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8/25/1997 - Abortion Rights Defender Mary Louise Smith Dies
Mary Louise Smith, a lifelong defender of reproductive freedom and women's rights, died of lung cancer on August 22. In her 82 years, Smith achieved much and inspired many. Smith chaired the Republican National Committee from 1974-1977 and remains the first and only woman to have served in that post.
Smith was a founding member of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus and served on the board of directors for the Iowa chapter of Planned Parenthood from 1986-1992. In 1991, Smith helped to create the women's archives for her alma mater, the University of Iowa. Iowa State University established a Mary Louise Smith Endowed Chair in Women and Politics in her honor.
The French, who respect and revere their country's long-established principles of separation of church and state and laicism, or religious tolerance, were angered by the Pope's plan to visit an antiabortion crusader's grave on Friday, August 22. A public statement issued by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's governing Socialist Party read "the meaning of such a gesture can only cause discontent and risks encouraging in our country the determination of those who wage a struggle bearing the mark of intolerance." This statement was issued several hours before John Paul, in Paris for the World Youth Festival Days, traveled by helicopter to the nearby grave of Jerome Lejeune, a French geneticist and prominent antiabortion activist. Lejeune, a friend and intellectual soul mate of the pope, founded a prominent antiabortion group called Let Them Live and discovered the extra chromosome that causes Down's syndrome. Ironically, Lejeune's research has led many women to end their pregnancies upon learning that their fetuses hold the congenital defect that causes the disease.
Lt. Col. Michael Child urged Army hearing officer Col. Robert Jarvis to add rape to the many allegations filed against Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene McKinney, the Army's top enlisted official. Child alleges that the incident in which McKinney had sex with an enlisted woman amounts to rape because of the abuse of power McKinney used to manipulate his victim. McKinney has denied the allegations through statements issued by his defense counsel.
Jarvis has 15 days to decide whether or not McKinney will stand trial on sexual misconduct charges. Jarvis' recommendation will then be considered by Col. Owen Powell. The final decision on whether or not the case will proceed will be made by Maj. Gen. Robert F. Foley, commander of the Military District of Washington.
8/25/1997 - Citadel Chief Promises Zero Tolerance for Hazing
Twenty women and 538 men entered their first week of basic training, known as "hell week," today at the Citadel. Cadet Commander Emory Mace addressed the incoming class and promised "zero tolerance" for hazing and swift punishment for those who violate this policy.
Two of last year's four women enrollees dropped out due to harassment. The Citadel responded by naming a new president and cadet commandants and by recruiting a woman assistant commandant and a dean of women. Cadet Commander Mace, whose daughter Nancy is one of the two remaining women from last year's freshmen class, has promised to "decrease the tempo" of hell week this year by shortening the period of rigorous military training, using a revised set of college rules, increasing the amount of adult supervision in the barracks and requiring cadets to undergo sexual harassment training.
Washington DC -- "The 9th Circuit's decision not to reconsider the April ruling by one of it panels which upheld Proposition 209 is a tragic reversal of America's promise of equal job and educational opportunitites for women and for racial minorities. We have already seen the devastating consequences of the UC Regents' decision to suspend recruitment and outreach to racial minorities in the admissions results to University of California graduate programs. As a result, California has lost the best and the brightest minority students to out-of-state schools more welcoming to qualified minority applicants.
"For Governor Wilson to claim the court's decision is a "vindication of the the civil rights activism of the 1960s" is disingenuous, at best. The radical right -- which used stealth tactics to launch and fund the Prop 209 campaign and which has taken over the California Republican party -- is anti-women's rights and anti-civil rights.
"Prop 209's constitutional provisions prohibiting affirmative action were passed last November through a well-funded campaign of massive deception. The Proposition was worded to mimic the great Civil Rights Act of 1964, confusing voters as to its real intent and impact.
"Prop 209's backers can only get away with this deception only so long. You can be sure that as Wilson proceeds to implement Prop 209, it will become clear to all that its impact is to slam the door closed to better jobs, business opportunities and education for women and racial minorities in California, returning us to the corrupt "good-old-boys system" of favoritism.
"Whatever happens in the appeal of this latest ruling to the US Supreme Court, the battle for equal opportunities for women and racial minorities will not stop here. The radical right is not going to succeed in pushing women and minorities back. Organizing against Prop 209's successor efforts in other states and in Congress has already begun.
"We predict that as the impacts of Prop 209 become clear, the "Gender Gap" which inflicted damage on the Republicans in the last election, will become nothing short of a "Gender Gulf." Governor Wilson, Mr. Connerly, and their radical right backers should understand one thing: Women will have the last word on our opportunities and our futures."
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed its earlier ruling that California's controversial Proposition 209 is constitutional, the court announced on Thursday, August 22. Opponents of the law had asked the court to reconsider, but their request was denied. Proposition 209, the so-called California Civil Rights Initiative, effectively ends affirmative action policies in the state and guts sex discrimination law. Proposition 209 was approved by voters in November's election but was challenged and enjoined by a lower court after its passage.
The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to appeal the law to the U.S. Supreme Court. ACLU lawyers feel confident that the Court will agree to hear the case, since similar laws are pending in 23 other states. If the Supreme Court does not intervene, the proposition could become law at the end of seven days.
The Clinton Administration has decided not to support the New Jersey School Board of Education in their decision to lay off a white female teacher to keep on staff a black female teacher with equal qualifications. Although the Clinton administration will encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to stand behind the principle of affirmative action, it maintains that the school board failed to prove the need for racial diversity in its high school business education department. Many consider this case to be the most important case scheduled during the Supreme Court's next term because it could set a standard for affirmative action in the workplace by laying out the circumstances under which employers can use race-based policies.
A recent study conducted by the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati suggests that calcium supplements do not prevent bone loss in nursing women and are only slightly effective in replacing lost bone after women have finished breastfeeding. In the study, women who took calcium supplements regained bone density at approximately the same rate as women who took placebos. Dr. Heidi Kalkwarf, lead author of the study, reports that "these findings challenge the long held belief that calcium requirements are increased in breastfeeding women." The recommended dietary allowance for breastfeeding women has been reduced to the recommended dietary allowance for all women: 1,000 mg a day for women between 19 and 30.
8/21/1997 - Girl Sues to Become Boy Scout
Katrina Yeaw hopes to become an Eagle Scout one day, and she feels she has as much a right to achieve this goal as her twin brother, Daniel. Because of her case, the Boy Scouts, who have a policy prohibiting women, atheists, and gay men from being members, may soon have to answer to the California Supreme Court. In a brief order, the California Supreme Court announced that it would consider Katrina Yeaw's bid to open the Boy Scouts to girl members. The case will be deferred until a decision is reached in a case where a gay man hopes to become a Scout Leader in Contra Costa County. The determination the Supreme Court will have to make is whether the Boy Scouts are subject to California's Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by business establishments.
8/21/1997 - Compound May Be Used to Cure Cancer
Research suggests that a synthetic compound similar to vitamin A may cure cervical cancer cells while allowing normal cervical cells to survive relatively unscathed. Scientists announced that the compound, called N-(4-hydroxyphenyl-)-retinamide, or 4HPR, may be used to cure other types of cancer as well. In the study, 90 percent of cultured cervical cancer cells died after being exposed to 4HPR for 24 hours, while 80 percent of normal cervical cells survived. The drug works by activating one of the body's natural cell suicide mechanisms. This mechanism is interrupted in cancerous cells.
8/21/1997 - Sixth Woman Testifies in McKinney Hearing
Sgt. 1st Class Rita Jeczala, the sixth and final woman scheduled to testify in the pre-trial hearing of Sgt. Major Gene McKinney, alleged that McKinney made improper sexual advances toward her. Jeczala testified that McKinney had grabbed her arm and asked her if she would kiss him. McKinney has been charged with solicitation to commit adultery and one count of assault on a commissioned officer in the execution of her duties. He is the Army's highest-ranking enlisted man.
8/21/1997 - Megan's Law Upheld by U.S. Appeals Court
A federal appeals court upheld New Jersey's controversial Megan's Law on Wednesday, August 20. The law requires local police to notify residents if a convicted sex offender is considered a threat to the community. The court, however, did specify that the process used to determine whether or not an individual poses a risk to the community must be reformed. Currently, authorities look at a number of factors, including the offender's original offense, his/her record in prison, and whether or not s/he has a job or other ties to the community. The law was challenged on the grounds that requiring convicted sex offenders to register with authorities at the end of their stay in prison violates the "ex post facto" clause of the constitution. Both courts rejected this argument.
