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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.

1/7/2015 - Confirmation of Obama Judges Hits High Mark, Most Diverse in History

After six years of his presidency, more of President Obama's judicial appointments have been confirmed by the Senate than for either Presidents Clinton or George W. Bush in their first six years. Nearly one-third of Obama's appointments, some 89, were confirmed in 2014 alone after then Majority Leader Harry Reid led successfully a fight in November, 2013 to change the rules to only require a simple majority vote instead of 60 votes. Reid effectively stopped the Republican filibustering of many of Obama's judicial appointments.

"Reid's leadership coupled with that of Senator Patrick Leahy, then Chair of the Judiciary Committee, stopped the Republican slowdown of the confirmation of Obama's appointments to the federal bench," said Eleanor Smeal President of the Feminist Majority. "The Feminist Majority supported the rules change. Women and people of color have waited too long for adequate representation on the federal bench," continued Smeal.

Most importantly Obama's appointments have changed the face of the federal judiciary. The majority of Obama's judicial appointments have been women and people of color. Women have comprised 42 percent of his judicial appointments, and 36 percent are people of color. The highest level of appointment of women to the federal bench prior to Obama was Clinton, who had a total of 29 percent. Clinton also previously held the highest appointment of racial minorities to the federal bench at 24 percent. President Obama also appointed 11 openly gay men or lesbian federal judges - the most in history. Only one openly gay person had been ever been appointed before by any president.

In the first six years, some 307 of Obama's appointments to the federal bench were confirmed. Moreover now nine of the 13 Circuit Courts of Appeal have a majority of judges appointed by a Democratic president. When Obama entered office, Republican appointees were the majority of 10 of the Circuit Courts of Appeals. By the end of October, 2014, according to Jeffrey Toobin for the New Yorker, "Obama has had 280 judges confirmed, which represents about a third of the federal judiciary."

1/7/2015 - Clinically Dead Pregnant Irish Woman Taken Off Life Support

A clinically dead pregnant woman in Ireland was taken off life support last month after a Dublin court ruled that the fetus would not survive long enough to be born.

Ireland's ban on abortion makes it the country with the strictest abortion laws in all of Europe. This most recent case brought the law into question for many Irish people and reproductive rights advocates worldwide.

The court's decision to take the pregnant woman off life support was in line with her family's wishes. The court, which normally does not operate around Christmas, convened to hear the woman's family plea to have her taken off life support. The woman was declared clinically dead on December 3 after experiencing a severe head injury during a fall.

The decision comes as a surprise to some, as Irish law experts said they believed the court would rule to keep the woman on life support as long as the fetus was alive inside her.

Seven doctors presented testimony to say the fetus "has nothing but distress and death in prospect." The doctors explained that the fetus would have a high chance of experiencing infections, fungal growths, and other complications due to the state of the woman's body.

But this ruling does not necessarily set up a new path for similar cases in the future; judges say future cases involving clinically dead pregnant women might be dealt with differently if the fetus has a greater chance of being viable.

Ireland's total ban on abortion was amended for the first time in 2013 after a woman named Savita Halappanavar died of blood poisoning after being denied an abortion during a miscarriage. Ireland's abortion law now states that a woman can receive an abortion if the pregnancy is putting her life in danger.

However, the current ban on abortion still leads judges to hold the right of the fetus "over the feelings of grief and respect for a mother who is no longer living."

1/7/2015 - Democrat Kathleen Murphy Wins Special Election for Virginia House

Despite a low turnout due to snowy conditions in Virginia, Democrat Kathleen Murphy defeated Republican Craig Parisot for a Virginia House seat by a margin of just 324 votes in a special election to fill newly elected Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock's seat. However, with Murphy's election, Democrats are still greatly outnumbered (67 Republicans to 33 Democrats), in the Virginia House of Delegates.

While voters in Virginia do not register by party, elections results show the 34th District, which includes Great Falls, McLean and parts of Vienna and Loudoun County, is equally Democrat and Republican.

Murphy, 66, is an advocate of stricter gun laws, renewable energy resources, requiring colleges to report sexual assaults to the police, and is against "personhood" anti-abortion laws.

"I will fight to protect the rights of all Virginians no matter their religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation," Murphy states on her website. "I will be an advocate for the reproductive rights of women, our voting rights and for the civil rights of all our citizens."

1/6/2015 - Washington, DC Breaks Barriers for Women

Our nation's capital is making feminist history. As of January 2, Washington, DC is being led by a trio of trailblazing women, two of whom are women of color, making it the only city in the US where the mayor, chief of police, and school chancellor are all women.

Muriel Bowser, the second woman to be elected as Mayor of Washington, DC, announced last week that she will be keeping top DC leaders Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. After the announcement, the Washington Post referred to Bowser, Lanier, and Henderson as "DC's Matriarchy."

"How fitting for the nation's capital to have three women in charge, women who have gotten things done in this city for years," said Bowser. "We want to the whole world to know we are a city on the move."

Police Chief Lanier has lived an inspiring and difficult life that has undoubtedly contributed to her leadership, perseverance, and understanding of the problems of poor people struggling to make their way. She dropped out of high school at 14 after becoming pregnant, and supported herself through two master's degrees before joining the police force. Kaya Henderson, who has been DC schools chancellor since 2011, is widely credited with the rapid and sudden progress of DC public schools.

Furthermore, Bowser nominated Polly Donaldson as director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development. An out lesbian and expert in affordable housing, Bowser calls Donaldson "a person with a proven track record and proven leadership."

And we cannot forget, in Congress, the District of Columbia is represented by delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Norton is a strong voice in Congress for women's rights, civil rights, economic justice, and statehood for the District of Columbia.

With this collection of impressive female leadership, Washington DC can boast of a feat no other city can claim.

1/5/2015 - Avalanche of Right-Wing Legislation Expected in Republican States

The 24 states where Republicans now hold total control are planning a "juggernaut of conservative legislation" that could especially impact women's access to reproductive health, according to the Washington Post.

States like Tennessee can expect to see further restrictions on abortion access in the coming months, following an amendment to the state constitution that was narrowly passed in November. Tennessee's Amendment 1 takes away privacy rights for abortion and birth control access and permits state legislators to pass laws restricting abortion and birth control. Republican State House Speaker Beth Harwell plans to take up three more restrictive measures, previously struck down by the state Supreme Court. Because of Tennessee's privacy clause that was amended by Amendment 1. The three, if passed by the Tennessee legislators, measures would require a woman seeking an abortion to go through a waiting period and receive mandatory counseling, and would mandate stricter inspections for clinics.

Attacks on labor unions are to be expected as well, as Republican legislators plan to take up dozens of measures that challenge the power of labor union. Many of these measures are designed to weaken labor unions. Moreover, bills designed to privatize many social services, such as kindergarten development, are expected.

Right-wing legislation advocated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing think tank that promotes model legislation, is going to eliminate defined benefit pension systems and replace it with a defined contribution system. A prime target will be public employees' pension plans, which would directly affect state employees in traditionally female roles, such as teachers, administrative staff, hospital workers, but would also impact firefighters and police officers.

1/2/2015 - Little League Star Mo'ne Davis Honored by AP and Sports Illustrated

A vote by news directors and US editors at the Associated Press named Mo'ne Davis the 2014 Female Athlete of the Year, making her the youngest person to receive the title. She was also named the 2014 Sports Kid of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

Davis, a pitcher, was the breakout star of the 2014 Little League World Series, where she threw a two-hitter to help Philadelphia beat Nashville 4-0 in the opener and had eight strikeouts without walking a single batter. She's already playing for her high school's varsity team - even though she is 13 years old and in eighth grade.

After her performance at the Little League World Series, Davis became a celebrity. She met the Obamas, was in a commercial directed by Spike Lee, and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids. Davis' message to those who look up to her is: "Always follow your dreams. If there's something people tell you that you can't do it, go for it."

The Little League allowed girls to play for the first time in 1974, after a several year campaign waged by the National Organization for Women. "I can remember it well," Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and then President of Pennsylvania NOW told Feminist Newswire. "We picketed the Little League World Series in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania with the slogan 'Give Girls a Chance.'"Little League was sued by girls in several states with the help of NOW. Finally, in 1974, a New Jersey Court ordered Little League to allow girls to try out. Little League not only integrated its baseball program, but also set up a softball program for girls. On December 26, 1974 President Gerald Ford signed legislation opening Little League to participation by girls by changing its federal charter to include "young people" rather than "boys."

Davis - an honor student who plays three sports (she plays basketball and soccer, too) - is aiming for the WNBA, but until then says she wants to continue playing three sports in high school. Steve Bandura, who helped coach Davis, said the fame and busy lifestyle doesn't stop her from being a kid.

1/2/2015 - More Women Agents at the Border Could Mitigate Sexual Assault Crisis

Following rampant accusations of sexual assault and harassment of female migrants, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is looking to boost the number of female agents on staff.

Right now, of the 21,000 agents serving the CBP, only about 5 percent are female. This week, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the department has received over 5500 applications from potential female recruits since kicking off a hiring spree in early December. These developments come on the heels of increasing complaints against CBP and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alleging staff members have sexually abused children and female detainees, compounding a journey that is often traumatic enough on its own.

Writing for the New York Times, Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stressed the need to increase the number of female officers in order to stem violence often initiated by male members of law enforcement agencies:

Research conducted nationally and internationally for more than four decades has found that women police officers not only do their jobs as well as men, but are less authoritarian, use force less often, communicate better, and are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations than their male counterparts.

According to Federal News Radio, at least 50 women reported being sexually assaulted by human traffickers on the way to the United States. Amnesty International estimates that as many as 60 percent of the women who come to the US from Central America and Mexico are sexually assaulted during the trip.

Last month, Juanita Molina, executive director of the Border Action Network said the number of female migrants has nearly tripled since 2011, but the number of field agents has remained low. "Most women are victimized by men," Molina said, "So having a first responder who's a man inherently creates mistrust."

CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske seems to agree. In an interview last month, he said, "women bring a perspective and negotiating skill to law enforcement and to the border patrol that we very much need." CBP aims to hire 1,600 agents by the end of September 2015.

1/2/2015 - #BlackLivesMatter Movement Takes On Racist Coverage by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation Companies

Over a thousand protesters are slated to rally outside Fox News headquarters today to protest racist coverage of anti-police brutality movements across the country by both Fox News and newspaper The New York Post.

At 2 PM today, protesters will gather in front of News Corporation headquarters and host a "die-in shutdown" that is expected to last until 7 PM. At 5 PM, the rally will move to Wall Street with a speak-out, and at 7 PM a meeting for anyone interested in participating in planning further protests will be held at 60 Wall Street in the Public Atrium.

News Corporation, owned and founded by Rupert Murdoch, controls a network of media, news, and education companies. The New York Post and Fox News have been the recipients of complaints and accusations of racist coverage and commentary on the cases of victims of police brutality such as the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Eric Garner case in Staten Island, New York. Fox News has received negative feedback in the past for racist or sexist comments said on air, most recently for editing footage from a police brutality protest. The footage showed activist Tawanda Jones leading a chant "we won't stop, we can't stop, till killer cops, are in cell blocks," although Fox News stopped the chant to sound like "we won't stop, we can't stop, go kill a cop." They have since apologized to Jones, calling the edit an "honest mistake."

This protest is said to be the first in a larger campaign for justice organized by #BlackLivesMatter Justice for Eric Garner Assembly, who created a list of short and long term demands.

12/24/2014 - New FMF Study Finds Nationwide Increase in Public Single-Sex K-12 Education Despite Evidence it Increases Sex Stereotyping and Sex Discrimination

Deliberate sex segregation is on the rise in public K-12 classrooms across the country, despite evidence that it is often illegal and educationally unsound.

Tuesday, the Feminist Majority Foundation's Education Equity Program released a second multi-year study "Identifying US K-12 Public Schools with Deliberate Sex Segregation."

According to the new study, there has been a 24 percent increase in public coed schools with single-sex academic classes since the period covering 2007-2010. In the first FMF study, there were 564 public coed schools with single-sex academic offerings. That number jumped to 699 in the new study, with a slightly larger increase in the number of all-female and all-male public schools. The number of single-sex schools jumped 29 percent, from 82 schools to 106 schools by 2012.

South Carolina, Florida, Texas and North Carolina had the most public coed schools with single-sex classes. New York and Texas had the most all-girl and all-boy schools.

The FMF study also found that more of the single-sex academic classes were for male students than females, however, the number of all-girl schools exceeded the number of all-boy campuses.

Most of the coed schools with single-sex academic offerings are middle and high schools.

"We are concerned that the numbers of single-sex K-12 public education programs are growing despite increased evidence that they are legally and educationally unsound," says Sue Klein, Ed. D., Education Equity Director for the FMF. "This growth is of particular concern because schools with deliberate sex segregation often serve a predominantly African American and/or Latino student populations in urban areas. Only 35 percent of coed schools with single-sex academic classes had a 75 percent or higher white student population," Klein said.

Writing for the fall 2013 issue of Ms. Magazine, Susan McGee Bailey wrote that the data supporting the persistence of single-sex education "have not withstood scientific scrutiny."

"Rather than offering a hoped-for fix to problems of low student achievement, single-sex instruction has failed our students and encouraged school districts to risk breaching both Title IX and the 14th Amendment"s Equal Protection Clause," Bailey wrote.

While federal law mandates that public school single-sex education must be voluntary, the new FMF study found that almost none of the schools provided information on their websites about the nature of, or justification for their single-sex environment, leaving parents and students without adequate information to make informed decisions about their child's participation in a deliberately sex-segregated setting.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued long awaited guidance for K-12 schools interested in offering single-sex classes while staying in compliance with federal laws barring sex-based discrimination.


Take Action!

The new study contains lists of 805 public K-12 schools with intentional single-sex settings by name and state. Help FMF take the data further:

  1. Do the schools on the above lists in your state still practice deliberate sex segregation?

  2. Are there other public schools that should be added to the lists?

  3. Are schools with sex segregation violating any of the equity principles in the December OCR guidance or other review criteria such as the FMF suggestions for evaluations?

Please share what you learn with FMF's Education Equity Director, Sue Klein at