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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.


3/12/1996 - Salvi Defense Calls Last Witness

In the murder trial of abortion clinic gunman John Salvi, the defense called its last witness Monday (3-11) and was expected to finish presenting evidence Tuesday. Before the case ends, prosecutors will likely call mental health experts to rebut the defense’s claim that Salvi was insane at the time of the killings. Dr. David Bear of U-Mass Medical School in Worcester was the last of 29 witnesses called by the defense. Bear testified that he believed Salvi to be a paranoid schizophrenic, but prosecutor Marianne Hinkle called his judgment informed speculation.” Norfolk County prosecutors are expected to call mental health experts to dismiss the claims of insanity and to place Salvi with criminal responsibility for his actions.

If convicted, Salvi would face life in prison. If acquitted by reason of insanity, the avowed murderer would be sent to a mental hospital but could be released if he was later declared sane.


3/12/1996 - Dateline: San Francisco -- Churches Expelled for Accepting Gays; Hate Crimes Grow More Violent

Although hate crimes nationwide against gays and lesbians decreased nearly 8 percent last year nationwide, the number of hate crimes involving assaults dramatically increased in San Francisco where the overall crime number remained the same. The survey noted increases in hate crimes in five of the eleven cities surveyed, including Minneapolis, Phoenix, El Paso and Columbus, Ohio. Declines were found in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland. In 1995, San Francisco showed a dramatic increase in hate crimes against gays and lesbians, with the Community United Against Violence reporting 324 incidents and the San Francisco police reporting 144, a discrepancy which underscores the fact that anti- gay/lesbian violence is underreported.

In a separate development, four Bay Area congregations were expelled from a Western association of Baptist Churches because they open their doors to gays without attempting to reform them. The congregations plan to appeal the decision which would mean a loss of financial support that pays for training, guidance, preschool and other programs. According to Kay Wellington, pastor of the San Leandro Community Church said what’s worse is that the severing disowns church members -- many of whom are gays, divorced people, and battered women -- who have already been rejected in other faiths.


3/12/1996 - Spending Bill Debated in Senate

On Monday, the Senate discussed a spending bill designed to avoid a federal shutdown when dozens of Cabinet departments run out of money on March 15. According to USA Today, the bill contains Republican budget priorities that will likely not become law. President Clinton has criticized the measure and has called for increased funding for the environment and education. The House bill contains abortion restrictions which Senate Republicans would like to add to their version.

The bill will be completed by Wednesday (3-13) at the earliest.


3/12/1996 - Cases Involving Date Rape, Drug Increase

In the last eight months, authorities in two Texas counties charged 32 people with illegal possession of Rohypnol, a powerful sedative that has been linked to several cases of rape. According to District Attorney Lynn Ellison, I plan to get our office to rethink the type of punishment we are seeking in these cases, now that we know these pills are used to victimize people.”

Slipping Rohypnol into alcoholic beverages make the drug -- notorious in Texas and Florida -- 10 times more potent than Valium; it has been identified as an agent in sexual assaults against unsuspecting girls. Most of the people charged with possession of the drug were under 25 and were also charged with possession of Valium or another prescription drug


3/11/1996 - Support Declines for California Ban on Affirmative Action

As Californias become increasingly aware of the anti-affirmative action initiative on the November ballot and learn about its ramifications, support for the measure declines, according to a Field Poll released Monday (3-11). Knowledge of the existence of the self-titled "California Civil Rights Initiative" rose from 57 percent in December to 67 percent. Of those, support for the measure fell from 29 percent to 27 percent while opposition rose from 20 percent to 24 percent. According to the poll, when voters read the simple language of the bill they are more likely to support it because it does not mention the fact that it would outlaw affirmative action programs for women and people of color. "As voters learn about the initiative, sentiment is much more evenly divided than after you read them the rather simple language," said Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's 1995 Women's Equality Poll, conducted by Louis Harris and the Peter Harris Research Group, was the first poll to find the precipitous decline in support for the CCRI once voters realize it will outlaw affirmative action programs. The Campaign for Women's Rights and Civil Rights, sponsored by the Feminist Majority and a coalition of more than 80 other organizations, is educating Californians on the issue in order to defeat the measure in November.

Although the San Francisco Chronicle article on the poll covered the issue of tricky language, it too referred to affirmative action programs misleadingly as "preferential treatment." Similarly, an extensive front-page article in the Washington Post entitled "Struggling to Maintain Diversity: UC Berkeley Takes Steps to Offset Ban on Affirmative Action" made no mention of how eliminating affirmative action programs in the University of California system affects women.


3/11/1996 - Russian Politicians Courting Women's Votes

On International Women's Day (3-8), a traditionally important national holiday in Russia, Russian politicians wooed women's votes for the upcoming presidential election. President Boris Yeltsin attended a gala concert honoring women and recorded a speech praising women as the keeper of home and family traditions. Communist rival Gennady Ayuganov invited only women reporters to a news conference where he presented flowers and champagne. The festivities came at a time when Russian women are suffering economic hardships more than men, are discriminated against for employment, and are victimized by widespread domestic violence. Women account for 87 percent of the lowest income level in Russia, making $21 a month or less.

Women still lack significant political representation in Russia, and the four women presidential candidates (out of a pool of 78) have little hope in the election. In Moscow and St. Petersburg a few hundred women rallied holding posters with Lenin and Stalin's portraits, carrying Soviet flags, and demanding a return to Communist leadership.


3/11/1996 - Abortion Issue Divides Republican Party

A New York Times article Sunday (3-10) explored the discrepancy between the Republican party's position against abortion and the positions of individual Republicans. While the platform has called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion since 1976, polls in several states this year showed majority opposition to such a ban in the partly platform. The article mentioned that presidential candidate Bob Dole, a man with a self-proclaimed "strong pro-life record," might consider a pro-choice running mate in the form of Colin Powell or New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Dole himself supports a constitutional ban on abortion except for cases of rape or incest or to save the mother's life. Conservative anti-choice activists such as Phyllis Schlafly maintain such a running mate would be unacceptable.

Susan Cullman of the Republican Coalition for Choice said she called for a resolution to discuss the abortion issue at the Republican National Convention in San Diego in August, but the call was rejected in January at the last Republican National Committee meeting. The Republican War Against Women: An Insider's Report from Behind the Lines, Tanya Melich's new book from Bantam Doubleday Dell, sheds further light on the abortion issue within the Republican party.


3/9/1996 - Anti-Abortion Riders Attached to Continuing Resolution

On Thursday, the House approved a bill to temporarily avoid federal default. Without extension, the government would have reached its debt ceiling on March 15. The House bill contains two abortion restrictions which would let states decide whether to provide Medicaid funds for low-income women seeking abortions and would force states to accredit hospitals that refuse to teach abortion procedures. The Senate bill does not contain these provisions.

Abortion rights advocates, including some moderate Republicans, are opposed to the restrictions in the bill. The two-week extenstion is sought by Republicans who are trying to decide what pieces of their agenda to put on a longer-term debt-ceiling extension desired by President Clinton.


3/9/1996 - Relatives Testify Salvi was Listless Before Clinic Shootings

According to defense witnesses, John Salvi was distant and robot-like in the days before he shot and killed two and wounded five others at two Brookline, Massachusetts abortion clinics. When an aunt said Salvi had acted withdrawn and listless, prosecutor Marianne Hinkle implied that Salvi may have been preoccupied with the attacks he was planning on the clinics.

The owner of a hair salon where Salvi had been working as an apprentice the months before the shootings, Rick Griffin, said he and others noticed the collage of fetuses and slogans” on the back window of Salvi’s pickup truck. According to Griffin, when word of the pictures spread through the shop, Salvi started parking on the other side of the lot. When one of the hairstylists mentioned the pictures and said that Salvi told her it was a picture of Jesus, Salvi smiled in the courtroom, took a drink of water, and began making noises the prompted his lawyers to ask for a short recess.


3/9/1996 - Wariness of Hysterectomy is Often Warranted, But Can Be Risky

Clinical trials have just begun in the U.S. to test the effectiveness of a simple doctor’s office procedure to stop excessive menstrual bleeding. This condition now accounts for up to 20 percent of all hysterectomies, a procedure women have been warned against having unnecessarily. Studies have shown that many hysterectomies have been performed for no justifiable medical reason and may have only been financial endeavors on the part of physicians. Surgery rates have sharply declined since 1975 and will likely continue to do so as women become more aware of their options.

However, doctors are now warning that this concern could have negative effects as well. Some women have done further damage to their bodies because they were wary of having a hysterectomy when they did in fact need the procedure. Two doctors representing the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics recently identified the five main reasons for performing hysterectomies as: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, urogenital prolapse, adenomyosis, and cancer.


3/8/1996 - Clinton Suspends Set-Asides; House Strikes Anti-Affirmative Action Blow

Administration officials announced Thursday that President Clinton has decided to impose a three-year moratorium on any new federal programs that reserve contracts for companies owned by women or minorities. The conditions for reintroducing the set-aside programs falling under the moratorium would be so strict it is unlikely they would ever return. The administration did, however, allow federal agencies to use other kinds of preferences if they can justify them. These might include giving price breaks or extra points when evaluating contract bids by minority or woman-owned companies.

While Clinton limited affirmative action in contracting, a House subcommittee voted 8-5 along party lines in favor of H.R. 2128, the "Equal Opportunity Act of 1996" introduced by Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla). The bill, which has a counterpart introduced by Senator Dole in the Senate (S. 1085), would eliminate all affirmative action programs within the federal government. After an intense debate lasting over three hours, the House Constitution Subcommittee approved the bill, which will now go to the Judiciary Committee. The bill would not allow the government to "require or encourage" contractors to use race or gender-based "preferences," which it defines as "an advantage of any kind..." The legislation would eliminate a 30-year-old executive order program which requires most federal contractors to maintain written affirmative action plans with goals and timetables.