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4/3/1996 - Teen Pregnancy Rates Rise

According to a study authored by Alison Spitz of the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, teen-age pregnancy and abortion rates rose significantly in the 1980s. Pregnancy rates among girls aged 15 to 19 had decreased to 87.7 per thousand in 1985, but then increased to 95.9 in 1990. Although the only definitive national data goes through 1990, the CDC reported that the birth rate among teenagers dropped 2 percent in 1992, and 2 percent in 1993.

4/3/1996 - Male Contraceptive Deemed Effective

A report issued Tuesday (4-2) by the World Health Organization found that weekly injections of testosterone, the male sex hormone, can reduce the sperm count to a level below that which is needed for conception. Studied over two and a half years in nine countries, the weekly injections proved effective for contraception in 98.6 percent of the couples involved. The 399 men involved in the study were all healthy, and their ages ranged from 21 to 45. Only four pregnancies occurred during the test period.

4/3/1996 - Girls Kidnapped in Columbia, Possibly Sold Into Prostitution

In the neighborhood of La Manuelita in Columbia, seven girls aged 11 to 15 have been kidnapped in the last year. Reports suggest the girls may have been taken to Japan and sold into prostitution with no passports or documents to escape. Five girls who escaped kidnapping attacks told similar stories that they were each photographed by a man in a car and a few days later grabbed by another man who was later arrested but released because he had not been caught in the act. The mothers interviewed by CNN said they are waging their own private war in the face of government indifference and that the wealth of a family often determines whether or not a kidnapped child will be found

4/2/1996 - FDA Application Filed for RU-486 Approval

The Population Council filed an application last month seeking to market RU-486, the Food and Drug Administration announced Monday (4-1). The review could take up to a year, the amount of time the FDA usually spends on drugs that do not affect life-threatening diseases. Last year the FDA estimated that approval could take as little as six months because of the RU-486's extensive record of safety and efficacy.

The Population Council, which was awarded RU-486 patent rights from Rossel Uclaf in May 1994, has given exclusive legal rights for coordinating the drug's manufacture and distribution to a new company called Advances in Health Technology.

The Feminist Majority Foundation has been leading the fight to bring RU-486 to the U.S. since 1989. See the Campaign for RU-486 and Contraceptive Research.

4/2/1996 - Third Woman Poised to Join California High Court

California Gov. Pete Wilson nominated Sacramento state appeals court judge Janice Rogers Brown last week to the California Supreme Court. If confirmed, Brown would join two other women on the bench and make California the fifth state with three women on its high court. Brown would also be the first black woman on the court. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, legal scholars say the stronger female presence could bring "subtle but far-reaching changes" to a traditionally male-dominated court. The Chronicle article quoted several women lawyers and judges commenting that women's presence in the judicial system leads to greater sensitivity in cases involving rape, domestic violence, and abortion.

4/2/1996 - D.C Prosecutor Team to Combat Domestic Violence

Calling domestic violence the "number one health threat to women" who live in the District of Columbia, U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. announced yesterday the creation of a special team of 16 prosecutors to handle all domestic violence cases there. Formerly randomly assigned, all complaints of domestic violence of any degree will now go to the team whose members volunteered for the duty and have received special training. Holder said the program, which will also utilize victims' rights advocates, community volunteers, shelters and support groups, is designed to protect victims and help them escape the abuse. Last year, only a third of the 5,000 domestic violence cases reported were prosecuted.

4/2/1996 - Anti-Choice Activists Urge Clinton to Sign Abortion Ban

Roman Catholic cardinals led a 500-person anti-abortion protest urging President Clinton not to veto the first abortion ban. Clinton has stated he will veto the bill which would ban a rare form of abortion used to save the life, health, and future fertility of a woman. The bill would make the procedure illegal and punishable by law unless no other procedure could save the life of the woman, but it does not take a woman's health into account.

Take Action! Urge President Clinton to Veto the First Abortion Ban

4/1/1996 - Polsby Loses Discrimination Case Against NIH

On Friday (3-29), U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow threw out two claims of sex discrimination against the National Institutes of Health. Dismissing the claims as "exaggerated," Chasanow said the two separate claims by two women lacked substance. Dr. Maureen Polsby, a neurologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes from 1983 to 1985 maintains she was denied mentoring opportunities and did not receive a third-year research appointment because she had refused a supervisor's sexual advances. Margaret Jensvold, a psychiatrist on staff at the National Institute of Mental Health from 1987 to 1989, also said she was barred from mentoring opportunities which are considered key to career advancement. Jensvold argued that the mentoring opportunities, which facilitate conducting research and publishing findings, were handed from male senior researchers to other men in a sexist atmosphere.

In 1994, a judge found the denial of mentoring in the Jensvold case a form of sex bias, and awarded her $1. After a subsequent Supreme Court ruling finding that Jensvold's case did not have the right to a jury trial, the case was given to Chasanow to re-try without a jury.

4/1/1996 - Rodham Clinton Urges Equality for All Women

While in Greece, Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed the origins of democracy and said that women must become "equal partners in society" for the system to truly succeed in the U.S. and elsewhere. Urging nations to give women what she called the "tools of opportunity"--better health care, jobs, credit legal protection and political rights -- Rodham Clinton said that too many women and children live "on the margins of society." She also said nations need to do a better job of feeding and educating the young.

4/1/1996 - Woman to Join North Carolina Administration

On April 1, Revenue Secretary Janice Faulkner will be sworn in as the first Secretary of State in North Carolina. Faulkner, who has a history in the Democratic Party and at East Carolina University, says she intends to restore morale in the department in which the outgoing Secretary is under criminal investigation for lax management and alleged use of employees for personal chores.

4/1/1996 - Judge Awards Victory to Gays and Lesbians in the Military; Rabbis Vote in Support of Same-Sex Marriages

In a blow to the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward homosexuals, a U.S. district judge ruled Friday that it is unconstitutional to dismiss homosexuals in the military who openly state their sexual preference. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ordered the National Guard Friday (3-30) to reinstate Lt. Andrew Holmes who says the battle is just beginning. Filed under both federal and state law, the case was the first ruling on the matter in California and found that dismissal on the grounds of a serviceperson's disclosure of homosexuality was a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and free speech.

On another matter, the Central Conference of American Rabbis voted by a large majority Thursday (3-28) to support the civil marriages of lesbians and gay men. The group represents 1750 rabbis of the liberal Reform movement.

4/1/1996 - Abortion Providers to Use Drug to End Pregnancy

A non-surgical form of abortion using the drug methotrexate is gathering support from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood of New York. During its annual meeting in San Francisco this weekend, NAF, the Washington-based group of abortion providers, planned to present instructions to doctors interested in offering methotrexate abortions. The drug has been approved by the FDA for arthritis and cancer conditions, but not yet for abortions. Using drugs for purposes other than those for which they were approved is both a legal and a common occurrence. The specific procedure NAF is encouraging doctors to explore involves an injection of methotrexate drug, which interferes with cell division of a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy, and is followed by application of the ulcer medicine misoprostol, which brings on contractions and expels the fetus, usually within a day.

Some doctors in New York have already begun using the non-surgical procedure which Planned Parenthood of New York hopes to begin offering by June, according to affiliate head Alexander Sanger. Abortion rights supporters say the use of the procedure could help decrease violence against abortion clinics because it requires no special equipment and can be performed in any doctor's office. RU 486, another form of medical abortion, will soon be before the FDA for approval. Used by over 200,000 women, RU 486 is now available in France, Great Britain, China, and Sweden as a safe,effective method of early abortion.

3/29/1996 - Rodham Clinton Discusses Women's Rights While in Turkey

During a goodwill trip through Southeastern Europe, Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the need to increase opportunities for women stating, "where women prosper, countries prosper." Noting that "much remains to be done" to advance women's rights in every country, including the United States, Rodham Clinton commented that Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular Turkish republic in 1923 "was ahead of his time in believing that women were vital to the progress of society." Speaking to Turkish business leaders, Rodham Clinton said, "If we provide more opportunity for women, we unleash the potential of women and men to cooperate, to work together, to be able to be the kind of democratic citizens that our world so desperately needs."

3/29/1996 - One-Third of U.S. Businesses are Owned by Women

New data from the Census Bureau has found that women own one-third of all U.S. businesses, employing 26 percent of the nation's work force. Sales from the 7.95 million women-owned businesses jumped 236 percent since 1987, and employment in those businesses rose to 18.5 million workers from only 6.6 million in 1987. According to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, the number of women-owned companies increased 78 percent in the last nine years while growth among U.S. firms was only 47 percent. The state with the largest number of women-owned businesses was California, and Nevada had the fastest rate of growth. Although the largest share of women-owned companies was in the service sector, growth was "explosive" in nontraditional industries such as construction.

A Washington Post article earlier this month indicated that in the greater Washington, D.C. area, women-owned businesses accounted for 39 percent of businesses in the region in 1992. Specialists attribute the higher numbers to the presence of the federal government and credit affirmative action programs for the overall increasing numbers.

3/29/1996 - Poll Shows International Support for More Women Politicians

According to an international Gallup poll on gender and society, many people feel their countries would be better governed if more women were in political office. No country said that its government would be less effective with more women involved. Released Tuesday (3-26), the poll showed that a majority of respondents in 12 of the 22 countries believed that women still do not experience equal job opportunities, though a majority of respondents indicated they would prefer a male boss. Only six of the countries favored a "traditional" family structure where only one parent worked. The poll was conducted from August to November in Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America.

3/29/1996 - Motor Voter" Registers One Million Each Month

According to HumanSERVE, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, about 11 million people have registered to vote or have updated voting records under the "motor voter" law that went into effect on January 1,1995. The 1993 law forces states to make voter registration accessible through motor vehicle administrations, welfare and disability agencies, the US mail and military recruitment offices . An estimated 20 million people will have registered in this manner by the November 1996 elections. Currently over half of the registrations through National Voter Registration Act come through motor vehicle business such as getting a driver's license.

A number of states did not immediately implement the National Voter Registration Act , and a hearing is still pending in Michigan. The law became effective in the state of Virginia just three weeks ago, and already 6,000 new voters have registered. HumanSERVE says the 1 million a month national rate is the highest since registration practices were established in the late 19th century.

3/28/1996 - Stalker Released By Police Kills Woman, Himself

On March 10 the ex-boyfriend of Karen Mitsoff, a respected teacher in Alexandria, VA broke into Mitsoff’s condominium and threatened to kill her and himself. The stalker, Fisseha Senbet was later charged with burglarly and released on $2500 bond. On Monday (3-25), Mitsoff made good on his threat, breaking into Mitsoff’s home and fatally shooting her before killing himself. The tragedy prompted the city’s chief prosecutor to call for tougher strategies to combat domestic violence. Althought Senbet’s threats were noted in the court file, prosecutors made no attempts to ask for a longer jail stay because they said he had no known criminal record or history of mental illness. According to Virginia’s anti-stalking law, judges can set high bonds or order suspects held for counseling if there is evidence of a threat. Chief District Judge O’Flaterty chose to release Senbet on a low bond amount without mandating any form of counseling.

3/28/1996 - House Passes Abortion Ban

In a vote of 286-129, the House of Representatives voted Thursday (3-28) to approve a controversial bill that would outlaw a rare form of late-term abortion used to save the life, health, or future fertility of the woman carrying the fetus. The vote fell primarily along party lines with 72 Democrats joining 214 Republicans is supporting the measure which has enough votes in the House to override an expected presidential veto. The number of votes in the Senate is not likely to meet the two-thirds required to override the veto.

President Clinton has said he will veto the measure because the House version makes no exception to take into account neither the life nor the health of the woman; the Senate version allows for rare exceptions. The bill would lead to fines up to $250,000 and two years in prison for doctors who perform the procedure, and it provides only narrow exceptions for not applying the penalties if the procedure is "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury." Opponents to the bill say that the pregnancy itself, not generally considered a disorder, illness or injury, could also endanger the life of the woman. Opponents also say the ban is unconstitutional and would chip away at reproductive rights established in Roe v. Wade.

3/28/1996 - Domestic Assault Victims Get Help from INS

On Tuesday (3-26), the Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a new rule to allow battered spouses and children to apply for permanent residence in the USA on their own. The rule is aimed at preventing abusive husbands or wives from holding the victims of their abuse captive. According to officials, close to 400 applications from battered spouses and children are awaiting action.

3/28/1996 - Asian Women Forced into Sexual Slavery Demand Compensation

According to historians, the Japanese military forced more than 200,000 Asian women into sexual slavery by during World War II. On Thursday (3-28), 69 women from four Asian nations attended a conference in Manila sponsored by Asian Women’s Solidarity and refused an offer from a private fund set up by the Japanese government. The women demanded that Japan apologize to and compensate them directly, acknowledging its responsibility for forcing thousands of women to become sex slaves, or "comfort women," for Japanese troops in Manila and Singapore.

While the Japanese government set up a private fund for voluntary contributions , it has refused to provide any financial compensation itself. Priscilla Bartonico, a Filipino, commented on the government, "The perpetrator of the crime committed upon me and to the thousands of women all over Asia has evaded its moral and legal responsibility."

3/27/1996 - Grand Jury Indicts Anti-Abortion Arsonists

Jennifer Sperle and Clark Martin, Virginia anti-abortion activists, were indicted on federal conspiracy and arson charges for fires at two clinics. Each could face 45 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted of causing the 1994 fire at the Newport News clinic and the 1995 fire at the Tidewater Women’s Health Center in Norfolk. According to the indictment, Sperle also tried to instruct others in the how-to’s of destroying clinics and provided an instruction manual.

"The good news here is that they got two indictments, which indicates the Justice Department didn’t just abandon its abortion violence investigation as some anti-abortionists had mistakenly claimed in January," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It’s encouraging that they could bring a conspiracy charge, because some anti-abortionists have been saying there is no conspiracy," Smeal said.

3/27/1996 - Clinton Nominates First Woman Lieutenant General

On Tuesday (3-26), President Clinton nominated Marine Corps Maj. Gen Carol Mutter, 50, to be the first woman promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in the Marines. If confirmed by the Senate, Mutter would become the first female officer elevated to the rank of three-star general in the Marines. The ranking equals a vice admiral in the Navy, a position to which no woman has been named. Mutter, a 28- year Marine veteran, will be in charge of a senior position, the Marine Corps manpower policy and planning. Mutter remembered the limits for women in the military when she began her career and advised women in the military to be patient and persevere. Currently the positions open to women comprise the 64 percent of the positions in the Marines, 68 percent in the Army, 94 percent in the Navy, and 99 percent in the Air Force.

3/27/1996 - Woman Sues GOP for Lewd Behavior

Former GOP fund-raiser Deborah Henson has launched $21.5 million lawsuit against the Republican National Committee amid allegations supported by colleagues that the environment at the RNC headquarters is hostile to women, people of color, and homosexuals. The suit alleges, "The RNC maintains a work place wherein sexual, racial, homophobic, appearance-based and anti-Semitic comments, jokes and horseplay are commonplace, tolerated and encouraged."

Henson, a fund-raiser with a long history with the GOP, spent five months at party headquarters and says she was not given a full-time job in the RNC because she was overweight and a woman. The lawsuit describes numerous accounts of "lewd and offensive" behavior including an allegation that RNC Finance Director Albert Mitchler fondled women and made them sit on his lap. The RNC denies the allegations.

3/27/1996 - Texas to Ask Supreme Court to Overturn Anti-Affirmative Action Ruling

On Tuesday (3-26), Texas Attorney General Dan Morales announced he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision made last week by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that would wipe out affirmative action programs implemented to increase diversity at the University of Texas. Since the ruling could have dramatic effects on institutions of higher learning across the nation, Morales said he wants to work with the Supreme Court in developing an affirmative action policy that is workable. Stating that he believes that most Americans are not racist and do support the goals of diversity, Morales indicated that if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, he will seek a stay of last week’s ruling to allow admissions policies to go on as is custom at UT rather than having to conform to the 5th Circuit guidelines.

Pre-eminent constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard University has agreed to help Texas prepare its appeal and to argue the case if the Supreme Court decides to hear it. The case would probably begin in the fall of 1996 with an opinion to follow no sooner than spring of 1997. The Justice Department has called the 5th Circuit ruling unconstitutional and has stated it will back the University of Texas in an appeal.

3/27/1996 - House to Send Abortion Ban Bill to Clinton

In the first move to ban any form of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the House of Representatives was expected to pass legislation Wednesday (3-27) that would outlaw a rare form of late-term abortion used to save the life of the woman carrying the fetus. The procedure, technically referred to as intact dilation and evacuation, is used less than 500 times a year when necessary to protect the health of a woman facing severe health problems due to the pregnancy.

After much deliberation, President Clinton announced last month that he will veto the measure; supporters of the ban will likely not have enough votes to override the veto. On Monday (3-25), the National Council of Catholic Bishops placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post distorting the reasons for the procedure and urging President Clinton not to veto the ban. Abortion rights supporters denounced the ad and have stated their concern that outlawing this form of abortion could lead to further, more broad restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom.