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The Mississippi House passed a bill on February 13th which would ban the D&X abortion procedure unless the woman's life is danger. The ban would also make doctors who perform the procedure liable to criminal damages and a fine of $25,000. The doctor could also be liable for civil damages if sued by the father or woman's parents if she is underage.
The Virginia House voted to pass a similar bill, but it died in a Senate committee yesterday when Democrat Emily Couric changed her vote at the last minute. Couric had previously voted for the bill, but asked for another vote and then voted against it. She feared that anti-abortion lawmakers would amend the bill on the Senate floor to impose the ban even if the woman's life was at stake and to also impose restrictions on other types of abortions.
2/14/1997 - Anti-abortion Arsonist Sentenced
A Federal Court sentenced Jennifer Sperle to 30 months in prison and will report to an unnamed federal facility on March 12th. Sperle was convicted of arson in relation to a Norfolk abortion clinic.
In a widely anticipated vote, the 105th's Congress first vote related to the abortion debate, the House voted (220-209) to release international family planning funds in March as opposed to July. The vote also increases the funds to $385 million. The measure does not impose limitations on funding, so groups who perform abortions can receive funds. The Senate is expected to act on the measure before the end of the month and President Clinton, if the Senate also passes it, is certain to sign the legislation. Gloria Feldt, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, "This is a wonderful victory for women and children worldwide."
Hours later, the House also passed (231-194) a measure which would prohibit the transfer of U.S. funds to family planning groups which provide abortion-related services. The prohibition would remain even if the abortions were paid for with private funds. The Senate is not expected to pass the second measure and, if not, President Clinton is expected to veto the measure.
2/14/1997 - Ferraro Contemplates New York Senate Run
Geraldine Ferraro, former Democratic Congresswoman and the first female Vice-Presidential nominee, has mailed a letter to potential supporters asking them to wait until 1998 to back a Senate candidate. Ferraro will decide in 1998 whether or not to run for New York's Senate seat; if nominated, she would run against current Senator Alfonso D'Amato. In the letter she wrote, "I will personally get back to you, either to tell you I love you for waiting but I've decided to put an end to my public service career, or I love you and I need you to help me send Al D'Amato back to Island Park."
During a National Press Club speech on February 13, Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal warned the Republican Party that if it continued to lead its efforts to dismantle affirmative action and repeal abortion rights, the gender gap will turn into a gender gulf. Speaking to a packed house of women's and civil rights leaders, activists and national press, Smeal described the origins of the gender gap and how it will affect local and national politics in the future. The gender gap is the measurable difference between how women and men vote for a candidate. In the 1996 presidential election, the gender gap was 11% (not the often reported 17%) and determined the outcome of the race: if only men had voted, Bob Dole would have won the race.
Smeal also described the impact of abortion on the gender gap, and predicted that the affirmative action issue would expand the gender gap into a gender gulf. Women are more likely than men to condition their votes on a candidate based on the candidate's position on abortion rights. Young women, especially, are very strong supporters of abortion rights.
Affirmative action is also a key issue among women, and especially among young women. Women were the overwhelming majority of financial contributors to the Stop Prop. 209 campaign while men were the overwhelming majority of financial contributors to the supporters of Prop. 209, the California anti-affirmative action measure.
Unfortunately, right-wing organizations with the help of the Republican Party, were able to outspend opponents of Prop. 209 two-to-one. Smeal also pointed out that contractors were heavy supporters of Prop. 209 because, "[j]ust six years ago women and minorities were receiving less than 5% of state contracts. Affirmative action reforms put into effect in 1992 and 1993 resulted in women- and minority-owned businesses being awarded 22% of state contracts. No wonder state contractors, threatened by this new competition, poured money into the campaign to pass 209."
At the end of the speech, Smeal called for an omnibus Women's Equality Act to remedy sex discrimination and she also called for a Women's Voting Rights Act to increase the representation of women in local and national legislatures. Smeal commented, "For how can we be truly a democracy with only 11% women members of Congress and 22% in the state legislatures? Do you really think that Congress would consider resegregating military women because of some military men's criminal behavior if half the members of Congress were women? Would a gender-balanced Congress consider, as this one is, exempting police officers (and perhaps military personnel) convicted of spousal abuse from the Domestic Violence gun control provision that prohibits convicted abusers from carrying a gun?"
2/13/1997 - Settlement Clears Way for Sale of Mifepristone
The Population Council has announced it has settled litigation regarding control of the abortion pill mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486). A new privately-held company called Advances for Choice has been established to sell the drug and will be publicly identified as the U.S. distributor of mifepristone. Jack Van Hulst, president and chief executive of Advances for Choice said that the company had adequate funding to bring the drug to market and that the new partnership should enable the drug to be available to doctors by the end of the year. In September, the Food and Drug Administration found the drug “approvable” but requested more information about its manufacturing and labeling, materials which will be submitted to the FDA by July, Hulst said.
Joseph Pike, former fundraiser for the marketing of the drug, has “sold a substantial portion of his equity” in the project but will play “no present or future role” in its management, according to a Population Council statement. The Washington, DC- based Advances in Health Technology, set up to inform the public about mifepristone, will become part of Advances in Choice in New York.
Three male U.S. Army instructors at the Darmstadt, Germany training center have been relieved of their duties because of allegations made by 11 female soldiers that the instructors sexually assaulted and harassed them. Allegations also include forcible sodomy, indecent assault, and cruelty and maltreatment of a subordinate. Two of the instructors were placed into custody February 7 for allegedly contacting a victim and attempting to influence her testimony. Personnel from the Army Criminal Investigative Division, which questioned about 70 people in the investigation, said, “The remaining suspect has been ordered by his chain of command not to contact any victim or witness.”
Earlier this week, the Army’s top enlisted man, Sergeant Major Gene McKinney, was suspended from duty pending an resolution of an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed at least two women.
A report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute has found that the U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world though rates are down worldwide. In the U.S,. 14% of girls aged 15-19 gave birth in 1996, twice the rate in Britain, the first-runner up. Of the teen pregnancies in the U.S. 73% were unplanned. Teen pregnancy rates decreased significantly in Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Latin America. In other parts of Latin America, one-third of teens has a child during adolescence while the same holds for at least one in two girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates dropped by almost half in the Dominican Republic, Morocco, and Sri Lanka.
The report cited improved educational opportunities for girls as having a strong correlation to the decline in teen pregnancies in developing countries. AGI president Jeannie Rosoff also urged increased access to family planning and reproductive services around the world. “U.S. international population assistance, which has contributed so much to the progress we observed, must continue,” Rosoff said. “Our global future is at stake.” The U.S. House approved a measure that would release international family planning funds in March rather than July, but the measure included a provision which prohibits funding to family planning groups who perform abortions or advocate access to abortion. A Senate vote is expected to follow later this month.
The eight-page AGI report used data from 44 developing countries and five industrialized countries which together comprise nearly 75% of the world’s population. Adolescents are defined as girls aged 10-19.
Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice signed a law banning same-sex marriages in the state, calling the relationships “perverse.” The law will also deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states and would ensure that same-sex couples be excluded from the benefits of marriage such as health insurance which Fordice said were intended for “traditional families.” The American Civil Liberties Union is considering a challenge to some of the state anti-same-sex marriage laws. Mississippi became the seventeenth state to ban same-sex marriages with Washington state poised to become the eighteenth. Fordice is still recovering from an election day accident in which his car turned over on his way home from lunch with an unidentified woman while his wife was out of town.
A study, published in the journal of the American Psychological Association, of nearly 5,300 women shows that having an abortion does not cause emotional trauma for young women. Researchers Dr. Nancy Felipe Russo and Dr. Amy Dabul Marin interviewed 773 women who had had abortions and compared them to women who had not had abortions. The women, originally between the ages of 18 to 24 in 1979, were interviewed every year between 1980 and 1987; the interview included the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, a standardized test which measures overall well-being. The study found that higher self-esteem resulted mainly from having being employed, income levels, education levels, and having fewer children. The study did not find any evidence that young women who were emotionally well-off before having an abortion, were not emotional well-off after having had one. The study concluded, "Given the persistent assertion that abortion is associated with negative outcomes, the lack of any results in the context of such a large sample is noteworthy."
2/12/1997 - ABC News Producer, Eleanor Prescott, Dies at 50
The former executive producer of “Lifetime Magazine,” a woman’s news program, and ABC’s 20/20, died on February 11 at age 50. Eleanor Prescott had also served as the senior producer for the “Good Morning America Sunday” show and as executive producer of “Business World.” Prescott has most recently served as producer of ABC News. She attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was the first woman to serve as editor of the Columbian Daily Spectator.
A senior Army official has confirmed that two more women have made allegations that Sergeant Major Gene McKinney sexually harassed them. The official also said there might also be a third woman. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is currently looking into the allegations and McKinney has been suspended from duties until the matter is resolved. McKinney has denied the allegations.
Prosecutors in Mexico have dropped murder charges against a woman who shot a man who was attempting to rape her. The state claims that Claudia Rodriguez used excessive force in her defense, but Prosecutor Victor Hugo, without comment, dropped charges against her in a paper filed on February 7th. The overturned ruling, which denied a defense motion to drop the charges, concluded that, “Instead of avoiding the sexual attack, by her attitude in remaining in the company of the aggressor despite his propositions to her, she provoked him to attack her so she could shoot him in some vital part of his body.” The man had folloed her from a bar though Rodriguez repeatedly refused all of his advances. She continued to resist him and pulled out a gun she bought after a previous attack to deter him. Unshaken, the man commented, “No woman has ever gotten away from me,” and started ripping at her clothes. Women’s groups from across the world have weighed in on Rodriguez’ defense claiming that charges made against her demonstrate a double-standard against working-class women in Mexico’s justice system. Ana Magaloni, one of her attorneys, commented on the ruling, “This is a great achievement.”
When allegations of sexual harassment in the Army first broke in relation to events at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground, Army officials dismissed the complaints as a result of a "few bad apples". As the count of women alleging sexual harassment at Aberdeen escalates, from 19 at the first count in November to 50, the Pentagon is being forced to reevaluate the seriousness of the problem. Furthermore, interviews with female recruits and Army officials show that the Army failed to identify the warning signs of the problem's pervasiseness for over twenty years. In 1980, 150 of 300 women in the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany reported that they were subject to unwanted physical advances. In 1989 and 1996 a majority of women responding to polls conducted in all branches of the military reported that they had encountered some form of sexual harassment. Many of the women also reported that their complaints were met with ridicule and indifference at best and retaliation at worst.
As hundreds and thousands of complaints of sexual harassment erupt throughout the nation, Army officials are quick to point out that they have a "zero tolerance" policy on sexual harassment. However, because women must report through a chain of command and because many officers refuse to listen to the complaints or to take them seriously, critics see a structural barrier to successful solution. The Army's top enlisted officer, for example, has just stepped down from the panel reviewing sexual harassment because of allegations of sexual harassment made against him. Approximately 500 formal complaints are logged each year, but only 12 weeks after a special number was created, outside the normal chain of command, the Army recorded 7,000 calls alleging sexual harassment.
While the Army is reviewing whether or not to continue integrated training for males and females, many critics argue that women are being unfairly punished for the sexual harassment. Some advocates of segregation maintain that women and men simply can't train together because putting the two sexes together in that type of atmosphere naturally leads to problems of sexual harassment. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) commented on February 7th, however, that this is unfair to the female recruits. Snowe observed that the extent of sexual harassment is not found in college dorms where women and men "train" side-by-side and there should be no excuse for it to occur in the military. She also commented that "Every time a woman is excluded from a position, she's devalued in terms of what she can do in performing her responsibilities and fulfilling the mission."
A study by Egypt's National Population Center has produced some stark statistics regarding the treatment of women and girls in that nation. The study shows that 35% of Egyptian wives polled were victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Of the 35%, 70% were attacked for refusing to have sex. The study also reported that 97 percent of married women had undergone female genital mutilation, a process which removes some or all of a woman's external sex organs. Though the mutilations are illegal, they are still commonly practiced, often in unsanitary conditions.
San Francisco City Supervisors unanimously approved a deal with United Airlines on February 10th over a dispute concerning the City's new domestic partner law. The agreement requires United Airlines to offer health benefits to same-sex partners of their employees within two years. The supervisors had earlier refused to approve a lease for an expansion of United's facilities at San Francisco International Airport. In approving the lease on Monday, the board approved of United's offer to provide the benefits within two years. While United originally asked for a 25-year lease, the supervisors agreed on a two year lease, extendible to 23 more years if United did indeed provide the promised benefits. Supervisor Leslie Katz commented on the agreement, "I think it's setting a precedent for other businesses, small and large, that they can come into compliance; that these are principles of fairness, that we don't want to contract with employers who discriminate."
2/11/1997 - First Abortion Vote Scheduled for Thursday
Lobbyists on both sides of the abortion debate are intensifying their efforts as the first abortion vote of the 105th Congress draws near. The first vote concerns when, March or July, the government will release funding for overseas family planning and how much, $215 million or $92 million. While those funds will not cover abortions, both the pro-choice and anti-choice forces have treated this as a signal of Congress's future votes on abortion. A second measure coming up for a vote deals with the abortion issue directly. The measure, offered by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) would provide $385 million for family planning on the condition that no organization which provides abortions, even if with private funds, would receive U.S. funds.
The unofficial U.S. military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, reports that authorities are looking into allegations of sex crimes at an Army Training Center in Darmstadt. Female students allege that three male instructors committed acts of rape, sodomy, cruelty and maltreatment against them. The three men have been removed from their jobs at the training center.
The Army has suspended Gene McKinney from his duties as Sergeant Major amid allegations that he sexually harassed an employee. The Army maintains that it had become "increasingly difficult" for McKinney to carry out his duties amid "continued public attention." Brenda Hoster, the woman who alleges he sexually harassed her, commented on ABC's "This Week", that it was unfair for the Army not to suspend McKinney because it is standard policy to suspend Army drill instructors accused of sexual harassment. Two senators had also urged the suspension. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) commented, "The suspension is a positive signal that the Army takes this seriously." Another military source has confirmed that the Army is investigating a Navy sailor's allegations that McKinney also made comments to her which were inappropriately sexual in nature. The military source commented only, "The Army Criminal Investigation Division has it."
