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Filtering by Tag: Women's eNews

Maternal deaths in NY among the highest in the nation & among African Americans

Jerin

While the GOP is proposing budget cuts that would take away nutrition funding from pregnant women and babies, the following story shows how those funding sources could save NYC's pregnant mothers - especially women of color.  This is just another example of how the anti-choice is really anti-life, since they couldn't care less about hungry pregnant women and babies, cutting their food funding while continuing to fund NASCAR sponsorship by the military.  As Gloria Steinem explained at a talk in 2009, the GOP is  using this as a way to perpetuate classism and racism. If women are not allowed to choose how many kids they have and unable to feed them when they are born, those kids are destined for poverty, and the GOP's rich friends can have an unlimited resource of cheap labor they can continue to exploit.



In Solidarity,
N. Jerin Arifa
National NOW Board of Directors
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
National Organization for Women (NOW)

NYC's High Maternal Deaths Defy Usual Explanations

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
...New York's high rate of maternal mortality exposes glaring risks for black women.
...throughout the United States white and black women have similar levels of pre-existing conditions during their pregnancies.
Despite this, Callahan's research has found that black women for the past five decades have consistently suffered an almost four-times greater risk of death from pregnancy complications than have white women.
...Pregnant black women in New York City face nearly double the national risk.
...the high rate of maternal deaths in New York--among the highest in the nation--and among African Americans.
...The lack of prenatal care, even in a city with public hospitals and clinics, played a definitive role in the maternal mortality rate.  

NM victims of violence worry that seeking police protection could be the first step toward deportation

YoungFeminists

Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
ICE in Albuquerque Chills Battered Immigrants
By Laura Paskus
WeNews correspondent
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It's not only the state of Arizona. Albuquerque, N. M., illustrates the kind of fears spawned among immigrant victims of domestic abuse when local police departments team up with federal immigration agents.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (WOMENSENEWS)--Arizona may have been grabbing national attention for its anti-immigrant legislation, but in this city of at least 61,000 recent immigrants, life is also fearful for those who might be mistaken for the undocumented.
Among women suffering from domestic violence, fears have been heightened since May when the Department of Homeland Security's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers began sharing workspace with local law enforcement. Now, some targets of violence worry that seeking police protection could be the first step toward deportation.
At the end of April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement--commonly called ICE--had 287 agreements with 71 law enforcement agencies in 26 states. Under these programs the federal agency delegates immigration enforcement authority to local police departments.
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In May, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry added to that tally when he announced that ICE will work alongside Albuquerque police at the city's new Prisoner Transport Center. Under the mayor's new guidelines, ICE agents will screen anyone passing through the center.
For Claudia Medina, executive director of Enlace Comunitario (which in English translates roughly to "community liaison"), a nonprofit for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence, that's a troubling development.
"We have been getting assurances from the police chief that they won't call ICE on them if they are just calling to report a crime," said Medina. "But the immigrant community doesn't know that. They just know that ICE is housed with the police and there is a strong relationship there."

Victims Fear Police

Medina says undocumented immigrant women who are victims of crimes often don't seek police assistance, because they fear the police are going to send them to ICE and they will be deported. Many also fear that if they report their abuser and he is undocumented, he will be deported and his income and financial support for their children will disappear, she says.
Because of victims' fear of police contact, Medina says it's often a neighbor, not a victim, who places the 911 call.
When police arrive, Medina says they often find a chaotic situation. "She is hysterical, crying, and he is too--you know, like screaming and yelling--and all of them are speaking Spanish. The police don't know what's going on, so they say, 'That's it, I'm taking you both.'"
Both the abuser and victim end up at the Prisoner Transport Center, where, under the new procedure, ICE will check the immigration status of both people.
In this scenario, a victim who should receive assistance, says Medina, could end up being detained and deported--in which case both parents would be separated from the children, who may be U.S. citizens.
Undocumented immigrants detained in New Mexico are sent to two different facilities along the border, and joined by those from Texas. The two facilities, one in El Paso and one in New Mexico, each have a capacity of 1,000. Since Albuquerque's procedure is so new, no one is sure how many additional deportations may be occurring under the new police-ICE partnership.
"It's a basic human right to be able to call for help when you are being victimized," said Medina. If a dog is being mistreated, she says, someone can call and an officer will remove the animal from danger. "Well, we're talking human beings here and they cannot even call for help. They cannot even get the basic right of being protected. And I think that's not fair."

