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The head of Poland's ex-communist party has proposed a nationwide referendum on abortion, to be held at the same time as the country's parliamentary elections this year. Last year, leftist groups eased Poland's strict anti-abortion laws, but last week Poland's Constitutional Tribune ruled that the new law, which allowed abortions up to the 12th week, clashed with the country's Constitution. The leftist groups, who believe the Constitutional Tribune acted out of political motivations, seek a referendum to settle the issue.
Domestic Terrorism Increases
Washington, DC - Alarmed by a resurgent wave of abortion clinic arsons and bombings across the nation, Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal stated, "Today's arson of the Lovejoy Surgicenter marks the eleventh abortion clinic arson or bombing of 1997 -- the highest rate since 1984. This Portland, Oregon clinic, which sustained massive damage early this morning, was the target of threatening calls this past week which were reported to law enforcement officials. Also, threatening calls were received by the Feminist Women's Health Centers in Portland and Eugene, as well as the Center for Choice in Yakima, Washington. The caller had warned he would strike on Friday, May 23rd. The caller also threatened to kill staff and screamed profanities into the phone."
Smeal continued, "The Lovejoy Surgicenter is a flagship clinic. The clinic has been the target of anti-abortion terrorism since the 1980's. In fact, the Center brought suit against Advocates for Life Ministries, an anti-abortion group promoting justifiable homicide, in 1989. The case, Lovejoy Surgicenter v. Advocates for Life, resulted in the largest punitive damage award against anti-abortion extremists -- $8.1 million dollars."
"We are alarmed at the increasing rate of the use of bombing and arson to close clinics. To date, the eleven arsons and bombings of 1997 have taken place in Tulsa, Oklahoma (two bombings); Atlanta, Georgia (two bombings); Falls Church, Virginia; Bakersfield and North Hollywood, California; Bozeman, Montana; Greensboro, North Carolina; Yakima, Washington; and Portland, Oregon."
"We are fortunate that not all the recent bombings and arsons caused major damage, and we did not lose all nine clinics. However, we have lost clinics in Greensboro, North Carolina and now massive damage to the Lovejoy Surgicenter, and at the Atlanta abortion clinic bombings (January 1997) a second bomb injured several people, including ATF and FBI agents. To date, there has been no arrest in the Greensboro or Atlanta bombings, even though the Army of God extremist group claimed responsibility for the Atlanta bombings.
[Reporters Note: The Feminist Majority Foundation runs the oldest and one of the largest clinic defense projects in the nation. Its National Clinic Defense Project leads efforts to keep women's health clinics open in the face of violence and harassment by anti-abortion extremists. Its 1996 Annual Clinic Violence Survey showed that bombings and arsons were increasing. The Survey, the most comprehensive study of abortion clinic violence to date, is available by calling the offices of the Feminist Majority Foundation at 703-522-2214.]
Proposed Barr Amendment Would Put Guns Back in Hands of Abusers
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Feminist Majority has joined with Senator Lautenberg, Congresswoman Maloney, and other women's rights and 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. Representative Barr's proposed amendment would eliminate retroactive application of the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban.
"The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to reduce domestic violence. The Barr amendment would turn the clock back and put guns back in the hands of abusers," stated Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority.
Smeal continued, "The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is consistent with most previously passed gun control laws which are retroactive in application. Eliminating retroactivity from this law would be tantamount to saying that domestic violence offenders should receive special, more lenient treatment."
"Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy. Studies show that firearms in the home dramatically increase the likelihood of homicide committed by a family member."
Opponents of the Domestic Violence Gun Ban also are trying to exempt police officers and the military from the law's coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.
"Police family violence is a horrific problem that threatens the lives of women and children associated with the abusing officer and undercuts legal protection for all domestic violence victims within the officer's jurisdiction. 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," Smeal said.
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 and Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.
4/30/1997 - Feminist Majority Foundation and National Center For Women & Policing Call for Citizens' Commission to Oversee Independent Investigation of Gender Bias In LAPD
Department Plagued by Reports of Sexual Harassment and Threats Against Women Officers and Wifebeating Cover-up
Los Angeles -- At a press conference today the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Center for Women & Policing, joined by City Council members Jackie Goldberg and Rita Walters, called for an independent investigation of gender bias within the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). “The call for an investigation follows recent revelations in the media of widespread, orchestrated harassment and intimidation of women officers and the Department's cover-up and failure to prosecute officers who engage in brutal wife-beating and family violence.
The Los Angeles Police Commission is expected to soon release a 250-page report on the Department's investigation of the Mark Fuhrman tapes. The tapes confirm the existence of a clandestine all-male organization within the LAPD called 'Men Against Women' (MAW), whose ultimate objective is to drive women from the force using harassment and intimidation. The organization, founded in the mid-1980's following a federal court order to hire more women officers, also used mock trials of male officers accused of "fraternizing" with women officers.
"Despite claims by some Department officials to the contrary, widespread sexual harassment and orchestrated intimidation and threats against women on the force remain a serious problem in the LAPD," said Chief (Ret.) Penny Harrington, Director of the National Center for Women & Policing. "Men and women LAPD officers alike report that MAW is active to this very day in the Department, its members engaging in campaigns of harassment, and then retaliating against women officers who complain about the harassment. The intimidation escalates until the word goes out not to give back-up cover to targeted women officers, endangering their lives," continued Harrington.
"The attitudes and activities of 'Men Against Women' followers in the Department are a danger to the citizens of Los Angeles and compromise the effectiveness of the LAPD," continued Harrington. "Research shows women officers are more skillful at de-escalating potentially violent situations than their male counterparts, and so MAW's efforts to drive women out only exacerbates the LAPD's excessive force problems," explained Harrington, "The Fuhrman tapes reveal just how aggressively women police officers are shunned for their more community-oriented policing skills and their refusal to go along with using excessive force: Fuhrman doesn't believe women make good cops because ‘you've got to be able to shoot people, beat people beyond recognition ... [Women] don't pack those qualities.’”
Harrington took to task the Department's top command for their failure to act on the evidence gathered through repeated internal investigations of sexual harassment and intimidation. The soon-to-be-released Commission document is reported to characterize the internal LAPD investigation of MAW and sexual harassment within the Department as a 'whitewash.' Additionally, a second major scandal, exposed in a KCBS special report this week, showed that LAPD officers who engage in domestic violence are regularly exonerated or receive only minor suspensions, and are never prosecuted for their brutal crimes.
Harrington joined Katherine Spillar, the National Coordinator of the Feminist Majority Foundation, in calling for a dramatic increase in the budget and staff of the Inspector General's office, and the appointment of a Blue Ribbon Citizens' Commission to oversee a wide investigation of gender bias in the LAPD and recommend reforms.
"The prevailing attitude at the LAPD seems to be that it is acceptable to beat your wife, harass women co-workers and lie to cover it all up. Well, enough is enough. Now is the time to clean the Department from top to bottom," said Spillar. "We are calling for an investigation to look at sexual harassment, intimidation, discrimination and retaliat
4/8/1997 - Feminist Majority Foundation Applauds Transfer of Mifepristone (RU 486) Patent Rights to Dr. Edouard Sakiz, Former Roussel Uclaf CEO
Anti-Abortion Boycott Backfires
The transfer of mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) patent rights from Roussel Uclaf and Hoechst AG to Dr. Edouard Sakiz is good news for women worldwide.
Dr. Sakiz’s leadership as the CEO of Roussel Uclaf was largely responsible for the development of mifepristone as a safe, effective method of early abortion. With the transfer of patent rights to Dr. Sakiz’s new company, the barriers to the future distribution, production, and development of mifepristone have fallen. The transfer of patent rights to Dr. Sakiz irrevocably injures the anti-abortion boycott of Hoechst Marion Roussel.
Mifepristone, which for too long has been kept away from women, is now in good hands. Dr. Sakiz -- a 1994 recipient of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Feminist of the Year Award -- has a long history of encouraging scientific developments for the benefit of women’s health and of promoting equality for women in the corporate world. Finally, women worldwide will be able to realize the full potential of this medical breakthrough.
3/31/1997 - Battered Woman Can Sue for Prior Abuse
Steven Lieberman, a judicial referee for the New York State Supreme Court, has ruled that Hedda Nussbaum can sue for domestic abuse, even though she filed her complaint after the statue of limitations had expired. Usually, civil suits involving abuse must be filed within one year of the alleged abuse, but an exception is made in cases where the person cannot sue because of mental incapacity. Lieberman ruled that the abuse left Nussbaum incapable of filing suit within the statue of limiations. Betty Levinson, Nussbaum's lawyer, commented, "This decision acknowledges that a battered woman who suffers from psychological abuse and physical assault cannot and should not be required to take prompt legal action against her abuser." Joel Steinberg, the man accused of the abuse, is currently in prison for the murder of the couple's illegally adopted child.
The first study of its kind, conducted by the New York City Department of Health, has found that domestic violence is the leading cause of death among murdered New York City women. From 1990 to 1994, of the 1,156 women killed, investigators determined the relationship of the killer to the victim in 484 of the cases. Of these, current or former boyfriends and husbands killed over one-half of the women. In one-third of the cases where husbands killed their wives, the women were trying to end the relationship. In one-quarter of the cases where husbands or boyfriends were the murderers, children were also killed or injured. Dr. Susan Witt, who lead the study, also found that women killed in domestic violence struggles were often, "punched and hit and burned and thrown out of windows." The study also found that two-thirds of domestic violence deaths victims lived in the Bronx or Brooklyn, New York’s poorest areas, and three-quarters of the victims were African-American or Latina.
Early on March 29th, Taliban religious rulers stoned an Afghan woman to death who had spent time with a man who was not one of her relatives. The young woman attempted to leave the country with the man but was caught and stoned to death for violating strict Islamic law imposed by the Taliban which states that a woman found with a man not in her family faces the death penalty. The Taliban-run radio Shariat did not comment on whether or not the woman had a trial or what, if anything, happened to the man. Under the Taliban’s extremist rule, women are not allowed to work, attend school, or spend anytime out of the house unless they wear an all-enveloping burqa
Fearless, composed, and ready-to-rumble, the Lady Volunteers of Tennessee played Sunday night with the heart of champions to win their second consecutive NCAA title. Pat Summit coached her team to its fifth national championship and became the second most winning NCAA championship coach, male or female (John Wooden of UCLA leads with 10). Summit had tied Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for second with four prior to her March 30 win over Old Dominion. Champique Holdsclaw led the University of Tennessee’s 68 - 59 win with 24 votes and was voted the tournament’s most valuable player for her efforts. Old Dominion had beaten Tennessee earlier in the year and was on a thirty-three game winning streak heading into the championship game. Coach Summit played a videotape of her locker room speech after the season’s loss to Old Dominion left the Lady Volunteers 10-6 before the game; in it she told her players that they were good enough to win in March. After the game, Summitt commented, "This championship will always stand out. They played the toughest schedule and didn’t fold."
Kentucky plays Arizona tonight for the men’s NCAA championship.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a federal appeals court should reconsider its ruling striking down a criminal conviction of a judge accused of assaulting five women. The federal appeals court had ruled that because federal prosecutors used a 1874 law that makes its a crime for government officials to deprive someone of their rights "protected by the Constitution", the conviction could not stand against former Tennessee Judge David Lanier, convicted of sexually assaulting five women. The Federal Court argued that no similar Supreme Court decision had established freedom from sexual attacks by government officials as a constitutional right. In their ruling, the Supreme Court did not explicitly establish such a right, but told the appeals court to restudy its earlier ruling because it did not consider itself to be the sole harbinger of such rights. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, writing for the court, stated, "We think it unsound…that only this court’s decisions could provide the required warning."
The Court firmly rejected Lanier’s arguments that he was not acting "under the color of law" when he assaulted the women and thus could not be tried with the federal ruling. His lawyers argued that the women finally submitted to him because of his prominence in a small town, not because of his judicial position. One woman testified, however, that he reminded her that he was hearing the custody case involving her child.
The Case is U.S. v. Lanier, 95-1717
Ella Maillart died at her mountain chalet in Chandolin, Switzerland on March 27th at the age of 94. Maillart founded Switzerland’s first women’s field hockey club and was a member of the Swiss sailing team in the 1924 Olympics. In 1935 she authored Forbidden Journey, an account of her trek into the closed city of Sinkiang in Chinese Turkestan. In the 1930s, Maillart also had a brief film career in Berlin; traveled to Moscow; walked across the Caucasus Mountains; and attempted to put together a Russian female field hockey team. Her travels in the 1930s led to two other books Turkestan Solo and Among Russian Youth: From Moscow to the Caucaus. Maillart’s travel credo was, "Nobody can go? Than I shall go," and she lived up to every word of it.
On her 7-month, 3500-mile trek from Beijing to Kashmir through Chinese Turkestan, she left with only two pounds of marmalade, a rifle a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, writing paper, a Leica camera and Peter Fleming. Though she often traveled alone, she thought it best to have a companion on this trip in case she landed in prison for traveling in forbidden territory. In 1947 she traveled again with a companion, this time a sick, morphine-addicted friend; of that trip, she wrote the book The Cruel Way: Two Women and a Ford in Afghanistan. During the course of her life, Maillart also worked as a French teacher in Wales, a secretary, a traveling saleswoman, a competitive skier, a sculptor’s model and a movie stuntwoman.
3/28/1997 - Experts Expect Appeals Panel to Revive Prop. 209
Last year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued a preliminary injunction against the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209, thus temporarily keeping California affirmative action programs in place until the Courts settled the proposition’s constitutionality. Now, a conservative 9th Circuit Court of Appeal panel’s refusal to hear full arguments before it decides whether or not to overturn the injunction has led many legal analysts to predict that the panel will overturn the injunction and effectively wipe-out California’s affirmative action programs. The conservative make up of the panel also has many legal analysts accusing the pro-209 forces of "judge shopping" to obtain a favorable ruling. Although many believe that the judges on the panel believe that 209 is constitutional, as a "motions panel" they can only overturn the injunction if believe that the District Judge "abused his discretion" in ordering the injunction. As Erwin Chemerinsky, a USC Law Professors explains, "[the judges would have to find] that Henderson doesn’t know the law…I think it would be extremely difficult to fund an abuse of discretion."
Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee has promised to sign a bill passed by the State Legislature which outlaws the abortion D&X procedure. The law stipulates that doctors who perform the procedure could face up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Georgia, Michigan, Utah and Ohio have passed similar laws. Abortion clinics and doctors are challenging the Michigan law in courts for being unconstitutional.
The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports released results of a study today which show the female high school athletes receive better grades, are less likely to drop out of school, more likely to go to college, and develop fewer health problems than their non-athletic counterparts. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala used the study’s results as a spring board to encourage more girls to enter sports. She commented, "The good news is, today, more girls are getting into the game than ever before. [However,] there are still too many people who think getting fit isn’t feminine and not enough opportunities [exist] for girls to participate at every level. Young girls are still twice as likely to be inactive as young boys. And girls living in poverty – especially girls of color – still face even greater obstacles. That must change."
3/28/1997 - Kentucky State Senator Seeks to Exclude Lesbian and Gay Couples from Domestic Violence Law
Kentucky State Senator Tim Philpot advocates an amendment to the Kentucky domestic violence law which would exclude lesbian and gay couples from its protection. Currently, the law covers unmarried couples who live together, formerly lived together or have a child in common, spouses and some relatives. The law won’t be heard until 1998, but Philpot is already pushing the amendment and domestic violence protection advocates are pushing back. Sherry Currens of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association commented, "Clearly we need to focus on the need for safety and that all people have the right to safety that are victims, no matter what their (sexual) orientation is. This is a witchhunt. I mean, we’re losing perspective here.
One million Nike shoes are made monthly by women some as young as 15, who work 12 hour days, for 20 cents an hour, in overheated, noisy and unhealthy conditions. The labor cost per shoes runs below $2, the shoes retail for up to $149. These revelations come after a 16-day inspection of four Vietnamese plants by the U.S. based Vietnam Labor Watch. Thuyen Nguyen reported that, "Supervisors humiliate women, force them to kneel, to stand in the hot sun, treating them like recruits in boot camp." During an eight hour period, women were allowed only two sips of water and one bathroom break. At one of the plants, supervisors forced 56 women who had worn non-regulation shoes to run around the plant in the hot sun; twelve of the women became so sick that they had to be hospitalized. The incident occurred on March 8th, International Women’s Day. The investigation also observed multiple violations of minimum pay requirements and overtime work regulations.
For the first time since 1982, all teams headed to the women’s NCAA Final Four are coached by women. Tennessee has Pat Summitt (who has coached four championship teams), Stanford Tara VanDerveer, Notre Dame Muffet McGraw and Old Dominion Wendy Larry. Women now also make up 64 percent of the head coaching jobs for women’s teams, an eleven percent increase over the low 58.5 percent in 1988. Basketball is one of only seven sports in the NCAA in which women coaches make up more than 51 percent of coaching positions, in all divisions women make up approximately 2 percent of coaching jobs in men’s sports. Notre Dame’s McGraw recently noted that the progress of women coaches in basketball reflected an overall phenomenon regarding women’s play, "The way the women’s game has gone now, playing in front of sellout crowds, making big money – five or six years ago, we craved all that. We used to think, wouldn’t it be great if we had 10,000 people, if coaches made $100,000 and we had shoe contracts. Well, we do have that, now."
3/27/1997 - Number of Female Owned Businesses Soaring
According to the National Foundation of Women Business Owners, women own approximately 8 million businesses in the United States, employ over 18.5 million people and generate $2.3 trillion in sales annually. And, the number of women owned businesses is increasing faster than the overall growth for U.S. businesses in all 50 top metropolitan areas. The Foundation’s study 1996 Facts on Women-Owned Businesses indicates that New York City had the most women-owned businesses with 248,700 of them and Portland and Vancouver followed closely. The study found that San Francisco was representative of the national trend where, "Women-owned businesses increased 61 percent over the past nine years, employment more than tripled and sales increased nearly four-fold. As of 1996, San Francisco’s 80,800 women-owned enterprises employed 217,000 people and generated over $31 billion in sales." Over all, businesses in the city grew only 39.7 percent during the same time. Carol Pisante, of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce commented, "We have definitely seen an increase in the number of women starting their own businesses. They are a remarkably upbeat, positive group who have very high expectation of their success. A lot of that comes from a climate open to new ideas, new products, new ways of organizing businesses. There is a lot of pioneer spirit out there."
The Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, has launched a letter writing campaign to General Motors, Chrysler and Johnson & Johnson asking them to pull their adds for the Ellen "coming out" episode. During an hour long special in May, the lead character Ellen will reveal that she is a lesbian, drawing protest from Falwell. He commented, "Stop spending your dollars to underwrite a program that Disney and ABC have decided to use to corrupt the views and values of our children. All Christians need to make their voices heard. Falwell also resorted to elementary school tactics by mispronouncing Ellen Degeneres’s name, Ellen "Degenerate
Abortion clinics and doctors have filed a lawsuit which claims that a Michigan ban on "partial birth" abortions is unconstitutional. The suit alleges that the vaguely drafted legislation would allow officials to prosecute doctors for any abortion conducted after the first trimester. The ACLU has also joined in the fight by asking the U.S. District Court for a preliminary injunction to block the ban before it goes into effect at the end of March.
3/27/1997 - NIH Seeks Older Women for Health Study
The National Institute for Health is seeking for nearly 100,000 additional women to participate in a ten year study of women’s health. The agency is looking primarily for women over the age of sixty, having already recruited the requisite number of women between the ages of 50 to 59. The agency is studying whether post-menopausal women age 50 to 79 need to take estrogen and vitamins to protect against bone loss. It is also studying whether or not low-fat diets help prevent heart attacks and breast and colon cancer.
3/27/1997 - Maine Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Avoiding a fall referendum campaign, Maine legislators approved a ban on same-sex marriages by a 24 to 10 vote. On March 25th the Maine House had voted 106 to 39 to approve the ban. Governor Angus King is expected to sign the measure. If signed, Maine becomes the 18th state within the past year to ban same-sex marriages
The Pentagon announced on March 24th that President Clinton has nominated Major General Claudia J. Kennedy to become the army's first female three-star general. Clinton has also nominated Kennedy to serve as the deputy chief of staff for intelligence; she has served as the assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence since 1995. The Senate is expected to confirm the nomination. If nominated, the Air Force would remain the only military branch without a three-star flag female officer.
3/26/1997 - Clinton Administration Tells Texas Schools to Aggressively Enforce Affirmative Action Programs
Officials from the United States Department of Education have warned Texas officials that the state's school system will lose federal funding if it does not use affirmative action programs in admissions. Texas Attorney General Dan Morales earlier directed the schools not to consider race at all when make admissions decisions because of a recent 5th Circuit Federal Court ruling, Hopwood v. Texas which claimed that the 1978 Bakke decision allowing affirmative action programs was no longer viable. The education department's office of civil rights, however, has directed that the ruling only applied to a special type of admission's policy no longer pursued in Texas and that it did not wipe out affirmative action programs altogether.
Norma Cantu, the head of the civil rights division at the education department, said that Texas schools were bound by a 1992 Ayers v. Fordice ruling in Mississippi which mandated that states continue to root out current discriminatory practices and vestiges of past discrimination. Cantu commented, "The Texas Attorney General's office has interpreted the 5th Circuit decision much more broadly than necessary. Unless the facts are identical to those in place at the time at the University of Texas Law School, universities may use appropriate affirmative action." Many believe that the Supreme Court will have to hear a case involving affirmative action and settle the discrepancy between the 5th Circuit Court's ruling and the Supreme Court's previous rulings on affirmative action.
Women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene should start receiving early mammograms as early as age 25, according to a researchers at the Women's Health Care Center at the University of Washington. The March 25th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association contains the results of a study which reiterates that the BRCA genes cause five to ten percent of all breast cancer cases and that women who carry the genes should begin having yearly mammograms between the ages of 25 and 35. Women with a flawed BRCA1 gene have a 65 percent risk of contracting ovarian cancer and an 85 percent risk of breast cancer. Women with the BRCA2 mutation have a 55 percent risk of ovarian cancer and 85 percent risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society projects that doctors will diagnose 180,200 women with breast cancer this year.