6/20/1997 - House Rejects Repeal of Military Abortion Ban
The House has voted 224-296 against the repeal of a ban on abortions at military hospitals overseas. The repeal was part of an amendment to a defense spending bill marking the second straight year a repeal has been rejected. Based on the assumption that women have access to private medical facilities overseas, abortions are prohibited at domestic military hospitals. Noting that women are not assured of having access to safe, legal alternatives, Rep. Ron Dellums, (D-CA) said, "We should not deprive these women of the very rights they are assigned to protect when we send them overseas."
After voting to boycott Walt Disney Co. because of what it calls “gay-friendly” policies, the Southern Baptist Convention has condemned corporate policies that extend health-care benefits to employees’ same-sex partners. President Clinton, a Southern Baptist, responded simply “No” when asked by a reporter if he would support the Disney boycott. Another resolution adopted by the Southern Baptists during their three-day convention in Dallas opposed a gender-neutral Bible and human cloning.
Disney executives said the boycott did not come as a surprise and that they had the impression a boycott had already begun. Other Hollywood studios and companies such as Universal Studios and Viacom (owner of Nickelodeon) already offers same-sex benefits. In fact, Twentieth Century Fox was the only major Hollywood studio to adopt health benefits after Disney. Disney adopted the benefits in October 1995 after three years of “intense lobbying,” according to Richard Jennings of Hollywood Supports, a clearinghouse in the entertainment industry for AIDS issues and lesbian and gay concerns. As competition for talent increased, it was a disadvantage to Disney not to offer same-sex benefits, and Disney had little other choice when it acquired ABC which already offered same-sex benefits.
The United States is just a "C" student when it comes to gender equity in education, according to the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education.
The Coalition will release a Report Card on Gender Equity on Monday, June 23, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education at a press conference at 10:00am at the National Press Club's First Amendment Room in Washington, DC.
The "C" average means that while some progress has been made, more improvement is necessary. The federal government received its best grade, B-, for access to higher education. Before Title IX passed in 1972, many professional schools such as medical schools and law schools, did not admit women. Even colleges that did admit women often had tougher admissions standards for them. Many scholarships were restricted to men, gave preference to men, or were unavailable to married or parenting women. While those barriers have fallen, women continue to be underrepresented in non-traditional fields, and more athletic scholarships are still awarded to men.
The government received its worst grade, D+, for dealing with sexual harassment in education. While 81% of high schoolers saying they have experienced sexual harassment, schools and the Department of Education have done little to deal with this problem.
In other areas the government received a "C" grade: athletics, career education, employment, learning environment, math and science, standardized testing, and treatment of pregnant and parenting students.
For more information about the Report Card, call the National Women's Law Center at (202) 588-5180.
On June 21, Saturday afternoon, when viewers tune in to NBC, they will witness the Women’s National Basketball Association’s first game. The WNBA begins its first 28-game season which will culminate in four teams advancing to single-elimination playoff games in August. With three nationally-televised games a week on ESPN, NBC, or Lifetime, the league projects an average attendance of 4,000 a game and a larger TV audience. The WNBA includes former Olympians, 12 of whom have won gold medals. Fifteen of the 80 WNBA players are from outside the United States. According to Val Ackerman, the league’s president, "The WNBA has the best players from around the world…These women have been playing in obscurity overseas. People’s heads will turn when they see the skill of these women."
The NBA owns the eight-member league and has assisted it in achieving sponsors such as Nike, GM and Sears. The American Basketball League, a year-old women’s athletic group, also supports the WNBA despite the competition the new league brings. "[U]ltimately, this is great for women’s basketball," ABL’s co-founder Gary Cavelli said. "Two years ago, great college players had two choices: drop their sport or play overseas. Now, exposure to women’s basketball is at an all-time high in this country."
According to two studies released on June 19, women who take estrogen for years after menopause cut their risk of death from all causes by 37% and of Alzheimer’s dementia by 54%. However, long-term estrogen therapy after 10 years also carries a 43% higher risk of dying from breast cancer. Thus benefits of estrogen therapy appear to wane after a decade when the risk of death is only 20 percent lower for estrogen-takers. Francine Grodstein of Harvard Medical school commented, “Overall the benefits do seem to outweigh the risks,” while breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan Love noted that the benefits did not come without consequences. Researchers say that women at high risk of breast cancer still reduce their risk of premature death by 35% through estrogen therapy because women are much more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. Caught early, breast cancer can often be treated. Grodstein and her colleagues studied women who were participants in the Nurses Health Study, which began in 1976. They studied the effect of estrogen on 3, 637 women who died between 1976 and 1992 and on 30,000 others. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the National Institute of Aging conducted the Alzheimer’s study appearing in Neurology and found that only 9 of the women taking estrogen daily developed Alzheimer’s compared to 25 who did not. Of the 465 post-menopausal women studied, 45% took estrogen daily.
A preliminary hearing that will determine whether there is enough evidence of sexual misconduct to court-martial Sgt. Major of the Army Gene C. McKinney will be closed to the public. The Army decided that the hearing regarding its top enlisted man would be closed to the public despite appeals from the defendant and his main accuser that the proceeding remain open. Brenda Hoster, whose allegations sparked 18 criminal charges against McKinney including adultery and indecent assault, claims that the Army is trying to avoid bad publicity. McKinney is charged with propositioning three female officers and committing adultery with another.
After the preliminary hearing to be held on June 23 at Fort Meyer, Col. Owen C. Powell will weigh the evidence and determine whether to proceed with a trial, alter the charges against McKinney, or dismiss the case. McKinney has requested permission to retire but has received no official response from the Army. Army Secretary Togo West and Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer support Powell’s decision to close the hearing, but McKinney and five major television networks have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to open the hearing, asking that the proceeding be delayed pending a hearing and decision.
Adrienne Bak Ortolano finally received justice last week when a jury convicted Alex Kelly of raping her eleven years before. After the conviction, the 27-year-old woman gave her first interview since the rape in 1986. She came forward because she wanted to give other rape victims courage and show the world she is not ashamed of who she is. "It’s a positive feeling to be able to stand up and accuse your attacker, and to tell the truth the way it happened," she said.
In the 11 years between Kelly’s crime and conviction, Ortolano showed perseverance in fighting to put her attacker behind bars. Kelly fled to Europe in 1987 and lived as a ski bum off of his parents’ money to avoid the trial for raping Ortolano and a 17-year-old from Stamford, CT. Ortolano hired a lawyer to find her attacker in 1994, and Kelly turned himself in to the authorities the following year. She rejected offers for plea bargains in 1987 and 1996 and sat through one trial which ended in a deadlocked jury last fall. When she heard the jury pronounce Kelly "guilty" last week, she said, "The first thing I thought was thank God, thank God the world knows the truth."
6/19/1997 - Republican Tax Bill Harmful to Women
The Democratic women U.S. House of Representatives members will release a Democratic Policy Committee Report on June 19th which outlines how the Republican tax bill harms women. The report will give details on a number of issues. For example, the GOP tax bill cuts the child tax credit for six million families with child care expenses, thus penalizing working women. The GOP tax bill completely denies the child tax credit to four million children in working families receiving EITC. Two million working families will be penalized by requiring them to pay an alternative minimum tax, simply for claiming the child and/or HOPE credits.
6/19/1997 - DNA Test Links Stand-up Comic to College Rapes
Vinson Champ, a stand-up comedian who travels the college circuit, is allegedly responsible for a string of rapes across colleges in the Midwest area. DNA tests confirm that he was responsible for the sexual assault of a woman at Kenosha's Carthage College. Other DNA tests indicate that Champ was also responsible for two attacks in Iowa. On June 17, Champ was ordered to stand trial for the March 5th rape of a teacher in a University of Nebraska-Omaha computer lab.
Linda Fairstein has served as the head of the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan, NY district attorney's office for twenty-one years. In her job, she is responsible for prosecuting rapes, family violence, sexual assaults and other sex-related crimes. She says that the rewards of her work are enormous. She commented, "My work is with the victims and survivors. They do recover and being part of that process, helping them achieve justice in the system, can be a wonderfully cathartic part of the recovery. It's endlessly fascinating."
Recently, Fairstein has turned her experiences into mystery novels, featuring a smart, strong woman who also happens to run the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan DA's office. Of her protagonist, Alexandra Cooper, Fairstein says, "The character has a good sense of humor. Women people have read about my real job and come to meet me, they expect a serious or grim person. Alex Cooper…very much reflects my worldview, which is very optimistic and full of good humor." Fairstein's first book was entitled Final Jeopardy. Her newest book, recently released, Likely to Die, is based on a true event: the attempted murder of a doctor in Nashville. Fairstein sets the scene in New York City and has fictionalized the details, but she weaves in events from her own professional experience.
6/19/1997 - Lifetime Television to Air Women's Sports
Lifetime Television for Women is seeking to become the leader in women's sports broadcasting. The television network will begin televising Friday night games of the Women's National Basketball Association on June 27th. On June 19th, the network will air the second installment of a four part series of sports documentaries. The series, entitled Breaking Through, looks at the 25th anniversary of Title IX and is hosted by Geena Davis. Lifetime president Doug McCormick says that the network has a "responsibility to lead in certain areas, to help promote equality for women." He continued, "This isn't going to be a hit overnight; there's going to be somewhat of an adjustment period. But at the end of the day, we hope it's gong to attract a lot of new, younger viewers, those who have perhaps personally benefited the last 25 years from Title IX."
Lifetime has in the past sponsored the women's yachting team that competed for the America's Cup, the Colorado Silver Bullets women's baseball team, the women's national basketball team that won the 1996 Olympics, and Indianapolis 500 racecar driver Lyn St. James. Brian Donlon, who oversees the network's sports efforts, commented, "We're putting our money where our mouth is. It's not about just programming, it's about advocacy, too."
6/19/1997 - Southern Baptists Vote to Boycott Disney
The Southern Baptist Convention has voted to boycott Walt Disney Co. The boycott includes Disney theme parks and its ABC-TV subsidiary. The church is protesting what it calls Disney's "gay-friendly" policies, including Ellen's coming out on ABC. David Smith, a senior strategist for the Human Rights Campaign, commented, "Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, most people of faith recognize that they can disagree over whether or not homosexuality is right and still agree that discrimination against gay people is wrong."
Southern Baptists will vote on June 18th on whether or not to boycott Walt Disney Co. parks and stores. Some leaders of the 15.7 million member group have been angered by what they term Disney's "gay-friendly" policies. They point to "gay day" at Disney parks, the company's extension of health benefits for partners of lesbian and gay employees, and the airing of ABC's Ellen (Disney owns ABC) in which the main character reveals that she is a lesbian. Disney officials have refused to comment but have said the company remains a leader in family entertainment.
6/18/1997 - Women's Rights Advocates Protest NRA Leader
Chanting "Tanya, Tanya, She's No Friend. She Gives Guns To Violent Men," over thirty women's rights, domestic violence, and anti-gun activists held an informational picket outside of a speech by NRA Lobbyist Tanya Metaska before the Independent Women's Forum. Metaska's new book, Safe, Not Sorry, portrays women's gun ownership as the solution to domestic violence and urges repeal of the Domestic Violence Gun Ban, which prohibits people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing guns. The picket was organized by the Feminist Majority Foundation, National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Protestors outnumbered those attending Metaska's speech by about 3-1. The Independent Women's Forum is a conservative organization which receives funding from right-wing foundations.
U.S. President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, astronaut Sally Ride and Olympic Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee came together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the law barring sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funds. At the ceremony, President Clinton described the success women and girls have been able to achieve because of the law and commented, "[Title IX gave] them the chance to make the most of their abilities." Clinton also announced that he was broadening the reach of the law by ordering federal agencies to follow it even though some programs were not technically covered by the law.
Joyner-Kersee, who has won six track and field Olympic medals said she considered cheerleading at an early age because of the ordeal of taking a back-seat to boys' sports as a child. She commented, "I really didn't understand why the coach made the long-jump pit in his back yard." Title IX was passed when Joyner-Kersee was 10 years old; when she entered college, she was awarded a full athletic scholarship to UCLA which she attributes to Title IX.
Ride, the first woman to fly in space, said she had no scholarship to Stanford University, where she played tennis. She commented, "I would have appreciated Title IX being earlier." She attributed the growing number of women in the space program to Title IX.
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Representative Charles Cannady (R-FL) have introduced legislation that would eliminate all federal affirmative action programs. The measure, deceptively titled the "Civil Rights Act of 1997," has an additional 49 House sponsors and two Senate sponsors. In a recent San Diego University commencement address, President Clinton reaffirmed his support of affirmative action programs. Clinton is expected to oppose the proposed anti-affirmative action legislation. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) commented on the legislation, "I think the Republicans are playing with fire...[affirmative action programs have worked and] given many people who look like me an opportunity that I would not have otherwise." Jackson-Lee also noted that admissions of people of color at universities in Texas and California, where affirmative action programs were this year disbanded, have plummeted.
6/18/1997 - Army Appoints First Female Three-Star General
The Army has made Lt. General Claudia Kennedy its first female three-star general. Kennedy, an intelligence expert, will become the senior intelligence official in the Department of the Army. Kennedy joined the Army in 1969 and was assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence at the Pentagon. 8
The Good: The U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a lower court ruling that declared a Utah law banning almost all forms of abortion for women over 20 weeks pregnant unconstitutional. In December of 1996, the 10 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah lawmakers had placed, "an insurmountable obstacle in the path of a woman seeking a nontherapeutic abortion on a nonviable fetus after 20 weeks. It therefore imposes an unconstitutional burden on her right to choose." The Supreme Court, without comment, left the appeals court ruling intact.
The Bad: The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Montana law banning abortions performed by licensed physician assistants. The 6-3 vote overturned a federal ruling which had blocked enforcement of the 1995 Montana law. Montana's law applied to only one person, Susan Cahill, who worked under the supervision of Dr. James Armstrong. Other states could pass similar measures. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Clarence Thomas voted to uphold the law. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented.
Women's Web World, the Feminist Majority Foundation's Online Web Site, has won the Café Underground Award for Web Excellence. The award is presented to an elite group of select sites and web-designers who have displayed and outstanding balance of graphic style, practical applications and political awareness.
6/17/1997 - Flinn Signs Book Deal
Former First Lt. Kelly Flinn, the first female B-52 pilot, has signed a deal with Random House to write a book about her life in the military, the controversy over her affair, and her subsequent general discharge from the army. Tentatively titled Proud to Be, Flinn's Air Force Academy class' motto, Harold Evans, the publisher of Random House, said in a statement that the memoir will be "...of major importance and lasting power by a remarkable woman, who was a groundbreaking pilot and a patriot. Her story of the double standard she endured and the broader implications for women both within the military and outside will prove to have widespread and deep repercussions."
Recently the U.S. Federal Drug and Food Administration ruled that morning-after birth control pills, taken as emergency contraception, are safe and effective. However, some pharmacists are refusing to fill the prescriptions for women seeking the pills. Although the American Pharmaceutical Association, with 48,000 members, supports a pharmacist's right of refusal, it also says that the pharmacist's right must not override a patient's right to treatment. Pharmacists must find some way to help the woman, either by referring her to another pharmacist within the store or refering the woman to another pharmacy.
Recently a pharmacist at Longs Pharmacy in California was reprimanded for refusing to fill a prescription for the emergency contraception to Michelle Crider, 28. Though Crider wanted a second baby, an existing medical condition made pregnancy a possibly life-endangering condition for her. Crider finally got her prescription from a nearby pharmacy, but commented, "I'm still very angry; without knowing my situation, he could have affected a huge part of my life. What if there had been no other pharmacy to go to?" Longs spokesperson Clay Selland commented, "Failure to serve a customer is at issue here. He was disciplined because he should have offered another option to the doctor. Our policy is that…he needs to send it along to another pharmacist that's on duty, to another Longs store…or refer it on to a competing pharmacy."
Japan's public health committee paved the way for the approval of the birth control by softening its negative stance on the pill's use. The committee had earlier concluded that the pill's use could help spread sexually transmitted diseases. A June 16th meeting, however, drew over 100 women supporters who criticized the committee for using the pill to push its own agenda on sexually transmitted diseases. Advocates of the pill's approval argued that the two issues must be discussed separately and that women have a right to access to the birth control pill. The committee, in essence, did not give an opinion either way on whether or not to approve the pill. Its report said that, should the pill be used, condoms should also be used. A spokesperson for a pharmaceutical firm commented, "We have progressed an important step. The committee's report can now be read as saying that it is OK to approve the pill." The committee's lack of a negative stance will aid the pill's approval by the Health Ministry's Pharmaceutical Council, the last hurdle to official approval. Japan remains the only major country in the world which bans the pill for contraceptive purposes.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
6/16/1997 - Army to Close Sexual Harassment Hotline
The Army has announced that it will close the hotline it set up in November of 1996 to address the Aberdeen sex scandal. The hotline will close as of Friday, June 20th. The Army said it was closing the hotline because it had accomplished its job, and calls had dwindled in recent weeks. A sexual harassment and sexual abuse assistance line will supplant the hotline in 30 days or less.
MacDonald Communications Corporation announced at the 1997 Marketing to Women Congress that it will sponsor an award to companies that do an outstanding job reaching women through marketing. In the first year, the award will be given to companies in the financial, health care and automobile industries. The company will also sponsor an award to the company that best markets to women through use of the world wide web. The MacDonald Communications Corporation publishes such magazines as Working Mother, Working Woman, and Ms.
6/16/1997 - Study Shows Fewer Women Directors Hired
The Directors Guild of America's annual report shows that 91 percent of film directors hired in the United States in 1996 were men and 93 percent were white. The guild's president, Jack Shea, commented on the findings, "Employment levels for DGA women and minorities are simply unacceptable. The producers must find more effective ways to bring talented females and individuals with a diversity of ethnic backgrounds into our business." The number of days worked by DGA women declined from 22.76 percent in 1995 to 22.63 percent in 1996. The guild's vice president, Martha Coolidge, added, "These statistics are an embarrassment to our industry. It is bad enough to see how small the growth is in working days for minorities, but it is particularly disheartening to see the percentage of days worked by women actually dropping."