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3/3/1997 - Abortion Foes to Picket at High Schools

So-called Operation Rescue plans to begin targeting high schools starting March 3 through the end of the 1997 school year in order to harass young men and women. The group says it wants to "educate" women on the abortion issue. Critics of the campaign believe that the picketing is a scare tactic also being used to incite more people to commit violence against abortion providers and clinics. Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, commented "These kinds of offensive, almost intimidating tactics will not be successful with young people any more than with adults."


2/28/1997 - Bowing to Pressure from Feminist Groups, Vienna Philharmonic Agrees to Admit Women

An all-male institution since its foundation 155 years ago, the Vienna Philharmonic has agreed to admit women as players. In a vote which passed with a two-thirds margin, the group responded to pressures of feminist groups to boycott the Philharmonic's upcoming U.S. tour if it did not agree to admit women. Elena Osteleitner, an assistant professor at the University of Music in Vienna commented, "They were quite frightened by the feminist movements in the United States, and they realized it was no fun and no joking."

The group voted to admit Anna Lelkes, a harpist who had long played with the group, as an official member, thus granting her full payment and privileges after 26 years of service. In June, women will be able to audition for the positions available; the group needs a violist, tuba player and trumpet player. Last week, the new Austrian chancellor, Viktor Klima publicly told the group that there was, "creative potential in the other half of humanity and this should be used."


2/28/1997 - Women's History Month Begins

The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911. In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.

Today, schools and communities celebrate the month with special curriculum and events, and many states and cities have extended the observance year-round by creating Women’s Halls of Fame.

For women's history calendar events, a quiz, links, and facts about the last 25 years of the women's movement, see our special section on Women's History Month 1997.


2/28/1997 - Defense Secretary Sees No Reason to Segregate Military Training

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on February 26th that he saw no reason to segregate military training on the basis of sex. He said he was still open to comments regarding the issue, but that any changes must not cause women to lose any gains they have made in the military. After a series of sex scandals, some conservative legislators have asked for the segregation, saying that the co-ed training led to rape, sexual harassment and other types of abuses against women. Cohen commented after touring Lackland Air Force Base, "Based upon my observations here today, one would have to come up with some very compelling evidence why (training) should be handled differently."


2/28/1997 - Bowing to Pressure from Feminist Groups, Vienna Philharmonic Agrees to Admit Women

An all-male institution since its foundation 155 years ago, the Vienna Philharmonic has agreed to admit women as players. In a vote which passed with a two-thirds margin, the group responded to pressures of feminist groups to boycott the Philharmonic's upcoming U.S. tour if it did not agree to admit women. Elena Osteleitner, an assistant professor at the University of Music in Vienna commented, "They were quite frightened by the feminist movements in the United States, and they realized it was no fun and no joking."

The group voted to admit Anna Lelkes, a harpist who had long played with the group, as an official member, thus granting her full payment and privileges after 26 years of service. In June, women will be able to audition for the positions available; the group needs a violist, tuba player and trumpet player. Last week, the new Austrian chancellor, Viktor Klima publicly told the group that there was, "creative potential in the other half of humanity and this should be used."


2/28/1997 - Amelia Earhart Flight to be Recreated

A Texan woman, Linda Finch, is planning to recreate Amelia Earhart’s last and most perplexing around the world. Finch found one of only two twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10E’s, the type Earhart used, known to exist and will fly it around the same path with many of the same stops as did Earhart. Pratt & Whitney is financing the $4.5 million project: $1.5 million was used to restore the plane and finance the project and another $3 million was used to create and distribute educational packets about Earhart, science, flight and geography. Finch commented that she will make many of the same stops along the way and hopes to "teach children they can and should dream big dreams."

Earhart, born in 1897, was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and across the United States. On March 17, 1937 she attempted to become the first person to fly around the world at the equator. She made it three fourths of the way but then failed to arrive at a scheduled stop at Howland Island. They left absolutely no trace, and speculation remains to this day as to what happened to her and her navigator Fred Noonan.


2/28/1997 - Women's History Month Begins

The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911. In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.

Today, schools and communities celebrate the month with special curriculum and events, and many states and cities have extended the observance year-round by creating Women’s Halls of Fame.

For women's history calendar events, a quiz, links, and facts about the last 25 years of the women's movement, see our special section on Women's History Month 1997.


2/27/1997 - Vast Majority of British Support Abortion Rights

A recent MORI poll has found that 64 percent of British women and men support "legal abortion for all who want it." This number represents a ten percent increase in support of abortion rights over the past 17 years; an even larger number of persons approve the right for an abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the woman's life is at stake. The poll found that 50 percent of Roman Catholics also approve the right to an abortion. David Paintin, Chair of the Birth Control Trust commented, "Politicians and policy-makers need to be aware that the option of abortion is essential for women's health and well-being in many circumstances and that there is support from a majority of people in this country for this."