8/21/1997 - Man Sues to Join Women's Health Club
Christopher Cox filed a discrimination complaint with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights because he was denied entry into a woman's health club. Cox wishes to join the Anchorage, Alaska Women's Nautilus Club because of the location and low prices. Cox states that "we live in a society today.... where the bottom line is the one who is stomped all over is the male, especially the white male." Owner John Sanky said "I don't think [Cox] is a crusader for male rights," and alleges that Cox had offered not to complain if Sanky gave Cox's girlfriend a free membership to the club. Cox denies this.
Paula Haley, director of the Commission for Human Rights, states that it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of gender in a place of public accommodation. The Commission will investigate whether or not a health club is such a place.
Nora Marzouk Ahmed's punishment for eloping was death. Her father killed her for corrupting the family honor seven days after she had married. This incident, which took place on August 19 in Cairo, is not unusual in Egypt. On August 18, a man in a village 40 miles north of Cairo was arrested for setting his daughter on fire for eloping. According to Egyptian feminist activists, fathers, brothers and husbands kill and abuse women every year for having pre-marital sex, eloping, going outside with a man who is not a relative or going out without a veil.
Nawal Saadawi, an Egyptian feminist author, says, "Honor and integrity in Egypt have become warped. For many Egyptian men, integrity is now linked to the actions and behavior of the women in the family." Saadawi argues that most of these murders occur in lower-income families, where men use family honor as an excuse to beat women.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Virginia High School League (VSHL), alleging that the way the VHSL schedules girl's sports violates Title IX. The VHSL, Virginia's governing body of high school athletics, currently schedules all three divisions of boys' sports in the same season.
For girls, three sports--tennis, basketball, and volleyball--are scheduled at different times of the year, depending on the number of students enrolled in the school. As a result, girls from smaller high schools, who are forced to play their sport in the off season, have fewer opportunities for earning athletic scholarships. No court date has been set for the case.
8/20/1997 - Prosecutor Opts Not to Charge Citadel Harassers
Prosecutor David Schwacke has decided not to charge anyone at The Citadel with hazing two female cadets who left the school in January. One of the women's lawyers, Dick Harpootlian, announced Schwacke's decision on August 19, and argued that the prosecutor had given in to political pressure. Harpootlian plans to contact the state attorney general today to pursue charges.
Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer have alleged harassments which include setting their clothes on fire. Fourteen male cadets received punishment or dropped out of the school after a college investigation.
Mentavlos and Messer were among four women who entered The Citadel a year ago. The two other female cadets at The Citadel completed their first year, and the school expects nineteen more women to enroll this year.
Results of a Canadian study suggest that performing a mammogram in the first half of a woman's menstrual cycle may make the procedure both more comfortable and more accurate. The study revealed that there was an 11 percent greater risk that a tumor would not be detected when a mammogram was performed in the second half of the menstrual cycle. American Cancer Society epidemiologist and mammography expert Robert Smith said that the findings are not significant enough to warrant an official recommendation on the timing of mammograms. However, the study does suggest that the menstrual cycle can influence breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
8/20/1997 - Estrogen Treatment Remains Controversial
Postmenopausal women have a tough choice to make when deciding whether or not to take estrogen. Studies suggest that taking estrogen can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and heart disease by 50%, but research has also linked estrogen to a 43% increase in breast cancer deaths. Experts suggest that the decision whether or not to take estrogen should be determined based on each woman's personal and family history, while also considering the psychological and physical comfort or discomfort she experiences as a result of taking estrogen.
In some cases, changing diet and or exercise patterns may be more beneficial than estrogen treatment in terms of preventing heart disease, and spares women an increased risk for breast cancer. On the other hand, studies have shown that, among women taking estrogen for 10 years, the benefits of estrogen far outweighed the risk of breast cancer, and women taking estrogen lived longer than women not taking estrogen. Women who are considering taking estrogen should consult their physician before making a decision.
8/19/1997 - FDA Considers New Osteoporosis Test
On August 18, a scientific advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of Hologic Inc.'s application for a new osteoporosis test that can predict whether women are at risk of developing the condition. The company's Sahara Bone Sonometer uses ultrasound to measure bone density. This test, unlike others which measure the hip or spine, measures the density of a heel and is less complex than the X-ray tests currently used to detect osteoporosis. Approximately 28 million Americans, a majority of them women, have osteoporosis, or dangerously thinning bones. The FDA is not obligated to follow its advisory committee recommendations, but generally does.
8/19/1997 - Victory for Breast Implant Victims
In a major victory for women with breast implants, a Louisiana jury found Dow Chemical Company guilty of intentionally deceiving women about the safety of its silicone breast implants. The jury also found that the company had not adequately tested the implants before placing them on the market. This decision, announced on Monday, August 18, ends the first part of a two-part class action lawsuit brought against Dow by 1,800 women who had received breast implants. In the next phase, scheduled to begin in September, the jury will decide whether these women were injured by the implants and to what compensation they are entitled. Prior to this decision, breast-implant manufacturers had been winning the majority of lawsuits.
8/19/1997 - Aberdeen Sex Scandal Continues
A military jury recommended demotion for a drill sergeant and two other sergeants agreed to be discharged in new developments on sexual harassment cases at Aberdeen Proving Ground on August 18. The jury that sentenced Staff Sgt. Herman Gunter could have recommended up to 12 years in prison, but instead ordered him demoted by two grades to E-4, which is the rank of a corporal. Gunter had hugged and kissed a female trainee and obstructed an investigation of his actions. Sgts. Ronald Moffett and Tony Cross agreed to be discharged, avoiding impending court-martials.
8/18/1997 - Federal Judge Prevents Louisiana Abortion Law
A federal judge blocked a Louisiana law that would have allowed women to sue their doctors for up to 10 years after having an abortion. U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. struck down the legislation because it could lead clinics to close, denying women medical assistance. He also challenged the law's constitutionality. Currently, women who receive unsuccessful abortions can sue doctors three years after the procedure, and the highest sum a woman can receive for damages is $500,000. The new law, however, contains no cap on damages, and critics believe it allows any woman who has had an abortion to sue her doctor for the wrongful death of her fetus or harm to herself. The law would even allow women who have signed consent forms to file lawsuits against their doctors. Porteous issued a temporary restraining order and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday.
8/18/1997 - Coed VMI Set to Begin Today
A new chapter of history at the Virginia Military Institute is set to open when the school's first coed class reports to campus on Monday, August 18. The class of 400 will include 31 women. Students and staff at the college have undertaken a good deal of training to facilitate the change, and, according to VMI Superintendent Josiah Bunting, are prepared to open VMI to women. The state also gave VMI $5.1 million to help recruit female cadets, to hire female staff, and to make necessary renovations to the college.
Although current staff and students at both colleges appear ready for the change, some alumni are more skeptical. A group of graduates from both institutes have announced a plan to found a private, all-male Christian military college which will combine the traditions of the two schools. While the constitutionality of such an institution is likely to be challenged, supporters feel there is a market for such a school.
Afghan girls who have lost the right to education because of the Muslim fundamentalist Taliban movement face a similar problem in Pakistan refugee camps. For the 1.2 million to 1.8 million Afghans living there, severe budget cuts in international aid for the refugees have halted education beyond the sixth grade for children in the camps. This restricted education has disproportionately affected young girls; boys are freer to travel in the strict Afghan culture and can continue their education in Pakistani and private schools. Only 4,000 Afghan girls in refugee camps are getting an education, while 35,000 of the boys are. The lack of schooling for girls will have detrimental effects on all Afghanis because educated women marry later, have less children, practice healthier nutrition and encourage their own children to go to school.
The Peace Corps is focusing more resources on women, both in its membership and in its programs. The 1997 Peace Corps volunteer class is 59% women, almost doubling the percentage of women volunteers 25 years ago. Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan says this trend "completes the mission of the Peace Corps, because we send people reflecting our own country." Community-based educational Peace Corp programs are also starting to focus on women. Peace Corps volunteers, including Molly Bogdan, have started programs in Romania similar to the Ms. Foundation's "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," and are providing increased education on women's and infant health issues.