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Members of the Republican Party are engaged in a debate over the plank in the GOP platform calling for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Rep. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and seven other pro-choice Republicans met last week to discuss strategies for challenging the plank three months in advance of the party’s national convention in San Diego. The moderates, who maintain that most party members support abortion rights, are encouraging open debate on the subject after stifled discussion at past conventions. Snowe and Rep. James Greenwood (R-Penn.) intend to work with the Republican Coalition for Choice to confront the issue. Several Republican governors, including Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, have warned against leaving the anti-abortion plank intact.
Snowe plans to meet with newly-elected convention chair, Henry Hyde, a strong opponent to abortion rights, and with other party leaders to alter the plank and acknowledge that many Republicans are pro-choice. At the very least, Snowe hopes a more diverse debate will lead up to the August convention than in years past.
5/6/1996 - Physician Shot at Women’s Health Clinic
Friday evening (5-3), a phsycian who performs abortions at the Family Planning Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada was shot. Dr. Paul Debello remains in serious condition. Investigations are underway to ascertain whether the shooting is related to anti-abortion violence.
In his Saturday (5-4) radio address, President Clinton announced four executive orders aimed at teen mothers on welfare. Plans include requiring teen mothers on welfare to live at home with adults and stay in or return to school. Clinton would also give states the authorization to reduce welfare benefits for mothers who do not complete high school and to give bonuses to mothers who do. Benefits would also be reduced if mothers do not live at home, attend parenting classes or establish paternity of their children to get child support.
Women’s rights and welfare rights groups have been concerned about measures requiring teen mothers to live at home, arguing that the young women, some of whom are victims of incest, could be subjected to further abuse when forced to stay at home.
A number of Hungarian women working in the kitchens that serve U.S. peace troops in Bosnia have complained of sexual harassment and exploitation by American men. Most of the perpetrators are civilians employed by a subsidiary of Brown and Root, the Houston-based company which employs 200 Hungarians as kitchen staff, construction workers and drivers. The women complained of being groped and being offered money for sex and cohabitation with American men. Some complained that American companies have significantly cut wages without warning and that the contractors act independently without anyone supervising the wage cuts or unrenewed contracts. Neither Brown and Root nor the U.S. military has commented on the claims.
The Monday issue of the Shanghai paper, Liberation Daily, criticized Chinese advertising. Among other complaints of materialism and worship of foreign things, the paper said ads use sex too much to sell products, employing provocative words and images while exploiting women’s bodies. The paper also said ads promote male chauvinism, quoting one cosmetics ad promising to give a man a new wife everyday.”
5/6/1996 - Estrogen Patch Eases Postpartum Depression
Close to 10 percent of all new mothers experience a form of clinical depression that can last for several months after giving birth. A new study published by the British medical journal The Lancet finds that wearing an estrogen patch can lead to faster and more extensive recovery of postpartum depression. Authority on the subject Dr. Michael W. O’Hara of the University of Iowa in Iowa City said the treatment might be "an alternative for women who don’t respond to antidepressants." Normal estrogen levels range from 80 to 200 picograms per liter of blood; levels during pregnancy reach 5,000 picograms and plummet to 80 to 100 immediately after childbirth
5/6/1996 - House Committee Makes Conservative Votes
On Wednesday (5-1), the House National Security Committee voted to support a ban on abortions at overseas military hospitals. The Committee also voted for a ban on gays and lesbians in the military and the involuntary discharge of service members with AIDS.
5/3/1996 - Shelter Opens for Battered Women in Shanghai
A battered women’s shelter called the Nangang Family Violence Protection Center has opened in Shanghai, China. Funded by a private entrepreneur, the shelter offers 20 beds and an untrained staff. Hundreds of women have called the shelter since early this year, and dozens have stayed over. Although no statistics are kept on wife abuse complaints in China, there are indications that the problem is increasingly common. According to China Women’s News, family violence causes one-quarter of the million-plus annual divorces in China. The constitution bans the mistreatment of women; one city, Changsha, recently passed a regulation instructing police to thoroughly and sympathetically respond to complaints of wife battering
On May 2, all 12 members of the Board of Immigration Appeals heard the case of Fauziya Kasinga, the 19-year-old woman from Togo seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in her native country. In the 90-minute hearing, immigration service general counsel David A. Martin -- who suggested he did not believe Kasinga’s case in its entirety -- argued that the Board should establish a precedent that only girls and women who would be forced to undergo FGM be granted asylum. The narrow grounds Martin advocated would exclude women who had already undergone FGM, as well as women who would be ostracized from their community if they refused the procedure. Performed with unsterilized knives or even broken glass, the practice entails cutting off all or part of female genitalia and can cause severe health complications and even death. Kasinga’a lawyer, Karen Musalo, urged the panel not to use Kasinga’s case to issue broad guidelines for all women seeking asylum on similar grounds, saying they have a chance to make their own cases. The written decision of the board, expected this summer, will apply to all 179 immigration judges in the U.S. who hear asylum cases.
Rates of sexual harassment in traditionally male blue-collar industries are nearly twice that of service-sector industries. A USA Today analysis of 15,691 claims filed in 1995 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found large numbers of complaints were filed by women in the fields of mining, construction, transportation, and manufacturing. Overall claims filed with the EEOC have more than doubled in the five years since Anita Hill exposed sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas. However, a 1995 report, Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace, found that only half of all such incidents are reported, and only 6 percent of victims file an official complaint. Fears of retaliation and job loss keep many women in all sectors from reporting incidents. Situations like those exposed in the current EEOC suit against Mitsubishi are not unique.
5/3/1996 - France to Allow Women to Fly in Combat
Next month, women will be able to compete for 3 of France’s 63 air force academy places. The U.S. and a handful of other countries currently allow women to fly combat missions. Twenty French women already pilot transport planes and an AWACS surveillance jet.
5/2/1996 - Congresswomen Criticize Mitsubishi
After meeting with Mitsubishi officials and concluding they are in denial about the seriousness of sexual harassment claims brought against the company, Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) is coordinating a congressional response to the case. Six congresswomen joined Schroeder Wednesday (5-1) in calling for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to seek a court order to prevent Mitsubishi from retaliating against workers involved in the EEOC’s sexual harassment suit against the company. Claiming that Mitsubishi has challenged the authority of the EEOC and manipulated employees, the congresswomen charge that the company: made threats of job losses if allegations caused sales to drop; planned and encouraged workers to attend a protest outside the Chicago office of the EEOC; encouraged workers to make free phone calls to reporters, the EEOC and government officials to deny the charges; and asked the court for medical records of the women involved.
The Senate approved an immigration bill amendment to make it a crime to perform female genital mutilation -- on girls under the age of 18, carrying penalties of up to five years in prison and fines. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) and passed by a voice vote, was added to a bill sponsored by Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo) designed to crackdown on illegal immigration. Sen. Reid was forced to withdraw language that would have offered political asylum to women fleeing their home countries to escape the practice.
On May 2, the Board of Immigration Appeals heard the case of Fauziya Kasinga, the 19-year-old woman from Togo seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape FGM in her native country. Performed with unsterilized knives or even broken glass, the practice entails cutting off all or part of female genitalia and can cause severe health complications and even death. Immigration service general counsel David A. Martin plans to argue that the Board should establish a precedent that only girls and women who would be forced to undergo the procedure be granted asylum. Refugee advocates say this policy would exclude women who had the procedure as children or who would be ostracized from their community if they refused, forcing them into a life of economic hardship and possibly prostitution.
The state of Texas has asked the Supreme Court to allow race as a consideration in affirmative action programs designed to diversify the student body of the University of Texas. The petition, Texas v. Hopwood was authored by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and seeks a reversal of a federal appeals court ruling that called for a change UT admissions policies. The case will likely affect institutions of higher learning throughout the country.
5/2/1996 - Kenya Program Offers Help to Battered Women
A Kenyan organization called the Women’s Rights Awareness Program (Wrap) has released a survey which reveals high awareness of widespread violence against women but little willingness to take action against the problem. More than 70 percent of the women and men surveyed said they knew wife beating occurred in their neighborhood, yet nearly 60 percent said that women were responsible for the beatings, and 51 percent said the male perpetrators should not be punished. Only 3 percent of those surveyed said women should seek help through law enforcement. One woman who recently left her husband of 30 years to take shelter in Wrap’s home for battered women said that she expected her husband would have bribed authorities if she had reported the crime, and then he would have beat her again.
Women, typically less educated than men in most African societies, are looked upon unfavorably if they get divorced. Since August 1994, some 60 women have taken shelter at Wrap’s home which provides medical help and legal and psychiatric counseling. The International Federation of Women Lawyers has launched an campaign to educate the public about violence against women and to sensitize lawmakers, police, and others.
5/2/1996 - Japanese Women Challenge Sexual Harassment
On Wednesday (5-1), Washington Post printed a feature article on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in Japanese companies. In Japan, the women men deal with on a regular basis are either office ladies” who are to do whatever their male bosses ask of them, or workers at hostess bars who are expected to treat the male customers graciously regardless of the men’s conduct. Women in both positions can expect to hear men comment on their beauty or breast size.
Japanese law does not provide victims of sexual harassment with much hope of receiving damages, and companies face little threat of being forced to change by costly litigation as in the U.S. In fact, only 20 sexual harassment suits against companies have been filed in Japan, and one of the largest cases only awarded $16,000 in damages to the victim. Most cases settle out of court for less than $10,000 after the company apologizes to the woman. Rarely do women get the transfers they request, and perpetrators are almost never fired
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday (4-30) on the proposed California initiative that will end affirmative action and gut sex discrimination if passed by California voters in November. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) publicly denounced for the first time the self-titled California Civil Rights Initiative”calling its language extraordinarily misleading.” Feinstein cited Clause C of the measure, which would gut sex discrimination law in the state and said the clause is considered an invitation to new discrimination.” Senator Carol Mosely-Braun also spoke out against the measure and made note of recent findings that preferences are given to children and friends of VIPs in the University of California system. Attending the hearing to support the initiative were UC regent and CCRI co-chair Ward Connerly and California Gov. Pete Wilson.
Another hearing was held Tuesday by the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee on pending federal anti-affirmative action legislation introduced by Senator Dole (R-KS) and Representative Canady (R-Fla). Testifying against the measure were District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center. The Justice Department has indicated it would urge President Clinton to veto the measure if it passes Congress
A law signed Tuesday (4-30) by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson will require women seeking an abortion to consult with a doctor twice at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion. Victims of rape who have filed a police report are not subject to the law, nor are victims of incest who have filed a police report in cases where one of the parties involved is a minor. Women who are incest victims of adult males are forced to adhere to the waiting period. Doctors violating the law could be subjected to fines up to $10,000.
Arguing that the law is unconstitutional, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin planned to seek an injunction Wednesday to prevent the law from taking effect. According to PPW president Severa Austin, the Wisconsin law goes further than similar laws in about a dozen states because it requires two visits rather than one. It also requires doctors to follow specific procedures in their discussions with patients including giving her booklets with pictures of fetuses and providing oral and written information about alternatives to the procedure and its risks.
A plan to reduce the number of state legislative districts in Georgia with black majorities has been approved by a federal court. The Justice Department and voting rights groups advocates have opposed the plan which is an interim plan that only applies to the 1996 election. The plan reduces the power of black constituents to elect black candidates. Redistricting plans have jeopardized the future black candidates such as Rep. Cynthia McKinney in Georgia and Corrine Brown in Florida.