McKinney will take a desk job during his suspension with the head of the Military District of Washington, Major General Robert Foley. He will continue to receive his $4,728 monthly pay and allowances. McKinney has denied the allegations.
Citing that drill sergeants accused of misconduct are suspended from training duties, Republican Senators Olympia Snowe (ME) and Rick Santorum (PA) both stated on February 7th that the Army should suspend Gene McKinney. McKinney, the top ranking enlisted Army man, has been accused of sexual harassment by Brenda Hoster, a retired sergeant major. Hoster alleges that while on a business trip to Hawaii, McKinney asked for sex, kissed and grabbed her. Hoster subsequently quit the Army after officials ignored her complaints. McKinney denies the allegations, but did step down from a panel reviewing allegations of sexual harassment in the military. Both Senators, who are members of the Armed Forces Committee, stated that McKinney's decision to step down from the panel was not enough; they said McKinney should also face suspension until the matter is resolved. Army Secretary Togo West has defended the Army's decision to allow McKinney to continue with his duties, but later said that the decision of his suspension was an "open question" that "we will undoubtedly consider again."
Cynthia Bundy has filed a discrimination complaint with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights against the Fairdale Christian Church Day Care. The Commission heard Bundy's complaint that the Church violated her civil rights and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it fired her because she became pregnant and did not marry the father. Jeffery Stamper, an attorney for the church, commented, "She knew she would be terminated if she became pregnant and didn't marry the father. An unwed mother is not a good role model for children at a day care." The Commission is expected to rule within 60 days.
South Africa's first democratic parliament's abortion law went into effect on February 1, 1997. The law gives women of any age the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion. The law will also allow women and girls who have no health insurance to receive state-funded abortions during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.
2/6/1997 - House to Vote on Two Abortion Resolutions
In the first abortion related votes of the 105th Congress, the House will vote on whether or not to speed up overseas family planning funding and whether or not to outlaw overseas funding to organizations which perform abortions, even if the abortions are paid with private funds. If the House votes to speed up the overseas family planning funding, the money would be released in March instead of July. The vote would also increase the amount of money which would be released, from $92 million to $215 million. President Clinton lifted a ban on funding for agencies which performed abortions overseas in an executive order in 1993. Rep. Christopher Smith's (R-NJ) resolution would override his order, but it is expected to fail in the Senate. If passed by both houses, Clinton would certainly veto it. The House Rules Committee planned to meet on February 6th to discuss the rules which will govern the votes on both resolutions.
Pamela Harriman, Ambassador to France, Democratic fund-raiser, political socialite and the ex-daughter-in-law of Winston Churchill, died on February 5th in Paris due to complications resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage. President Clinton commented on Wednesday, "[she was an] extraordinary U.S. ambassador. She was a source of judgment and inspiration to me, a source of constant good humor and charm and real friendship and we will miss her very, very much." Secretary of State Madeleine Albright remembered Harriman by calling her a "central figure in the history of this century." Albright also said, "America has lost a remarkable representative, the State Department has lost one of its most effective diplomats and I have lost a friend."
Often referred to as a punctilious host (one of her biographies is entitled Life of the Party), Harriman started giving fund-raising dinners for Democratic candidates in the 1970's. She dramatically increased her efforts for the Democratic party after Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. After becoming Ambassador to France, Harriman devoted her often 18-hour days to working on issues of international trade, NATO expansion, and the war on Bosnia. After her long days, she would often stay up for hours more in communication with the State Department on international affairs and trying to forestall cuts in the Foreign Service budget.
A self-described feminist for the last fifteen years of her life, Harriman commented last year, "It's almost incredible to people I work with today to realize I was born in a world where a woman was totally controlled by men. I mean, you got married and there was kind of no alternative. The boys were allowed to go off to school. The girls were kept home, educated by governesses. It never sort of occurred to me in the first, I suppose 20 years of my life, that a woman could move from the position that pre-World War II women like me were in."
In late 1996 she gave an interview during which she was asked if there was anything she wish she'd done differently. She replied, "No. I consider I have had a very fortunate life." Asked if she'd lived a happy life she commented, "Very, very. I drank deep of the well."
Authorities have questioned suspects in relation to a Tulsa abortion clinic which was bombed twice on New Year's Day and twice on January 19th. FBI spokesman Dan Vogel announced that authorities have four persons, two of them juveniles, in custody for questioning. "Everybody in there is a suspect. And there's a possibility that we may make an arrest sometime today," Vogel said. Authorities received a tip late Wednesday which led them to get a search warrant for a house in the suburb of Bixby. Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer said, "We are X-raying things in the house in regards to explosives."
On February 2nd, a man broke into and shot office equipment and the waiting room of the same Tulsa abortion clinic.