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1/29/1998 - Abortion Access Decreasing in Canada
On the tenth anniversary of Canada's Supreme Court ruling that decriminalized abortion, pro-choice activists worry that violent attacks on abortion providers and political pressure are making it harder for women to gain access to the procedure.
Before the January 1988 ruling, women could obtain abortions only in a hospital setting with the approval of a three-doctor committee. The Supreme Court declared the abortion law unconstitutional, saying it "clearly interferes with a woman's physical and bodily integrity."
Access to abortion is decreasing in Canada. Many provinces refuse to cover all or any of the costs of the abortion within the Canadian universal health-care system and anti-abortion groups, such as the Campaign Life Coalition, are intensifying efforts to prohibit public funding of the procedure.
Abortion providers throughout Canada face a daily risk of violence from anti-abortion extremists. Three shootings of doctors who perform abortions occurred in November of 1994, 1995 and 1997. The doctors were each wounded by shots fired through the windows of their homes. Today, doctors who provide abortions are taking precautions, some even wear bullet-proof vests.
Abortion supporters worry that the risk involved has resulted in the shrinking numbers of abortion providers. "I feel that police are not giving enough attention and priority to finding the perpetrator of these attacks," said Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the abortion-provider who fought for the 1988 Supreme Court decision. Morgentaler, 74, still performs abortions after repeated trials, 10 months in prison and a 1992 bombing of his Toronto clinic. Morgentaler believes that legalizing abortion has lowered the infant mortality rate, reduced the number of unwanted children in Canada and virtually eliminated unsafe, illegal abortions.
A housemaid in Sri Lanka will receive 120 lashes, a two-year prison sentence and will be deported from her country for becoming pregnant by her Bangledeshi boyfriend. Sex outside marriage is banned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while adulterers can be stoned to death. Her boyfriend will receive 95 lashes and one month in prison after denying the charges.
Key West, Florida City officials voted unanimously to extend spousal benefits to unmarried worker’s domestic partners last week. The city has also started a domestic partner registry in which the city clerk will provide a certificate for to city residents for a $50 fee. Same-sex and heterosexual partners who obtain a certificate will be entitled to family leave.
German bishops have announced their intention to continue issuing certificates to women saying that they received counseling before their abortion. The bishops are defying Pope John Paul II’s request that Roman Catholic agencies in Germany stop issuing the certificates, claiming that the certificates support abortion. The German government has urged the clergy to ignore the Pope and continue the counseling.
Women in Germany must provide certificates of counseling obtained from church groups, the Red Cross, or the state before they can have an abortion. The German bishops conference has stated that it would consider discontinuing the certificate program in March.
Despite promises from oil companies to hold off on a $1.9 billion gas pipeline until there is a recognized government and peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan officials stated that the agreement between the nations is very close to being formalized. The pipeline will travel 105 miles in Turkmenistan, 462 in Afghanistan and 328 in Pakistan, pumping oil from a gas field in Daulatabad with a reserve of 25 trillion cubic feet.
Pakistan officials met directly with the Taliban militia rebels who have taken over much of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Chaudhry Nisar stated, “I convinced Afghans that this particular project was most important for Afghanistan for a number of reasons. If this project goes through, it will bring Afghanistan and most importantly, their government, on the international energy map.”
The Taliban met with Unocal, a United States oil and gas company, and decided to go ahead with the project. Unocal holds 46.5 percent of the stake in the line, and has begun training of Afghan men in the U.S. to build the pipeline.
The Feminist Majority, other women’s organizations and human rights groups worry that the pipeline, which would earn the Taliban $50 to $100 million a year, will lead to recognition of the Taliban government. The militia group has initiated a war of gender apartheid, banning women and girls from working, going to school, and from leaving their homes without wearing a “burqa,” a debilitating head-to-toe garment.