Shelters Not an Option

As in many cities, housing programs in Albuquerque for victims of domestic violence cannot help women without immigration papers; even homeless shelters will not accept undocumented immigrants.
Jessica Aranda, an Albuquerque native and activist for the rights of women and immigrants, echoes Medina's concerns about the new local ICE program's effect on immigrant women, an already vulnerable population.
"That's going to be a huge issue for immigrant women or women who have immigrants in their family, to feel like police are a resource when there is violence happening in their families," said Aranda. "That will definitely play into the whole dynamic of further disenfranchisement for women of color."
Albuquerque City Councilman Ken Sanchez was one of the city council members who tried to block police involvement with ICE. Their resolution failed and council members who backed it said they received hate e-mail.
Sanchez agrees with Aranda that someone who is already uncomfortable with the police might feel further threatened by the new procedure.
"That was a very big concern of mine when the mayor passed this legislation," said Sanchez. "He wants to make sure that we are keeping our community safe and keeping criminals off the street . . . Well, especially in a domestic-violence case, these women may be afraid to call 911, if they themselves or their children are being abused by a spouse."
He adds that if women fear deportation, they may not call for help. "That is one of the real concerns that I have with this legislation," he said. "The mayor has assured that that would not be the case."

'Nothing Will Change'

At a recent city council meeting, Sanchez invited Albuquerque Police Department Chief Ray Schultz to the podium, asking him what will change with the new procedure. "He said, 'Nothing will change at all with APD,'" said Sanchez.
As a result of an earlier court challenge, beginning in 2007, the Albuquerque Police Department could not question someone's immigration status unless it was relevant to a criminal investigation or a person had already been arrested. "And the chief reaffirmed that to be the case," said Sanchez.
Schultz has repeatedly said that officers themselves would not be checking the immigration status of individuals and the mayor has claimed racial profiling will not occur--that everyone, regardless of nationality, race or language, will be screened.
The procedure isn't entirely new, says Jennifer Landau, an attorney with Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services. She points out that for a few years ICE officials have had a presence at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
"But they're casting a wider net now, because everyone that is arrested in Albuquerque is going to be screened and interviewed by ICE--before it was just at the local jail," she said.
Landau adds that Albuquerque isn't unique: "This isn't totally new, but it is a part of a national trend."
In April, Arizona Gov. Janet Brewer signed into law a state Senate bill requiring police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. It also makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.
Despite the federal government's opposition to the law--the Obama administration has sued, claiming the law is inconsistent with federal policy--more states are considering laws similar to that of Arizona.
Legislatures in five states have already introduced bills. In another 15, they're under discussion. And on a local level many police departments, like the one here, are cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security's ICE.
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Laura Paskus is an independent journalist working on a series of stories about vulnerable and exploited women in Albuquerque; that work that has been funded in part by an investigative research grant from the nonprofit Center for Civic Policy.

For more information:

Albuquerque-based Enlace Comunitario:
http://www.enlacenm.org/
"Mapping the Spread of SB 1070":
http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/06/mapping_the_nationwide_spread_of_arizonas_sb_1070.html
Teach-In Toolkit from the National Immigration Law Center:
http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/LocalLaw/uncover-truth-toolkit-2010-05.pdf

Religious Hospitals Probed for Denying Women Care

YoungFeminists

Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Friday, July 9, 2010
Religious Hospitals Probed for Denying Women Care
By Caroline Johnston Polisi
WeNews commentator
Friday, July 9, 2010
A legal commentator analyzes the possible reverberations of a Catholic nun being excommunicated for authorizing an abortion that saved the life of a young woman and the ACLU's decision to act against what they say is a violation of federal law.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Late last year, when a young mother of four came through the doors of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Sister Margaret Mary McBride made a difficult decision. The choice she made would turn out to be the definitive one of her career.
Because of it, she suffered a very public excommunication at the hands of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, was held up by the Roman Catholic Church as an example of a former "woman religious" turned apostate and resigned at the request of the bishop from her position as vice president of mission integration at the hospital.
While details of the case remain hidden by federal privacy laws, the maelstrom of media attention generated by the incident has provided some information concerning the events that took place.
The woman, age 27, was 11 weeks pregnant and suffered from a serious condition called pulmonary hypertension, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of right-sided heart failure and shock. In consultation with her family and a team of doctors, the ethics committee of the hospital--on which Sister McBride sat--voted to allow an emergency abortion in order to save the life of the woman.
In a statement released shortly after the incident became public, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix proclaimed it a "scandal that a Catholic hospital would perform such a reprehensible act" and insisted that a set of ethical and religious directives, to which St. Joseph's and countless other public Catholic hospitals adhere, prohibit direct abortions under any circumstances--even, apparently, if that means almost certain death for the mother and fetus.
Representatives at St. Joseph's Hospital responded with a statement of their own, firmly reiterating that the procedure was necessary to save the woman's life.

