tragic Death of Nex Benedict and the Battle for LGBTQ+ Rights in Oklahoma

Ted Eytan, Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

The death of Oklahoma student Nex Benedict has left many across the country reeling with grief, fear, and anger. Nex, a 16 year old non-binary teen, died the day after they were beaten by a group of students at Owasso High School after enduring a year of bullying due to their identity. 

Over the past few days, the incident has amplified discourse around LGBTQ+ rights in heavily Republican states, such as Oklahoma, that have laws that directly hinder the freedom LGBTQ+ youth in schools. Nex was unable to go to school, a place that should be safe for all students, without being bullied and harassed. The attack took place in a bathroom and resulted in Nex receiving a head injury that led them to the emergency room. They passed away the next day. 

The dismissal of respect for a human’s identity did not begin in the high school bathroom, but rather the hallowed halls of state government. An Oklahoma Republican senator called LGBTQ+ people “filth” when questioned about Nex’s death. Around 40 anti LGBTQ+ bills have been filed in the last year by Oklahoma lawmakers, including measures that end the right to self expression, healthcare access and inclusion in school. What happened to Nex proves that these bills have not only structural implications, but also extremely dangerous social ones. The systems in place in Oklahoma provide a breeding ground for hatred to fester in schools. 

Oklahoma law already bars transgender students from using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. It is extremely difficult for trans youth to receive gender affirming care in the state, with a law making it a felony for doctors to provide medical treatments such as puberty-blocking drugs or hormones for those younger than 18, currently under review in court.

Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos qualify as “children”

Janine and Jim Eden, Licensed under CC BY 2.0 DEED

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that embryos outside of the womb qualify as children in a ruling that further thwarts reproductive freedom in the state. In the 131 page opinion, Alabama judges quoted the Bible before ultimately coming to a 7-2 decision that threatens access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. 

The case comes after two Alabama couples pursuing IVF sued the Alabama Mobile Infirmary Medical Centre after a patient was able to break into the hospital’s cryogenic facility and subsequently dropped two embryos. The embryos at this stage have been chosen as suitable for possible transfer into the uterus. Even though they have passed this hurdle, they are still 50% likely to fail when transferred. 

The two plaintiffs filed their complaints under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The judges used this act as the legal basis for their decision, citing that the “Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies on its face to all unborn children, without limitation.” This landmark ruling is not only a clear product of a pro-life agenda strengthened by religious beliefs but also serves as a reminder of the strict control that Alabama lawmakers want over reproductive decisions in the state. The ruling goes so far as to suggest that a woman who does not use all of her embryos, if she were to have a successful IVF, could be charged with the manslaughter of the embryos left over after her successful pregnancies. 

CNN reported on February 22nd that a second fertility clinic in Birmingham, Alabama has “halted” part of its IVF program due to legal concerns as it evaluates the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision. The process of egg retrieval is still available to patients, but “egg fertilization and embryo development” has been paused. In these stages, the viability of eggs and embryos is considered and is necessary if these future eggs and embryos are to be transferred. This pause in the process inevitably places limits on the window of pregnancy but also continues to raise severe concerns about whether IVF is a realistic option for families in Alabama. 

This ruling further tightens regulations surrounding reproductive healthcare decisions and it will also serve as a barrier to the people of Alabama who wish to go through the IVF process. Hospitals view the ruling as a huge risk, making it almost impossible to run an IVF clinic without the constant fear of causing a “death.” One thing is clear – the state of Alabama has offered women yet another haunting warning, they can and will take control of their reproductive choices as they see fit.

Abortion Emerges as Decisive Factor in New York’s 3rd Congressional District Special Election

Eric Wagner, Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED

In the recent special election held on February 13th for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, the victory of Democrat Tom Suozzi over Republican Mazi Pilips underscored the significance of abortion as a pivotal issue this election season. Suozzi’s triumph, with 53.9% of the vote against Pilips’ 46.1%, reflected a strategic campaign focus on reproductive rights and women’s health.

Suozzi’s Embrace of Abortion Rights

Throughout his campaign, Suozzi strategically centered his platform on defending reproductive rights. His website prominently featured a “10 Point Plan,” highlighting his commitment to safeguarding abortion access and countering what he termed “extreme attacks on reproductive freedom.” Suozzi’s unequivocal support for abortion rights earned him endorsements from prominent organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. He emphasized the urgency of codifying Roe v. Wade into law and condemned recent attempts to curtail abortion rights in various states.

Moreover, Suozzi’s social media campaign extensively criticized his opponent’s stance on abortion, highlighting her perceived ambiguity on the issue. Clips from televised debates, particularly those focusing on abortion, were widely circulated, emphasizing the clear divergence between the candidates on this critical issue.

Gender Dynamics and Voting Trends

Analyses of voting trends revealed a significant gender gap, with women constituting a substantial portion of Suozzi’s support base. A poll conducted by the Siena College Research Institute indicated that a majority of women favored Suozzi. This gender disparity, with 51% of women supporting Suozzi compared to 44% of men, proved the salience of reproductive rights as a decisive factor in the election outcome. On the issue of abortion, 58% of women said they thought Suozzi would be the better candidate to address the issue, and 52% of males said the same.

Media Oversight and Issue Prioritization

Despite the evident influence of abortion on the election, mainstream media coverage largely overlooked its significance. Reports from major news outlets such as ABC News and CNN highlighted other issues like immigration, crime, and the Israel-Palestine conflict, sidelining the central role of reproductive rights in shaping voter preferences. This oversight raised questions about their portrayal of key campaign issues.

Contrary to media narratives emphasizing immigration as a crucial issue, the data revealed a different picture. While Pilips held a lead over Suozzi specifically on immigration policy, her defeat showed the limited electoral impact of this issue. The data suggested that abortion rights, not immigration, played a defining role in Suozzi’s victory, challenging prevailing media interpretations of the election’s key concerns.

The special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District offers valuable insights into the evolving landscape of American politics, particularly regarding the prominence of abortion rights as a mobilizing issue. Suozzi’s strategic emphasis on reproductive rights resonated with voters, particularly women, and played a role in securing his victory. 

A Win For Youth in Virginia

On February 13th, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass House Bill 994, a bill that bans child marriage in all its forms. Virginia was one of the first states to ban child marriage in 2016, but there has always been a loophole allowing emancipated children between 16-18 years old to get married. Now, Virginians have to be 18 in order to marry. The loophole has historically raised concern for many organizations who saw it as an opportunity for children, disproportionately girls, to be exploited and coerced. 

Before 2016 there was no minimum age requirement to get married in Virginia, just certain criteria that had to be met for a judge to approve the marriage. Usually, this was because a young girl was pregnant, some aged 12 and 13. Almost 4,500 minors were married between 2004 and 2013 – about 90% of those minors were girls who married adult men.

Today’s vote has resulted in a win for everyone. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support, 55 to 42, and children, in particular girls, will now be protected from being exploited. Virginia NOW tirelessly led the fight for this victory. They introduced the “End Child Marriage Now” bill into the Virginia legislature and are to thank for the facts and testimonies that helped the Virginia lawmakers reach the decision to protect their children. The organization celebrated after the vote posting on Twitter, “child marriage survivors are elated and there is some combination of crying and shaking going on among us all! Onward to the Senate.”

The Kids Are Not Alright: Mental Health and Youth Voter Turnout Rates

When considering the mental well-being of teenagers and young adults, it’s common for some to dismiss their challenges as mere products of excessive social media use or typical high school stress. However, this overlooks the unique political and social climate of the times we are living in, especially concerning youth voter turnout. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 6 U.S. youth experience a mental health disorder each year. In order to delve deeper into this issue in a political context, a recent study conducted by Common Sense examined the correlation between the mental health of America’s youth and the issues they, along with their parents, prioritize as voters.

The findings were unequivocal. Today’s youth are grappling with anxieties about their future to such an extent that it significantly impacts their mental well-being, a departure from historical trends among children and young adults. Particularly noteworthy in the data is the sentiment surrounding the economy for young individuals. A staggering four out of five voters (81%) expressed apprehension about the economic prospects for the next generation, with nearly half (46%) expressing deep concern. This marks a significant shift wherein the economic outlook of America has become so bleak that voters are now worried about the future of a generation yet to embark on their professional journey.

This economic data highlights a broader concern for young individuals: it suggests a lack of opportunities for them compared to older generations. Notably, 33% of young adults aged 19 to 24 harbor a pessimistic belief that they will fare worse than their parents—a sentiment less prevalent in earlier generations. 

Consequently, rather than gravitating toward candidates who inspire hope, the survey underscores that the majority of young people have become disillusioned with their elected leaders. In a political climate that is so unpredictable and with elections being decided by a very small number of votes, these types of problems become very severe. Only 23% of eligible young Americans cast a ballot in the 2022 midterm elections, which was one of the highest youth turnout rates in a midterm election since the voting age was lowered to 18 – but still concerningly low.  

Today’s youth have endured significant challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, tumultuous elections, a worsening climate crisis, and conflicts in regions like Ukraine and the Middle East. The study showed that 60% of young people believe that politicians and elected officials are not reflecting the needs, desires, and experiences of younger people in this country. It’s imperative for politicians to instill hope to combat this cynicism and follow through on their promises to restore trust with their constituents as November quickly approaches.

Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment Provides Win for Abortion Access

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released an opinion on abortion rights following a long legal battle in Allegheny Reproductive Health Center et al. v. PA Department of Human Services et al. The case, litigated by the Women’s Law Project under the leadership of Susan Frietsche, centered around the state statute that bans Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program from covering abortion services.  

The majority opinion, some 219 pages, details arguments why the Medicaid coverage ban for abortion violates the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment as well as the equal protection provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The ERA was approved by voters in Pennsylvania in 1971 and this case proves how a state ERA can play an influential role in the fight for reproductive justice. The majority opinion clearly outlines how the Medicaid coverage ban is discriminatory on the basis of sex. 

Frietsche, the co-executive director of the Women’s Law Project, argued the case before the Supreme Court. She stated in response to the decision, “we are still determining the next steps, but we are confident the Medicaid abortion ban will be consigned to the scrapheap of history very soon.” The Women’s Law Project has been fighting for this victory since the 1970s. 

“The federal ERA, which has been ratified by the necessary 38 states, would also aid in protecting reproductive healthcare access for the women of the United States,” says Eleanor Smeal, former President of PA NOW and current President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “This is a major victory for Pennsylvania women and shows the potential for securing reproductive healthcare access in states that have added ERAs to their constitutions.”

Barbie discovers the patriarchy Pt. 2

The 2024 Oscar nominations were released on Tuesday after a long build up of speculation of which movies would take the top spots. “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” have been pitted against each other since their release, breaking box office records and earning rave reviews, and were expected to win big. 

Apart from being released on the same day, the two movies have very little in common. Notably, Christopher Nolan’s three hour blockbuster doesn’t include a hit Nicki Minaj song like Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” However, their statistics were watched closely and the two became a well known pair with “Barbenheimer” trending throughout the summer of 2023. 

Regardless of their creative differences, one is very clear. The “Oppenheimer” team is majority male, while the “Barbie” team is majority female. “Oppenheimer” received thirteen nominations, including the highly sought after Best Director and Best Actor, while “Barbie” received eight nominations, with none in those two categories.

When Margot Robbie, who played the title character of a film that has been nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, is not nominated for an Oscar, but her male co-star is, it becomes extraordinarily clear that there is a problem. When Greta Gerwig who wrote and directed the film only receives a nomination for Adapted Screenplay, but not for Best Director, the problem becomes even more painfully obvious. Gerwig even set a new record for the highest-grossing female-directed film at the domestic box office, but that is clearly not enough to earn a top nomination. 

Ryan Gosling, who played Ken, released a statement in response to the snub: “There is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no “Barbie” movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film. No recognition would be possible for anyone on the film without their talent, grit and genius. To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement.” 

The Oscars have long received harsh criticism for their lack of diversity and, although some very welcome changes have been made over the years, there are still fundamental issues within the list of nominees year after year. In the award show’s 94-year history, only two women have ever been named Best Director. 

The irony of the nomination saga is excruciating. With “Barbie” acting as a social commentary on misogyny, this snub was simply too on the nose for fans. The plot of “Barbie” is quite simple: Barbie discovers the patriarchy. Life imitates art.

Florida bans DEI from State College System

On January 17th, 2024, the Florida State Board of Education passed a ruling that will strictly limit public funding towards DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives in the Florida College System. This ruling comes with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ long campaign against “WOKE” policies in Florida.  The bill details how education should be “free from undue political influence” and therefore DEI values should not be allowed in Florida community or state colleges. The Board of Education believes that individuals should not be categorized based on race or sex. Rather, higher education should be based solely on academic progress and integrity. 

Background

DeSantis has been Governor of Florida since early 2019 and subsequently has introduced severe education reform in his state, both in K-12 and higher education. He has targeted reproductive health instruction, limiting it by teaching reproductive roles as binary and unchanging. Alongside this he has restricted LGBTQ+ rights by passing bills that entirely diminish the possibility for gender and sexuality expression within the public school system.

DEI in higher education has come a long way, becoming more robust over time. Beginning in the 1970s with the introduction of Title IX, gender-based discrimination became illegal in institutions that received federal funding. Since the 70s DEI has progressed to becoming not only an initiative that supports equality in education but also one that celebrates and promotes diversity. 

Without the structure of DEI on campuses in Florida there are already beginning to be results that directly impact the future of gender related subjects. Before the anti-DEI legislation was passed just this month, there had already been some massive changes to some of the top colleges in Florida. In January, 2023, DeSantis personally appointed individuals to the board of trustees of the “New College” in Florida. These board members took action to terminate the Gender Studies department of the University. Many of the faculty of the department had already quit in protest to the appointments of the board. Later in the year the board finalized the termination of the department and the course is no longer available to 2024 enrollees.

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