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3/11/1997 - Congressional Hearings Held on D&X; New York State Senate Votes to Ban the Procedure

The full Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the D&X abortion procedure on March 11. Participating in the panel were Kate Michaelman, NARAL President; Gloria Feldt, Planned Parenthood President; Vicki Sapporta, National Abortion Federation Executive Director; National Coalition of Abortion Providers President Renee Chelian; Dave Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee; and Helen Avare of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to an anti-choice doctor, two women who had the procedure and one who did not. The Senate and House have reintroduced bills that would ban this form of abortion except in cases where no other procedure would save the life of the woman. President Clinton vetoed the ban in April of 1996 because it made no exception for the health of the woman. On March 12, the House full Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up HR 929, referred to as the “partial birth abortion” ban bill.

Opponents of choice are taking up the debate on the state level as well. Republican-controlled New York State Senate voted 40-19 on March 10 to pass legislation banning the D&X late term abortion procedure. Doctors who performed the surgery would face up to four years in prison unless the life of the woman was threatened. Health Committee Chairman Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said he expected the measure to be defeated in the Assembly where most members of the Health Committee oppose the ban. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said he would leave the fate of the bill in the hands of the Health Committee and that it won’t be considered unless exceptions are made for the life and health of the woman. Proponents of the measure have said they will push for a vote by the entire house to force the measure to the Assembly floor. Opponents of the ban maintain that its wording is vague enough that it could potentially ban other types of abortions including a procedure used during the second trimester to save a woman’s health. Gov. George Pataki has said he would sign the measure.


3/11/1997 - Preventative Anti-HIV Gel in Testing Phase

Procept, Inc., a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced the development of a antiviral drug that has the potential to provide women with a more effective means of protection against HIV and other STDs than current available methods. PRO 2000 is a topical microbicide that forms a chemical barrier against the entry of HIV and other viruses into a woman’s cells. An odorless, tasteless gel containing PRO 2000 would allow women to prevent disease transmission even in situations where negotiation is difficult or dangerous. Clinical trials of the microbicidal gel on healthy female volunteers are underway in both Belgium and England.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly half of AIDS cases are among women. One of the major problems in the prevention of further infection is the lack of effective, female-controlled protection methods. Though male condoms are effective in blocking the transmission of STDs, they are under the control of men, and women cannot protect themselves without first negotiating with a male partner. The recently introduced female condom is expensive and cannot be used without the partner’s knowledge. There is no method currently available that is completely under the control of the woman.


3/11/1997 - Citadel Punishes Nine, Expels One for Hazing, Harassment

Officials at South Carolina’s military school the Citadel announced Monday, March 10 that one male cadet had been dismissed and nine others punished for participating in the hazing and harassment of female cadets Kim Messer and Jeanie Mentavlos who left the school in December because of the treatment. The school held private hearings on the actions of 11 male cadets on March 1 but did not release the results for over a week. Interim Citadel President Clifton Poole stated, “The college made mistakes and individuals broke rules. We have gotten the facts, we have heard the evidence and we have punished those cadets who violated regulations.”

Though three of the 11 cadets could have faced expulsion, only one cadet, accused of telling another cadet to set fire to Mentavlos’ sweatshirt, was dismissed. Another cadet received the maximum school penalty short of dismissal: restriction to campus for the rest of the semester and 120 tours of marching for one hour with a rifle in the barracks courtyard, along with reduction of rank. Eight others were handed lesser punishments such as demerits, confinement to barracks, marching tours and reduction of rank. One cadet was cleared. In December, three other male cadets accused of hazing resigned and a fourth was punished.

Messer and Mentavlos alleged that the male cadets set their clothes on fire, forced them to drink tea until they were sick, forced them to drink alcohol and stand in a closet while being shoved and kicked, and put cleanser on their heads. The FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division are also investigating the allegations of harassment and hazing, but no criminal charges have been filed.


3/11/1997 - Justice Department Sues States for Abuse of Female Prison Inmates

Alleging that female inmates in state prisons have been sexually assaulted and subjected to unlawful invasions of privacy, the Justice Department sued Arizona and Michigan on March 10. The lawsuits, which seek a court order requiring the states to protect female inmates from rape, sexual assault and other improper sexual conduct, come after investigations of complaints of alleged sexual misconduct made in Michigan in 1994 and Arizona in 1995. The court order would also ensure that state-run prison inmates and staff not engage in sexual relations, and the department would also try to ensure appropriate privacy for female inmates when using showers or toilet facilities.


3/10/1997 - California Abortion Clinic Firebombed

Early on Friday, March 7, a firebomb of flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the North Hollywood, California Family Planning an Associates Medical Group clinic. No injuries were incurred, but damage to the facility was estimated at $1,000. The fire started by the bomb extinguished itself before firefighters arrived. No arrests had been made the following day.


3/10/1997 - California Abortion Clinic Firebombed

Early on Friday, March 7, a firebomb of flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the North Hollywood, California Family Planning an Associates Medical Group clinic. No injuries were incurred, but damage to the facility was estimated at $1,000. The fire started by the bomb extinguished itself before firefighters arrived. No arrests had been made the following day.


3/10/1997 - War Crimes Trial Begins

A war crimes trial, conducted by the United Nations’ tribunal in Yugoslavia, opened on March 10 in the Hague, becoming the first collective war crimes trial since World War II atrocities were examined by Nuremberg and Tokyo courts. In the trial against three Muslims and a Croat, prosecutor Eric Ostberg said that Serb prisoners were tortured, raped, and killed at a Bosnian concentration camp. Seventy-six survivors had been called to testify by the prosecution; some say they were victims of torture and rape at Celebici, a central Bosnian camp which the Red Cross reported as a place of harassment and torture in August 1992. The camp was established by mostly Muslim authorities at the beginning of the Bosnian war. At least 14 Serbs were allegedly murdered in the camp while others were tortured as prisoners. The four men are on trial for various atrocities including murder, torture and failure to prevent the alleged atrocities. The tribunal has indicted 74 war crimes suspects, most of whom are Serbs.


3/10/1997 - Afghan University Stays Closed to Women

In Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul University reopened on March 9 after being closed by the Islamic militia Taliban’s takeover of the city in September. Women are still forbidden to attend, due to the Taliban’s ban on women working or getting an education. Before the Taliban takeover, women had comprised 60% of the University’s teachers and had made up half of the student population. The exclusion of women will significantly limit the standards of the school which had once been known among Islamic countries for its high educational standards. Upon its reopening, the University also lacked desks and books.

The newly-formed Women's Alliance for Peace & Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA) staged a protest outside the State Departement on Friday afternoon, March 7 and held a conference at the George Washington University on Saturday, March 8 to call attention to abuses of women's human rights in the country and to urge the United States and the United Nations to refuse recognition of and aid to the Taliban.


3/10/1997 - Clinton Firm on Protecting Health of Women in Late-Term Abortion Debate

In the face of renewed opposition to the rare D&X abortion procedure, President Clinton is standing by his decision last spring to veto legislation that would have banned the procedure with no exception to save a woman’s health. At a moving ceremony in which women who’d had the procedure told how it save their lives and future fertility, Clinton vetoed the ban last April because it only allowed the procedure if no other procedure would save the woman’s life, but it made no exception for a woman’s health. A new bill, also lacking a health exemption, was introduced in the House last week. At a press conference on March 8, Clinton said of the new bill, it “might not work to reduce the overall number of abortions at all, but in the end what it could do is every year to take a few hundred women and wreck their lives and wreck the possibility that they could have further children.”

On Sunday, March 10 U.S. Roman Catholic Cardinals urged President Clinton in an open letter to sign the ban, claiming that a health exemption is too broad. Planned Parenthood of New York City Alexander Sanger said that not allowing a woman to have a surgical procedure when her health is threatened would be to deny the woman her constitutional rights.


3/7/1997 - International Women's Day Celebrations Planned

"International Women’s Day is an occasion to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace, and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network, and mobilize for meaningful change.”
- United Nations Department of Public Information

The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911, but the day became one of activism years earlier. On March 8, 1857, in New York City, hundreds of women garment and textile workers in New York City protested against inhumane working conditions, the 12-hour workday, and low wages. Police attacked and dispersed the women. Two years later, these women formed their first union. On March 8, 1908, 15,000 women marched in New York City, demanding shorter hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labor. They adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses.” In May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated National Women’s Day as the last Sunday in February. On February 23, 1917, March 8 in the Georgian calendar, Russian women protested poor living conditions and food shortages called for a strike for bread and peace.
In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.

To celebrate International Women's Day and Women's History Month, see our list of March Calendar Events in our special section for Women's History Month.

Also visit the National Women's History Project list of events in the U.S. and around the world.


[Source: National Women’s History Project]


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Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty for Paul Hill

The Florida Supreme Court upheld anti-abortion extremist Paul Hill's murder conviction and death sentence on March 6. Hill was convicted and faces the electric chair for murdering Dr. John Britton and his driver James Barret with a shotgun on June 29, 1994, outside of the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida. The court denied claims by Hill's lawyers that Hill should not have been allowed to defend himself at his trial. The court also said the trial judge had acted appropriately in preventing Hill from saying the murders were justified because he was keeping fetuses from harm.


3/7/1997 - Citadel Hazing Hearing Results to be Announced

The results of the Citadel's disciplinary hearings for 11 male cadets accused of hazing will be announced on Monday, March 10, the South Carolina military college said. Three male cadets allegedly used violence and abusive treatment against Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer and failed to report hazing. Eight other male cadets faces less severe charges. Two of the first four women admitted to the formerly all-male college, Messer and Mentavlos left the school in December because of the hazing and harassment.


3/7/1997 - Complications from Breast Implants Often Require Additional Surgery

A study by the Mayo Clinic has found that nearly one in four women who get breast implants may suffer from complications that require additional surgery. Women who got implants after breast cancer surgery were most at risk for complications with 34% requiring additional surgery within five years. Thirty percent of preventative mastectomy patients required additional surgery within five years, while 12% of women getting implants for cosmetic reasons had complications necessitating surgery within five years. The contraction of scar tissue around silicone implants was the most common problem following implant surgery, requiring additional surgery in 131 of the 178 women in the study who had second surgeries. Scar tissue hardens the breast and distorts its shape. Implant rupture or leakage, bruising, bleeding, infection, pain, and dead nipple tissue were some of the other complications. The study followed 749 women who had breast implant surgery between 1964 and 1991. Half of the complications occurred within the first year of the implant surgery.

A New York woman is suing her former jailer for $3 million for allegedly ignoring her complaints that her right breast implant was defective during her 1992 imprisonment in the Schenectady County jail. According to court records, the implant was removed in 1994 when Maryanne Sadelmyer was in state prison. Sadelmyer is suing for damages for indignities and pain in a trial scheduled for May 13 with a U.S. Magistrate in Albany.


3/6/1997 - Oscar Winner Marleen Gorris to Direct Major Studio Picture

Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris, who won the foreign language Oscar in 1996 for directing Antonia's Line, has will direct her first major studio picture. 20th Century Fox has contracted with her to direct Come West With Me, a movie based on the play Abundance by Beth Henley. The nineteenth-century drama deals with the story of two women who journey west as mail-order brides. Gorris has most recently completed her English-language directing debut with the bigscreen version of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.


3/6/1997 - Mitsubishi Allegedly Interfering in Sex Discrimination Case

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing with interfering with the government's sex discrimination lawsuit against the company. In a brief filed with the U.S. District Court in Peoria, Ill., the government's lawyers allege that the company improperly asked women workers whether they planned to join the class-action lawsuit, whether they took notes of the harassment, copies of any notes and further misinformed the women that they could be eligible for damage awards even if they did not participate in the suit. The EEOC is seeking approximately $300,000 in damages for each of the 700 persons involved in the class action suit, thus making this case one of the biggest government sex discrimination suits ever brought. The company is accused of allowing its workers to habitually grope, touch and harass women employees while managers stood by and did nothing.


3/6/1997 - Bettina Hollings First Woman to Head New Zealand Network

Bettina Hollings will become New Zealand's first female to head a major network when she assumes the reign of General Manager of CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s second network. Hollings will continue to serve as the Associate Director of Programming for TV3, the Corp.'s existing channel. Gerry Noble, Vice-President of Operation for CanWest, commented on the appointment, "Bettina, who has been with CanWest and TV3 for the past two years, has made a huge contribution to the growth of TV3, and this appointment recognizes her outstanding ability and proven record of success. TV4, which will go to air later this year, will be focused on entertainment programming, which is widely recognized in the industry as Bettina's specialty."


3/6/1997 - Domestic Violence Advocates Urge Committee to Reject Limits on Offender Gun Ban Law

Before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Domestic Violence Action advocates urged rejection of bills that would gut the domestic violence offender gun ban law. Proposed legislation in Congress would amend the law, which currently prohibits those indicted for domestic violence to own or carry guns, to exclude police officers and military personnel and others convicted of domestic violence before the law's passage in September 1996. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, commented on the proposed legislation, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals who are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies show higher rates of domestic violence within police families than in the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would put guns back into the hands of abusers?"

Those who propose the amended legislation argue that the ban will unfairly cost officers their jobs, even though, in reality, the officers will simply be reassigned to jobs (i.e. desk jobs) which do not require guns. In response to the allegation, Penny Harrington, the director of the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women and Policing, commented, "Rather than trying to seek an exemption for police officers and military personnel who are abusers, we should be concerned with why we are recruiting so many abusers for these positions. One half of all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself."


3/5/1997 - Two Insurance Executives Resign in Harassment Scandal

The president and president’s deputy of CNA Life insurance company resigned after the sexual harassment allegations of two female employees came to light. The female employees complained of sexual harassment committed by president, Jack Kettler, to the company’s deputy president, Robert Teske. Teske failed to act in the matter, and Roger Morris, a spokesperson for the company commented, "Mr. Kettler made the comments that were offensive and they were brought to Mr. Teske’s attention. Our policy is that employees can take complaints to management and they will be acted on. They were not acted on." Refusing to discuss the exact comments, Morris continued, "This was serious enough that he should have immediately stopped making those comments; harassment is prohibited and these policies were obviously violated." David J. Bowman, president of TTG Consultants in Los Angeles reflected, "A few years ago, a corporation very well might have tried to cover this up or they might have just laughed it off as horseplay. This insurance company did exactly what they should have."


3/5/1997 - Poll Shows Ferraro Could Easily Defeat D’Amato in '98

According to a poll conducted by Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Connecticut, ex-vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro would easily defeat incumbent Senator Alfonse D’Amato in the 1998 New York Senate race. The poll interviewed 1,071 registered New Yorkers from February 24th to March 2nd. Ferraro came out ahead of all other possible Democratic contenders and ahead of D’Amato. For D'Amato's part, 50% of respondents do not approve of D’Amato’s job performance while only 40% do approve.


3/5/1997 - Abortion Pill" Closer to U.S. Use

On March 4th, The Population Council announced that plans to use a company called Advances for Choice to market mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486). The step came after The Population Council settled legal issues with a business partner and created a new company to introduce the drug into the United States. The company said in a statement, "Together, we hope to achieve both FDA approval and drug availability by the end of 1997."


3/5/1997 - Feminist Majority Opposes Gutting Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Feminst Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and other domestic violence advocates in condemning proposed legislation that would gut the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which currently prohibits individuals convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning or using firearms. "Putting guns back in the hands of wife beaters and child abusers is outrageous. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to end domestic violence. We strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this pathbreaking law. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy," Smeal stated.

S. 262 and H.R. 26 eliminate retroactive application of the Domistic Violence Offender Gun Ban. H.R. 350 exempts police officers and the military from the law’s coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.

Smeal continued, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies have found higher rates of domestic violence within police families -- 40% of police families experience physical marital violence compared to 16% of the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would allow abusers to have guns?"

Opponents of the Domestic Violence Gun Ban argue that applying the law to police officers convicted of past and future misdemeanor domestic violence offenses will unfairly cost officers jobs. Responded Smeal, “Rather than trying to seek an exemption for police officers and military personnel who are abusers, we should be concerned with why we are recruiting so many abusers for these positions. One half of all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself.”

The Feminist Majority played a leading role in passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Its sister organization, The Feminist Majority Foundation, sponsors the National Center for Women in Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.


3/5/1997 - Domestic Violence Affects Two-Thirds of Welfare Recipients

A study conducted by the McCormack Institute and the Center for Survey Research has found that two-thirds of welfare recipients have been victims of domestic violence. Approximately one fifth of welfare recipients have been victims of domestic violence within the past twelve months. Seven hundred thirty-four women participated in the first scientific study of its kind conducted in the United States at the Department of Assistance in Massachusetts. The director of the study, Dr. Mary Ann Allard commented, "Domestic violence is more the rule than the exception in the lives of TAFDC recipients in Massachusetts. Our data confirm what has long been described anecdotally. We now have overwhelming evidence that the issue of domestic violence will be hard to ignore in discussions of welfare reform at the state and federal level." The study also found that over 80% of the women had worked at a full-time job and over 90% wanted to work, be in training or attending school.


3/4/1997 - 1997 Women's NCAA Automatic Bid Teams Announced

The following teams have received an automatic bid to play in the 1997 women's NCAA tournament: Liberty (22-7), Harvard (19-6), Eastern Kentucky (24-5), Old Dominion (29-1), Marshall (18-11), St. Peter's (25-3), North Carolina (27-2), and San Francisco (25-5). Each team received its bid for winning its regional conference tournament.


3/4/1997 - Women Become Larger Force in Movie Industry

While many of the women nominated for Oscar's this year participated in films created by small, independent studios, mainstream Hollywood has also included a variety of women in films and women-oriented films during the past year. In 1994, the "Year of the Woman" in Oscars ironically exposed Hollywood's tendency to shut women out of executive roles and serious acting roles and showed that most women actresses were left to play girlfriends, wives, sex vixens and prostitutes. This year, however, a variety of women actors and executives have created such films as "Marvin's Room" (starring Diane Keaton as a cancer patient), "Fargo" (starring Frances McDormand as a pregnant police chief), "The First Wives Club" (an unexpected box-office smash oriented towards a female audience), and "Courage Under Fire" (starring Meg Ryan as a soldier posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor). Movies like "Waiting to Exhale" led to other female audience-oriented movies such as "Set It Off" and "The Preacher's Wife."

Most agree that the key to the shift has occurred because women are breaking through the ranks of movie studio executives. Paramount, Columbia-Tristar, Fox 2000, United Artists, and Fine Line Features all include either a female president or prominent board members. At Paramount, for example, 44% of the top creative executives are women, and 35% of 20th Century Fox creative executives are women. Lynda Obst, who is currently producer of "One Fine Day", and an upcoming movie starring Jodie Foster, commented, "There's a direct relationship there. That is the beginning of our seeing movies that would not have been made if women were not involved at the critical stage of development." Cynthia Leverhand, executive director of Women in Film, agrees but also points out that women are still underrepresented, especially in director's, writer's and editing roles, "Have we really broadened the base, or are we just more vertically visible? Can you really name more than 10 women directors? My perception is that the quality of women coming forth is so outstanding that you can't ignore them anymore. And it's these women who will truly broaden the base."


3/4/1997 - T.V.'s "Ellen" to Come Out

ABC has given the t.v. sitcom Ellen the go ahead to have its lead character come out as a lesbian on an April 30th show. Ellen will reveal to Oprah Winfrey, playing her therapist, that she is attracted to a lesbian. Ellen will be the first show to have a gay or lesbian lead character. A later episode will feature Ellen talking to her parents about her sexual


3/4/1997 - Hearings Finally Scheduled for Herman

After delaying Alexis Herman's Secretary of Labor confirmation hearings for weeks, Senator James Jeffords has finally scheduled the hearings. Commenting that he found her responses concerning questions about her private finances and conduct as a White House aide to be "adequate", the Chair of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Comittee scheduled the hearings for March 18th. A spokesperson for the White House commented, "We think when the full committee has a chance to hear from Alexis Herman, they'll agree that she'll be an outstanding secretary of labor."