First, abortion bans. Then, dress codes for women.

Noreen Farrell
2 min readJan 21, 2023
Photo credit: Gayatri Malhotra

By Noreen Farrel, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates

When they start taking away our right to bodily autonomy, a slippery slope quickly becomes a greased cliff. It’s not a far leap from banning abortion to legally requiring women to cover their arms. Just ask the Missouri House of Representatives. This week, they kicked off their legislative season with a new dress code for women lawmakers only: no bare arms.

It is a reminder of an important truth as we approach the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (Sunday, Jan. 22): when one right is stolen, all rights are threatened.

In the 13 states where abortion is now banned, women’s participation in the workforce has already dropped by 4%. This dramatically changes a woman’s whole career and future, and also could financially disadvantage her family for multiple generations, deprive her industry of her unique talent and contributions, and accumulate to depress local, state, and national economies. And that’s just one example on a quickly growing list of abortion ban harms.

What can we do about it? We can join forces in determination to take smart, concrete action.

Each person, community, and industry can bring their own unique, innovative contributions to the fight. This is already happening: women business founders are increasing investment in women’s healthcare, President Biden issued an executive order to protect reproductive healthcare access, and in the first post-Roe election, voters in five states chose to defend abortion. Join ERA in 2023 building on this momentum as we support similar citizen-led ballot initiatives enshrining abortion rights in 10 more states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Noreen Farrell is Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women, girls, and gender-expansive people. Learn more at



Noreen Farrell

Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates; Chair, Equal Pay Today! Campaign; Chair, Stronger California; Founding Partner, Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative