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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1/12/2015 - The 2015 Golden Globe Awards Were Full of Feminist Moments

The Golden Globe Awards had plenty of feminist moments last night - from Masters of Ceremony Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to recognizing the show "Transparent."

The first win ever for an Amazon original program, "Transparent" is the revolutionary TV series about a transgender woman transitioning as an adult with the support of her family. "Transparent" creator Jill Soloway, who accepted the Golden Globe for best TV comedy, and leading actor Jeffrey Tambor, who won for best actor in a comedy, dedicated the awards to the trans community. "This is about changing people's lives," Tambor said in his speech.

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda also turned the old stereotype that women aren't funny on its head while introducing Tambor's award. "It's nice at last that men are getting the recognition they deserve for being good at comedy," Fonda said. Tomlin added, "Finally we can put at rest that negative stereotype that men just aren't funny."

Gina Rodriguez made history when she won best actress in a TV series for "Jane the Virgin," marking the first Golden Globe for a CW network role written by a woman. The show has been lauded for being "unapologetically Latin." Even the coveted Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, given to actor George Clooney, was turned into a platform for feminism by Fey, who comically juxtaposed Clooney's wife Amal Alamuddin's impressive international resume with Clooney's lifetime achievement award.


1/12/2015 - US Receives "C" Grade On Reproductive Rights

A study released by the Population Institute, a nonprofit that promotes access to family planning services and education, gave the United States an overall "C" grade in reproductive health. The C is a marginal improvement to the overall "C-minus" grade the US received in 2012 and 2013.

While the US overall grade is a C, 15 states failed outright. Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming all failed, with Texas earning an "F-minus" due to its incredibly high teen pregnancy rates, inadequate sex education, refusal to fund family planning efforts, rejection of Medicaid expansion, commitment to making abortion as hard as possible to get, and very high rate of unintended pregnancies.

"Increasingly, access to reproductive health is dependent on which state you live in," Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation told Feminist Newswire. "And, it's disgraceful that in the 21st century the second largest state in the United States, Texas, is being given an 'F-minus' grade for reproductive healthcare."

The broad focus of the study was on four main indicators: effectiveness, prevention, affordability, and access. These indicators were then used to analyze and grade each state based on nine criteria, each with a point value of 5, 10, or 15 points. Categories such as unintended or teen pregnancy, and comprehensive sex education could gain a state up to 15 points, whereas access to emergency contraception in the emergency room could only gain a state up to 5 points. States could earn up to 100 points, which was then converted to a letter grade.

Only four states earned an "A" or "A-plus": New Mexico, California, Oregon, and Washington.


1/9/2015 - Ontario to Include Consent in Updated Sex Education Curriculum

Thanks to a request from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Canadian province will now include teaching consent in its sex education curriculum.

When Wynne told Liz Sandals, Ontario's Education Minister, that the curriculum needed to include "healthy relationships and the topic of consent," the province decided to ask parents of elementary school students for their opinions. The results showed parents wanted to include information for their kids on how safely to navigate the Internet and social media. The new curriculum will be launched in schools this fall.

"It's extremely important for everyone to understand what their rights and responsibilities are under the law," said Kim Stanton, legal director of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), which holds workshops for students in Canada. "The term 'no means no' gets used a lot, but actually the legal standard in Canada is 'only yes means yes.'"

Ontario's previous sex education curriculum had not been updated since 1998, though an attempt to update it was shot down five years ago by some parents and religious groups. Two years ago, a coalition of teachers, parents and health experts said Ontario's sex education needs to be updated to reflect new technology and the way students interact with it.

In the United States, only 22 states require sex education be taught in public schools at all - and only 19 states require sex education to be medically, factually or technically accurate. Only 21 states require health classes have a dating violence or "healthy relationships" component to their curriculum - though there is no information on whether teaching consent is a part of this education at all.


1/9/2015 - Activists are Helping Texas Women Cross State Lines for Abortion Care

With Texas on the verge of shutting down all but 8 of the state's abortion clinics, activists are taking up a new method to increase access to clinics: bringing women across state lines.

Texas abortion clinics have been under attack in recent years, significantly reducing women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, largely due to HB 2, the Texas omnibus anti-abortion law that has forced 80 percent of abortion clinics in the state to close. As a result, abortion rights advocates are increasingly helping women seeking an abortion travel from Texas to neighboring New Mexico.

"For a long time I'd had my eye on New Mexico," says Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive officer of Whole Woman's Health. Although the closing of abortion clinics is far more common than the opening of new clinics, Whole Woman's Health successfully opened a clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico last fall, just 50 miles away from El Paso, Texas. "Going into Las Cruces felt like a really smart thing to do on behalf of the women of west Texas and south Texas so that they could have an option no matter what," Hagstrom Miller continued.

Organizations to help women afford the costs of abortion in Texas have also been in response to HB2. Some of them, such as Fund Texas Choice, are dedicated entirely to funding travel costs for women seeking an abortion in Texas. The organization funds bus or airline tickets, hotel stays, and expects the demand for their services to go up in the near future.


1/8/2015 - Officials Say NAACP Bombing "Was Caused Deliberately"

A bomb went off near a Colorado Springs, Colorado, chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Wednesday morning.

The FBI called the incident intentional, according to the Los Angeles Times. The homemade explosive went off outside the building, which caused damage to the NAACP chapter's offices as well as a barber shop also located inside the building.

"There was smoke everywhere, the building on the side was burnt," a witness told KDVR, a local news station. According to FBI spokesperson Amy Sanders, an improvised bomb was placed against the outer wall of the building next to a gasoline can, which didn't explode with the bomb. At 10:45 AM local time, witnesses heard a loud boom. No one was killed or injured as a result of the bomb.

Many suspect the incident was a hate crime, though this has not yet been confirmed. "It has also not yet been determined if the motive was a hate crime, domestic terrorism, a personal act of violence against a specific individual, or other motive as there are numerous individuals and entities tied to the building in the vicinity of the explosion," Sanders said in an email to the Los Angeles Times. If the bomb was purposely targeted at the NAACP, it would not be the first time the organization has faced violence since it was founded in 1909.

The FBI along with its Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are conducting an investigation of Wednesday's incident, though FBI officials said the explosion "was caused deliberately."


1/8/2015 - Feminists Fight Back Against Slew of Abortion Restrictions in Tennessee

When the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes later this month, they'll be greeted by feminist activists who oppose their lawmakers' proposed attacks on reproductive rights.

The Women's March on Nashville will take place on Tuesday, January 13 at 10 AM CST - the same day that state legislators will be sworn in and have filed to take up various abortion restrictions now made possible by the passage of Amendment 1. That measure, which passed by a small percentage in November, altered Tennessee's constitution and opened the floodgates to previously rejected measures about abortion.

"Our legislators will be sworn in on January 13th and as they have already filed legislation attacking our privacy rights," the event organizers wrote on Facebook. "It is time to show them how we feel about it. We need to let them know we are watching the bills they bring that take away our privacy rights and we don't plan to quietly sit home while it happens."

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) said in November that she would be supporting three abortion-related measures in the next legislative session. One, HB 2, would implement a mandatory waiting period of between 24 and 72 hours for an abortion procedure, in which women who wish to receive abortions must undergo an ultrasound while listening to a description of their fetus in the womb and also listen to its heartbeat. Harwell also said she would support a measure like SB 13, which forces doctors to deliver manipulative "counseling" to women electing to choose abortion - including exaggerating the medical severity of the procedure and encouraging her to carry to term and choose adoption. According to the Washington Post, Harwell's body also plans to take up a TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) bill requiring stricter clinic inspections.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has struck down variations on all three of these measures in the past, declaring that the state constitution prohibited them. The passage of Amendment 1, which took away privacy rights to abortion from women in the state, now enables lawmakers to push them through nonetheless. Amendment 1 is in direct conflict with a 2000 ruling by the state's Supreme Court that deemed abortion "an inherently intimate and personal enterprise" protected from government interference and was opposed by Tennessee women's groups, OB/GYNs, and major newspapers.

Despite Republican fervor to restrict reproductive freedom in Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam (R) last week warned lawmakers to tread carefully in the face of countless court rulings across the nation marking similar bills unconstitutional and costing states up to millions of dollars in litigation.

"I think anything we do, we should pay attention to what's been ruled legal or not in other states," Haslam said to the Times Free Press. "Let's not go charging up hills that other folks have charged up and have found were outside the law."

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


1/8/2015 - House Republicans Push National 20 Week Abortion Ban on First Day Back in Congress

When the 114th Congress came together for their first session, two legislators in the House of Representatives re-introduced a nationwide 20-week abortion ban.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36), which is in direct violation of Roe v. Wade, was introduced Tuesday by Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). The same legislation passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate, where Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a companion bill that he reportedly also plans to re-introduce.

"It is unfortunate, but not surprising, how quickly the GOP has moved to introduce this extreme measure that has nothing to do with advancing the priorities that Americans care about," Sean Bartlett, spokesperson for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), told RH Reality Check, "but has everything to do with preventing women from making decisions that are right for their bodies and families."

Abortion advocates have been quick to point out the fallacies propping up HR 36, including the dubious claim of "fetal pain" that has been discredited by scientists and major medical groups like the American Medical Association and British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The bill is also an affront to both Roe's standard of viability for a fetus and its unrestricted permission of abortion in the first trimester and to save a woman's health or life or in the case of serious abnormalities. Many of the tests used to predict serious fetal abnormalities or identify threats to a pregnant woman's own health or safety are done after 20 weeks.

Although bills like HR 36 face less obstacles in the new Congress, where GOP legislators now dominate both chambers, President Obama has vowed to veto The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act if it reaches his desk. 20-week bans introduced at the state level - including a similar bill passed into law in Representative Frank's own Arizona - have also been ruled unconstitutional, a decision the Supreme Court declined to review.