2/27/1997 - Ireland Permits Divorce for First Time in 76 Years

For the first time since 1921, Ireland has made divorce permissible by a Constitutional amendment. The predominately Roman Catholic country had banned divorce when Ireland gained independence from England. A similar attempt to legalize divorce was defeated in a 1986, but in a stunning blow to a scandal-ridden Church, the referendum passed in 1995. The procedure will be fairly complicated, involving a four year separation, filling out multiple forms and disclosing financial and other information before a hearing is set. Of the country's 3.5 million citizens, approximately 90,000 couples are currently separated.


2/27/1997 - Japan to Approve Use of Birth Control Pill

A Japanese government report unveiled on February 25th reported that contraceptive pills are safe and effective. The endorsement has paved the way for government approval of the pill's use. So far, nine pharmaceutical companies have submitted applications for approval of the pill. With its expected approval within the year, North Korea remains the only country where low-dose hormone pills are illegal.


2/27/1997 - More African-American Women Enter College Than African-American Men

A progress report on the status of African-Americans in higher education has shown that fifty percent more African-American women than men enroll in college. Since the mid-1970's, the number of African-American women entering college has increased by 55 percent; the rate of African-American men enrolled has increased by only 20 percent. In the areas of law and medicine, the number of African-American women entering graduate schools has increased by 219 percent, but only 5 percent for African-American men. While gender gaps in enrollment also occur among the overall population, they are not nearly as large. Overall, enrollment of African-Americans has increased, but African-Americans are still underrepresented in colleges and universities in proportion to their overall population.


2/27/1997 - More African-American Women Enter College Than African-American Men

A progress report on the status of African-Americans in higher education has shown that fifty percent more African-American women than men enroll in college. Since the mid-1970's, the number of African-American women entering college has increased by 55 percent; the rate of African-American men enrolled has increased by only 20 percent. In the areas of law and medicine, the number of African-American women entering graduate schools has increased by 219 percent, but only 5 percent for African-American men. While gender gaps in enrollment also occur among the overall population, they are not nearly as large. Overall, enrollment of African-Americans has increased, but African-Americans are still underrepresented in colleges and universities in proportion to their overall population.


2/27/1997 - Senate Votes for Unrestricted Release of International Family Planning Funds

The Senate has voted 53-46 in favor a joint-resolution granting President Clinton’s request to release $385 million for international family planning on March 1 instead of July 1. Eleven Republicans joined 42 Democrats in supporting the measure on February 25. In January, Clinton requested the early release and certified that the delay in the release of funds was harming family planning programs. The February 25 Senate vote came almost two weeks after the House voted 220-209 in favor of the measure. Senate Democrats blocked immediate consideration of restrictions that would have linked the release of funds to restrictions against U.S. funds going to organizations that perform abortions. The House had voted in support of the restrictive language, a policy imposed by President Reagan and lifted by President Clinton. The issue of restricting the funding may yet surface again, however, as Sen. Tim Hutchinson has introduced a similar bill on which Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he will seek a vote later this year. Such a debate is likely to lead to a Democratic filibuster. Though the close vote demonstrated that the 105th Congress has a strong anti-choice element, abortion rights advocates praised the decision to release funds March 1.


2/27/1997 - Groups Urge Confirmation Hearing for Herman

Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, together with other national women's leaders launched a campaign for the confirmation of Alexis Herman, nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor at a press conference on February 26. Smeal said, "Although Senator Jeffords (R-Vermont) has made public his intention to schedule the hearing, we urge him do so quickly and cast aside any more lingering political hoops. Thus far in the nominating process Herman has faced the 'trial of a thousand leaks.' The Herman appointment must not be held hostage to current investigations of White House political fund-raising. We believe it is all the more disturbing that the only African-American woman nominated to the Cabinet has been held up in an unprecedented process."

As former Director of the Women's Bureau and as co-chair of a Presidential Task Force to promote business ownership for women under President Carter, Herman is uniquely qualified for this position. Herman has led the fight for equal employment opportunities for women and people of color as head of the Minority Women Employment Program and has had a lifetime of preparation for the position of Secretary of Labor.

Last week, the AFL-CIO’s executive council approved a resolution in support of Herman. The executive council resolution said, "The AFL-CIO calls for immediate hearings on the nomination of this African American Woman. It is time for Alexis Herman to be able to stand in an open forum and have her nomination considered by the United States Senate.


2/26/1997 - Report Says Lesbians and Gay Men Are Targeted for Abuse

According to “Breaking the Silence,” a report by Amnesty International, lesbians and gay men are killed, tortured and imprisioned on the basis of their sexual orientation and face prosecution in up to 60 countries. The report cited death squads that kill gay men and transvestites in the name of social cleansing in Columbia and the use of the death penalty and public stoning as punishment for homosexuality in Iran. Homosexuality remains illegal in Nigeria, Romania, and India. Amnesty International called for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide, and it praised South Africa for including sexual orientation in its constitution’s anti-discrimination provision, the first country to take such a step. The groups also lauded policies in 10 U.S. states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


2/26/1997 - Owner of Bombed Atlanta Nightclub is Sister of Abortion Doctor

The owner of the lesbian and gay Atlanta nightclub that was bombed February 21 is the sister of the late Dr. James McMahon, an abortion doctor who had been targeted for anti-abortion protests and hate mail. The FBI is investigating the link between Dr. McMahon and his sister Beverly McMahon who owns The Otherside Lounge where a nail-laden bomb injured five people Friday night. A second, larger bomb was found and detonated by officials using a robot. In 1983, Dr. McMahon helped develop the intact dilation and extraction procedure known as the D&X late term abortion. McMahon called the method a safer alternative for women in the later stages of a problem pregnancy and said it would improve their chances of bearing children again. The Army of God, known for its manuals on terrorizing abortion clinics, has written a letter claiming responsibility for the club bombing as well as the double-bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic in January which the FBI is also investigating. Dr. McMahon died of a brain tumor in 1995.


2/26/1997 - Sen. Lautenberg and Feminists Criticize Efforts to Gut Domestic Violence Gun Ban

Feminst Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and other domestic violence advocates in condemning proposed legislation that would gut the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which currently prohibits individuals convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning or using firearms.

"Putting guns back in the hands of wife beaters and child abusers is outrageous. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to end domestic violence. We strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this pathbreaking law. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy," Smeal stated.

S. 262 and H.R. 26 eliminate retroactive application of the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. H.R. 350 exempts police officers and the military from the law’s coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.

Smeal continued, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies have found higher rates of domestic violence within police families -- 40% of police families experience physical marital violence compared to 16% of the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would allow abusers to have guns?" Smeal pointed out that one half all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. “Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself,” she said.

The Feminist Majority played a leading role in passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Its sister organization, The Feminist Majority Foundation, sponsors the National Center for Women in Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.


2/26/1997 - Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Urges Fast-Track Confirmation for ALEXIS HERMAN

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal together with other national women's leaders launched a campaign for the confirmation of Alexis Herman, nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor.

"Although Senator Jeffords (R-Vermont) has made public his intention to schedule the hearing, we urge him do so quickly and cast aside any more lingering political hoops. Thus far in the nominating process Herman has faced the 'trial of a thousand leaks.' The Herman appointment must not be held hostage to current investigations of White House political fund-raising. We believe it is all the more disturbing that the only African-American woman nominated to the Cabinet has been held up in an unprecedented process," stated Smeal.

Smeal continued, "As a leader in the women's rights movement for over twenty years, I know that Alexis Herman has spent her lifetime fighting to open the doors of opportunity for women and people of color in both the private and public sectors. Herman has developed a strong, positive relationship with the civil rights and women's rights communities, eaming respect from both workers and employers. She is uniquely qualified having spent a lifetime in promoting the interests of working women and men."

"Moreover, Herman is a superb administrator who has demonstrated her capabilities as director of the Women's Bureau, co-chair of a Presidential Task Force to promote business ownership for women under President Carter, and head of the Minority Women Employment Program. She has had a lifetime of preparation for the position of Secretary of Labor. We know Alexis Herman's nomination will be upheld once the hearing process ends and her nomination moves to the floor," concluded Smeal.


2/26/1997 - Feminist Majority Opposes Gutting Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Feminst Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and other domestic violence advocates in condemning proposed legislation that would gut the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which currently prohibits individuals convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning or using firearms.

"Putting guns back in the hands of wife beaters and child abusers is outrageous. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to end domestic violence. We strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this pathbreaking law. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy," Smeal stated.

S. 262 and H.R. 26 eliminate retroactive application of the Domistic Violene Offender Gun Ban. H.R. 350 exempts police officers and the military from the law’s coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.

Smeal continued, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies have found higher rates of domestic violence within police families -- 40% of police families experience physical marital violence compared to 16% of the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would allow abusers to have guns?"

Opponents of the Domestic Violence Gun Ban argue that applying the law to police officers convicted of past and future misdemeanor domestic violence offenses will unfairly cost officers jobs. Responded Smeal, “Rather than trying to seek an exemption for police officers and military personnel who are abusers, we should be concerned with why we are recruiting so many abusers for these positions. One half of all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself.”

The Feminist Majority played a leading role in passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Its sister organization, The Feminist Majority Foundation, sponsors the National Center for Women in Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.


#####


2/26/1997 - Sen. Lautenberg and Feminists Criticize Efforts to Gut Domestic Violence Gun Ban

Feminst Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and other domestic violence advocates in condemning proposed legislation that would gut the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which currently prohibits individuals convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning or using firearms.

"Putting guns back in the hands of wife beaters and child abusers is outrageous. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to end domestic violence. We strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this pathbreaking law. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy," Smeal stated.

S. 262 and H.R. 26 eliminate retroactive application of the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. H.R. 350 exempts police officers and the military from the law’s coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.

Smeal continued, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies have found higher rates of domestic violence within police families -- 40% of police families experience physical marital violence compared to 16% of the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would allow abusers to have guns?" Smeal pointed out that one half all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. “Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself,” she said.

The Feminist Majority played a leading role in passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Its sister organization, The Feminist Majority Foundation, sponsors the National Center for Women in Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.


2/26/1997 - Groups Urge Confirmation Hearing for Herman

Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, together with other national women's leaders launched a campaign for the confirmation of Alexis Herman, nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor at a press conference on February 26. Smeal said, "Although Senator Jeffords (R-Vermont) has made public his intention to schedule the hearing, we urge him do so quickly and cast aside any more lingering political hoops. Thus far in the nominating process Herman has faced the 'trial of a thousand leaks.' The Herman appointment must not be held hostage to current investigations of White House political fund-raising. We believe it is all the more disturbing that the only African-American woman nominated to the Cabinet has been held up in an unprecedented process."

As former Director of the Women's Bureau and as co-chair of a Presidential Task Force to promote business ownership for women under President Carter, Herman is uniquely qualified for this position. Herman has led the fight for equal employment opportunities for women and people of color as head of the Minority Women Employment Program and has had a lifetime of preparation for the position of Secretary of Labor.

Last week, the AFL-CIO’s executive council approved a resolution in support of Herman. The executive council resolution said, "The AFL-CIO calls for immediate hearings on the nomination of this African American Woman. It is time for Alexis Herman to be able to stand in an open forum and have her nomination considered by the United States Senate.


2/26/1997 - Report Says Lesbians and Gay Men Are Targeted for Abuse

According to “Breaking the Silence,” a report by Amnesty International, lesbians and gay men are killed, tortured and imprisioned on the basis of their sexual orientation and face prosecution in up to 60 countries. The report cited death squads that kill gay men and transvestites in the name of social cleansing in Columbia and the use of the death penalty and public stoning as punishment for homosexuality in Iran. Homosexuality remains illegal in Nigeria, Romania, and India. Amnesty International called for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide, and it praised South Africa for including sexual orientation in its constitution’s anti-discrimination provision, the first country to take such a step. The groups also lauded policies in 10 U.S. states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


2/26/1997 - Senate Votes for Unrestricted Release of International Family Planning Funds

The Senate has voted 53-46 in favor a joint-resolution granting President Clinton’s request to release $385 million for international family planning on March 1 instead of July 1. Eleven Republicans joined 42 Democrats in supporting the measure on February 25. In January, Clinton requested the early release and certified that the delay in the release of funds was harming family planning programs. The February 25 Senate vote came almost two weeks after the House voted 220-209 in favor of the measure. Senate Democrats blocked immediate consideration of restrictions that would have linked the release of funds to restrictions against U.S. funds going to organizations that perform abortions. The House had voted in support of the restrictive language, a policy imposed by President Reagan and lifted by President Clinton. The issue of restricting the funding may yet surface again, however, as Sen. Tim Hutchinson has introduced a similar bill on which Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he will seek a vote later this year. Such a debate is likely to lead to a Democratic filibuster. Though the close vote demonstrated that the 105th Congress has a strong anti-choice element, abortion rights advocates praised the decision to release funds March 1.


2/25/1997 - FDA Okays Morning After Pill Procedure

In response to a call from women's rights groups, the FDA has published the proper morning dosages for six brands of pills currently on the market. The FDA's action is essentially of preapproval, pending the filing of the correct paperwork, for contraception manufacturers to advertise morning-after contraception. Commissioner of the FDA, David Kessler commented on the report, "The best-kept contraceptive secret is no longer a secret. Women should have the information that this regimen is available." For years, European women have had contraception pills available in packages that contain the right does to take after unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. U.S. manufacturers citing legal hurdles, however, have refused to sell the pills for "morning after" use and doctors have had trouble knowing what doses to prescribe for safe and effective use. Many women don't even know that they can take regular birth control pills in concentrated amounts to avert an unwanted pregnancy.



2/25/1997 - Domestic Violence Biggest Health Threat to Chicago Women

The Chicago Department of Public Health study shows that domestic violence is Chicago women's top health problem. According to the report, domestic violence affects significantly more women than breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases or tuberculosis. The researchers used Chicago Police Department data and found that detectives investigated 36,628 counts of domestic abuse in 1995. The second most common problem, gonorrhea, affected 7,374.