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6/28/1996 - Students Denied Confidentiality and Abortion Counseling, Access to Birth Control Information
Students in Prince William County, Maryland will be denied accessibility to abortion counseling on school property next fall, and if students discuss topics like pregnancy or drug abuse with school employees, their parents will be notified. This unanimous decision was made Wednesday evening (6-26) by the Prince William School Board. The members justified their decision to take away students’ right to confidentiality with the rationale that the parents had the right to know about their children's lives.
A number of officials expressed concern about the decision including the county's Health District Director and the Head of the Department of Social Services who believe that this decision may harm the health of the students because the students may be reluctant to seek help on critical issues. Social Services Director Ricardo Perez conveyed concern that the students will seek other, less reliable sources of information on abortion. Susan Lamontagne, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood's national office believes the measure will be an obstacle for students "...who are in trouble...it could increase the number of teenage pregnancies and the number of sexually transmitted diseases."
In an unrelated decision in Virginia, Fairfax County School Board members voted 11-1 Thursday (6-27) against a proposal to have classroom displays about birth control methods to which students are normally exposed through outdated documentaries. In May, an advisory committee overwhelmingly approved the displays, to be done only by a visiting public health nurse who could answer questions about birth control, but the committee reversed itself two weeks later amid questions about the proposal. School Board members said in Thursday’s decision that parents should be in charge of teaching their children about birth control methods. Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board approved a restructuring of health and biology classes for 9th and 10th graders and a series of health and sex education videos.
The government reported earlier this week that the teen birth rate had declined for a third straight year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, for teenage girls aged 15-19, the birth rate of 59.6 births per 1,000 in 1993 has dropped to 58.9 per 1,000 in 1994. However, the 1994 rate was still higher than it was in the years between 1974 to 1989, according to health officials. This information was part of an annual health report on birth statistics to monitor maternal and infant health and to keep a record of general birth data in the United States. The report also said that there was a decline of pregnant women smoking and that 80 percent of mothers during their first trimester were receiving prenatal care. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala commented that the decline of the teen birth rate "is another piece of good news in the battle against teen pregnancy, but we still have a long way to go."
6/28/1996 - Senator Urges Research on Heart Disease in Women
Because studies on cardiovascular disease have traditionally been male-centered, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation Thursday to increase spending on research on heart disease in women. The leading cause of death for women and men in the U.S., heart attacks kill 235,000 women each year, 49 percent of the 485,000 people who die from the condition every year, according to the American Heart Association. Boxer said, "For years women have been under-represented in studies conducted on heart disease and strokes," and added that doctors do not diagnose heart disease in women quickly enough.
Boxer’s bill would earmark $140 million beginning October 1 to the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for expansion of research and education programs on heart disease in women. The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health, the organizer of the "Healthy Women 2000" conference, issued a statement saying, "Women have less aggressive diagnosis and treatment workups for heart disease than do men." Because the body sizes, percentages of body fat and metabolism rates of women differ from those of men, and because post-menopausal women have an increased risk of heart disease after they stop producing estrogen, doctors say more study is needed to treat female patients.
6/28/1996 - Rape Defined as War Crime by Tribunal
On Thursday (6-27), the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague announced the indictment of eight Bosnian Serb military and police officers in connection with the rapes of Muslim women in the war in Bosnia. After two years of investigations, the announcements mark the first time sexual assault has been considered separately as a war crime. A spokesman for the court noted the importance of the decision, saying it "illustrates the court’s strategy to focus on gender-related crimes and give them their proper place in the prosecution of war crimes." Postwar courts in the past have treated rape only as a secondary offense, tolerating it as part of general abusive behavior by a soldier. According to the New York Times, court officials said the indictment gives "organized rape and other sexual offenses their due place in international law as crimes against humanity."
Bosnian Serbs were the main perpetrators of using rape as a strategy to terrorize people, according to investigators of the European Union and Amnesty International who estimate that 20,000 Muslim women and girls were raped by Serbs in 1992. Many women and girls as young as 12 were detained in prison camps where they were forced to cook and clean for soldiers during the day and were gang raped every night over a period of several months. None of the eight Serbs accused of rapes committed between April 1992 and February 1993 has been arrested.
Also on Thursday, the tribunal began public hearings against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadic and Ratko Mladic whom the prosecution is accusing of being responsible for the deaths, rapes and torture of thousands of Bosnian Serbs and "the ultimate crime of genocide."
Lars Bildman, Chief Executive of the Astra USA, has been fired following a suspension and an investigation of allegations of sexual harassment and embezzlement. Company officials said executives first learned about allegations of years of sexual harassment in April, and Bildman was suspended April 28 after 16 employees complained of sexual harassment. Bildman was accused of replacing married mothers and older women employees with "stunningly attractive" younger women and of pressuring female employees to have sex. C.G. Johansson, Executive Vice President of Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astra AB said the investigation was closed, but six former employees filed a federal lawsuit last month claiming that Astra executives created "an organized pattern of sexual harassment -- in order to satisfy their personal desires." Bildman and the company are being questioned about the complaints by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A lawyer for Astra said 12 former employees have settled sexual harassment suits against Astra.
The board voted unanimously to fire Bildman, and two other executives were fired after having been suspended on sexual harassment claims. Another executive, Anders Lonner who allegedly knew about the pattern of harassment but failed to make a report, also resigned.
In order to raise home ownership rates among women, the Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to give $250,000 to a coalition of groups to set up education and counseling programs for potential women home buyers. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros announced Wednesday that HUD will also make information about home ownership accessible to women on a toll-free telephone line to be publicized at home buying seminars this summer. HUD is implementing the measures with the goal of achieving home ownership of an all-time high of 67.5 percent by 2000. In 1995, 65.1 percent of all households owned homes, but only 49.5 percent of women-headed households had ownership of their homes.
At a news conference, Cisneros cited barriers to women looking to buy homes including the fact that mortgage lenders often dismiss women as not being credit-worthy or refuse to acknowledge alimony, child support and earnings from part-time jobs as income.
6/27/1996 - Congresswomen Call for Monitor on Mitsubishi
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) and three other Democratic Congresswomen met with officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Wednesday (6-26) to urge the EEOC to closely monitor Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. The EEOC has filed a sexual harassment case on behalf of hundreds of women employed at the Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. The lawmakers expressed disappointment that Mitsubishi "doesn’t appear to be in any kind of settlement mode, instead a total denial mode," Schroeder said. Schroeder said some congresswoman who have spoken out against Mitsubishi have received phone calls from individuals telling them to end their involvement in the issue.
Meanwhile, National Organization for Women vice president Rosemary Dempsey met with a Mitsubishi official Wednesday in Tokyo and was optimistic about the organization’s campaign for a settlement of the case. Dempsey led a picket of the annual shareholders meeting Thursday (6-27), calling for a settlement and a commitment by the company to implement a program to increase opportunities for women and minorities.
Charging that Mitsubishi created a "hostile and abusive work environment" where female employees were fondled, grabbed and threatened with retaliation if they reported the incidents, the EEOC suit seeks back pay with interest and benefits. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages up to $300,000 each for as many as 500 women.
Officials at Virginia Military Institute have said they may relinguish public funding and become a private institution rather than admit women, as the Supreme Court required in its 7-1 ruling Wednesday (6-26). The Citadel, the nation’s only other state-supported all-male military academy in South Carolina, has said it will obey the law.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that the all-male policy of the state-supported Virginia Military Institute violates women’s constitutional rights to equal protection. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said, "One more male bastion bites the dust. At last, ‘separate but equal’ for women and girls in the military goes to the dust bin of history -- where it belongs." The Court ordered VMI to admit women because the separate program at the private Mary Baldwin College is not an equivalent education. However, the Court did not upgrade the level of scrutiny in sex discrimination cases to the same strict legal standard used in race bias cases, keeping the standard at mid-level and allowing government to treat men and women differently if the treatment is "substantially related to an important objective." The Clinton administration had asked for the scrutiny level to be raised to strict.
VMI and South Carolina’s The Citadel are the only all-male, state-supported military colleges in the U.S. VMI and Virginia were sued by the federal government in 1990 for unlawfully discriminating against women with VMI’s all-male policy in effect since the school was founded in 1839. The Supreme Court ruling overturns an earlier ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which held that the opportunities offered men and women need only be "substantively comparable" but not the same. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that "Virginia has not shown substantial equality in the separate educational opportunities" and that "Virginia’s remedy affords no cure at all for the opportunities and advantages withheld from women who want a VMI education and can make the grade."
The ruling is also expected to apply to the Citadel. Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate in the case because his son attends VMI, and Justice Antonin Scalia was the lone dissenter.
Suspending a new Virginia law which requires mothers seeking welfare benefits to identify the fathers of their children, a federal judge in Charlottesville ruled against allowing the state to cut off the benefits of two women challenging the law. Enforcement of the law against other women will continue, but the women’s lawyers feel U.S. District Judge James H. Michael Jr.’s temporary injunction against state welfare officials could be cited as a precedent in similar cases to come. According the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the group which brought the suit on behalf of the women, the judge’s language was strongly favorable to their clients although he did not make the case a class action representing all women whose benefits could be cut off under the law.
The state law, which went into effect July 1, 1995, requires mothers give first and last names of fathers as well as social security information or places of employment. Both women, who had given birth to their children years ago fully cooperated with social workers to determine the paternity of their children, including having blood tests done on former partners. Despite their efforts and their testimony in front of state judge that they did not know the names of the fathers of their children, the women did not meet state guidelines for welfare benefits.
In the continuing federal investigation of the sex slavery industry in Los Angeles, California, five Chinese nationals have been indicted on charges of conspiring to kidnap a 22-year-old Chinese woman and forcing her to serve as a prostitute at the brothels they managed. Federal investigator Michael J. Gennaco stated that three brothers, their uncle and the wife of the eldest brother allegedly tricked the young woman into immigrating to New York. With no financial or family support in the U.S., the young woman was forced to become a sex slave upon her arrival in 1994 and through 1996. The family is also accused of rape, battery, extortion and assault against the woman.
Wang Yong Tan, 21 and Troy Hong Yee will be arraigned July 1 in Los Angeles while their brother, Wang Yon Can, 26 will be arraigned July 8. The other two defendants, Wang Yong Ming and Li Ming Li have become fugitives.
6/26/1996 - Gender Gap Hurts Dole
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole trails behind President Clinton with women in the polls. An ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Dole by 10 points among men and by 31 points among women voters. Political analysts conclude that Dole cannot win the presidency with such a large gender gap.
6/25/1996 - San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Opposes CCRI
Voting overwhelmingly in support of affirmative action, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce became the first major business in California to oppose the self-titled California Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot measure that would end affirmative action programs for women and minorities and gut sex discrimination law in the state. The chamber, which has 1,900 members including multinational corporations, businesses such as the Bank of America and Pac Bell, and small local businesses, is considered the largest and most influential business group to take a stand on the initiative.
6/25/1996 - Breast Cancer Risk High for Asian Women in U.S.
Although women Asian women in Asia have the lowest rates of breast cancer in the world, Asian women living in the U.S. have the same risk as white women. Regina Zeigler of the National Cancer Institute led a 1993 study on Asians and breast cancer and said Asian women coming to the U.S. are likely to give up a healthy diet for American processed foods, to exercise less and to undergo more stress integrating into a new culture. Thus, their chances of getting breast cancer increase by over 80 percent within the first decade they live in the U.S.
