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Members of Connecticut’s state legislature are proposing a bill that would require all insurance companies to cover the cost of prescription birth control. Currently, half of all insurance companies in the United States deny payment for contraception. The proposal would require major plans to pay for birth control pills, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, Norplant and Depo Provera.
State Sen. Adela Eads, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said “It is time to treat the medical needs of women and men equally.”
Supporters of the bill said that the measure would save money in the long-term, since many poor women cannot afford to buy birth control. The American Journal of Public Health reported that the annual cost for birth control under insurance companies would be $422, one-tenth the cost for prenatal care and delivery.
3/4/1998 - Prison Bureau Reforms After Rape Law Suit
The Bureau of Prisons has agreed to increase its sexual harassment training and provide psychiatric and medical services to inmates who have been assaulted. Prison authorities will also institute a confidential system that will allow inmates to report attacks within the next six months and will stop housing women in the men’s Secure Housing Unit.
The agreement is part of a settlement from a lawsuit filed in August 1996 by three female inmates who charged that they were raped, attacked and sold by guards to male inmates for sex. The women, Robin Lucas, Valerie Mercadel and Raquel Douthit, sued prison authorities in Dublin, California, claiming that the officials knew about the sex-ring and did nothing, even after the women contacted them with their stories.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Geri Lynn Green said, “These women were being sold like sex slaves .... The guards took money from inmates in return for access to the women.”
The women will be paid a total of $500,000 in damages. The prison officials charged with committing the crimes quit or lost their jobs, but did not receive additional punishment.
Abortion rights activists argued against a Virginia law requiring parental consent before a minor can obtain an abortion, before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. Simon Heller of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, argued that the law is unconstitutional because it denies mature girls the right to decide what is best for them and does not guarantee a speedy judicial decision or confidentiality of court records.
Heller argued, “If men had to travel to another state to buy condoms or to have surgery, people would be outraged .... This really is an attempt by the Virginia General Assembly to interfere with young women’s ability to get abortions.”
Chief Judge of the 4th Circuit Court, J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a noted conservative, disagreed with Heller. Wilkinson commented on the law, “The statute seemed to me to present a very mild and moderate form of regulation.”
A ruling by the appeals court is expected as early as next week.
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
Women’s rights activists met at the U.N. headquarters in New York to address the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. The group issued a signed statement, declaring “Heads of state must go on record to all the world about how they will take leadership in making violence against women in daily life unacceptable.”
Activists testified that governments do not enforce laws that prohibit violence against women, and that judges often dismiss the cases and blame the victim. Sheila Dauer of Amnesty International said that in some countries police have looked on while women were being attacked, and sometimes assaulted the women themselves.
Members of the panel discussed crimes against women during the wars in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the current violations of women’s human rights by the Taliban militia group in Afghanistan.
Participants included members from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Rutgers University’s Center for Women’s Global Leadership and a group that is lobbying for an International Criminal Court.
Four women have filed a class action lawsuit against Ingles Markets Inc., the largest grocery store chain in the Southeast. The women claim the store discriminates against female employees by denying promotions, management opportunities, equal pay and desirable job assignments.
“When I met with my superiors to discuss my interest in an assistant store manager position, they tried to discourage me by asking questions about my child care arrangements, and emphasizing the long hours that I’d have to work and the difficulty of the jobs that I’d have to learn,” said Pennie Weddington of Georgia.
The plaintiffs also reported that men that they trained were often promoted into jobs over them.
Attorneys for the women, Sapertsein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, have previously succeeded in discrimination cases against Home Depot and Publix Super Markets Inc. They have established a toll-free number, 1-800-557-6443, for women to report any discrimination they may have encountered while working for Ingles.
3/4/1998 - Vienna Philharmonic Still “Old Boys Club”
One year after the Vienna Philharmonic announced its decision allowing women to join, the National Organization for Women says the orchestra has made little progress and remains dedicated to a “racist and misogynist philosophy.”
Sonja Ablinger, a member of the Austrian parliament, said that the orchestra’s hiring procedures are designed to keep women out. “These men are making difficulties .... They do everything to keep women out. They change the rules. They create new obstacles. I would say half of the orchestra is very anti-women--still,” said Ablinger.
Gertrude Rossbacher, a 35-year-old native of Vienna who graduated at the top of her class from Vienna’s Academy of Music, one of twenty-one women denied auditions in the past year. Rossbacher applied last April to the Philharmonic for the solo violinist chair. Officials said they had instituted a 30 year-old age limit for the position, despite Austria’s law stating that the limit is 35. Officials instead hired Christian Frohn, a 32-year-old second violinist from the State Opera Orchestra in Vienna, to fill the chair.
Approximately 200 women in Japan went on a “General Women’s Strike” yesterday. Participants held a rally in Tokyo, marching to Japan’s Parliament and giving copies of a proposed law that would prohibit discrimination against women in all fields to women legislators.
Currently, there are no anti-discrimination laws in Japan. Companies are only encouraged to end discrimination. In April 1999, a law will take effect that will require equal hiring and promotion policies, but there will be no fines issued to companies who do not comply.
3/4/1998 - Anti-Gay Violence Increasing
Violence against gays, lesbians and bisexuals is increasing, according to a survey published by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. The survey reported 2,445 documented anti-gay attacks, a 2 percent increase over 1996, and 18 murders in 1997. The survey documented 14 areas across the United States, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Researchers worry that the increase in attacks is the result of increased publicity of homosexuals through coverage of the Atlanta bombing of a gay nightclub and the popular TV show “Ellen.” Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence, a D.C. group, issued their own report documenting 86 hate crimes in 1997, a 25 percent increase over 69 attacks in 1996. GLOV officials claim that the figures probably represent only a portion of actual attacks.
Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, commented “The very people who are targeted are often least likely to report it .... People who are closeted are very unlikely to report anti-gay harassment or violence.”
Emily Lyons, a clinic nurse and counselor who was seriously injured in the bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic, vowed that she would “not stay down.” During a press conference at the hospital where she is still a patient, Lyons said “I want everyone to know that this person survives. I will not stay down.”
Lyons claimed that the bombing accomplished nothing for anti-abortion extremists, and that the clinic is remains open and doctors and patients show up daily.
Lyons arrived at the clinic before it opened at the same time as Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a clinic security guard. Sanderson was killed in the explosion. Lyons lost one eye, has a badly injured leg and has not yet regained sight in her second eye, which suffered serious damage.
Eric Robert Rudolph, a North Carolina man, has been charged with the bombing. The FBI has issued a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
call 1-888-ATF-BOMB with information regarding the bombing.
Pictures of Eric Robert Rudolph
Feminist News Stories on Clinic Violence
3/3/1998 - 20,000 Watch as Taliban Whips Girl
The Taliban militia group punished a teen-age girl for walking with an unrelated man with 100 lashes in front of a crowd of 20,000 in Afghanistan’s sports amphitheater. Taliban authorities accused the girl of committing adultery. The girl, known as Suhailullah, stood for 60 of the lashes and sat down for the remaining 40, without uttering a sound. Since Suhailullah was wearing a burqa, a head-to-toe garment, her age and the severity of injury caused by the lashes is unknown.
The crowd also looked on as the Taliban amputated the hands of two accused thieves. The Taliban frequently administers public punishment. Earlier this year, a yellow crane was seen driving through Kabul with the body of a man hanged for treason, and a Taliban soldier, who was convicted of theft, was driven through Kabul while strapped to the front of a truck.
Feminist News Stories on Afghanistan
The trial of the National Organization for Women vs. the director of the Pro-Life Action League, Joe Scheidler, begins this week. NOW vs. Scheidler was filed as a federal class-action lawsuit in 1986.
The case was initiated by then NOW president Eleanor Smeal, after the president of the local Pensacola NOW chapter was injured during a clinic invasion. NOW filed against Joseph Scheidler of Chicago, his Pro-Life Action League, anti-abortion activists, and later, Terry Nichols and Operation Rescue.
The US Supreme Court allowed NOW to go forward in the case against the anti-abortionists under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). NOW argued that anti-abortion extremists were hindering interstate commerce by trying to shut down the clinics. In NOW v. Scheidler, NOW represents its own members and all non-member women, “ whose rights to the services of women’s health centers in the United States at which abortions are performed have been or will be interfered with by defendants’ unlawful activities.”
Initially, a federal judge and appeals court had ruled that the suit did not fall under the RICO laws, because the anti-abortion laws would not gain a profit from closing down the clinics. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that there was no economic-gain clause in the 1970 law and let the suit stand.
Lucinda Finley, law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, commented, “The trial will be very useful in getting out on the public record the types of tactics the extremist wing of the anti-abortion movement has resorted to.”
If NOW wins the lawsuit, anti-abortion activities designed to interfere with a women’s right to use the clinics could be punishable by law across the nation.
Domestic Violence Information Center
3/3/1998 - Kuwait Denies Women Suffrage
The Kuwait house legislative panel voted unanimously to deny women the right to vote or run for parliament. House members claimed their decision was based on a Ministry of Islamic Affairs decree, which stated that it is un-Islamic for women to cast ballots or work as politicians.
Pharmacists in Washington State can now attend a three-hour training session that will enable them to write prescriptions for the “morning after” birth control pills. Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of higher doses of birth control pills containing estrogen and proestrogen for use as “morning after” pills. The pill combinations are taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex and work by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting or by preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.
Dianne White, co-owner of a pharmacy in Spokane, said “I feel there’s a real need for this since there are 56,000 unplanned pregnancies here every year .... We’re trained to educate patients even though we’re often looked at as counting and pouring. That’s not just it.”
White is one of three pharmacy owners in Spokane to have received the training needed to dispense the pills. Visit http://opr.princeton.edu/ec/ to get a list of pharmacies providing “morning after” pills.
3/3/1998 - Teens Seeking Abortions Forced Out-of-State
Abortion providers in Virginia will appear today in a Richmond, VA appeals court to challenge the constitutionality of a parental consent law which took effect July 1, 1997. According to statistics from the Virginia health department and abortion clinics show that teenage girls received 20 percent fewer abortions in Virginia since the law took effect, but opponents of the law believe that the young women traveled to Washington, DC, for the abortions, rather than face parents who may not support their decisions.
Abortion clinic and hot line employees report a dramatic increase in calls concerning how to get around the parental consent law. Amy Schriefer, a hot-line operator at the National Abortion Federation, said “it’s definitely a hot spot there .... Before, I never got calls from Virginia asking about D.C. and whether they had a parental law. But now, we get maybe seven to 10 calls a day, mostly from central and southern Virginia. They’re mostly desperate. They’re panicked,” said Schriefer.
Many clinics are also reporting out-of-state teens coming in with advanced stages of pregnancy, due to lapsed time while trying to figure out how to obtain an abortion without telling their parents.
Twenty-nine states have passed laws requiring parental consent or notification before a teenager can obtain an abortion. Simon Heller, a lawyer with the pro-choice group Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York, said “It just means that the Virginia General Assembly has accomplished its true purpose, which is not to benefit young women but to stop them from getting abortions in Virginia.”
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
3/3/1998 - Clara Fraser, Radical Woman, Dies
Clara Fraser, founder of the feminist group Radical Women, died from emphysema February 24, at age 74. Ms. Fraser lobbied for the rights of women, minorities, unions workers, gays and prisoners. She co-founded the Freedom Socialist Party, helped write Washington state’s first divorce-reform bill, and organized Washington’s first pro-choice rally.
Ms. Fraser worked for Seattle City Light for many years, and later retired to become a full-time adviser to the Freedom Socialist Part and Radical Women.
Mavis Leno, member of the National Board of the Feminist Majority, today testified at a Capitol Hill forum sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to call attention to the extreme human rights violations being committed against women in Afghanistan.
Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke of gender apartheid and violations of human rights by the Taliban. “Where is the world’s outrage?” she asked. Feinstein questioned witnesses on how the United States government and the public could take a greater role in ending the Taliban’s regime and the loss of Afghani “economic and fundamental human rights.”
Since gaining power, the Taliban militia group, which now controls much of Afghanistan, has placed Afghan women under virtual house arrest. The Taliban has decreed that women and girls can no longer attend school; women are banned from employment; women are not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a husband, father, brother, or son; women who do leave their homes have to be covered from head to toe in a "burqa,” with only a mesh opening to see and breath through; the windows of homes with women occupants are required to be painted opaque so the women inside cannot be seen; women are prohibited from being treated by male doctors; and women are banned from wearing white socks and shoes that make noise as they walk.
"We all took pride when the platform of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 reaffirmed that human rights are women's rights and that violence against women is a violation of human rights. Yet what good are these lofty declarations if we do not free the women of Afghanistan?" Leno declared.
In her testimony, Leno also expressed grave concerns about the planned building of a multi-billion dollar gas and oil pipeline from energy-rich Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan to Pakistan. California-based UNOCAL, a U.S. energy company, holds the largest stake in a consortium to build the pipeline. An Argentinian company, Bridas, which is in part owned by Amoco, is also vying for the pipeline. According to some estimates, the Taliban stands to gain as much as $100 million a year from the pipeline.
Judy Benjamin, Senior Technical Advisor for the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, also testified. Benjamin spoke of her recent trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan. She relayed interviews of Afghani women who said that they “live like birds in a cage.” Benjamin spoke of the Afghani orphanage being run by a director with no previous experience, and of the frequent rapes of both boys and girls.
Other speakers included: Theresa Loar, Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues at the State Department, Lea Browning of We Are for Human Rights and the Working Group, Zieba Shorish-Shamley of the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan, and a guest appearance by T. Kumar of Amnesty International.
Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan
Feminist News Stories on Afghanistan
A taskforce of FBI agents and Distict of Columbia police officers investigating a series of murders of women in the Petworth area of D.C. withheld vital information about the crimes resulting in the spread of false information concerning the killings.
Petworth residents were told on several occasions that the murder victims had not been raped, even though officials were aware that the last women showed evidence of violent sexual assault. Also, police officials insisted that the most recent victim, Dana Hill, killed in early December, 1997, was an isolated incident unrelated to the previous murders, despite the fact that investigators believed otherwise as early as one week after her murder.
Rev. Anthony Moore, a Petworth-area pastor, said "It is one thing if they said we cannot give that information out because it's crucial to the investigation. But to say to the public that these people were not sexually assaulted is an outright lie, and it was deceptive to the community."
Petworth, an area where middle-class blacks once lived, is now a community plagued by drug abuse. Residents have complained for years about crack houses and prostitution. Many believe that the murder victims' involvement in drugs and possible prostitution for drug money led to poor police response. One police officer reportedly referred to the murdered women as "crack whores" at a community meeting.
Darryl Donnell Turner, a seven-year resident of Priceton Place from North Carolina, has been charged with the last two murders in the case and is currently being held without bail. The government's preliminary case against Turner revealed that officials expect to charge Turner with additional deaths.
A former girlfriend of Turner's reported that Turner had sexually assaulted her on January 25, 1998. She did not come forward until after she heard of Turner's arrest because she feared that police would not believe her because of her lifestyle, which she said was similar to those led by the murdered women.
Queen Elizabeth II has departed from centuries of patriarchal tradition by deciding that the British Crown shall henceforth pass to a monarch's oldest child, whether a son or daughter.
Lord Williams of Mostyn announced the queen's decision to the House of Lords, saying "There can be no real reason for not giving equal treatment to men and women in this respect."
The next three people in line to succeed Queen Elizabeth II are Prince Charles and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
Anne Richardson was sworn in as the first female chief of a Virginia tribe since Cockacoeske, chief of the Pamunkey tribe in the mid-1600s. Ms. Richardson, 41, was elected January 31, to take over for her father, Chief Captain "Chawanta" Nelson. She will be known as Queen Anne of Rappahannock. Ms. Richardson's great-uncle and grandfather were also chiefs.
There are approximately 175 Rappahannock tribe members in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula area of Virginia, and around 300 members around the world.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski ruled not to dismiss a case that challenges Alaska's ban of same-sex marriages. Michalski said that "choosing a partner is a fundamental right," and that the state must show why it should be able to regulate marriage.
State attorneys had asked Michalski to dismiss a case brought by Jay Brause and Gene Dugan of Anchorage, Alaska. The couple, together for twenty years, challenged that 1996 state ban and sought recognition of their relationship. Brause and Dugan said that the ban was a violation of the state constitution.
Alaska state Senator Loren Leman, sponsor of the 1996 marriage ban, believes that a constitutional marriage ban is in order.
Feminist News Stories on Same-Sex Marriage
National Board Member Mavis Leno Testifies at Forum
Sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein
Washington DC -- Mavis Leno, a writer, resident of Los Angeles, California, and member of the National Board of the Feminist Majority, today testified at a forum sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to call attention to the extreme human rights violations being committed against women in Afghanistan. Since taking power, the Taliban militia group, which now controls much of Afghanistan, has placed Afghan women under virtual house arrest. The Taliban has decreed that women and girls can no longer attend school; women are banned from employment; women are not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a husband, father, brother, or son; women who do leave their homes have to be covered from head to toe in a "burqa," with only a mesh opening to see and breath through; the windows of homes with women occupants are required to be painted opaque so the women inside cannot be seen; women are prohibited from being treated by male doctors; and women are banned from wearing white socks and shoes that make noise as they walk.
"Women are being beaten, shot at, and even killed for violating these draconian decrees -- for merely trying to go to work, leaving their homes alone, or violating the Taliban's extreme dress orders," stated Leno. Leno also shared a report from journalist Jan Goodwin that girls at the state orphanage in Kabul have not been allowed to leave the building to go outside since September of 1996 -- although the boys go outside every day to attend school and to play.
"The abuses of women and girls in Afghanistan have been justified in the name of religion and culture. However, the Taliban's decrees are foreign to the religion, the culture, and the people of Afghanistan," said Leno, who related that before the Taliban took control schools were co-educational, 70% of teachers were women, 40% of doctors were women, and Afghan women did not cover themselves with the burqa.
In her testimony, Leno expressed grave concerns about the planned building of a multi-billion dollar gas and oil pipeline from energy-rich Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan to Pakistan. California-based UNOCAL, a U.S. energy company , holds the largest stake in a consortium to build the pipeline. An Argentinian company, Bridas, which is in part owned by Amoco, is also vying for the pipeline. According to some estimates, the Taliban stands to gain as much as $100 million a year from the pipeline.
Leno commended the Clinton Administration for pledging only to recognize a broad-based government in Afghanistan which restores the human rights of women and girls and saluted Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and First Lady Hillary Clinton for publicly condemning the treatment of women in Afghanistan.
"But we urge the Clinton Administration and Congress to do more. The United States also has the ability to bring about change in Afghanistan. Two of the United States' international allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have recognized the Taliban and have provided substantial support and weapons to this terrifying regime." In her testimony, Leno outlined concrete actions the United States government should take:
- continue to refuse to recognize the Taliban and oppose United Nations recognition of the Taliban;
- urge Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to cease arming and funding the Taliban;
- withhold U.S. humanitarian assistance unless women and girls are equal beneficiaries and there is adequate monitoring to guarantee this result;
- refuse to support Unocal, Amoco, or any other company in business endeavors that ultimately will shore up the Taliban;
- prohibit U.S. corporations from operating in Afghanistan until the human rights of women and girls are restored; and
- do not contribute to any programs that in any way support the maintenance of this repressive and barbaric regime.
Federal officials have discovered additional physical evidence linking the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic with earlier bombings of a gay nightclub, another abortion clinic and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Small steel plates found inside the Olympic bomb were found to match plates used in two other bombs planted at a suburban Atlanta clinic.
The plates were crafted from steel traced to a metalworking plant in Franklin, N.C., where a friend of Birmingham suspect Eric Robert Rudolph worked. Earlier this week, officials reported that nails matching those used in an Atlanta bombing were found in a storage area rented by Rudolph.
call 1-888-ATF-BOMB with information regarding the bombing.
Pictures of Eric Robert Rudolph
Feminist News Stories on Clinic Violence
2/27/1998 - McKinney Claims Alibi in Sexual Misconduct Trial
Lawyers for Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney, the army's former top enlisted man, charged with sexual assault and harassment of six female soldiers, claimed that McKinney was obtaining an oil change for his car at about the same time that a pregnant subordinate, Sgt. Christine Roy, accused him of assaulting her.
McKinney's lawyers presented an auto repair shop's records indicating that he arrived at 7:55 p.m. on October 30, 1996. Roy claims that McKinney attacked her between 8:00 and 8:15 p.m. that same evening.
The auto repair shop's manager, Wilbur Canada, testified that he didn't remember seeing McKinney that night, but that McKinney had come into the shop months later and asked to review the records for October 30. Canada granted McKinney's request. He also testified that McKinney's entry was written in both blue and black ink.
Feminist News Stories on Sexual Harassment, Assault and Discrimination in the Military
The Clinton Administration has accused several Republican Senators of obstructing the nomination of James Hormel for a position as U.S. Ambassador of Luxembourg because he is gay.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) said Senators Time Hutchinson (R-AR), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Bob Smith (R-NH), along with other anonymous individuals, have placed open "holds" on Hormel's nomination, preventing an up or down Senate vote.
Sen. Smith stated that Hormel's political activism for gay rights, and not his sexual orientation, is what he opposes. "This is a matter of advocacy of the gay lifestyle," he said.
White House spokesman Barry Toiv said "There's only one reason he's being held up and that is the fact that he's gay .... he deserves an up or down vote."
A new study published in the journal Science reports that Candida albicans, a fungus that causes yeast infections and other ailments, depends heavily on a gene called INT1. This gene helps Candida cells attach to the gastrointestinal tract, multiply, and spread throughout the body and may constitute a workable target for treatment.
Past studies have indicated that eighty-percent of us acquire Candida albicans cells within the first month of life. The cells don't usually cause serious infection unless the immune system is weakened, but instead leads to common ailments like diaper rash, thrush, or yeast infections in adults.