5/1/1996 - Rapist Sentenced to 28 Years for 11 Rapes
A Sebastopol, California man convicted of 11 counts of rape and sexual assault against five women was sentenced Monday (4-29) to 28 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible. Lonnie Victory drugged the women, tied them up, and videotaped the rapes. The videos were shown in court and showed the drugged victims choking and vomiting, some while hooded and gagged. Victory’s ex-girlfriend, who turned Victory in to the authorities after discovering the tapes, agreed with the Deputy District Attorney that the sentence was appropriate.”
On Monday (4-29), the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 against hearing an appeal by South Dakota to restrict abortions for minors. The South Dakota law, which had been found unconstitutional by a U.S. appeals court, would have required minors to notify their parents 48 hours before getting an abortion. It was the only such law in the country that did not allow girls to obtain permission from a judge in place of a parent. The court also let stand a ruling that said the state cannot enforce criminal and civil penalties against doctors who fail to comply with the law.
Dissenting Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas have records of voting to let states outlaw abortion. A review of the appeal would require dissenting votes from four justices. The Court’s refusal to hear the case was regarded as a sign that it is not ready to take up the issue of abortion again after the 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
At a news briefing on Monday (4-29), Fauziya Kasinga said she would like the whole world to end the practice of female genital mutilation. The case of Kasinga, who fled her native Togo in 1994 at the age of 17 to escape FGM, will be heard by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals on Thursday, May 2. Kasinga is seeking political asylum in the U.S. because she says FGM amounts to persecution in Togo. Released from jail on April 24 after being detained for two years, Kasinga spoke softly and said, I thought the United States was a place of justice...Instead of receiving protection, I was punished by being put in jail.”
A year after Kasinga’s case was dismissed by a judge who called her claims unbelievable,” federal immigration lawyers now say her persecution claim may hold up, due to the deeply objectionable” nature of the tribal ritual which can result in severe health complications including death. According to an INS spokesperson, the agency will recommend that the case be used to set guidelines for immigration judges. Kasinga’s lawyer, Karen Musalo, said that the dehumanizing conditions” Kasinga endured in the U.S. immigration system could get worse if proposed immigration legislation passes Congress
4/30/1996 - Religious Leaders Support Veto of Abortion Ban
Protestant and Jewish leaders have signed a letter sponsored by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in support of President Clinton’s veto of a bill to ban a form of abortion used to save the life, health or future fertility of the woman. The letter, signed by nearly 30 leaders, was to be released at a news conference Tuesday as a response to criticism of Clinton from Catholic bishops who supported the abortion ban. Rev. Philip Wogaman received a transcript of the veto-signing ceremony from Clinton, who attends his church, and said he found the stories of the women who had to have the procedure compelling. Wogaman signed the letter which stated that the decision to undergo the procedure can only be made by the woman, who must be free to decide. Congress has not yet scheduled a vote to override the veto.
4/30/1996 - Detroit Man Convicted of Woman’s Murder
The man who attacked Deletha Word after a minor auto accident and forced her to jump off a bridge to her death has been convicted of second-degree murder. On August 19, Martell Welch, Jr. pulled Word from her car after it stalled on a bridge over the Detroit River. He proceed to rip her clothes off and slam her head against his car. Word jumped off the bridge as Welch approached her with a car jack. A jury deliberated less than five hours before convicting Welch of the most serious charge against him, a verdict that could lead a sentence of life in prison.
4/30/1996 - Breast Cancer Research Setback
According to research to be published in the April 30 issue of Nature Genetics, there may be unknown genes that cause familial breast cancer in addition to the identified genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. In December 1995, scientists had estimated that BRCA2 would play a role in 45 percent of inherited cases of breast cancer. However, a recent study of 49 families in Canada expected to carry the gene found that BRCA2 was responsible for breast cancer in only eight of the families. Other articles in the journal show that different ethnic groups have different mutations of BRCA2 and suggest that the gene may cause other forms of cancer in addition to breast cancer and may act in conjunction with another gene.