Former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland has been nominated director general of the World Health Organization. WHO organizes vaccination efforts, responds to epidemics, distributes medicine and tracks diseases. If Brundtland is elected in May she will be the first woman to head the WHO in its 50 year history, and will be the third woman to be appointed to a major U.N. post within a year.
The United States, which contributes 25% of WHO’s budget, announced its support for Brundtland earlier this month. U.S. representative to the U.N. in Geneva George E. Moose stated, “This is a great step forward for the World Health Organization. She is superbly qualified to lead the World Health Organization into the next century.”
1/27/1998 - Rape Used to Control, Intimidate Indian Women
Women’s organizations in India are outraged over increasing use of rape as a means of intimidation and punishment. “Not only is there an escalation in the number of rapes, but in the perversity of crimes against women,” said Indu Agnihotri, from the Centre for Women’s Studies.
The situation is worse in the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where caste and gender divides are explicit. Judges have acquitted rapists due to their high caste status, stating that the rape of a lower-caste woman could not have taken place. “Lower-rung police officials are not responsive and either do not register complaints or falsify or delay them,” said Kokila Vyas of the National Commission for Women (NCW) in India.
Women who are working for social justice often face the greatest risk of being raped. In 1993, an activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Gujarat who resisted expulsion from her land was gang-raped by police. A lower-caste woman who was leading an anti-liquor movement was stripped, led around naked and raped by men working for the liquor lobby. Land owners and members of the security forces also rape women of lower caste regularly, as a means of subordinating the women.
Women’s groups are crying out for change. “If they think they can silence us with rape, they are mistaken. We will never take it lying down. We are now stronger than ever before,” stated activist Sumli Bai.
1/27/1998 - Domestic Violence Costly in Britain
A major study conducted by three universities reported that one woman in nine is a victim of severe domestic violence in Britain. Members of the research team, who was given access to emergency and social service files, found that thousands of women were seeking help in local area hospitals and service organizations.
Dr. Elizabeth Stanko of Brunel University said, “We have to get away from the idea that domestic violence is something hidden; public services are dealing with it day-in and day-out. It is only hidden in the sense that virtually no public agency could account for how much they spent on domestic violence.”
The study, called Counting the Costs, was aimed at estimating the expenses of domestic violence in England. Reports claim that more than one billion pounds (1.6 billion dollars), or 90 pounds (150 dollars) per household was spent annually.
Joan Ruddock, the minister for women, commented on the study, “Domestic violence is a crime and cannot be tolerated. To put a financial cost on such unacceptable behavior fails to recognize the emotional and physical hurt placed on women and children. We are determined to tackle this scourge of society.”
Human rights groups are outraged by the recent attempted suicides of five girls who wanted to avoid virginity tests in Turkey. The five girls, ages 12-16, chose to take rat poison and jump into a vat of water rather than face forced virginity tests. The girls survived and the tests were performed in the hospital.
Virginity tests, a centuries-old tradition in Turkey, are performed to measure a woman’s purity and loyalty to her family. Suicides are also commonplace, since the virginity test is often times inaccurate. Dilek Cindoglu, a sociologist who has studied the tests, said that “patriarchal control over women’s bodies has been reproduced through honor and shame codes.”
Recent controversy over the virginity tests arose when Isilay Saygin, state minister in charge of female and family affairs, supported government examinations of girls in state-run foster homes, stating the tests were needed to guide young women’s behavior. Human Rights Watch recently reported that the government was conducting virginity tests being run on hospital patients and prisoners.
1/27/1998 - First Ladies’ Library to Open in Ohio, Online
A new library and online bibliography dedicated to the first ladies of the United States will open this spring. The National First Ladies’ Library, located in the Canton, Ohio childhood home of Ida Saxton McKinley, will hold books, documents, audiotapes and journals.
The new library is “just kind of asking for equal time, trying to ensure there is equal focus and emphasis given and an equal history ... there’s a significant gap in our historical perspective because we do not chronicle the achievements , accomplishments and contributions of women,” said Frances Hughes Glendening, first lady of Maryland the library’s vice chairwoman.
The library is the brainchild of Mary Rodusky Regula, the wife of Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). All six living first ladies are honorary chairwomen of the library.
In addition, the library will recognize contemporary “first women” of achievement in an annual First Women Awards Dinner. The virtual library will be available to the public in February.
1/27/1998 - Home Depot Settles in Sex Discrimination Suit
Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement store, has agreed to a $65 million settlement in a 1994 sex discrimination lawsuit. Plaintiffs’ lawyers report that at least 6,000 valid compensation claims were filed.
The company was accused of discrimination in hiring, pay and promotions. Women claimed they were held in menial jobs, denied training and were not hired for management positions.
Home Depot will pay $22.5 million to the women’s lawyers, and will spend $17 million to upgrade its employment programs and to settle three other discrimination suits still pending.
1/26/1998 - Conservatives Claim Mothers Should Stay Home
Critics of President Clinton’s $21.7 billion child-care initiative argue that giving aid to working mothers only encourages women to work, rather than stay home with their children.
Clinton’s initiative proposes to improve the quality of child care, encourage businesses to provide or help employees pay for it, helps parents pay for child care by increasing tax credits, expands after-school and Head Start programs and doubles the number of parents who receive child-care subsidies. Although the proposal has attracted praise from child-care advocates, conservatives are focusing on whether women should be working at all. Senator Dan Coats said, “Some fundamental questions need to be asked about the importance of the mother-child attachment particularly in the very early years.”
Conservatives are claiming that stay-at-home mothers need to be given the same recognition and aid as working mothers. Heidi Brennan, public policy director for Mothers at Home said, “Members of Congress on both sides are scared of the feminists. Child-care ideologues are very organized, and they control this issue.”
Not all Republicans are critical of the new child-care proposal. Rep. Marge Roukema stated, “Contrary to the opinion of many, most women are not working simply out of personal or professional ambition. Many are single mothers. But even with two workers, it is an economic necessity to work. They are not running away from their children.”
Families that earn under $14,000 per year pay one-quarter of their income for child care, and more than one third of the providers leave their jobs citing low wages. And while low-income mothers may want to spend more time with their children, new welfare laws are forcing them out of their homes and into the workforce.
1/26/1998 - NOW Vies for Randall’s Air Miles
The National Organization for Women (NOW) has asked 13 airlines to relinquish Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry’s frequent flyer miles. Terry owes NOW millions of dollars in fines from court orders brought against him for violence he and fellow Operation Rescue workers wrought against abortion clinics over the last ten years.
Earlier this month, Terry, agreed to a permanent injunction which prohibits him from committing violent acts against clinics, the staff and patients, and from belonging to any groups which commit these acts. The agreement represented a partial victory for women’s organizations in NOW v. Scheidler, which prosecuted Terry under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
1/26/1998 - L.A. County Settles, Pays $24 Mil. to Poor Women
Los Angeles County has agreed to pay $24 million to settle 49 claims that women and children on Medi-Cal died or were crippled during forced vaginal births. Doctors had been following a county policy to only perform vaginal deliveries for poorer women rather than Cesarean deliveries due to higher costs.
The county’s policy led to the deaths of two women and three infants. Forty-six now suffer from disabilities including paralysis and cerebral palsy due to the policy, which was terminated in 1995.
1/26/1998 - Harvard Law School Hires Lani Guinier
Lani Guinier became the first woman of color faculty member at Harvard Law School, which has been criticized for having only six minorities and nine women out of 67 tenured professors. Guinier commented that by joining Harvard she is, “building on the accomplishments of other women of color and people of all colors in legal education.”
Guinier was previously nominated by President Clinton to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division in 1993, but Clinton withdrew his nomination when conservatives attacked Guinier’s views on voting rights.
Vice President Al Gore voiced his support for safe and legal abortion and pledged increased financial support for domestic and international family planning organizations at a National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Roe v. Wade 25th anniversary luncheon yesterday. Gore invited abortion rights advocates to "seek common ground" with anti-choice followers by working to make abortion rarer through better contraception and education.
Also marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade was the annual "March for Life" anti-choice rally. The crowd included families, older adults and church congregations and at least 1,500 parochial high school and grade school students who were bussed in for the event. The march ended at the Supreme Court, where police in riot gear eventually dispersed the crowd.
1/23/1998 - EEOC, Grocery Store Chain Settle Lawsuit
Nob Hill Foods, a San-Francisco based grocery chain, has agreed to pay a $1.3 settlement in a suit that alleged the chain denied women and minorities jobs and promotions. The EEOC has also recommended that 175 women and minorities be hired and 70-75 women be promoted in the next 3 years.
Nob Hill has a history of relegating women to low pay, low status positions, while managerial and executive level positions are dominated by men. Susan McDuffie, director of the EEOC's San Francisco district office, said that promotions were posted and supposedly available to all employees, yet investigators found evidence that men were "tapped on the shoulder and told, 'Hey, do you want this promotion? It's yours.'"
Investigators also found evidence of sexual harassment and discrimination against African-Americans, Asians, and the disabled. Nob Hill allegedly violated federal law by asking job applicants about physical and mental disabilities.
1/23/1998 - Hormones PMS Culprits
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health confirms that premenstrual syndrome is indeed caused by hormones. Doctor’s evaluated 10 women who suffer from PMS, experiencing depression, irritability, anxiety before menstruation, along with 10 others who do not experience these symptoms.
Subjects were given leuprolide, which blocks normal hormone production, as well as doses of estrogen, proestrogen and dummy pills. The women received the estrogen and proestrogen experienced PMS-like symptoms.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, did not investigate why only about 2.5 percent of women suffer from PMS. Dr. Peter J. Schmidt, director of the research, commented, "It suggests that women with PMS have a different sensitivity to the mood-destabilizing effects of hormones."
The Cuban Catholic church has funded a small group called Pro-Vida (Spanish for "pro-life") for the past two years. Pro-Vida also receives financial support from Virginia-based Human Life International, which provides videos, literature, and anti-abortion campaign training.
During his recent visit to Cuba, the Pope denounced abortion, deeming it "an abominable crime, a senseless impoverishment of the person and of society itself."
Abortion has been legal in Cuba since the 1940’s and is free and easily accessible to the public in state hospitals. Health Minister Carlos Dotres said, "We don’t conceive of abortion as a contraceptive method. But we give those who choose it a hospital, so we don’t have deaths under poor conditions."
Jurors awarded Sunday Daskalea $5.3 million in damages after finding that a D.C. jail correctional officer forced her to participate in a striptease in July 1995.
Daskalea claims that correctional officer Yvonne C. Walker, who has since been fired, was intoxicated when she arrived at work and sent three inmates to force Daskalea to the area where the striptease took place.
When another inmate reported the striptease to a deputy warden, corrections officers assumed that Daskalea made the report and punished her by placing her in solitary confinement where she was denied "basic necessities."
The District of Columbia plans to appeal the decision.
1/22/1998 - Clinton Supports Abortion Rights
On the eve of the 25th Anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade President Clinton declared his support of abortion rights. "I’m committed to keeping abortion safe, legal and accessible and to making it more rare." Clinton has supported funding for sex education and has backed a law protecting clinics from violence. "I will continue to do everything I can to make sure that every child in America is a wanted child, raised in a loving strong family," he said.
As the President’s remarks were made public members of Operation Rescue were taking a public tour of the White House. Each member of the militant anti-abortion group wore T-shirts bearing a picture of an aborted fetal head, with slogans reading, "America’s Holocaust" and "These are the children of Hillary’s village."
Although Roe V. Wade may not be in immediate danger, anti-abortion strategies to eliminate abortion in the US through restrictive laws are working. Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commented on the increasing difficulty of gaining access to an abortion. "We could easily face a world in which the legal right to choose is very solid, but women have no access to exercise their choice if that’s what they wish to do," said Feldt.
1/22/1998 - Study Finds Working Couples Enjoy Benefits
A study released by the non-profit organization Catalyst found that wives and husbands who both worked believed that the arrangement had a positive affect on their careers and that they could adequately cope with work and home responsibilities. The study is based on surveys of close to one thousand dual-career earners who represent 45 percent of the workforce and 60 percent of all marriages in 1996.
"A significant portion of the U.S. labor force finds economic independence, security, and satisfaction in the family’s second income," stated Catalyst president Sheila Wellington. The study revealed that two-thirds of the families believed that having a two-career marriage gave them the freedom to leave their current job if they were not satisfied with conditions.
The respondents listed being able to turn down promotions with the possibility of accepting in the future, being able to move within the organization for development, staying in one position for a longer period of time, turning down relocation and accepting in the future as well as being able to specialize as important elements of a career. Men and women both agreed that freedom related to family circumstances in arrival and departure time, and telecommuting options were also necessary benefits of a position.
Although more men reported their own careers as principal, a significant percentage also claimed that they made accommodations for their wives in cases of home and childcare emergencies.
Catalyst, which works to promote advancement of women within business, will release the study, Two Careers, One Marriage: Making it Work in the Workplace, in mid-February.
Pro-choice activists rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday during a Speak Out held by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League (NARAL). Eight women and one man gathered to tell their stories of how abortion affected their lives to a crowd composed of pro-choice and anti-abortion supporters.
Speakers included Carol Wall, who gave similar testimony during the Senate subcommittee hearing, Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, who spoke of her own abortion as "one of the most moral decisions I ever made," and Rabbi Donald Webber, whose wife had an abortion 14 years ago when the fetus was found to be seriously ill. Webber claimed that abortion rights were also religious rights. "When one religious position can bully their way into America as they are bullying their way into us today, we are all in danger."
Anti-abortion militants were few in number, but made their presence felt, heckling the speakers with comments from a bull horn and shouts from the crowd. Rev. Philip Benham, Operation Rescue’s national president commented, "This court stands in contempt of the God almighty."
In a hearing held by chairman Senator John Ashcroft of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, two women, Norma McCorvey (alias Jane "Roe") and Carol Wall, spoke of their experiences with abortion. Norma McCorvey declared, "I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name." McCorvey, who had worked in abortion clinics for years, changed her position in 1995, and is now the director of the Roe No More Ministry in Dallas.
McCorvey read testimony of her experience with abortion, admitting to having lied about her circumstances as a gang rape victim during the Roe trial in 1973. McCorvey concluded her statement declaring, "I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name. It is my sincere prayer that there be no 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade."
Carol Wall spoke of the abortion she obtained in Mexico in 1966. She recalled the $800 dollar procedure in an unmarked house and the death note she wrote to her husband and children before the surgery in case she did not return. Wall said her pro-choice views stem from teachings that she should "help others the way you would want to be helped."
Ashcroft led discussions with other panel members regarding fetal viability, the pain threshold of a fetus, and the legal definitions of a fetus and baby.
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against three women in sex discrimination cases. The Supreme Court let stand the rulings of earlier appellate court decisions which found that the women had not suffered from sex discrimination on the job.
The women, an ambitious meat cutter, a faculty member seeking tenure and a car sales consultant, all tried to prove that they were sexually discriminated against. Previous Supreme Court rulings have left the definition of sexual discrimination vague.
To prove discrimination on the basis of sex the victim must first present evidence of discrimination, the employer then offers an explanation or denies the alleged discrimination, the victim then must prove that the explanation is "pretext,” an attempt by the employer to disguise the discrimination.