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10/21/1997 - Catholic Hospitals Restrict Women's Health Services

In an alarming trend that is increasing each year, secular hospitals are merging with Catholic hospitals and cutting off all reproductive health services.

The mergers, which are often done to keep financially-struggling hospitals open, are becoming more and more common. For example, in New York City, a Catholic health maintenance organization purchased a statewide Medicaid-only HMO. Despite the fact that their clientele is mostly young women in poverty, the combined organization will no longer provide AIDS prevention counseling, birth control, abortions or sterilizations, nor even provide referrals for these services.

"It's health care being ruled by something other than what's best for the patient," said Dr. Dean Bloch, an ob/gyn at Northern Dutchess Hospital in upstate New York. Northern Dutchess and Kingston Medical Center are merged with a Roman Catholic hospital, which dictated that they stop offering services such as contraceptive counseling, abortions and sterilizations.

In communities where mergers are being discussed, public outcry over the suspension of reproductive services that the Catholic hospital will require can sometimes prevent the mergers. A community activist against a merger in Dutchess County said "We're not against an affiliation. We know hospitals are facing tough times. But there are many models where the nonsectarian hospital doesn't have to follow the dictates of the church. We want them to find a way to do both. We don't want services to be lost."

Even some church leaders do not agree with Catholic hospitals forcing secular hospitals to follow Catholic doctrine. "There are many members of the clergy, even some who are opposed to abortion, who are very concerned that the ethical and religious directives of one church are being imposed on people of other religions," said Rev. Tom Davis of the United Church of Christ. "These mergers are of grave concern because even hospitals that do not agree to become Catholic hospitals agree in these deals to abide by Catholic rules."

JoAnn Smith, executive director of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, said "This is not a classic pro-life, pro-choice abortion debate. We're talking about everyday reproductive care, like contraception. We're talking about adequate HIV and AIDS counseling. We're talking about the morning-after pill for rape victims. Deals like these undermine the basic availability of quality, convenient health care for women."

10/21/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Louisiana Parental Consent Laws

Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to reinstate a Louisiana law that requires minors to get parental consent for abortions, agreeing that it caused "undue interference" with young women's abortion rights.

Although the Supreme Court has upheld parental-consent laws in other states, the Louisiana law was unique because it did not explicitly state that judges had to give permission for girls to have abortions if they did not tell their parents. The law, before it was barred by a federal trial judge, only said that judges "may" authorize abortions. In every other state, the law says a judge "shall" grant permission for abortions.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals prevented the law from being enforced in 1995, and said the Louisiana law "states that juvenile court judges have the discretion to deny an abortion to a minor even though the minor demonstrates that she is mature ... or that the abortion would be in her best interest." They also said that anonymity laws were violated if the judge contacted the parents of girls who want abortions.

10/21/1997 - Journalist Nancy Dickerson Dies

Noted radio and television correspondent and independent producer Nancy Dickerson died at age 70 on Saturday.

She broke through barriers in the 1950s to be among the first women to cover politics and world affairs. She rejected a job as "women's editor" at the old Washington Daily News because "writing shopping and food columns...seemed outlandish to try and change the world." In 1954, CBS News hired her to produce political radio shows. In 1960, she was made CBS' first female correspondent. She traveled around the world with presidents and covered major events such as the 1963 March on Washington. She was also a past vice president of the Washington Press Club.

After 7 years at NBC, in 1971 Dickerson became a syndicated independent broadcaster and producer. She was the first woman to have a daily news program on network television, and produced documentaries on topics such as Watergate, the status of women in the Arab countries and the women's movement in the U.S.

10/21/1997 - Vigil Draws Attention to Domestic Violence

On Saturday, October 18, over 1000 women and men from all over the country and the world participated in the National March To End The Silence in Washington DC. Organized by the National Silent Witness Initiative, women and men from all fifty states and seven countries marched on Washington in memory of all the women and children who have died at the hands of their husbands,fathers and partners.

Carrying the red silhouettes bearing the names and stories of their daughters, mothers, sisters and friends, the marchers paid a silent, moving tribute to the murdered victims of domestic abuse. Dealing with the reality of their personal loss and experiences, the participants walked in a quiet state of reflection, but as the procession reached the Capitol Building, the voices of hope and determination emerged as the demonstrators demanded that attention be given to the epidemic of domestic violence and the many lives it continues to endanger.

The voices only got louder as survivors, speakers and musicians offered support and solutions to this awesome dilemma. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) applauded the efforts of the Silent Witness Initiative, which originated in his home state of Minnesota, to heighten the awareness of domestic abuse. "This is too powerful. This is too real. This is too important," he said, advertising the importance of this issue to the policymaking community.

As the rally concluded, the 1500 silhouettes representing the average number of women and children killed by domestic violence each year, were lead to the Reflecting Pool and lined up to tell their stories to the tourists and passerbys. Prayers and personal stories closed out the vigil as women and men from all walks of life asked for an end to the crisis of domestic abuse.

10/21/1997 - Women Leaders Decreasing Worldwide

Last month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hosted a party for foreign ministers with only one requirement -- they must be women.

At the party of eight women, with two women unable to attend, the foreign ministers discussed the political progress of women. Worldwide, there are only four female heads of government, 10 U.N. ambassadors and 17 speakers of parliament. The number of women in parliament has declined from a high of 15% in 1988 to less than 12% today. This is an unexpected result of more countries turning from socialism and communism to democracy. As socialist ideals of gender equality and women's social programs have been erased in many countries, women have found it difficult to get the funding necessary to run for government office, and "traditional patriarchal systems resurfaced," according to the Los Angeles Times. The biggest setbacks for women have been in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states, where women's representation has declined from highs of 25-35% to about 5%.

Some areas are improving, however. When India ruled in 1993 that at least one-third of all local council seats must go to women, over a million rural women entered government offices in the first election. Six other countries have instituted gender quotas, and dozens of political parties worldwide now require that 50% of their candidates be women.

The U.S. is ranked 39th out of 173 countries with national legislatures in terms of women's political representation. Only nine senators are women, and 11.7% of House seats are made up of women. Women make up only 21.5% of state legislatures and only three governors are women.

10/21/1997 - Young Boys Charged in Sexual Assault

Four Bronx boys, all 8 and 9 years old, have been charged with sodomy for forcing a 9-year-old girl to perform oral sex on the Public School 44 playground.

Bronx detectives are looking for a fifth boy and possibly a second victim. Police say that three boys held the girl down while the other forced her to perform oral sex on him during a school lunch break. When she broke away and told a teacher, she was simply told to brush her teeth, said the girl's older sister. The school's principal stated in a letter to parents that "No inappropriate behavior took place at any time."

10/21/1997 - Hillary Clinton Condemns Domestic Violence

Saying that domestic violence "is not just an assault against a citizen, but that it does undermine democracy itself," Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on the topic at a conference of mostly women on Monday.

"Domestic violence can never again be dismissed, as it so often has in th epast, as part of a country's traditional norms or as a private cultural set of assumptions about family life," she said.

Ms. Clinton recently returned from a tour of Latin America, where she spoke on the necessity of acheiving equal political representation for women and ending domestic violence. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that between 25-50% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported domestic violence.

She praised President Clinton, whose mother suffered from domestic abuse, for making domestic violence a foreign policy issue and vowing to protect American women.

10/20/1997 - International Feminist 'Oscars' Awarded

At the world's biggest book fair in Germany last week, 23 feminist writers were awarded the first "Women's Book Oscars."

An international panel chose non-fiction books that have "changed the world over the past 25 years." Feminist classics such as Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch," Kate Millet's "Sexual Politics" and Gloria Steinem's "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions" were among the winners.

For its first year, the panel of women from seven countries decided to honor a wide range of authors. In the future, the panel will pick one winner a year.

10/20/1997 - Russia's Women Suffer Setbacks

Russia's interior ministry recently reported that the numbers of reported rapes are dropping, yet rape crisis centers say that the number of calls they receive has been consistent. Rape counselors estimate that fewer than 5% of rape victims report the crime to the police, with even fewer rapes actually being registered by the police.

The Russian government also does not keep specific records on domestic violence, although they estimate 25% of households suffer from it. There are only two tiny shelters for battered women in all of Russia, one in St. Petersburg and one in Siberia. There are no laws regarding domestic violence or sexual harassment.

Political representation of women declined drastically, from a high of 33% when Russia was a part of the Soviet Union to 7.5% in both parliament houses today. As for women's employment, Anastasia Posadskaya, former director of the Moscow Center for Gender Studies, estimates that women now only earn 43% of men's salaries. Women make up over 70% of the unemployed, and are banned by law from over 460 kinds of jobs, many of which happen to be high-paying.

Russian women are also bought and sold into the female slavery market, where they are foced to become prostitutes. European Union Commissioner for Justice and Immigration Anita Gradun estimates that Eastern European women make up two-thirds of the 500,000 women sold into sexual slavery each year.

10/20/1997 - Abortion Doctor Murderer Says He Was Framed by Anti-Abortion Extremists

Michael Griffin, who is on death row for the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion doctor in Pensacola, Fla., now claims he was framed in a conspiracy involving other anti-abortion activists, the police, and his own lawyer.

Griffin contends there was another assailant with a gun, although witnesses testified that Griffin acted alone, and the murder weapon was linked to him. He claims that police went back and planted a bullet at the crime scene after witnesses claimed they heard more shots than Griffin fired. The case number immediately before Griffin's is missing from police records, which Griffin claims is proof that the police are covering up the arrest of another assailant.

Others say Griffin, who is seeking a new trial, is grasping at straws. He "talks like he's not playing with a full deck," said anti-abortion leader John Burt. Griffin's mother said he had been "used and abused" by fundamentalist ministers and the Pentecostal church. She said that the church was responsible for whipping her formerly calm son into a murderous frenzy, with practices like "barking like dogs, shrieking and vomiting." His ex-wife said Griffin was "brainwashed by John Burt. Mike was disturbed and Burt played on that."

10/20/1997 - Female VMI Cadets Recruit For Next Class

The Virginia Military Institute's first class of women will actively recruit more females for next year's class, talking to them personally and becoming a part of a marketing campaign to attract more women to the formerly all-male school, say admissions officers.

Assistant Director of Admissions Terri Wheaton Reddings said "We've got to keep the momentum going. We get on the road and young women ask us, 'Tell us how the girls are doing.' They'll be able to talk to them and find out firsthand what it's like."

The school has received over 3,500 admission inquiries from females for the 1998-99 school year, almost 10 times last year's number. So far this school year, about 10% of both women and men have voluntarily dropped out, leaving 26 women in the freshman class.

At last Friday's first open house at VMI, eight females of the 100 prospective cadets were women. Lindsey Moran, who attended the open house, said "I've heard the women are really hanging in there. Even if I am having trouble, they'll be there to help me through it."

10/20/1997 - Lesbian Relationship Not Adultery, Lawyer Argues

In a bizarre semantic twist, divorce attorney Rosalie Davies is using Pennsylvania's law on adultery to argue why her lesbian client should get alimony from her ex-husband.

At issue is whether or not lesbian sex, occurring outside of heterosexual marriage, is considered adultery. If it is adulterous, lesbians can be denied alimony under the state's no-fault divorce laws. Because dictionaries usually define adultery as sexual intercourse, and sexual intercourse is always defined as penetration by a penis, Davies argues adultery is a legal impossibility between lesbians. Pennsylvania's state law does not require penetration under its definition of adultery, but it does not define the term either. In Davies' court brief, she argues that "Cunnilingus does not involve penetration, and surely manual penetration is not intended or all Pennsylvania gynecologists would function in a setting of multiple and ongoing adulterous liasions!"

Davies admits that, if the case is heard by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, which the opposing lawyer predicts it will, lesbian sex might end up being defined as "less than" heterosexual sex. Still, she contends that since gays and lesbians cannot be legally married, they should not be subject to the same marriage and divorce laws as heterosexuals.

Davies' client has three children, and lives with a woman who also has three children of her own. She accepted a reduced child-support payment in the divorce agreement with the understanding that it would be supplemented by alimony. She says that she is now under considerable financial strain because of her ex-husband's refusal to pay alimony.

10/20/1997 - Churches Can Discriminate Against Single Mothers, KY Human Rights Panel Says

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights ruled last week that a church day care center did not violate the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it fired a woman for being pregnant and unmarried.

Cynthia Bundy had worked at the Fairdale Christian Church Day Care for 18 months when she was fired. The church said she would have to marry the father of her baby in order to keep her job. Church lawyers claim Bundy signed a "moral agreement" to exhibit "Christian values" while at work, and that Bundy violated the rule that all employees act as "positive role models" for the kids. The Human Rights Commission said that the church's policy against extramarital sex was not discriminatory.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 30% of all births in the U.S. are to unmarried women.

10/17/1997 - Hillary Clinton Gives Feminist Speech in Argentina

Hillary Rodham Clinton was greeted with applause and cheers by Argentine women for her speech on reproductive health and domestic violence. "Hillary is a radical feminist, and we welcome that here," said lawyer Liliana Tojo.

"Access to quality health care -- especially family planning and reproductive health services -- is crucial to advancing the progress of women," said Clinton. She called domestic violence "one of the most serious and underreported human rights violations in the Americas," and criticized "consumer culture" that "does its best, in my country and yours, to objectify women and make girls believe that only their appearances -- not their hearts, minds or souls -- are important."

In Argentina, rates of anorexia and bulimia are three times higher than in the U.S. Despite a politically powerful church that condemns family planning and a government that prefers no sex education, Argentina is considered liberal compared to other South American countries. Divorce is illegal in Chile, and, until recently, a rapist could escape prosecution by marrying his victim in Peru. Abortion is illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or to save the life of the woman. By law, at least 33% of the Argentine Congress must be women.

Women's rights supporters at the Colon Theater where Ms. Clinton spoke showered the theater with leaflets supporting abortion rights. Clinton did not directly speak on abortion, but said that better family planning information lowered maternal death rates and the number of abortions.

10/17/1997 - Pilot Wins Sexual Harassment Suit

A jury awarded $875,000 to Tammy S. Blakey, the first woman at Continental Airlines to attain the rank of captain of an Airbus A300 passenger plane, for sexual harassment yesterday.

Blakey filed the suit in 1993, alleging that male pilots left pornographic pictures in cockpits, some with her name written on them. One picture left for her portrayed a naked woman being penetrated with a bloody sword. Despite Blakey's repeated complaints and company instructions asking that the behavior stop, the pictures persisted. Hiding pornography all over the cockpit is apparently a tradition at Continental pilots, where only 12 of 5000 pilots are women.

The jury awarded Blakey $495,000 for lost pay and $380,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering. Continental plans to appeal.

10/17/1997 - Judge Criticizes Clinton on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Retiring Judge William A. Norris urged President Clinton to "admit his mistake of judgement" regarding the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays. "Renounce it because it is wrong, it is evil -- as you surely know in your heart," he said at a ceremony where he received a "Liberty Award" from the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. In a 1988 case, Norris said the military's policy violated the Constitution's equal protection clause.

"I can think of no other instances in which the government passed a law whose very purpose is to force people to live a lie, to pretend that their true selves don't really exist." Norris accused Clinton of hypocrisy, given that he recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of desegregation in Little Rock public schools, yet upholds a policy of bigotry against gays and lesbians.

10/17/1997 - Pregnant Troopers Unfairly Treated

In response to complaints brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by female police officers, Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci ordered State Secretary of Public Safety Kathleen O'Toole to rewrite the rules regarding pregnant troopers on Wednesday.

Four veteran investigators told the EEOC that they were not allowed to work overtime, and that they were only allowed to use the phone and drive their own car to do investigations when they were pregnant. They were restricted because they couldn't meet state police requirements that they be able to run up 10 flights of stairs, mow the stationhouse lawn, or pull a cow off a roadway. The state police physician, not the woman's personal doctor, can recommend any pregnant policewoman be put on "modified duty." When Lisa Butner refused, she was put on "no duty" status.

California has similar restrictions and physical requirements for pregnant officers, but the decision is made by the women and their doctors. "We never run into an issue with this because most of these gals are smart enough to get off the road when it comes time. They know their body better than anybody," said California Highway Patrol spokesperson Kelly Young. In Washington state, pregnant troopers can choose to do desk duty or stay on patrol as long as they feel able to.

O'Toole was allowed to choose her work 10 years ago when she was pregnant and working as a Boston police detective. "I felt like a valued employee. I didn't have to shelve my career for nine months, and I was able to work until the day before I had the baby." Gov. Cellucci ordered a rewriting of the strict rules because they put "roadblocks in the way of working women."

10/17/1997 - Lesbian Affection in Buses OK

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has ruled that Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and Hampshire County Transit must pay Joane Rome over $30,000 for being ordered off a bus in 1994 for kissing her lesbian lover.

Driver Stephen Follett pulled the bus over and ordered Joane Rome out because she and her girlfriend's display of affection was inappropriate. "There are little kids in here. You can't do that in front of families," he said. Rome said that a heterosexual couple on the bus was being affectionate as well, but Follett claimed not to have seen them. After criticizing her, he allowed Rome to continue her bus ride. She said she felt "excruciatingly embarassed and upset" that she had been "ordered off the bus in front of all the other passengers." After she got off the bus, Rome went directly to MCAD to file her complaint.

10/17/1997 - Breast Cancer Video Deemed Too Risque

A cable station in Contra Costa County in California has pulled a 7-minute film showing women how to do breast exams because it shows naked breasts.

Breast cancer awareness activists complained when the cable director refused to air it again after only one viewing and said it wasn't appropriate for families to watch. County Supervisor Donna Gerber is considering forcing the station to run the video, and said "It's not possible to teach women to do self-examination unless we show the part of the body we're talking about ... we're dealing with an epidemic in which people are dying."

10/17/1997 - Women's Military Memorial to Open Saturday

The Women in Miltary Service for America Memorial will be dedicated at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday. The memorial features more than a dozen alcoves for exhibits, a fountain, reflecting pool, 196-seat theater, computer database of women veterans and a gift shop. It sits by a semi-circular granite wall that has four staircases through it to symbolize the women who broke through military barriers to serve. Eleven glass tablets in the roof are inscribed with quotes that "float" on the marble floor. The four days of events celebrating the memorial are expected to draw thousands of female veterans, including a 101-year-old woman from California who fought in WWI.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, who has been in charge of the project since its inception in 1986, said "When you look at the contribution of women and you see how what they did supported our armed forced, then you have to say it was meaningful and should be honored and recognized."

For more information, call 1-800-4-SALUTE.

10/17/1997 - Chinese Girls Still Being Killed

At a population conference in China yesterday, experts said that families in rural areas were still killing baby girls.

Saying that female infanticide is considered "a family matter, a private issue," Professor Zhu Chuzhu said that the practice still isn't seen as murder to many villagers. Modern neonatal technology that detects the sex of fetuses allows urban women to have sex-selective abortions, which also contributes to the high ratio of boys to girls.

In China, males have traditionally been more highly valued because they are the breadwinners. "If a woman does not have a male child, her status within the family would be affected, her mother-in-law would dislike her, her husband would dislike her," Zhu said.

10/17/1997 - Sweatshop Study Unveiled, Archdioceses Plan Anti-Sweatshop Curriculum

In Newark, New Jersey, Catholic school students will no longer wear uniforms and athletic clothes produced in sweatshops and will be encouraged not to buy other sweatshop-produced clothes, said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick yesterday.

The archdiocese will teach an anti-sweatshop curriculum to 24,000 students in grades 7-12. The authors hope that by building awareness, children will be encouraged to be more responsible consumers. Schools in other states have shown interest, and the New Jersey diocese plans to expand their anti-sweatshop program to elementary school students.

The curriculum was introduced after a study revealed that a majority of New York City's garment factories are violating federal labor laws. The Department of Labor has ordered that $412,300 in back wages be paid to over 1,400 workers New Jersey labor officials say the state has about 300 sweatshops, many of which hire illegal immigrants and pay them less than minimum wage. McCarrick said that school clothing suppliers will have to prove that they follow labor laws.

Feminists Against Sweatshops

10/17/1997 - Women Increase Voice in Oman Elections

Over 5,000 women electors voted in yesterday's elections for Oman's next consultative council.

Women are 10% of Oman's electoral college. The college voted for 164 candidates out of a field of 736 candidates, including 27 women. This is the first time that women cadidates have been allowed to run. In December, Sultan Qaboos will choose the final consultative council of 82 members. Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab state to have an elected parliament, but women cannot serve.

Female elector Hassina Said al-Adawy said, "we want more women on the council. I believe that if we have problems, we can address them to the women (council members)."

10/16/1997 - Nebraska Court Upholds Lesbian Custody Decision

Nebraska's Court of Appeals has upheld a lower-court ruling that stated "a parent's sexual activity is insufficient to establish a ... change in custody."

In 1995, Thomas Hassenstab filed a suit to reverse Carol Hassenstab's custody of their child after the divorce. Ms. Hassenstab is a lesbian. The court said there was no evidence that her child was "adversely affected or damaged" by her sexual orientation, and that she will keep custody.

Nebraska ACLU Executive Director Matt LeMieux said there was "nothing spectacular" about the decision, because the judges "applied the law in an equal, fair, and just manner. There is no reason why parents in a gay or lesbian relationship should be treated differently under Nebraska's custody laws."

One of the three judges dissented, saying that "Carol's conduct will necessarily impair [her child's] moral training" because her lesbianism conflicted with her Catholicism. LeMieux said that under that "preposterous" reasoning which "could have set a dangerous precedent," a Catholic parent "who believes abortion is wrong...but is pro-choice could have his or her child taken away because of the pro-choice stance."

10/16/1997 - New Law Protects Domestic Violence Victims Who Fight Back

New York Gov. George Pataki signed a bill Tuesday that says police must determine who was the aggressor before arresting anyone in a domestic violence dispute. Women who fight back against their abuser will no longer be arrested for misdemeanor assault, as was the case previously.

"Women who are the targets of domestic violence should not be victimized again by being arrested simply for defending themselves," said Pataki. Sherry Frohman, executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence praised Pataki and said the bill would encourage domestic violence victims to report abuse. Pataki also announced that New York would participate in the National March to End the Silence by sending 200 people to Washington.