Attention Focused on Murky Questions

Much of the attention over the past few months has centered on murky questions of ethical and religious significance, with popular reactions ranging from outrage at the Catholic Church for its treatment of Sister McBride to a renunciation of the hospital for opposing church directives.
With attacks so virulent coming from both sides of the political spectrum, it's important to recognize the situation for what it is, and what it is not. It is not a platform to criticize members of the Catholic Church for their deeply held religious beliefs. They are entitled to them. Nor is it a time to delve into the complex moral and political arguments so often associated with the practice of elective abortions.
Rather, it is an opportunity to identify and rectify a troubling and dangerous violation of federal law potentially taking place in Catholic hospitals across the country.
Last week, members of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office did just that, along with the ACLU of Arizona and the New York-based ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Together, the civil liberties organizations sent a letter addressed to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. In it, the organizations raise possible systematic violations by religiously-affiliated hospitals of the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).
EMTALA became law in 1986 and applies to hospitals that accept federal dollars for Medicare and Medicaid services, which, in practical terms, is almost every hospital in the United States.

Act Applies to All Patients

The law governs how and when a patient can be denied medical treatment or transferred to another hospital when she or he is in an unstable medical condition. While the act covers hospitals that receive funding for Medicare or Medicaid, the requirements apply to every patient the hospital treats, not just those using the programs.
"Religiously-affiliated hospitals--which are often the only hospital in a particular area-- are not exempt from providing critical care to patients who come through their doors," said Daniel Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, in a press statement issued last week.
The letter cites an American Journal of Public Health article that documents refusals by various Catholic hospitals to provide urgent medical reproductive care in miscarriage management cases. In each situation described, the letter asserts, the hospital in question placed a woman's life or health at risk in direct violation of federal law.
The ACLU's legal argument hinges on an interpretation of a section of federal law that requires hospitals to stabilize patients with an "emergency medical condition," defined as a situation in which the health of the patient is in serious jeopardy or the patient risks serious impairment to bodily functions or dysfunction of a bodily organ. There are unfortunately countless conditions in which termination of pregnancy will be necessary to stabilize a patient, they argue. They also allege violation of federal law in the various hospitals' failings to provide their pregnant patients with all available treatment options.
"The law rightly requires hospitals to provide life-saving medical care to their patients," said Vania Leveille, ACLU legislative counsel. "The government must ensure that the well-being of the patient does not take a back seat to religious beliefs."

Group Seeks Investigation

The civil liberties group seeks a comprehensive investigation as well as an explicit clarification of protocol in situations similar to the one that gave rise to Sister McBride's excommunication. They request an immediate in-person meeting with Marilyn Tavenner, an administrator and chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for the development and enforcement of EMTALA.
In taking a hard-line stance against the violations of the rights of women in religiously-affiliated hospitals, the ACLU provides a morally neutral framework to analyze the situation: hospitals that refuse to provide emergency medical reproductive health care jeopardize the health and lives of women in direct violation of federal law.
While Sister McBride's decision has no doubt caused her immense personal suffering, the uproar surrounding her excommunication has and will continue to resonate publically. It has shed light on a troubling problem that cannot be rectified without government intervention.
Many await the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' response and hope it strikes a proper legal balance between respect for individual religious liberty and patient safety.
Caroline Johnston Polisi is an attorney and freelance journalist in New York City who does volunteer legal work for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. She wrote this article in her individual capacity.

Breast Cancer Link to Environment Goes Mainstream

Jerin

Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Sunday, July 4, 2010
Breast Cancer Link to Environment Goes Mainstream
By Molly M. Ginty
WeNews correspondent
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Suspicions that breast cancer could be caused by environmental pollution were once considered politically fringe. But in recent weeks, U.S. lawmakers, a presidential panel and the influential Susan G. Komen for the Cure have all signed on.
(WOMENSENEWS)--When she looks at her suburban street, Geri Barish sees cancer. She believes it's under her feet, in the soil that came from landfill and has been sprayed with pesticides. She believes it's overhead, in the electric transformers that hang from telephone poles on her quiet cul-de-sac.
"Pollution from these sources may explain the cancer that killed my mother, my son and too many of my neighbors," said Barish, of Hewlett, N.Y., a middle-income community at the heart of a dense cluster of cancer cases. "It may also explain why I've had to battle breast cancer three separate times myself."
Back in 1990, when Barish and some female neighbors founded the Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition, their goal--to raise awareness of the link between pollutants and high rates of cancer in their area--was considered politically fringe.
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No more.
Twenty years down the line, presidential advisors, lawmakers and the largest breast cancer research group in the country are all simultaneously pulling the issue to the center of the political stage.
A big sign of this change will occur July 6-8, when Susan G. Komen for the Cure--the world's largest breast cancer organization--and the Institute of Medicine, a Washington-based health policy group, conduct a joint meeting in San Francisco on environmental toxins and breast cancer.
"The public is invited to observe our upcoming meeting, which will include presentations from leading breast cancer researchers and organizations," said Dr. Amelie Ramirez of Komen's scientific advisory board. "We believe this meeting is very important and expect it to generate much collaborative input."
In the advocacy realm, this represents something of a seismic shift by the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has long focused on breast cancer treatment, rather than prevention.
But on May 20, the group, which has invested nearly $1.5 billion to fight breast cancer since its inception in 1982, said it was devoting $1.25 million to a year-long Institute of Medicine study on cancer and the environment.

All Hands Needed on Deck

When asked why Komen launched this initiative, Elizabeth Thompson, a spokesperson for the organization, said that concern about carcinogens has "come to the point where we need all hands on deck."
"We're delighted and think it's about time," Barish replied in response.
Komen's partnership with the Institute of Medicine was announced shortly after the May 6 online publication of "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk," a landmark report by the President's Cancer Panel. The report warns that carcinogens are causing "grievous harm" to Americans and that the number of cancer deaths related to pollution has been "grossly underestimated" due to a lack of sufficient research.
Formed in 1971 to monitor national cancer policy, the President's Cancer Panel has never before made such sweeping statements, instead focusing its previous reports on issues such as health disparities, barriers to care and cancer survivorship rates.
"This report is a breakthrough because of its source--and because it's the first government document to ever summarize these issues clearly and in one place," said Janice Barlow, director of Zero Breast Cancer, an advocacy group in San Raphael, Calif.
The Safe Chemicals Act of 2010--introduced April 15 in the Senate by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and in the House by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Bobby Rush, D-Ill.--is another sign of environmental health worries gaining mainstream attention.
This legislation would revamp the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 and would ensure, in Lautenberg's words, that "those who make chemicals be responsible for testing them before they are released."
Under current policy, the Environmental Protection Agency can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces to indicate that a chemical is dangerous. As a result, the agency has only been able to require testing for 200 of the 80,000 chemicals registered in its database.

Five Carcinogens Banned

To date, the Environmental Protection Agency has been able to ban five carcinogens: asbestos (used as insulation); polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, used in electrical transformers); hexavalent chromium (a paint additive); dioxins (byproducts of chemical manufacturing); and halogenated chlorofluoroalkanes (used in aerosol cosmetics).
To lobby for the Safe Chemicals Act, currently being reviewed by congressional committees, the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization in Washington, has created an online petition that the bill's supporters can send to their legislators. The Senate and House could vote on the proposed law later this year.
"This act is revolutionary because it's built on the precautionary principle, which holds that you prove chemicals are safe before you introduce them," said Barbara Brenner, executive director of the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action. "Growing interest in that principle means legislation like this finally has a chance to move forward."
Grassroots activists say such legislation could have a wide impact. Forty-one percent of Americans will develop cancer at some point in their lives, according to the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass.
Six percent of all cancer deaths are linked to environmental factors, estimates the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society. Grassroots groups have long pointed to evidence, however, that indicates the true number is much higher.
One Department of Health and Human Services study, for instance, estimates that 70 percent of breast cancer cases are linked to environmental exposures.

Report Pinpoints Risk Factors

The President's Cancer Panel report takes aim at environmental risk factors in manufacturing, agriculture, medical sources, the military and modern lifestyles.
These include benzene (in petroleum products, such as the oil currently leaking into the Gulf of Mexico); chromium trioxide (an ingredient used in pesticides); increased medical testing (which is boosting Americans' exposure to radiation); the 900 Superfund sites (areas identified by the federal government as "the nation's worst uncontrolled hazardous waste sites"); and bisphenol-A (a plastic ingredient found in throw-away bottles).
The 240-page report recommends reducing exposure to carcinogens during pregnancy (which can impair fetal development); studying vulnerable populations (such as low-income residents of polluted communities); teaching Americans to protect themselves from cancer by taking practical steps (such as microwaving food in glass containers instead of plastic ones); and creating a stronger screening system that ensures chemicals are proven safe before they are put on the market.
If the Safe Chemicals Act passes, that last recommendation--which health advocates have long said is a crucial starting point--will be met, potentially paving the way for future reforms.
Molly M. Ginty (http://mollymaureenginty.wordpress.com) is a freelance writer based in New York City.
Subscribe Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories.

For more information:

"Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk," President's Cancer Panel:
http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf
Petition Supporting the Safe Chemicals Act, Environmental Working Group:
http://action.ewg.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1888

Domestics Gain Rights; Iran to Stone Adulterer: Feminist Cheers & Jeers of the Week

YoungFeminists


Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Saturday, July 3, 2010
Domestics Gain Rights; Iran to Stone Adulterer
By WeNews staff
Saturday, July 3, 2010
(WOMENSENEWS)--

Cheers

thumb pointing up
New legislation passed in New York state grants workplace rights to domestic employees, reported the New York Times July 1. Domestic workers will now have a set workweek consisting of 40 hours with three vacation days annually after a year of employment. They will also be protected against sexual harassment and be entitled to disability benefits, unemployment insurance and overtime. New York is the first state to grant such rights to domestic employees. Also, the state legislature approved a law June 30 that permits midwives to practice independently of obstetricians.
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More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Gender Equality Architecture Reform, GEAR, campaign celebrated the United Nations General Assembly resolution, agreed to on June 30 and formally adopted by the General Assembly on July 2, to establish "UN Women"--the new gender equality entity at the U.N. The new entity, to be headed by an under-secretary general, will consolidate the four existing U.N. agencies that focus on women, increase operational capacity at the country level and gain increased funding for work on women's empowerment and advancement, according to a July 1 press release from GEAR.
  • Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced a bill on June 30 that would regulate the misleading practices of crisis pregnancy centers, reported Ms. Magazine July 1. Some of these centers, typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not medical professionals, pressure women to not consider abortion as an option and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice, the article reported. The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act would require the Federal Trade Commission to create and enforce rules to prohibit crisis pregnancy centers' deceptive advertising practices, such as advertising under the term "abortion services."
  • The New Jersey Senate approved legislation restoring $7.5 million in family planning funding, reported the Associated Press June 28. Republican Gov. Chris Christie's budget plan had eliminated state funding for 58 women's health centers. Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who advocated for the restoration, said "the money will not be used for abortions" but for other health care needs. If the bill is passed, thousands of uninsured women will receive financial assistance with medical care, reported the State House Bureau June 28. The General Assembly will consider the bill on July 5. Christie has not said whether he would sign it.
  • In a case that pitted antidiscrimination principles against religious freedom, the United States Supreme Court ruled June 28 that a university can legally deny recognition to a student group that bars gay students, reported Reuters. The court upheld a ruling allowing the University of California's Hastings College of Law to deny recognition of the Christian Legal Society--a group that, since 2004, has required its members to sign a statement of faith that vows devotion to Jesus Christ and bars those with what it defines as a "sexually immoral lifestyle," including gay and lesbian students. In the court's opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the university need not provide a religious-based exception to its policy that groups must open membership to all students who want to join.
  • For the first time in history, a women's major professional bowling event will be held at "a traditional sporting venue," reported the PR Newswire June 30. The 2011 Bowling's U.S. Women's Open is scheduled to take place at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.



Jeers

thumb pointing down
An Iranian woman accused of adultery has been sentenced to death by stoning, reported The Jerusalem Post June 30. Sakineh Mohamamadi e Ashtiani, 43, allegedly had affairs with two men who then murdered her husband. Infidelity is illegal in Iran and is usually punished with lashes and prison time; execution by stoning in these cases is rare, the article reported. If carried out the sentence would be the first known stoning to take place in the Islamic Republic in years.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • A doctor in Florida is giving her pregnant patients an experimental hormone, dexamethasone, to ensure that female babies will be more feminine and not become lesbians, reported Jezebel July 1. Some scientists believe the hormone, if administered prenatally, might prevent ambiguous genitalia, but pediatric endocrinologist Maria New says the hormone will also keep girls from doing such things as hanging out with boys, choosing male-dominated careers and being gay.
  • A senior official in Afghanistan's Ministry for Women's Affairs told a recent United Nations workshop that about half of Afghanistan's 476 female prisoners were detained for "moral crimes," reported the BBC July 1. The article looks at female prisoners in Badam Bagh, or Almond Garden, Afghanistan's only prison for women in the capital Kabul. One of the prisoners is a 16-year-old girl who was arrested after her boyfriend proposed marriage to her unaccompanied by his parents. The girl was initially sentenced to three years in prison, but the sentence was reduced to 18 months. The prison is home to 147 women and children and was opened two years ago.
  • More women in Ireland are reporting difficulties in coming up with the money for abortion services, reported The Irish Times June 29. Counselors at the Irish Family Planning Association are seeing more women report this difficulty amidst the current economic climate, said the association's chief executive, Niall Behan. At the same time, the Dublin's Well Woman Centre said increasing numbers of women using their services were considering terminating pregnancies as a consequence of the recession. Not all crisis pregnancy counseling services in the United Kingdom are seeing the same trend, the article reported.
  • The Supreme Court's June 28 ruling that Americans have the right to own a gun for self-defense anywhere in the United States has some Chicago residents disappointed and others concerned about the safety of women, reported National Public Radio June 29. The ruling, which says that state and local gun laws may not infringe an individual's legitimate right to keep and bear arms, means that Chicago's 28–year-old gun ban will be abolished as of July 15. Some residents fear that the modified gun law will disproportionately affect women, who are the primary victims of weapon homicides in the city, reported The American Prospect June 29. Eighty-seven percent of violent crimes in Chicago are committed with handguns.
  • Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit June 28 challenging a new Nebraska law requiring mental health screening for women seeking abortion, reported the Associated Press. The new law requires women wanting abortions to be screened by doctors or other health professionals to determine whether they were pressured into having the procedure. Those women also would have to be screened for risk factors indicating they could have mental or physical problems after an abortion, reported the article.
  • HIV rates are on the rise among Asian women, highlighting the need for new policy priorities with a gender focus, warns the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, reported South Africa's Times Live June 28. "A gender focus is crucial to stem the spread of HIV fuelled by gender inequalities that increasingly place women and girls at risk," said the U.N. Programme's Asia Pacific Regional Gender Advisor Jane Wilson. In 2007, women accounted for 35 percent of all people living with HIV in Asia, up from 18 percent in 1990, reported the article.

Noted:

  • Supermodel Naomi Campbell, as well as her agent and actress Mia Farrow, have been called to testify at the trial of Charles G. Taylor, the deposed president of Liberia, reported the New York Times July 1. Campbell allegedly received diamonds from two men representing Taylor in September 1997; her testimony would contradict Taylor's claim in court that he had never owned or traded in diamonds. The prosecution contends that he used them as currency to finance a rebellion in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, in which tens of thousands of people were killed, raped or mutilated. The charges against him include murder, conscripting child soldiers and terrorizing and mutilating civilians.

  • A divorce bill, approved July 1, would for the first time allow a couple in New York to dissolve their marriage by mutual consent and without requiring one spouse to accuse the other of adultery, cruelty, imprisonment or abandonment, reported the New York Times July 1. The bill makes New York the last state to allow some version of no-fault divorce.
  • Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., pressed Elena Kagan on her views about life and health exemptions for the mother within abortion bans during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week, reported Campus Progress June 30. "Senator Feinstein, I do think that the continuing holding of Roe and Doe v. Bolton is that women's life and women's health have to be protected in abortion regulation," Kagan replied. Kagan went on to talk about banning so-called partial-birth abortions, which she encouraged Bill Clinton to support while he was president.
  • Overweight women have a much higher risk of a miscarriage after having in-vitro fertilization compared with slimmer women, new research indicates, reported the Associated Press June 28. Research from a London clinic tracking women who became pregnant after having in-vitro fertilization found that among women with a normal weight, 22 percent using in-vitro at the clinic had a miscarriage, but among overweight and obese women, the risk of miscarriage was 33 percent. Doctors aren't sure why excess body weight makes pregnancy more risky, but suspect fat may have harmful effects on the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for proper embryo implantation.
  • A study indicates that home births may be best for the mother because she is less likely to have medical intervention--from painkilling drugs to forceps to a Caesarean section--but is riskier for the baby, reported The Guardian July 1. The research shows that home births carry three times the risk that her baby will die. The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, analyzed studies in the United States and Europe, looking at a total of 342,056 planned home births and 207,551 planned hospital births.
  • A New York City woman was charged with sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and conspiracy, reported the New York Daily News June 29. Jin Hua Cui, 44, is said to have coerced young Korean women applying for jobs as nail salon attendants into prostitution. After answering help wanted ads in Korean language newspapers, applicants were threatened with either embarrassment or violence by Chinese gangs if they did not comply. The defendant pleaded not guilty and is currently awaiting trial on $10,000 bail.
  • Nearly 20 percent of older American women have opted to not have children compared to 10 percent in the 1970s, according to a Pew Research Center study, reported Reuters June 25. "Women have more options than in the past to build strong careers and to exercise the choice not to have children," said D'Vera Cohn, a co-author of the report.. Cohn said another reason for the increase is that children are seen by some couples as less important for a successful marriage. Education is also a key factor, as the more educated the woman, the higher the childless rate.
  • A simple blood test may one day help predict the age at which a woman will begin menopause, say the scientists who developed the test, reported HealthDay News June 28. Their study found that the average difference between the age predicted by the test and the actual age a woman reached menopause was about four months, while the maximum margin of error was between three and four years. The test measures a hormone produced by cells in the ovaries. If the test's accuracy can be confirmed in larger studies, it could be used by women early in their reproductive life to help decide when to start planning a family, the article reported.
  • A growing movement in Europe to ban burkas and niqabs--the face coverings worn by some Muslim women--is igniting a debate over individual religious freedom versus broader cultural values, reported USA Today June 28. In Belgium, a bill making it a crime to wear a face veil in public passed unanimously in April in the lower house of parliament and is expected to become law later this year. Similar legislation in France could mean up to $18,575 in penalties and a year in prison for someone convicted of forcing a woman to wear coverings. Lawmakers across the continent are considering similar measures, reported the article.
  • Pregnant women should be given a breath test to reveal the impact of smoking on their unborn child, says the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, reported Australia's Herald Sun June 28. The carbon monoxide test would determine if the woman smokes, how much and even the impact of secondhand smoke. Women who fail the test would be offered support to help them quit for the good of their fetus, reported the article.
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As Fourth at Supreme Court, Kagan Goes Gender Lite

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

As Fourth at Supreme Court, Kagan Goes Gender Lite

By Sharon Johnson
WeNews senior correspondent
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The three women who came before Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court carried a bright torch for women's rights. In this news analysis, Sharon Johnson sees Kagan as more of a mainstream power broker, with no gender strings attached.
Elena Kagan(WOMENSENEWS)--Democrats and some female law faculty are flagging the historic nature of Solicitor General Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which began June 28.
If confirmed to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, Kagan would bring the number of women on the bench to three, a high water mark that Paula A. Monopoli, professor at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, hails.
"Last year Obama named Sonia Sotomayor the first Hispanic on the court and this year he tapped Kagan, who brings real world experience," said Monopoli, the founding director of the law school's women, leadership and equality program. "Like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, these women provide an important dimension to the court because they recognize how decisions affect the lives of ordinary people and their presence encourages their male colleagues to look at factors that are often overlooked by all-male courts."
But Kagan does not win universal kudos from women's advocacy groups.
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In a June 21 analysis of her legal record, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization of pro-choice attorneys and advocates, called Kagan's record on abortion "troubling." A 1988 memo Kagan wrote as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, urging the court to reject for review an appeal on prisoner access to abortion, was one of the reasons for this assessment.
Kagan said she was "skeptical about whether incarcerated women seeking abortions had serious medical needs under the Eighth Amendment" and called the notion that they should receive government assistance to address those needs "ludicrous."
Kagan stirs worries among conservative senators who assume that any woman nominated by the Democrats must be an arch liberal, says Lawrence Baum, professor of political science at Ohio State University in Columbus and author of the 1997 book "The Puzzle of Judicial Behavior."

Calming Conservative Fears

But Baum says that Kagan's Harvard Law School faculty appointments should calm conservative fears. Two who stand out are Adrian Vermeule, a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, the leader of the conservative wing of the court, and Jack Goldsmith, who had served under Attorney General John Ashcroft during the George W. Bush administration.
In other words, the normal assumptions about a female nominee--created by the three other women ever appointed to the court--do not apply to Kagan.
Kagan broke the glass ceiling in legal education when she became the first female dean of Harvard Law School, but kept a low women's advocacy profile after that.
Sandra Day O'Connor, elevated by President Ronald Reagan, became the first woman on the court in 1981. By that time she had founded the Arizona Women's Lawyers Association and the National Association of Women Judges and had fought to remove discrimination against women by the state bar.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993, came to Senate hearings with victories in five gender-discrimination cases under her belt. Ginsburg also co-authored the first major sex discrimination casebook, used by law students to develop their skills in litigating sex discrimination claims.
No doubt existed about Ginsburg's stand on abortion: "This is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity," she told the Judiciary Committee. "It is a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as a less than fully adult human responsible for her own choices."

Sotomayor Was Outspoken

Sonia Sotomayor had delivered more than 90 speeches on ethnicity or gender issues before minority or women's groups between 1993 and 2009, when Obama tapped her for the court. Sotomayor used her career as an example of how Hispanics and women could succeed in legal careers. For 12 years, Sotomayor was a board member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Kagan's record on supporting women and minorities is thin. During her six years as dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan added 29 tenured faculty, which included five white women and an Asian American woman.
"Just three percent of her hires were non-whites, a statistic that should raise eyebrows in the 21st century," said Guy-Uriel Charles, founding director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics in Durham, N.C.
The National Bar Association, a Washington-based organization of over 44,000 predominantly African American lawyers, judges and professors, said it would have preferred if Obama had nominated Ann Claire Williams, the first African American woman to serve on a U.S. Court of Appeals.
Kagan is the first nominee in 38 years to have no judicial experience. Moreover, Kagan had never presented a case in any court until Obama appointed her solicitor general in 2009.
When he introduced her to the nation, Obama called Kagan "my friend" and "a consensus builder." Kagan had worked with Obama at the University of Chicago Law School and had served on a committee that tried to recruit him for the full-time faculty.
Kagan has close ties to Obama's inner circle at the White House, including Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council.

No Comment on Summers Scandal

As president of Harvard University, Summers appointed Kagan dean of the law school in 2003. Unlike other members of the faculty, Kagan had no comment when Summers was forced to resign in 2006 after suggesting women were underrepresented in tenured positions in science and engineering at the top universities and research institutions because of a "different availability of aptitude at the high end."
At her confirmation hearing for solicitor general, Kagan said she didn't believe there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
Leonard Gross, professor of law at the Southern Illinois School of Law, based in Carbondale, Ill., and co-author of the 1998 "Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Polarization of Senate Confirmation," said Kagan has a good chance to win confirmation as the 112th justice as long as hearings are completed this summer.
If the hearings drag on longer than that, interest groups opposed to Kagan might make her nomination an issue in the mid-term elections this fall, says Gross.
To avoid a filibuster, Kagan must receive 60 votes. Last year, 54 Democrats and seven Republicans voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general. However, the Democrats are expected to lose seats in November.
"That could be bad for Kagan, because these groups could help elect senators who would vote against her," Gross said.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey in June found that 44 percent of Americans wanted the Senate to confirm Kagan, down 10 points since May when her nomination was announced.
Thirty-nine percent opposed the confirmation, up three points. Seventeen percent said they were undecided, up 11 points.
CNN said opinion on Kagan has changed the most among women and Democrats. