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3/18/1996 - Limits on Anti-Abortion Protests Reviewed by Supreme Court

On Monday (3-18), the Supreme Court agreed to review attacks against limits on anti-abortion demonstrations in Buffalo and Rochester, NY. Responding to criticism that the 15-foot buffer zone imposed in 1994 is a violation of free speech rights, the court decided to hear an appeal by Rev. Paul Schenck and Dwight Saunders. The Feminist Majority Foundation legal team successfully argued the 1994 case, and lawyers for abortion providers urged the court to reject the appeal which could provide important new guidelines for anti-abortion demonstrations across the country, affecting medical office buildings and full-service hospitals as well as clinics. A ruling is expected sometime in 1997.

3/18/1996 - Togo Woman Seeking Asylum Tangled in U.S. Immigration Bureaucracy

Fauzia Kasinga, a woman who escaped from Togo in 1994 to avoid being forced into circumcision and a polygamous marriage, is currently detained in a Pennsylvania prison after being told by one U.S. immigration judge that her story is unbelievable and irrational. Kasinga had avoided the standard tribe practice of female genital mutilation because her father objected to it and was powerful enough to protect her and her older sisters. Upon his death, his sister (Kasinga's aunt) took control of the family and ordered the circumcision and marriage for 17-year old Kasinga who fled to the United States to seek asylum and live with her cousin in Arlington, VA.

Since that time, Kasinga has been detained, shackled, and strip-searched. Although it is common practice to detain asylum seekers, the INS intervened in this case and recommended that Kasinga be released. District director Scott Blackman refused. When an immigration board rules on Kasinga's case in April, the ruling will be binding and will be "the most significant legal decision ever made in this country about female genital mutilation as it pertains to asylum," according to the Washington Post. If Kasinga loses the appeal, she will be forced to return to Togo.

Canada has granted two women asylum based on its three-year-old categorization that recognizes female circumcision as a legitimate claim for female asylum seekers.

3/18/1996 - Woman Astronaut Goes to Mir

One of NASA's original female astronauts will board the shuttle Atlantis Thursday (3-21) to dock with the Russian space station Mir on March 22. Shannon Lucid, 53, will become the first American woman to live on Mir and the first woman to fly in space five times. A biochemist with two children, Lucid made her first space mission in 1985 and will stay on Mir for four and a half months.

3/16/1996 - Women’s Votes Courted by Democrats and EMILY’s List

At a fund-raiser Friday (3-15), EMILY’s List and the Democratic Party launched a multi-million dollar campaign to increase voting among women. According to Democratic National Committee chair Donald Fowler, "Women are key to Democratic Victory in 1996." EMILY’s List, a political fundraising group for pro-choice Democratic women candidates announced it will spend $10 million through the year 2000 to encourage women to vote. According to president Ellen Malcolm, women staying away from the polls in 1994 helped Republicans win a congressional majority; that experience inspired the project Women Vote! The Democratic Party has not yet disclosed its similar financial commitment, but acknowledges the campaign will include publicity and phone work.

On a related subject, The Women’s Campaign School at Yale University is boasting an 80 percent success rate. Founded three years ago, the school teaches women how to get elected to public office through its annual four and a half day training program in June and other workshops throughout the year. According to a Reuters report, Geraldine Ferraro will deliver the opening address at this year’s training.

3/16/1996 - Sexual Harassment Cases in Federal Government Take Years to Resolve

On Wednesday, the Washington Post published an article which described the history of a sexual harassment case against Richard L. Frazier, a construction analyst at the Housing and Urban Development office in Hartford, Connecticut. An investigation that took almost a year ended in Frazier being suspended for two months without pay for "sexual harassment and for engaging in notoriously disgraceful conduct." After an appeal Frazier won, it took until December 1995 for a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to rule that it was sufficient to prove misconduct and that behavior that adversely affected the efficiency of the government agency.

In November, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) released a survey finding that only 6 percent of federal workers who said they had been sexually harassed said they would file formal complaints with their agencies. Many victims indicated that they believed little action would be taken or that filing a compliant would make their work more difficult. The survey found that 44 percent of women who responded had been the subject of "uninvited, unwanted sexual attention."

3/16/1996 - UC System Admits it Grants Preferences to the Children of VIPs

University of California officials confirmed Friday (3-15) that politicians, regents and wealthy donors often use their UC contacts to grant special consideration for the children of friends, relatives, and constituents. Although UC president Richard Atkinson insisted that no special slots are actually reserved for well-connected applicants, critics say the practice constitutes a preference for people who know a VIP. In July the UC Board of Regents voted to eliminate what they call race and gender preferences in admissions, hiring, and contracting

3/16/1996 - Jurors to Decide Clinic Gunman Salvi’s Fate

In the murder trial of John Salvi, the case went to the jury Friday (3-15) to decide if the avowed gunman is insane or guilty of first-degree murder. The prosecution stated that regardless of Salvi’s supposed odd beliefs or eccentric personality, his plans against the clinics were too well thought-out for Salvi not to know that killing two women was wrong. The jury is composed of six women and six men and was to begin deliberations Saturday morning.

3/15/1996 - Study Finds No Link Between Breast Cancer and Stress

Disputing a British study published in November, a new study from the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center found no relationship between stress and breast cancer. Barrie Cassileth wrote an editorial about the research for the March 15 issue of Cancer, the journal of the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society where the study is published. Cassileth said, "Studies like this are important. Patients need to be protected against the idea that they brought on their cancer."

The study interviewed 872 women, including 258 with breast cancer, about stressful events in their lives and found rates to be the same for women who did and did not have cancer.

3/15/1996 - Students Protest Ban on Affirmative Action Programs in California

Students protested Tuesday (3-12) at the University of California San Diego to oppose the state initiative on the November ballot that would outlaw affirmative action, and to oppose the banning of affirmative action programs in the University of California system. Students were hoping that the Board of Regents would consider a repeal of their July vote banning affirmative action in admissions, hiring, and contracting.

However, at the Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco Thursday (3-14), the regents effectively killed a proposal by student regent Edward Gomez to reinstate affirmative action. Students immediately protested the ruling which will keep virtually any discussion of affirmative action out of future regents’ meetings.

3/15/1996 - Women’s Groups, Legislators Announce "Contract with Women of the USA"

To fight back punitive anti-woman policies, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and the Center for Women Policy Studies (CWPS) announced their "Contract with Women of the USA" on March 7, the eve on International Women’s Day. The Contract contains twelve principles and commitments to shape policies that advance women’s equality, economic security and power-sharing. The release of the contract began a national grassroots mobilization campaign to make women’s concerns a central issue in policy-making and elections at the local, state, and federal levels. Women in six states also announced their participation in the campaign and the development of state contracts that reflect local and state priorities.

Already endorsed by more than 80 women’s organizations, a multi-partisan group of state and federal agencies and other individuals, the Contract calls for economic, social, and political equality for women, higher living standards, access to full reproductive rights and health care and an end to discrimination and violence against women.

3/15/1996 - Political Assault on Poor Women Continues

Several developments in the world of welfare reform surfaced Thursday (3-15). On a national level, Republican governors turned the former bipartisan governors’ welfare overhaul into partisan issue by announcing their work was finished. Democrats were left out of the statement and said that many problems have still not been resolved. While Democrats criticized the premature announcement, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R- Ga.) praised it and announced that he plans to present a bill to President Clinton by April or May. The bill will be introduced in the House on March 25.

California Assembly Republicans approved a bill to cut funds to elderly, blind, and disabled welfare recipients by $1 billion. Sought by Gov. Pete Wilson, the bill would repeal a law that mandates an increase in welfare benefits each year in step with inflation. The bill has been criticized by Democrats as "wicked" and "anti-woman, anti-children, anti-aged and anti-disabled."

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tommy Thompson plans to sign a bill to put welfare mothers to work and would require people to work in jobs paying less than minimum wage, an effort some say amounts to "slave labor." The bill, called first of its kind, will replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children starting July 1997. It includes programs such as Learnfare, which reduces benefits for families when children miss school, and Bridefare which encourages teen mothers to marry.

3/14/1996 - "Good Ol' Boys Roundup" of Law Enforcement Officials Offensive to Women, Minorities

The Justice Department released a 314-page report Wednesday (3-13) following an eight-month investigation of a gathering of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in Tennessee. Finding evidence of racism, rampant drunkenness, performances by strippers and other misconduct at the "Good 'Ol Boys Roundup," the report described an atmosphere hostile to women, blacks and other people of color. The gathering -- organized by a former agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms-- began in 1980 and has, for the past six years, been characterized by its racist skits, jokes, and the wearing and selling of racist T-shirts. In July, President Clinton called the reported racist acts "sickening."

The report found no evidence of group assaults on women and only recommended a reprimand for one FBI agent who made a racist comment to another man at the gathering. Although the report found "ample evidence of shocking, racist, licentious, and puerile behavior," it apparently found no evidence that any other department employee engaged in misconduct. News sources did not indicate any future plans for discontinuing the annual event.

3/14/1996 - Clinic Gunman Salvi's Trial Goes to Jury

After a prosecution rebuttal to the defense insanity plea, both sides in the murder trial of abortion clinic gunman John Salvi rested Wednesday. Prosecution witness Dr. Joel Haycock testified that Salvi was capable of faking mental illness to avoid a mandatory life sentence if convicted. Chief of forensic services at Bridgewater State Hospital, Haycock indicated that Salvi is more intelligent than tests have suggested and added, "Mr. Salvi is quite capable of putting people on." Any symptoms of mental illness Salvi suffers do not add up to paranoid schizophrenia, Haycock said.

Jurors had Thursday off before closing arguments start Friday; they will be sequestered until they reach a verdict.

3/14/1996 - New Trials May Provide Women Access to RU 486

On Wednesday (3-13), Abortion Rights Mobilization president Lawrence Lader announced that the group has filed a request with the Food and Drug Administration to begin tests of a copy of the French abortion pill RU 486. "We are trying to get this pill to American women quickly, so that if we lose the White House and get an anti-abortion president, women will still have this choice available to them." If the FDA approves of the trials, 2,000 women in Rochester, NY and unnamed clinics would test the drug.

The French manufacturer Roussel Uclaf gave the U.S. patent for the drug to the Population Council which is preparing to apply for FDA approval having finished its own clinical tests last year. The ARM tests are intended to provide women access to the drug and expedite the process for future access. The Population Council reports it has selected a manufacturer and distributor for the drug.

3/14/1996 - Coalition of Women's Group to Get Out the Vote

Women's Vote '96, a coalition of 110 women's organizations, announced Wednesday (3-13) that it will spend more than $6 million targeting 10 states to improve voter turnout among women. Releasing a state-by-state analysis of women's voting patterns in the last three presidential elections, the group found that an average of 63.8 percent of eligible women actually voted. Through intense media campaigns and voter registration drives, the groups hopes to increase the number of eligible voters and turnout for the 1996 election. Targeted states include: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, the third largest state in electoral votes. Including Texas' 32 votes, the ten states carry a total of 140 out of 538 electoral votes. Texas was among the bottom 10 in the country in the percentage of registered women voters in the past three presidential elections.

3/14/1996 - Mormons Encourage Anti-Gay Lobbying

According to an organization of gay and lesbian Mormons, leaders in the Mormon church have urged members to secretly lobby the Utah state Legislature to outlaw same-sex marriages. On Sunday, the group gay group Affirmation released the text of a church letter distributed to members urging them to write their representatives to support the law passed by the Assembly earlier this year. The measure, now before the state Senate, would prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex unions. The letter tells Church members to write as individuals with no affiliation. Rick Fernandez, spokesperson for Affirmation, said the Church's action was an abuse of its religious tax-exempt status. This "covert action" is "a shameful example of the extremes to which the Church will go in its campaign to oppose civil rights for gays and lesbians," Fernandez said.

3/14/1996 - Women Not Impressed by Rhetoric in Primary Campaign

According to an article by Reuter Information Service, Republican women are unhappy with presidential candidate's Bob Dole's hardened stance on abortion and with the aggressive tone of the battle for nomination. Lapsed Republican Tanya Melich, author of the recent release, The Republican War Against Women, says the Republican party's shift to the right alienates women who believe in equal opportunity and responsible capitalism.

Also commenting on Dole's shift to the right, president of the Center for Women Policy Studies Leslie Wolfe indicated Dole's views are threatening to women, and that he is "almost unrecognizable from what he was." Besides the abortion issue, Wolfe said, many other issues of importance to women have been ignored it the primary campaign. Wolfe's organization joined the Women's Environment and Development organization (WEDO) last week as it announced its Contract with Women of the U.S.A. on International Women's Day. The contract sets goals for women's issues and takes aim at the anti-woman agendas of congressional Republicans and the Christian Coalition. "Their politics of exclusion have no place in a society that values diversity, religious liberty, freedom and equality," said Wolfe.

3/13/1996 - Sex Discrimination Suit Ordered to Proceed

Attorneys involved in the sex discrimination lawsuit brought against Publix Supermarkets announced Wednesday that a federal judge in Tampa ordered the case to proceed as a class action. Twelve current and former women employees contend the grocery chain segregates its employees by gender and that managers do not post job openings for management and other positions. Judge Henry Adams rejected Publix’s claim that women choose to work in the traditionally female jobs in which they are overrepresented.

The suit has been called the largest sex discrimination suit in history, and its ruling could affect over 100,000 current and former employees in the 500-store chain.

3/13/1996 - Press Conference Held on RU 486

On Wednesday morning (3-13), longtime reproductive rights champion Lawrence Lader held a press conference in New York regarding the French abortion pill, RU 486. Lader, president of Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM) announced that the pill will be tested at three prominent clinics. Lader’s press release stated: “Confronting the possibility of an attempted ban on RU 486 after the November elections, Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM) will make this critical pill available to at least 2,000 women after FDA clearance. The great advantage of the pill is that it can be administered in a doctor’s office and vastly increase the privacy of women.” Lader is the author of A Private Matter: RU 486 and the Abortion Crisis.

3/13/1996 - Cut in Foreign Aid Will Jeopardize Women’s Health

A group of population organizations issued a study last week outlining the effects of a new law that “deeply cuts” U.S. aid for international family planning. The study showed that 7 million couples in developing countries who would have used modern contraceptives will no longer have access to them. This setback could result in 1.9 million more unplanned births, 1.6 million more abortions, 134,000 more infant deaths and 8,000 more women dying in childbirth and during pregnancy , including those resulting from unsafe abortions. The findings have inspired Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR) to try to rally “pro-life” groups to support his effort to restore the funds. Sen. Hatfield hopes to attach language to the spending bill to be passed by March 15 (to avoid a government shutdown) that would allow President Clinton to restore the funds if he certifies that the lack of aid will lead to a “significant increase” in abortions.

The Christian Coalition refuses to support Sen. Hatfield’s proposal because of the nature of the study which was conducted by the Futures Group, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau, the Population Council, and the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Spokesperson Brian Lopina said “giving money to International Planned Parenthood” would not reduce abortions but reportedly made no mention of other potential effects of the aid cut.

3/13/1996 - Expert for the Prosecution Says Clinic Gunman is Sane

In the murder trial of abortion clinic gunman John Salvi, a state psychiatrist called by the prosecution testified that Salvi is sane and does not suffer from the delusions that are characteristic of paranoid schizophrenia. Dr. Joel Haycock, chief of forensic psychiatry at Bridgewater State hospital, interviewed Salvi seven or eight times before writing a 40-page report. Haycock acknowledged he made the judgment without knowing some of the conspiracy theories Salvi reportedly told to defense witness Dr. David Bear. The defense rested Tuesday (3-12) and had tried unsuccessfully to prevent Haycock from testifying in the prosecution’s rebuttal, claiming it violated Salvi’s Fifth Amendment protection against incriminating himself.

For more on the Salvi trial, see:

Index of News Stories on John Salvi

3/13/1996 - Servicemen Convicted in Okinawa Rape Appeal Sentence

Two of the three U.S. servicemen convicted last week in the rape of an Okinawan girl have appealed their sentences. Marine Privates Rodrico Harp and Kendrick Ledet appealed their seven year and six and a half year sentences, respectively, to the Naha branch of the Fukouka High Court. Navy Seaman Marcus Gill, who was sentenced to seven years and had plead guilty to both abduction and rape, has not yet appealed. A two-week waiting period exists in Japan before a sentence is handed down. The prosecution had asked for ten-year sentences for all three.

3/13/1996 - Navy Asks Senate to Promote Tailhook Offenders

On Tuesday (3-12), top Navy officials asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to reverse itself and allow them to promote a pilot involved in the 1991 Tailhook sexual harassment scandal. The committee has not yet made a decision on the request to promote Commander Robert Stumpf, who Navy officials said was wrongly accused of witnessing a lewd act. Stumpf denies seeing the lewd act in which Navy pilots groped women in a hallway, but admitted that he watched part of a stripper’s performance at the annual Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas.

Former committee chair Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) accused the committee of unfairly holing up Stumpf’s promotion. While Nunn was chair, the committee put a hold on all Navy and Marine Corps officers until obtaining proof that they were not involved in the Tailhook affair. However, the committee has apparently approved over 43,000 such promotions, 15 of which were given to officers disciplined for Tailhook conduct. Navy Secretary John Dalton and Admiral Mike Boorda, chief of naval operations, asked the committee to drop the remaining holds on promotions for Tailhook offenders, an act that would affect about 25 officers.

3/13/1996 - Sex Discrimination Suit Ordered to Proceed

Attorneys involved in the sex discrimination lawsuit brought against Publix Supermarkets announced Wednesday that a federal judge in Tampa ordered the case to proceed as a class action. Twelve current and former women employees contend the grocery chain segregates its employees by gender and that managers do not post job openings for management and other positions. Judge Henry Adams rejected Publix’s claim that women choose to work in the traditionally female jobs in which they are overrepresented.

The suit has been called the largest sex discrimination suit in history, and its ruling could affect over 100,000 current and former employees in the 500-store chain.

3/12/1996 - Women Demonstrate to Get the Vote in Kuwait

On Tuesday (3-12), forty Kuwaiti women lawyers, scientists and academics participated in a rare public demonstration to demand the vote and the right to stand for parliament. Some of the women waving placards outside the only elected legislature in Gulf Arab states had been members of the civilian resistance during Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation. They accuses the government of reneging on a promise it made at that time to give women political rights. Women’s rights activists had hopes of winning the vote after liberation in 1991 because of the bravery shown by women in the resistance to Iraqi rule. During the occupation, the emir had said he would consider giving women the vote.

Following sporadic demonstrations over the 30 years they have fought for political rights, on Tuesday the women planted a blackhorn tree on the central reservation of a highway outside the building to symbolize the strength and endurance of Kuwaiti women. Women in Kuwait hold top positions in civil service, oil industry, and education, and are allowed to wear Western clothes and drive cars, yet they lack social and political equality with men.