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1/30/2015 - Protestors Demand Justice After Denver Police Fatally Shoot Queer Latina Teen

On Monday morning, a 16-year-old lesbian Latina named Jessie Hernandez was shot and killed by Denver police. Now, her friends and family are uniting with communities of color and LGBT activists to demand justice.

Denver police responded to a call around 6:30 AM that reported a "suspicious" vehicle parked in an alley. According to Police Chief Robert White, the first officer to arrive was Gabriel Jordan, who ran the license plate and realized the car was reported stolen. Hernandez was in the car with four other teenagers. White said when officers Jordan and Daniel Greene got out of their cars, Hernandez struck Jordan's leg with the stolen vehicle - this, according to White, led the officers to shoot at Hernandez.

Witnesses, however, don't fully agree about what happened. One of the teenagers in the car says Hernandez was shot first then lost control of the car, which is what led to her driving it at the office and breaking his leg. The witness said, "When the cops walked up, they were on [Jessica's] side of the car, and they shot the window and they shot her. That's when she wrecked, and that's when the cop got hit."

White said the two officers asked the teenagers several times to get out of the vehicle. When they refused and the car began going toward the officer, he "feared for his safety" and shot at Hernandez. Denver Police Department policy says officers can shoot at a moving car if they feel the car or suspect poses a threat of injury to civilians or officers and if they have "no reasonable alternative course of action."

A neighbor caught the incident on a cell phone camera, which shows EMT arrived after officers searched the lifeless and face-down body of Hernandez. The autopsy shows Hernandez was shot multiple times and her death was ruled a homicide.

At a vigil held Monday night, Hernandez's friends say she was "a really good girl," "outgoing," and "was never the person to bring you down."

On Tuesday, activists and protesters (including Hernandez's family) went to the office of District Attorney Mitch Morrissey to demand the investigation into her killing be dealt with in a transparent way. On Wednesday evening, local anti-racism group Denver Freedom Riders organized a demonstration at police station where Greene and Jordan are stationed. They chanted - in both English and Spanish - "Jessie's Life Matters."

The investigation could take months before completion. For many, this incident is a reminder that people of color are disproportionately targeted by police violence, and LGBT people of color are targeted even more so. A report released last year by the NAACP on racial profiling in America noted that the LGBT community suffers a greater risk of police profiling.

"[The LGBT community] faces profiling based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or HIV status," the report reads. "This discrimination is often multi-layered when LGBT individuals are also people of color, youth, a different nationality or religion, or profiled based on their perceived immigration or socioeconomic status."

Jordan and Greene are currently on paid administrative leave while the Denver Police Department and the office of District Attorney Mitch Morrissey investigate the shooting.


1/30/2015 - New UK Guidelines Would Put the Onus on Rape Suspects, Not Victims, in Sexual Violence Cases

This week, the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said it's time for UK's legal system to put the onus on the attacker, rather than the victim, in rape cases, and outlined a new set of legal guidelines to make that happen. If the new guidelines are utilized, rape suspects will be required to offer hard proof that consent was given "with full capacity and freedom to do so."

"For too long society has blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent, by drinking or dressing provocatively, for example, but it is not they who are confused, it is society itself and we must challenge that," Saunders said in the Telegraph article.


The Guardian noted that some pitfalls of the new guidelines may include the use of social media platforms to set up false narratives. Harriet Wistritch, who wrote the opinion piece, has given legal advice to rape victims who've been "deeply unhappy" with the way their cases were handled by police officers. Wistritch argues that while new, more innovative guidelines are welcome, officers need to be adhering to guidelines already in place.

"The (Crown Prosecution Service's) new rape toolkit might make welcome headlines," she wrote, "but I won't be celebrating until police officers and prosecutors are made to put existing policies and guidelines in practice or face appropriate sanction for failing to do so."


1/29/2015 - Ohio Legislator Became Pro-Choice After Listening To Women's Stories

Tim Ryan, Democratic U.S. Representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district, declared in an op-ed piece yesterday that he's changed his stance on abortion after listening to women's stories.

Ryan now is pro-choice, explaining in his op-ed that abortion "is not a partisan issue, but a personal one." He credited conversations with women across Ohio - and their varied stories of financial hardship

"Where government does have the ability to play a significant role is in giving women and families the tools they need to prevent unintended pregnancies by expanding education and access to contraception. We must get past the ignorance, fear and - yes - discrimination against women that lead to restrictions on contraception and age-appropriate sex education," Ryan wrote in his op-ed for the Akron Beacon Journal. Ryan's piece touched on other issues as well, including access to contraception and age-appropriate sex education.

Lana Moresky, a long-time activist in Ohio who currently serves on the steering committee of the Cuyahoga Democratic Women's Caucus, applauds Ryan's change, telling FMF in a phone interview, "We in Ohio are absolutely thrilled that he's been able to come to this position."

"It's very significant, and the more and more people think deeply about (the issue), more people come to this conclusion," Moresky said. She also noted that to admit change is a humbling thing to do and hopes that Ryan's change of mind will encourage others to do the same. "We want to show the support of people who change. This encourages others to change (so) it's really important to accept them with open arms. I'm very excited about it."


1/28/2015 - Former Vanderbilt Football Players Found Guilty in Campus Sexual Assault Case

Two former students of Vanderbilt University have been found guilty of four counts of aggravated rape, one count of attempted aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of tampering with evidence and unlawful photography by a jury in Nashville yesterday. Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, both former football players, will hear their sentencing on March 6.

The victim was a neuroscience major at Vanderbilt, and is now pursuing a doctorate degree at another school. In June of 2013, Vandenburg and Batey carried the unconscious woman back to their dorm room, where she was raped. Parts of the incident were recorded on cell phone video, and then distributed to friends by Vandenburg. She said in a written statement that she hopes this case will help spur a solution to ending rape and sexual assault on college campuses.

The victim ended her written statement with a message for survivors. She said, "Finally, I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame."

Two other former students and football players have also been charged, and will face a trial. Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie have both pleaded not guilty to the charges.


1/28/2015 - Senator Boxer Urges President to Continue Support for UN Population Fund

Earlier this week, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) along with 21 of her Senate colleagues sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to maintain support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

UNFPA, which promotes maternal and reproductive health, conducts major demographic surveys, and campaigns against fistula and female genital mutilation, supports programs in over 150 countries. The United States restored its funding for UNFPA under President Obama in 2009. Previous US presidents withheld funding surrounding accusations that the fund promoted abortions and forced sterilization procedures. UNFPA maintains that it does not provide abortion services and condemns any coercion.

The United States has been instrumental in the funding of UNFPA; the US played a key role in its founding in 1969. In the '70s, the US was UNFPA's largest contributor. However the Kemp-Kasten Amendment of 1985 - which stops US funding for any international organization that the president decides supports coercive abortions or sterilization procedures - cut off US funding to UNFPA until the Clinton administration. Funds were held off again by President Bush in the early 2000s.

Sen. Boxer's request to President Obama thanks him for his commitment to reproductive health worldwide, but asks him not to back down.

"We are disappointed that despite UNFPA's critical work around the world, a number of misperceptions about the organization persist," the letter to President Obama reads. "That is why we believe it is important to underscore that UNFPA does not promote abortion as a method of family planning and does not condone coercion in family planning, coercive abortion or forced sterilizations."

The letter highlights some of UNFPA's work - distributing family planning information, programs to empower young women in countries where child marriage is common, fighting the spread of Ebola, and helping stop gender-based violence in areas with large numbers of refugees.

The letter is co-signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), Al Franken (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).


1/27/2015 - Marissa Alexander To Be Released from Prison

Marissa Alexander is expected to be released from prison today, where she spent the last three years of her life after firing a warning shot into the air to defend herself from her estranged and abusive husband. Alexander was charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, despite the fact that no one was hurt.

Alexander was first arrested and charged with three counts of domestic aggravated assault, for which she received the minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. After her request for a re-trial was granted, Florida state prosecutor Angela Corey announced that she would again seek to change the terms of Alexander's sentence to have her serve three consecutive terms of 20 years, totaling 60 years behind bars. Before her trial last December, Alexander accepted a plea deal, accepting a sentence of three years in prison and two years under house arrest.

Dr. E Faye Williams, Esq., the president and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, celebrated the release of Alexander as nearing the end of "this nightmare." The NCBW has been involved in seeking justice for Alexander since the beginning of the case. "We've donated to her defense. We've written letters to officials involved. We've worked to change Florida's horrendous laws that were used to punish Marissa and more," Williams told the Feminist Newswire. "But there is still much work to be done so that no woman ever has to go through what Marissa suffered."

Alexander's estranged husband is a repeat offender of domestic violence, and admitted to abusing both Alexander and other women he has had relationships with.


1/27/2015 - Sports Illustrated Runs Domestic Violence Ad Before Super Bowl

Just days before the Super Bowl, Sports Illustrated has decided to run an advertisement on their site that puts a spotlight on domestic violence in the National Football League.

The ad was created by UltraViolet, a gender-equality nonprofit. The video shows a football player preparing to, then tackling, a woman. It ends with text reading "55 NFL abuse cases unanswered" with a voice-over that says, "Let's take domestic violence out of football" and ends with text that reads #GOODELLMUSTGO.

The hashtag the ends the video refers to the fact that the 55 unanswered cases of domestic abuse in the NFL are under the leadership of Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League. The NFL released a report recently that said Goodell did not do enough to produce facts surrounding the Ray Rice domestic abuse case.

"It is clear that Roger Goodell's NFL took no initiative to prosecute domestic abusers and protect their victims," Shaunna Rhomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a press release, "and it is clear that the NFL will not take domestic violence seriously until Roger Goodell is gone."

Sports Illustrated had previously rejected the ad, saying its editors decided not to run the ad because of its message. A spokesperson for Sports Illustrated told The Huffington Post that they had mistakenly rejected the ads and will now be showing them Thursday - the Super Bowl is this upcoming Sunday.

"We are thrilled that public scrutiny has persuaded Sports Illustrated to reverse their decision on our ads addressing the NFL's domestic violence problem," said UltraViolet's founder, Nita Chaudhary. "The issue is and always has been that an astonishing 55 cases of domestic violence have gone unanswered under Commissioner Roger Goodell's tenure at the NFL. Going into Super Bowl Sunday, we cannot allow the issue of domestic violence to be swept under the rug."


1/27/2015 - Mormon Church Moves To Protect Gay Rights

In a rare news conference today, leaders of the Mormon Church said the Church is promising to support housing and job protections for the LGBT community in exchange for legal protections for believers who object to others' behavior.

According to the Associated Press, Church leaders are making an appeal for a "balanced approach" in the clash between gay rights and religious freedom.

It's not clear how much common ground Mormons will find with this new campaign, the Associated Press story continued. The Church is making no changes to its doctrine and still believes sex should be between a man and a woman.

"We must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values," Church leaders told the press at Tuesday's news conference.

This is the second move by the Mormon Church in recent years to be more tolerant. In 2009, the Church openly supported Salt Lake City's anti-discrimination ordinance, the first in Utah to ban employment and housing discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


1/26/2015 - Anti-Choice Extremists Target Abortion Clinic Director in Kansas

Anti-abortion extremists have taken to protesting outside the home of Julie Burkhart, the CEO and founder of the Trust Women Foundation and the Executive Director of the South Wind Women's Center.

In the wake of the 42nd anniversary of Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, extremists have begun targeting the ED of the Wichita, Kansas clinic - which is located in the same building as the late Dr. Tiller's practice. Yesterday, the quiet of Sunday afternoon was disturbed outside Burkhart's home by extremists holding signs such as "Prepare to Meet Thy God" meant to intimidate Burkhart. Another sign read "Fear Him Who Has the Power to Cast You into Hell," and yet another said "Where is Your Church?" Dr. Tiller was murdered in the lobby of his church.

Burkart and the South Wind Women/s Center are not the only ones being targeted. In fact, the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Violence Survey has shown that since 2010, the distribution of old west-style WANTED posters and pamphlets targeting doctors and clinic staff, and featuring doctors' and staffs' photographs, home addresses, and other personal information, have almost doubled from 27% to 52%. Furthermore, the survey shows that clinics impacted by the most serious anti-abortion threats increased from 26.6% of clinics in 2010 to 51.9% of clinics in 2014.

Historically, these kinds of threats to abortion doctors, staff, and clinics have often preceded serious crimes such as violence, arson, bombings, stalking of clinic staff, patients, and doctors, and murder. "Given this history, the dramatic increase in extremist threats cannot be ignored," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Take Action: Donate to our National Clinic Access Project today and help us keep clinics open!


1/23/2015 - #HeForShe Campaign Launches Pilot Effort Aimed at Institutional Equality

The United Nations' gender equality campaign #HeForShe has launched a new program called IMPACT 10X10X10.

United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, together with UN Women Executive DirectorPhumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, introduced the one-year pilot effort aimed at encouraging corporations, universities, and governments to play an active role in enhancing women's empowerment and equality in Davos, Switzerland today at the World Economic Forum.

"Women need to be equal participants in our homes, societies, in our governments, and in our workplaces," Watson said.

First introduced in September, HeForShe is a solidarity movement that calls on men and boys to confront gender inequalities that face women and girls globally. Watson said that the positive feedback and support she and the campaign have gotten since September was "breathtaking," and an important step in the direction of women's social and economic parity. "I couldn't have dreamed it," she said, particularly in reference to the overwhelming number of signatures to HeForShe online commitment, as well as social media support using the HeForShe hashtag.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, followed Watson's speech with a promise to support the HeForShe initiative, and enlist men to join the campaign. He spoke of his success in involving the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, adding "I know that our world will not change until men think differently about their roles."


1/22/2015 - BREAKING: House to Vote on Abortion Coverage Ban

After they were forced to scrap plans for a 20-week abortion ban, House Republican leaders decided late last night to instead ram through a vote today on a different extreme anti-abortion bill.

House Republicans are now pushing HR 7, a bill promoted as a ban on federal funding of abortion that would actually prevent women from using their own money to purchase health insurance that includes abortion care. The bill, introduced by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), would eliminate tax credits available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for women and families who purchase insurance plans through the ACA-created health insurance marketplaces that include abortion coverage.

"This outrageous ban would interfere with a woman purchasing the health insurance she wants," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "Instead of respecting the right of women to buy comprehensive health care insurance, including abortion coverage, House Republican leaders are now going to tell people what they can buy and still receive a tax credit. In other words, they are blackmailing their constituents."

After two Republican Congresswomen - Rene Ellmers (NC) and Jackie Walorski (IN) - abruptly and publicly withdrew their co-sponsorship of the 20-week abortion ban this week, Republican leaders realized that they no longer had enough votes to pass the unconstitutional Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36). Instead, HR 7 is slated to be put to a vote today.

"Make no mistake - this bill is an attack on women's health and rights," Smeal continued. "When will Republican leaders learn that they should stop playing politics with women's health and lives?"

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Congressional representatives to stop attacking reproductive rights.


1/22/2015 - House Cancels Abortion Ban After GOP Congresswomen Drop Support

House Republicans cancelled plans to vote on a 20-week ban on abortion after Republican Congresswomen removed their names publicly as co-sponsors of the bill.

The vote on the unconstitutional 20-week ban had originally been scheduled for today, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but instead was pulled late last night after Republican House representatives Rene Ellmers (NC) and Jackie Walorski (IN) took to the House floor and withdrew their co-sponsorship.

Ellmers and Walorski cited specifically their concern with the exception in the ban for women who had been raped, only if they had reported the crime to law enforcement. "They were concerned that often women who have been raped do not report it to the police for a variety of reasons." Moreover, it became apparent to House Republican leaders that they did not have the votes necessary for passage of the 20-week ban. Women's rights groups (including the Feminist Majority), the White House, and Democratic leadership opposed the ban vigorously.

Instead, the House Republican leaders made a late-night maneuver to withdraw the 20-week ban from a vote, and to replace it with a vote on H.R. 7, an abortion coverage bill that would prevent women from spending their own money to purchase health insurance that covers abortion care on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges. This bill purports to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion, but in actuality it would prevents people from buying health insurance they want by withholding tax credits for purchases of such plans. H.R. 7 is also being fought vigorously by women's rights groups.

The White House has just announced that it "strongly opposes" H.R. 7. A statement just released by the Executive Office of the President Office of Management and Budget says, "The legislation would intrude on women's reproductive freedom and access to health care; increase the financial burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restrict the District of Columbia's use of local funds, which undermines home rule. ...The Administration strongly opposes legislation that unnecessarily restricts women's reproductive freedoms and consumers' private insurance options."

If Congress passes the legislation, White House senior advisers would recommend President Obama veto the act.


1/21/2015 - This Year's State of the Union Had a Historic Emphasis on Women

President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address placed an unprecedented emphasis on the central role women play in the economy, with more focus on social policy for women than in any State of the Union address in history. President Obama was also the first president to deliver a SOTU address that recognized lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

President Obama made it clear that women and families are a national priority last night, noting that "we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers." The President had announced earlier that he would sign a memorandum granting federal workers six weeks paid parental leave. He urged Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, or seven days paid sick leave for workers, which is desperately needed considering some 48 percent of women workers have not one day of paid sick leave.

He continued by arguing that as a nation, we should treat affordable childcare and paid family leave "like the national economic priority that it is for us all." Obama also asked Congress to pass legislation to ensure equal pay for women, to raise the minimum wage (the majority of minimum wage workers are women), to provide overtime pay, and to strengthen unions.

"Never before in a State of the Union message has a president of the United States put in central focus the role of women in the economy, as President Obama did last night," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "He recognized the critical need for childcare, paid family medical leave, community colleges, and paid sick leave, all of which impact both men and women - especially working women."

In regard to college affordability, President Obama announced that he plans "to lower the cost of community college - to zero." As the majority of people who attend community college are women, many of whom are parents, this plan would directly impact women seeking higher education. In fact, student parents who are unable to finish their degree most often cite financial burden and care responsibility as the reason for dropping out.

Obama recognized the need for comprehensive women's health care and access to family planning. He lauded that teen and unintended pregnancies are reaching an all-time low, and added that "every woman should have access to the health care she needs." Indeed, the White House announced that morning the President's plan to oppose the 20-week abortion ban, "which would unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose."

This State of the Union address was also a benchmark for the LGBT community. Obama said that as a country we need to "condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," making this the first ever State of the Union speech to directly recognize gay, lesbian, or transgender people.


1/21/2015 - This Year's State of the Union Had a Historic Emphasis on Women

President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address placed an unprecedented emphasis on the central role women play in the economy, with more focus on social policy for women than in any State of the Union address in history. President Obama was also the first president to deliver a SOTU address that recognized lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

President Obama made it clear that women and families are a national priority last night, noting that "we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers." The President had announced earlier that he would sign a memorandum granting federal workers six weeks paid parental leave. He urged Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, or seven days paid sick leave for workers, which is desperately needed considering some 48 percent of women workers have not one day of paid sick leave.

He continued by arguing that as a nation, we should treat affordable childcare and paid family leave "like the national economic priority that it is for us all." Obama also asked Congress to pass legislation to ensure equal pay for women, to raise the minimum wage (the majority of minimum wage workers are women), to provide overtime pay, and to strengthen unions.

"Never before in a State of the Union message has a president of the United States put in central focus the role of women in the economy, as President Obama did last night," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "He recognized the critical need for childcare, paid family medical leave, community colleges, and paid sick leave, all of which impact both men and women - especially working women."

In regard to college affordability, President Obama announced that he plans "to lower the cost of community college - to zero." As the majority of people who attend community college are women, many of whom are parents, this plan would directly impact women seeking higher education. In fact, student parents who are unable to finish their degree most often cite financial burden and care responsibility as the reason for dropping out.

Obama recognized the need for comprehensive women's health care and access to family planning. He lauded that teen and unintended pregnancies are reaching an all-time low, and added that "every woman should have access to the health care she needs." Indeed, the White House announced that morning the President's plan to oppose the 20-week abortion ban, "which would unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose."

This State of the Union address was also a benchmark for the LGBT community. Obama said that as a country we need to "condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," making this the first ever State of the Union speech to directly recognize lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.


1/20/2015 - Louisiana Activists Fight Proposed Restrictions on Abortion Providers

Louisiana abortion rights activists are fighting restrictions on abortion providers proposed last December by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).

Under the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal, the DDH last week issued a letter to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast refusing to allow its new state of the art clinic in New Orleans to perform abortions on the legal "excuse" that it did not show a need for a new facility to perform abortions in Louisiana. In 2012, Jindal's administration passed a state law requiring abortion clinics to show that there is need for another clinic before applying for a license.

"Governor Jindal's has placed one obstacle after another in the way of Louisiana women seeking access to abortion or reproductive health services," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "When clinics are closed unnecessarily women's health suffers especially the health of low income women and young women."

The New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF), together with the Feminist Majority Foundation, has planned a campaign to oppose the regulations, which endanger women's health and safety. The FMF and NOAF released a petition demanding that the DHH rescind the regulations, which would place onerous restrictions on the five clinics that remain in Louisiana. FMF college campus activists will be circulating the petition throughout Louisiana.

The proposed restrictions are what are known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, and according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are "medically unnecessary requirements designed to reduce access to abortion." The regulations restrict a clinic's ability to operate and provide clinics with little ability to adapt to unforeseen changes and circumstances - and what's more troubling, they could cause confidentiality issues for both patients and staff.


1/20/2015 - Activists Petition Tennessee General Assembly to Protect Access to Reproductive Health

Feminist across the nation are speaking up to save reproductive health access in Tennessee.

A slew of abortion restrictions are now on the table in Tennessee following the passage of Amendment 1 in November, which took away privacy rights to abortion from women in the state and opened the floodgates to legislating around reproductive rights at the state level.

The Feminist Majority Foundation launched a petition - which already has over 1,500 signatures - calling on Tennessee legislators to ensure that women have access to comprehensive health care, and students on college campuses in the state are also circulating it on the ground. The petition will be delivered to Governor Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Raamsey, and House Speaker Beth Harwell before the legislative session convenes in April.

Feminists in Tennessee organized the Women's March on Nashville last week, including former Tennessee House representative Gloria Johnson. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Tennessee Tower Plaza just as the Tennessee legislature began the new session. Speakers at the march included Senator Sara Kyle, Michele Johnson of the Tennessee Justice Center, and chairwoman of the Tennessee Democratic Party Mary Mancini.

Take Action: Sign the petition to Governor Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell, and Lieutenant Governor Rom Ramsey to stand in opposition to these measures and all attacks on women's abortion rights in Tennessee.


1/16/2015 - Two Fraternities Refuse to Comply With UVA's New Anti-Sexual Assault Regulations

Two fraternities at the University of Virginia have declined to sign on to new fraternity regulations put in place after a sexual assault scandal shook the campus.

The University of Virginia last week announced new regulations governing Fraternal Organizations to enhance safety on campus, and required all organizations to sign onto new regulations by Jan 16. Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Alpha Order announced they would not sign the new FOA. Both fraternities claim the university violated the original fraternity operating agreement and worry that the new rules pose a liability for their members. They state the new regulations "set a dangerous precedent of an erosion of student and organizational rights."

Women's rights advocates have criticized the FOA for being too lenient and lack enforcement. "A UVA Dean has said students who have admitted guilt to committing sexual assaults have been allowed to remain on campus without suspension," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), "which also allows them to potentially continue attacks against more victims."

The new regulations, called Fraternity Operating Agreement (FOA), were introduced by the Inter-Fraternity Council, Inter-Sorority Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council at UVA, and the Multicultural Greek council. The proposed regulations include requirements to serve beer in unopened cans, only serve wine upon request and visibly at the bar by a sober brother, pre-mixed drinks are prohibited, register fraternity functions with the Inter Fraternity Council by 11:59 p.m. on the Tuesday before an event and have a minimum of three "sober and lucid" brothers on hand wearing a designated identifier at each point of alcohol distribution and another at the stairs leading to residential rooms for all official chapter gatherings.

UVA changed their policies following a November Rolling Stone article on campus sexual assault.


1/16/2015 - Senator Introduces Four Extreme Bills Attacking Reproductive Rights

Right-wing Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who has announced that he plans to run for governor this year, introduced four bills in the Senate that represent his extreme anti-abortion and anti-reproductive health stance.

The US House last week introduced a bill to ban 20-week abortions - that bill, and the four introduced by Vitter, add up to five anti-reproductive health bills introduced by Republican legislators in just the first three days of the new Congress. During midterm elections, many of these Republican senators downplayed their anti-reproductive choice views, but with the Congress having a new Republican majority, the legislation speaks volumes.

"Congress has only been back for a couple of days, and already some politicians are trying to take women backwards and restricting their access to the health care that helps them and their families succeed," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

One proposed bill requires abortion providers to get admitting privileges with a hospital nearby - a law that would almost certainly close many safe clinics. Laws such as this are already in effect in several states. One bill would allow health care providers to deny a woman an abortion even in an emergency. One bill would defund family planning services, such as those of Planned Parenthood, at the federal level. And the fourth bill would ban abortions if the doctor believes the procedure was requested on the basis of the gender of the fetus.

Vitter is remembered by some by for a major prostitution scandal more than a decade ago. He has a long history of supporting legislation that would: prohibit minors from going to another state to receive abortion services, ban funding for family planning services in aid the US provides abroad, prohibit federal funds from discriminating against health providers who refuse to provide or to train for abortion services, stop funds to reduce teen pregnancy rates through education and access to contraception, require parents to be notified when their minor children get out-of-state abortions, stop human embryonic stem cell research, allow the State Children's Health Insurance Program to apply to the unborn, restrict UN funding for policies of population control, and protect the unborn under the 14th amendment.


1/16/2015 - Kansas Lawmaker Plans to Introduce 14-Week Abortion Ban in State Legislature

Kansas Republican Senator Garrett Love plans to introduce a bill that would effectively ban abortions after 14 weeks' gestation, chipping away at women's reproductive rights in a state fraught with similar abortion restrictions.

The bill was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee - the largest anti-choice organization in the nation - and seeks to end a procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E), in which abortion providers use clamps, forceps, scissors, or other tools to dismember a fetus. D&E is the only way to perform an abortion after 14 weeks' gestation, meaning the legislation would effectively ban abortions in the first trimester and before the fetus is viable according to Roe v. Wade.

"Kansas women are smart enough to make their own decisions about their families and lives," Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said in a statement to RH Reality Check. She and other pro-choice Kansans note that the bill is just another limit to reproductive rights in a state with the most abortion restrictions on record.

The South Wind Women's Center - a new clinic in Wichita, Kansas that is located in the same building as the late Dr. Tiller's practice - also opposes the bill. South Wind is a consistent target of anti-abortion extremist group Operation Rescue/Operation Save America.

Love, who has consistently supported anti-choice bills in the past, has yet to introduce the legislation.


1/15/2015 - In Major Win for Women, President Obama Pushes for Paid Sick Leave

President Obama announced his intention to sign a Presidential Memorandum "directing agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for parents with a new child," and to grant up to seven paid sick days to federal workers. The President also is taking action to encourage state and local governments to do the same.

The sick day proposal is modeled on a bill called The Healthy Families Act, championed by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Patty Murray. The move also would allow new parents up to six weeks of paid parental leave. Currently, the United States remains the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave.

President Obama's action has been extremely well received by the feminist movement.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the leading sponsor in the House for over a dozen years of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, applauded the President Obama's action. "The ability to take time off for the birth of a child or to care for a loved one is a right all Americans should enjoy. I look forward to working with the President to ensure that no American must choose between a paycheck and a strong and healthy family," Rep. Maloney.

Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families called this initiative "the boldest action in support of family friendly workplace policies we have seen in a generation," in a statement released yesterday. "They will establish new workplace standards that benefit millions of people, provide more support to help states establish their own paid leave policies, and send Congress a clear call to action to support America's working families," she continued.

"At last, after decades of inaction, finally we have real national progress for paid family medical leave," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "President Obama's leadership, in taking this important step, must be matched by Congressional action. Woman deserve paid family medical leave- it's long overdue."

Sixty percent of women with children under the age of five participate in the labor force, according to a White House fact sheet. Furthermore, today in the US, 48 percent of women workers have not one day of paid sick leave. Without paid sick leave, many of these workers choose to go to work sick, putting their coworkers and customers at risk of illness. If their child is sick, parents are forced to take an unpaid day off work, losing much needed income and potentially threatening his or her job.

The President hopes to outline a new plan to help more states create similar paid leave programs. Currently, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have launched paid leave plans. The move is the latest in a series of actions to strengthen working families, including the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) introduced in 2013.


1/15/2015 - Feminists Will Mobilize Nationwide for Abortion Rights on Roe v. Wade's Anniversary

Feminists are taking action on January 22 to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade - the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.

In our nation's capital, activists are fighting against the 20-week abortion ban, which will be voted on in the House on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v Wade.

The proposed ban would directly violate Roe v Wade, which protects a woman's right to a legal abortion. A similar 20-week abortion ban in Arizona was already found unconstitutional by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court last year declined review of the appeals court decision

"It is outrageous that in their first few days back on the job, and on the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the House plans to vote on this unconstitutional abortion ban that flies in the face of Roe," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "A majority of Americans support legal abortion, and Roe saves women's lives. We cannot and will not go back."

The Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women, DC NOW, and other allies, will join together at the US Supreme Court on Thursday, January 22nd from 1-3pm, to demonstrate support for Roe.

Activists are also taking to their state legislatures to counter attacks on women's reproductive rights. For example, in Virginia, the Pro-Choice Coalition is hosting a Day of Action, which includes lobbying efforts in Richmond to advance legislation protecting access to birth control and to repeal Virginia's mandatory ultrasound law.

In Tennessee, activists are fighting back against recently passed Amendment 1, which takes away privacy rights to abortion from women in the state, and enables lawmakers to enact further restrictions on abortion access. The Feminist Majority Foundation recently launched a petition calling on Tennessee legislators to exercise restraint and ensure that Tennessee women have comprehensive access to modern healthcare free from harassment and undue burden.

Louisiana advocates are responding to restrictions on abortion providers proposed last December by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH). The DHH strict regulations has had the effect of closing clinics and limiting access to comprehensive health care. New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF), together with the Feminist Majority Foundation, has planned a campaign to oppose regulations for abortion providers, which endanger women's health and safety.


1/14/2015 - Catholic Cardinal Blames Radical Feminists for Pedophilia

The former archbishop of St. Louis, who was the highest-ranking American Cardinal during Pope Benedict's tenure, has come out blaming the problems of the modern church on men who are "feminized" and on "radical feminism" that pushes men away.

[caption id="attachment_17873" align="aligncenter" width="605"]via Kate Ausburn via Kate Ausburn[/caption]

Cardinal Raymond Burke was interviewed last week by The New Emangelization Project, which claims there is a "man crisis" in the Catholic church. In the interview, Cardinal Burke said he believes that "the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized." Cardinal Burke didn't stop at blaming women's rights, though. He also made sure to include blaming sexual identity and gender expression for the widespread sexual abuse of minors.

"There was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood," Burke said. "Sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors - a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns."

According to the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Raymond Burke as Archbishop of the St. Louis diocese was a prelate who covered up for abusing clergy. SNAP is the largest non-profit supporter of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. In September 2014, SNAP found that while in St. Louis, "Burke was often reckless, deceptive and callous regarding predator priests, vulnerable kids and wounded victims. He expanded the troubling practice of importing sexually troubled priests from across the US, letting some of them work in local parishes and letting others stay in church facilities that are secretive and careless about public safety."

Burke later reflected on the fact that same-sex marriage is becoming more accepted. "When the French government unilaterally imposed the so‑called same‑sex marriage, which of course is not marriage at all, it brought out two million people who rallied behind the simple image of fathers and mothers holding the hands of their children," Burke said, adding that "fathers are essential to the family."

Burke went on to talk about men in society as a whole, declaring that young men are scared away from marriage "because of a constant and insistent demanding of rights for women." He then insisted that more men and boys are shying away from the Church because more women and girls are involved, and thus "the activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved."

In 1983, the Catholic Church lifted the ban on girls serving as altar assistants. Cardinal Burke believes this was a mistake because it has the "natural" result of pushing boys away. "Young boys don't want to do things with girls," he said. "It's just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church."

Matthew James Christoff, who launched The New Emangelization Project in 2013 to deal with the "man crisis" of the Church, conducted the interview with Cardinal Burke. Christoff at one point during the interview said, "Men think that the Mass is feminized and they don't really understand the powerful manliness of the Mass." At the end of the interview, Cardinal Burke thanked Christoff for the work he's done, saying it is "key to the future strengthening of the life of the Church, and obviously to our whole society."


1/14/2015 - A Virginia Delegate in Jail for a Relationship with a Minor Just Won Re-Election

Joseph Morrissey was re-elected as a representative in the Virginia House of Delegates in a special election on Tuesday, despite serving jail time during his campaign for an alleged relationship with his 17-year-old receptionist.

Morrissey pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor last month, resulting in a six-month jail sentence. He plead guilty in the face of felony charges for possession of child pornography, indecent liberties with a minor, and electronic solicitation of a minor. Morrissey was forced to resign his seat when he was charged with the misdemeanor, and the special election was held to fill his seat. Morrissey then ran as an independent in a three-way race against Democrat Kevin Sullivan and Republican Matt Walton in a highly democratic seat. He was allowed to campaign and serve his jail sentence simultaneously due to the jail's work release program. The program both allowed Morrissey to spend up to 12 hours a day outside the jail, and reduced his sentence from six months to 90 days.

The House of Delegates is now considering ways to bar Morrissey from serving in the legislature. "Mr. Morrissey's election tonight does not change the fact that his actions fall grievously short of the standards of a public servant in the House of Delegates," said House of Delegates Speaker William Howell (R). "There are a number of options available to the body to address questions of conduct regarding its members," he continued.


1/13/2015 - Three Women Were Nominated for Cabinet Posts in Afghanistan's Unity Government

Finally, after a four months wait, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah announced 25 nominees for the Afghan cabinet yesterday, three of whom are women. The announcement was met with general relief by the Afghan people.

The leaders not only released the nominees for the unity government cabinet, but also showed how the nominations were split between the two leaders, with Ghani selecting 13 and Abdullah selecting 12. Each selected two of the top four positions, with Ghani choosing the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Finance and Abdullah selecting the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Interior Affairs. Ghani, as the President, approved all the nominations. Next, the parliament must approve the nominees.

The women nominees are Khatera Afghan for the Ministry of Higher Education, Aya Sultan Khairi for the Information and Culture Ministry, and Najiba Ayoubi for the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Two of the three women nominees were chosen by Abdullah; only one was chosen by Ghani.

The media had been speculating for months that the unity government formed in September could not agree on members to nominate to the cabinet.None of the 25 nominees were part of the prior cabinet, as a part of President Ghani's promise for a new and reformed government. The cabinet was also ethnically balanced, with Ghani's choices being primarily Pushtuns and Abdullah's being Tajiks, Hazeras, and one Uzbek. The cabinet does not have as many mujahedeen commanders or generals as did the previous cabinet of President Karzai, although the position of Attorney General and Head of the local governance directorate have not been selected. Some experts complained that the leaders missed an opportunity to restructure the cabinet.

Ghani originally promised to release the nominations for these 25 positions within 45 days of his inauguration. International officials praised the release of nominations as a positive step forward for the government, showing that the process of the unity government is moving forward. Nicholas Hagsom for the UN Mission in Afghanistan praised the "spirit of respectful collaboration" of the two leaders and their teams in selecting the cabinet and said it was a "welcomed manifestation of their partnership and cooperation."


1/12/2015 - Boko Haram's "Deadliest Massacre" Kills Thousands in Nigeria

In the most recent attacks by extremist militant group Boko Haram, hundreds of gunmen attacked the town of Baga, leaving up to 2,000 people dead. The majority of those killed were women, children, and the elderly who could not flee quickly enough.

Officials in Nigeria can't yet be sure exactly how many were killed in the attacks because there are simply too many bodies to count. Official numbers will be released once there is an opportunity to do a headcount from households - the town is not safe because it is still occupied by Boko Haram. The raids in Baga, which had a population of around 10,000 people, began on January 3 and continued for days. Most of the people in the town have now either been killed or have fled. Almost 10,000 people have fled to Chad, and others have gone to the neighboring town of Maiduguri, since last weekend.

This news comes around the same time as reports of a girl in a Maiduguri, Nigeria marketplace Saturday who had explosives strapped to her that detonated, killing 20 and injuring 51. Some sources say the girl was 10, some say she was 17 or 18. In an attack in the same marketplace late last year, two other girls had bombs strapped to them that detonated. Boko Haram has not officially taken responsibility, though they are the main suspects and many people believe the militant group is rounding people up and forcing them into suicide bombing. In every case, the girl strapped to the bombs was killed.

If the body count in Baga is as high as officials estimate it is, it would be one of the worst Boko Haram attacks to date. Amnesty International is calling the raids the "deadliest massacre" in Boko Haram's history.

The attack on Baga and surrounding towns looks as if it could be Boko Haram's deadliest act in a catalog of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group," said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International. "If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds or even as many as two thousand civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram's ongoing onslaught against the civilian population."

Boko Haram has continually attacked northern Nigeria since 2009; they have targeted officials, civilians, women, children, and have kidnapped girls. In the most internationally known case, the militants kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April of last year - most of the girls are still missing, and attempts by the government to retrieve them have failed. The news inspired the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls and protests insisting the Nigerian government and international governments do something to bring the schoolgirls home. Since then, at least 100 more girls have been kidnapped.

Boko Haram's goal is to establish an Islamist state with strict Sharia law in Nigeria. Their attacks often disproportionately hurt and kill women and girls, though boys and men are also killed or are taken and forced to fight for the group.