Language barriers and cultural taboos about self exams also keep the women from getting help or becoming aware a problem. The American Cancer Society in San Francisco serves a large Asian population and has produced videos in four Asian languages and English using Asian models to instruct women on self-exam procedures. The city’s Department of Health publishes literature in several dialects and is fully bilingual. There are also many breast cancer support groups in the city geared toward Chinese women.
6/1/1996 - FREEDOM SUMMER‘96 KICKS OFF
WHAT: Press Conference
WHEN: Wednesday, June 5, 1996 at 10:00am
WHERE: Los Angeles: NCJW Auditorium
543 North Fairfax
WHO: Freedom Summer ‘96 Student Volunteers, Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority
Following in the historic footsteps of their parents’ generation, college students from more than 54 campuses nationwide and in California arrived June 1, 1996 for Freedom Summer ‘96 -- a massive grassroots voter education and registration campaign to defeat the deceptive California "Civil Rights" Initiative (CCRI).
This first wave of students will be followed July 1 by a second wave and August 15 by a third. The press conference follows a five-day intensive training of the students, before deployment statewide.
Editor’s Note: Freedom Summer ‘96 is a joint project of the Feminist Majority and the NO on CCRI Campaign. Interviews with Ms. Smeal and Freedom Summer ‘96 organizers and participants are available upon request.
24-year old Colgate graduate and Freedom Summer ‘96 Campaign Coordinator Justine Andronicci explained "The students will spend the summer alerting voters -- especially women -- to CCRI’s sneak attack on California’s equal rights amendment. We intend to expose the deceipt of the California "Civil Rights" Initiative: when California voters learn it’s not about civil rights, but destroys sex discrimination laws and affirmative action programs for women and people of color, they’ll vote against it."
"We are thrilled so many young women have decided to commit their summers to the fight to save women’s rights and civil rights," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "Women will not be cut out of California’s constitution or the debate over affirmative action."
With over seven hundred college students signed-up to participate throughout the summer, Freedom Summer ‘96 is the largest young feminist mobilization for women’s rights in the history of the United States. Students will be trained in everything from grass roots organizing to voter registration to campaign basics to leadership techniques. Following the five-day training, student teams will be deployed in high priority areas throughout the state. Students will be joined throughout the training by 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer participants.
5/31/1996 - Gender Biases Prompt Men to Avoid Parental Leave
Despite the passage of the 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act, few fathers are taking advantage of the mandated 12 or fewer weeks of unpaid parental leave offered by companies with more than 50 employees. While economics contributes to some of these cases, especially given the still-existing wage gap between men and women, fear plays a large part in fathers' reluctance to trade work for full-time childcare.
The recent book "Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First" discusses cases of fathers who were refused or discouraged from taking advantage of available parental leave policies. Author Suzanne Braun Levine, a former editor of Ms. Magazine, shows that many supervisors are sending "the message that men who take leave are not very manly." A 1997 work by sociologist Arlie Hoschchild, "The Time Bind," also reveals a fear among working fathers to take paternal leave. Both works cite fear of discrimination from supervisors and co-workers, and often report that fathers who take leave are accused of being "fags."
James M. Strass, a Manhattan lawyer, says he declined parental leave, fearing that "his co-workers would question his machismo." He cited the sexist stereotype that women, and women only, must be the family caretakers. The American Civil Liberties Union has argued on behalf of fathers who were discouraged from or fired for requesting parental leave. In one case, a Maryland state trooper was told "'God made women to breast-feed babies, and men can't fulfill that role.'"
Yesterday, the British Medical Association (BMA) released a report calling for broad changes in media portrayals of beauty and "ideal" body type. The report argues that "the media's obsession with stick-thin supermodels was contributing to the rise in the number of young women suffering from eating disorders." The BMA calls for a realistic range of body shapes in the media, an emphasis on healthier eating, education on the dangers of poor nutrition and dieting for young women, and a separation between the idea of a healthy body and the stick-thin image of women currently praised in the media.
The BMA notes that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of factors including genetics, family history, and socio-cultural factors. BMA Professor Vivienne Nathanson stressed the need to change those factors that we can influence, namely the socio-cultural messages about beauty and body type. The report highlights the alarming "gap between the ideal body shape and reality." The BMA reports that seven million British women and one million British men suffer from eating disorders; the American Anorexia/Bulimia Association (AABA) estimates five percent of adolescent and adult American women and one percent of American men suffer from eating disorders. AABA also reports that 1,000 American women die each year of anorexia nervosa.
5/30/1996 - Honduran Girl Exposes Sweatshop Abuses
At a news conference held Wednesday (5-28) on Capitol Hill, a fifteen-year-old girl told of abuses in a sweatshop in her native Honduras that made clothing for retail giant Wal-Mart's Kathlie Lee Gifford line of clothing. Wendy Diaz said about 100 minors as young as 12 years old worked 13 hours a day for a wage of 31 cents an hour in the factory. She spoke of verbal and physical abuse by employers toward the children, as well as sexual harassment and intimidation to keep them working until 6:30 a.m. at times. Diaz said the Global Fashions company tried to force pregnant women to quit in order to avoid paying maternity leave, forcing the women to stand for 12 hours in the heat of the pressing room. Workers were only allowed two trips to the bathroom all day, and were fired if they tried to organize a union, Diaz said.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) commented on rampant abuses of child labor laws and called for U.S. companies to certify that their products were created without child or exploited labor by adopting the use of a "No Sweat" label. Diaz said U.S. contractors visited the sweatshop several times, checking only on the quality of the work but never talking to the workers. Diaz, who quit her job at the factory two weeks ago, spoke on behalf of her co-workers and called for better wages, an end to verbal and physical abuse by employers, and the opportunity to attend night school and to organize to protect their rights as workers.
Rep. Robert Barr (R-Ga.), chief sponsor of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" aimed at preventing same-sex marriages does not provide a model for family values, according to lesbian and gay rights advocates. Barr, 48, has been married three times and, in 1988, was accused of failing to pay child support. In 1992, Barr was seen licking whipped cream off the chests of two women in bustiers at a benefit for the Leukemia Society which has not been held again since.
The bill, which would limit the legal definition of marriage to "a union between one man and one woman" and would allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, reportedly has close to 100 sponsors. Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition said Wednesday (5-29) that his group would push Congress to send the bill to President Clinton by Labor Day. Clinton has announced he will sign the bill.
5/30/1996 - Man on Trial for Murdering Immigrant Wife
The murder trial for Timothy Blackwell began its third week Tuesday (5-28) in Washington state where Blackwell shot his wife and two other women during divorce proceedings one year ago. Blackwell met Susana Remerata of the Philippines through a catalogue called "Asian Encounters" that promised "pretty, single Asian women who want to meet you." The tragedy of Remerata's murder has brought increased criticism to the practice of purchasing mail-order brides, a practice many women's rights organizations consider akin to slavery; women are sold into the custody of a man they must live with for at least two years in order to obtain citizenship. Many of the 20,000 Filipino women leaving their country each year to marry foreigners are afraid to report abuse because they fear deportation.
During the divorce proceedings, Remerata testified that the two weeks she spent living with Blackwell were extremely violent. Blackwell shot and killed her and two of her friends minutes before closing arguments in the divorce trial. Though Blackwell has pleaded not guilty, his lawyers concede he committed the crime.
With thousands of men subscribing to magazines selling brides and more utilizing similar services on the Internet, the opportunity for men with histories of abuse and alcohol problems to entrap young women is increasingly high. The Asian Pacific Development Center in Denver argues that the mail-order bride services should at least be regulated, citing cases of men with as many as five counts of domestic abuse or other crimes having purchased brides
5/30/1996 - FDA Approves New Ovarian Cancer Drug
On Wednesday (5-29), the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug topotecan for the treatment of ovarian cancer in patients who do not respond well to chemotherapy and other treatments. SmithKline Beehcam Pharmaceuticals will begin selling the drug under the name Hycamtin in several weeks. The drug inhibits an enzyme that is essential for tumor growth and is expected to help women in advanced stages of the disease. Its 17 percent rate of shrinking tumors is comparable to that of the widely-used ovarian cancer drug taxol, but the side effects of topotecan may be more severe. Approximately 26,700 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and 14,800 lose their lives fighting the disease.
The American Association of University Professors has released a report calling for the University of California to reverse its July decision to dismantle affirmative action programs for women and minorities throughout the UC system. The report from the 44,000-member organization called the decision ill-advised, and indicated that the political motivation leading toward the decision was inappropriate. Meanwhile, the July decision itself is being charged as unlawful by the UC-Santa Barbara student newspaper, the Daily Nexus. The Nexus and one of its reporters have filed a lawsuit charging that Gov. Wilson and the UC Regents decided the issue in private before it was submitted for public debate and a public vote. An open meetings law forbids a quorum, or nine members of the board, from discussing in private their votes on a future action. According to the suit, which seeks an injunction barring implementation of the anti-affirmative action decision, regents were lobbied to support the resolution and were contacted by phone before the measure came for a public vote.
In response to affirmative action policies on another campus, President Clinton is urging the Supreme Court to allow the University of Texas to continue using race as a factor in admissions to achieve the goal of a diverse campus. In an amicus brief, lawyers for the administration wrote that the UT law school has "a compelling educational interest in maintaining a racially diverse student body." In March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school's affirmative action policy was unconstitutional, and the state has since filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. Solicitor General Drew S. Days III warned that, if allowed to stand, the ruling would eliminate affirmative action programs throughout the circuit, affecting Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and the ruling could return many prestigious institutions to being predominantly white, prolonging the effects of past segregation.
At the opening of a five-day meeting United Nations meeting in the Philippines, U.N. experts called for action to put an end to violence against migrant women workers. As increasing rates of unemployment and poverty force more women, often Asian, to seek work in foreign countries, the risk of physical and sexual abuse against the women by employers could rise, they warned. The Philippines is considered the world's largest supplier of domestic servants.
Last week, the National Organization for Women and Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH and Rainbow Coalition announced plans to expand their boycott of Mitsubishi, the Japanese auto maker accused of allowing the sexual harassment of hundreds of women. The groups are urging consumers to boycott Chrysler Corporation which buys some of its cars from Mitsubishi. Until Mitsubishi settles the sexual harassment lawsuits -- filed by 29 women individually and by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of hundreds of female workers -- and produces a plan to ensure fair treatment of women and minorities, the groups plan to continue the boycott and picketing
Financial services company Smith Barney is being sued by three women on claims of sex discrimination. The current employee and the two former employees suing the company allege that the firm discriminates against women in hiring, training, promotion, and pay, and that women were demoted for getting pregnant or taking maternity leave. In addition to allegations of physical abuse, the lawsuit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also contends that women were routinely intimidated and insulted. The women claim that a fraternity-like atmosphere pervaded the Garden City, NY office where men allegedly gathered in a basement room called the "Boom Boom Room" to drink Bloody Mary's. Alleging that the firm consistently refused to stop men from sexually harassing women, the lawsuit states that male employees joked that women who didn't "behave" would be dealt with in the "Boom Boom Room" and that allegations of sexual harassment would be "deliberated" there. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, back pay, promotions, seniority, and a declaration that the practices at Smith Barney violate federal and state laws. Smith Barney has denied the allegations
According to an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal, the number of sexual harassment claims on Wall Street is rising. Although women have made strides in the financial world in the last 20 years, women still make up only about 15 percent of the over 100,000 brokers nationwide. The low numbers can lead to a locker-room-like atmosphere in which women are criticized for being too sensitive or not having a sense of humor. The Journal reported on several such cases including another suit against Smith Barney in which a woman was told she was not sexually harassed and that the company would take no remedial action against the man who alleging threatened her into resigning because she refused him sex.