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7/25/1997 - Kelly Sentenced to 16 Years

A rapist who fled to Europe for eight years to avoid trial was sentenced July 24 to sixteen years in prison. Alex Kelly was an eighteen-year old high school wrestler when two women charged him with rape. One of the victims, Adrienne Bak Ortolano, urged the judge to give her attacker the maximum sentence of 20-years for raping her when she was sixteen. Kelly was denied bail while he appeals his conviction and waits for his second trial.


7/24/1997 - Seven Officers Convicted of Domestic Violence Relinquish Their Guns

The domestic violence provision of the Gun Control Act forced seven Los Angeles Police Department officers who had been convicted of domestic abuse to give up their guns, Chief Bayan Lewis said July 23. The provision, which the federal government passed last year, prohibits anyone with a domestic abuse conviction from carrying a firearm. Lewis made his comments during a news conference where he also announced that he had signed a "special order" which explains to department employees how the law affects them.


7/24/1997 - Wage Gap Between Women and Men Decreases Yet Remains Significant

On July 24, the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) released "Are Women Catching Up in the Earnings Race?," a report showing that the wage gap between the sexes has decreased, but women's salaries still lag far behind men's. In 1995, women earned 65 cents for every man's dollar, up 11 cents from 1981. For full-time full-year workers, the gap narrowed from 64 to 73 cents for every dollar men earned. Data also showed that female baby-boomers have made wage gains, but earnings of women in other age groups have stayed the same.


7/24/1997 - Sri Lanka Plans to Allow Abortion in Limited Cases

The On July 23, Sri Lanka announced plans to give women limited access to abortion. The island will make exceptions to its current law against abortion in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity. According to National Committee on Women Chair Wimala de Silva, the government is also likely to approve three months' maternity leave for single women. At present, only married women can take maternity leave. To deal with these issues and others affecting women, Sri Lanka has created a Women's Affairs ministry.


7/23/1997 - 5,000 Women Killed Yearly in India for Lack of Adequate Dowry

A report conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has found that 5,000 women in India are killed each year for not bringing enough dowry to their marriages. While the use of dowries - money and goods women bring to a marriage - is illegal in India, custom still pervades in much of the country. Often women who do not bring enough to a marriage are killed in kitchen fires, which are passed off as accidents. The continued existence of the custom also leads poor families to kill young daughters because they cannot afford the large gifts necessary to get them married.


7/23/1997 - 5,000 Women Killed Yearly in India for Lack of Adequate Dowry

A report conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has found that 5,000 women in India are killed each year for not bringing enough dowry to their marriages. While the use of dowries - money and goods women bring to a marriage - is illegal in India, custom still pervades in much of the country. Often women who do not bring enough to a marriage are killed in kitchen fires, which are passed off as accidents. The continued existence of the custom also leads poor families to kill young daughters because they cannot afford the large gifts necessary to get them married.


7/23/1997 - Senate Votes to Ban Federal Employees' Health Insurance Coverage of Abortion

By a 54 - 46 roll call vote, the Senate has continued the ban to exempt abortion from federal employees' health insurance coverage. Six Democrats and 48 Republicans voted to keep the ban; 38 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted to kill the ban.


7/23/1997 - Tuscaloosa, AL Abortion Clinic Target of 13th Clinic Arson/Bombing of 1997

The July 22nd arson of the West Alabama Women's Center clinic in Tuscaloosa, AL marks the 13th abortion clinic arson or bombing of 1997 - the highest rate of anti-abortion violence since 1984. The Tuscaloosa clinic sustained massive damage, estimated at $100,000, due to the early morning fire. The clinic has been plagued in the past by threats of domestic violence. Alarmed by the resurgent wave of abortion clinic arsons and bombings, Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal called for the government to classify the Tuscaloosa arson as "domestic terrorism," and for more federal law enforcement investigative resources to prevent further losses like in Tuscaloosa, and earlier this year in Atlanta, Georgia; Oregon; North Carolina; Northern Virginia; Oklahoma; California and Montana. "These incidents of violence must not be examined in isolation, but as part of a larger pattern of terror and violence against women's health clinics," continued Smeal. "More investigative resources are needed to determine whether the double bombings in Atlanta claimed by the 'Army of God,’ and the string of arsons across the country since, are connected."


7/23/1997 - Congress Approves Breast Cancer Research Stamp

The United States House of Representatives has voted 422 - 3 to approve a new breast cancer postal stamp. The U.S. Senate approved the stamp last week. Proceeds from the stamp, which will cost 33 cents, will be used to fund research for combating the disease.


7/23/1997 - Woman Attempts to Become First Female to Circumvent Globe in Helicopter

Pilot Jennifer Murray, 56, is two-thirds finished with her journey to circumvent the glove in a helicopter. If she completes the journey, she will become the first woman to have ever accomplished that goal. Murray hopes to make the trip in less than 100 days and plans to donate the $800,000 raised to the Save the Children organization. Murray began flying only two and a half years ago; she is accompanied on the trip by Quentin Smith, 36, who won a gold medal at the 1994 World Helicopter Championship. Smith said of Murray, "Impossible to Jennifer just means quite hard." Murray began her journey in London and is flying an R-44 Robinson helicopter.


7/22/1997 - Taleban Imposes New Restrictions on Women in Afghanistan

The Taleban, an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan, has imposed even greater restrictions on women. Currently, women in Afghanistan are forced to cover themselves from head-to-foot, may not go anywhere outside without a relative male accompanying them and cannot attend school. Windows in a house's room which contains women must be colored black so no one can look inside.

Now the Taleban has also issued an order that women must avoid making noise with their feet when walking. In two memos written last week by the religious police, formerly known as the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, and sent to all local and international agencies, the Taleban also formalized rules that women can work only in the medical sector (they cannot take any senior positions). In the medical sector, women cannot enter wards where non-relative males are hospitalized. Native women also cannot ride in cars with foreign women, and that aid to women (who are increasingly destitute because of the ban on working) must be channeled through male relatives. Aid agencies trying to help women must also, "gain permission from the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice to employ or assist women."


7/22/1997 - UNICEF Report Finds Women Live in High Risk of Violence

According to a United Nations report released July 22nd women throughout the world face an unacceptably high risk of violence. Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), commented, "In today's world, to be born female is to be born high risk. Every girl grows up under the threat of violence…This chronic condition of violence amounts to the most pervasive human rights violation in the world today."

According to the report, approximately 60 million more women would be alive today were it not for gender-directed violence. The report also found that 25 to 50% of all women have suffered physical abuse from a partner. Some types of gender violence listed in the report include genital mutilation common in 28 countries, mainly Africa; "son preference" resulting in killing new-born girls or aborting female fetuses, mainly in Asia; dowry killings in India when a new bride’s dowry is deemed insufficient; domestic violence, in the United States where only 1 of every 100 incidents is reported; and acid hurling, mainly in Bangladesh. The report found that, of the world's 193 countries, only 44 have domestic violence legislation, 27 have sexual harassment legislation and 17 regard marital rape as a crime. Even in those countries where laws do exist, they are not necessarily enforced.


7/22/1997 - 17 Arrested for Trafficking Women to Cambodia

Police have arrested 17 people for trafficking women from Vietnam to Cambodia as prostitutes. The network of prepetrators, arrested on July 18th, recruited women from Ho Chi Minh City since 1996 and sold them into prostitution. Already, more than 100 people in Vietnam have been arrested for trafficking women, with the maximum sentence no longer than ten years. Local agencies and women's groups suspect that several thousand Vietnamese women have been sold into prostitution, mainly to China, Cambodia and Macau.


7/22/1997 - Lilith Fair Proves Music and Business Success

The Lilith Fair, a female music festival on tour in the United States this summer, is the brainchild of musician Sarah McLachlan. The Fair features over 60 female performers, who appear on a rotation and include some of today's top music stars. The festival includes McLachlan, Jewel, Shawn Colvin, the Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, Sheryl Crow, Dar Williams and Cassandra Wilson. With a variety of styles and genres, along with secondary stages for up-and-coming performers and booths which allow participants to get involved in a range of political issues, the festival has drawn rave musical reviews. It has also drawn sold-out audience after sold-audience. This summer, it is the only show which has consistently sold-old out at each venue.


7/22/1997 - Tuscaloosa, AL Abortion Clinic is the 13th Arson/Bombing of 1997

Highest Rate of Anti-abortion Violence Since 1984

The July 22nd arson of the West Alabama Women's Center clinic in Tuscaloosa, AL marks the 13th abortion clinic arson or bombing of 1997 -- the highest rate of anti-abortion violence since 1984. The Tuscaloosa clinic sustained massive damage, estimated at $100,000, due to the early morning fire. The clinic has been plagued in the past by threats of clinic violence.
Alarmed by the resurgent wave of abortion clinic arsons and bombings, Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal called for the Tuscaloosa arson to be immediately classified as an incident of "domestic terrorism," and for more federal law enforcement investigative resources to prevent further losses like in Tuscaloosa, and earlier this year in Atlanta, Georgia, Oregon, North Carolina, Northern Virginia, Oklahoma, California, and Montana. "These incidents of violence must not be examined in isolation, but as part of a larger pattern of terror and violence against women's health clinics," continued Smeal. "More investigative resources are needed to determine whether the double bombings in Atlanta claimed by the "Army of God", and the string of arsons across the country since, are connected."

Federal law enforcement officials have issued an alert to clinics throughout the region to increase security measures in the wake of the Tuscaloosa fire. Clinics are urged to take all precautions to safeguard against further arson attacks.

"Every month, women's health clinics are lost or temporarily closed because of anti-abortion violence," continued Smeal. "These clinics -- like the clinic in Tuscaloosa -- often provide not only abortion, but also provide birth control, cancer screening, and general gynecological healthcare services to women. The loss of these clinics harms the availability of reproductive health care for the women who depend on them."

A survey released earlier this year by the Feminist Majority Foundation, reveals that 27.6% of clinics faced severe anti-abortion violence in 1996, including death threats, stalking, bombings, arsons, blockades, invasions and chemical attacks. When gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism are included, the number of clinics and offices experiencing some form of violence, harassment or intimidation rises to 44.9%.


7/21/1997 - Kansas Celebrates Earhart's 100th Birthday

Amelia Earhart's Birthday Centenniel celebration begins in Kansas on July 24. The four-day celebration is expected to bring 50,000 visitors to the state, according to the Kansas City Star. Scheduled guests include Texas businesswoman Linda Finch, who recently re-enacted the aviator's last flight. In 1929, Earhart and pilot Fay Gillis Wells co-founded the International 99s, an association for women pilots which today has 6,500 members. Eight years later, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean while attempting to circle the globe in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra.


7/21/1997 - Democratic Women Protest Republican Leadership’s Unfair Decisions

Democratic women in the House of Representatives delayed action on the FY 1998 agriculture appropriations bill on July 17 to protest the Republican leadership's decisions on amendments to the Foreign Operations spending bill. The women were able to halt consideration on the appropriations bill by using a series of procedural votes, so most Republicans relented and voted to suspend work on the bill. The Foreign Operations bill should go to the House floor this week. The Democratic women vehemently oppose an amendment the Republican leaders have allowed to be offered that would "reinstate the gag rule on international family planning and...defund the U.N. Fund for Population Activities."


7/21/1997 - Illinois Governor Restricts D&X Abortion Procedure

Illinois governor Jim Edgar used his amendatory veto powers last week to give unmarried biological fathers legal status to bring criminal complaints against doctors who perform D&X abortions. Edgar, who usually favors abortion rights likely invoked his veto powers to satisfy conservatives in light of the upcoming 1998 elections. Women's rights activists, however, have pointed out that doctors in Illinois rarely perform D&X procedures. Thus, Edgar's veto allowed the moderate governor to give conservatives a symbolic victory without making a significant change in his state.


7/21/1997 - Episcopalian Church Turns Down Same-Sex Marriages

On July 19, the Episcopal Church rejected a proposal which would have recognized same-sex marriages. The day before the vote, the head of the church had reminded clergy and laity of his request twelve years ago asking the church to make everyone welcome. While voters did not heed his request, the proposal failed by such a narrow margin that proponents of same-sex marriages remain encouraged. Later this week, the church will vote on ordaining gay men and lesbians.


7/18/1997 - Hospital Plan Lacking Abortion Coverage Criticized

The publicly-funded University of Connecticut Medical Center has made plans to join with Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, to provide a center for out-patient surgery. The center will not provide abortions or sterilization for women, however. Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has joined an increasing number of people in arguing that the limit on to treatment for women, in order to abide by the tenants of the Roman Catholic Church, is unacceptable. Several hospital trustees also questioned the ban. One trustee, Richard Treibick commented, "How can we as a secular institution be involved in something that basically violates gender equity? How can we enter in an agreement with a religious entity and be bound by their rules? So what are we doing here?"

University officials claim that if they built the center without the Catholic Church, they would lose a significant share of customers and thus any small profit margin they hoped to accumulate. The board has tabled a vote on whether or not to approve the merger. The Health Department must also decide whether a medical need for the new center exists. Anne Stanback, executive director of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund, commented on the merger, "What this means in simple terms is that women's access to a full range of legal reproductive health services has been sacrificed for the sake of a business deal."

According to a 1995 study conducted by the group Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholic Churches have been involved in over 57 mergers or affiliations since 1990. In at least ten of those instances, the mergers resulted in the elimination of reproductive health services, like abortion, tubal ligation and birth-control counseling.


7/18/1997 - McKinney Now Charged with Assault

A fifth woman has brought charges against the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney. This woman is the first, however, to charge that McKinney physically assaulted someone in performance of her duties. McKinney is currently being charged with sexual misconduct and solicitation of adultery. A hearing to determine whether or not the Army holds McKinney over for a court-martial will now be expanded to include these new charges.

In related news, Brenda Hoster, the first woman to bring the charges against McKinney, will testify at the hearing. Her lawyer announced that prosecutors agreed to object if defense attorneys questioned Hoster about her sexual history during cross-examination. Hoster had earlier refused to testify because defense attorneys questioned other women who brought allegations against McKinney about their sexual histories and prosecutors did not object. The presiding officer over the hearing, Col. Robert Jarvis, has said he will enforce a military rule that prohibits defense attorneys from questioning women about their sexual histories in these types of matters, if the prosecution objects.


7/18/1997 - Executive Awarded $26.6 Million for Firing Over ‘Seinfeld’ Episode

A former Miller Brewing executive who sued the company for firing him has been awarded $26.6 million by a jury in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1993 Patricia Best complained to Miller Brewing Company officials after co-worker Jerold Mackenzie told her about a Seinfeld episode. In the episode, the main character could not remember the name of the woman he dated, and knew only that it rhymed with a word for a female body part. Subsequent to Best making her complaint, Mackenzie was fired from his job and sued later sued the company and Best. Mackenzie claims the company used the sexual harassment excuse to fire him; the company claims that the comment was one in a long line of problems they have had with Mackenzie. In 1989, the company had also reprimanded Mackenzie for sexual harassment. The award includes a $24.5 million verdict against Miller, $1.5 million against Best and $601,500 against Miller executive Robert Smith.


7/18/1997 - Women Charge FAA Coworkers with Sexual Harassment

Air traffic controllers Jan Gonzales and Linda Owens have filed a class-action internal complaint with their employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for sexual harassment. Because six months has passed since they filed the complaint, their lawyers can now file a lawsuit in federal court. The lawyers said about 25 female controllers have submitted statements which accuse their male coworkers of using crude and hostile language about women, making anonymous threats, stalking, and committing other harassing acts spanning the last two decades. San Francisco lawyer Brad Yamauchi said he will initiate the class action on behalf of the females alleging that the hazing and belittling of women was aimed at getting them to quit or preventing them from being promoted to better-paying assignments at bigger airports.


7/18/1997 - Harvard Allows Same-Sex Marriages

On July 16, Rev. Peter Gomes, a gay pastor of the Harvard University Memorial Church, announced that the nondenominational church has decided to allow same-sex marriages. Immediate controversy over this decision arose as conservative clergy members denounced the move while lesbians and gay men praised it. Same-sex marriages, frequently called commitments or blessings, have no legal standing.


7/17/1997 - Hoster to Give Sworn Statement In McKinney Trial

Colonel Robert Jarvis, the presiding officer in the pretrial hearing on allegations of sexual misconduct by the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, has ruled that Retired Sergeant Major Brenda Hoster must give a sworn statement in the hearing against McKinney. Hoster accused McKinney of sexual harassment, but has refused to testify at a hearing to determine whether or not he will stand trial because other women who have testified against McKinney have been unfairly questioned about their past sexual lives by defense attorneys, she has said. Defense attorneys will be able to cross examine Hoster with regards to her statement, and lawyers for the defense said they have not ruled out probing into her past sex life. The Army is still considering whether or not to call Hoster back into active service, thereby forcing her to testify at the hearing itself.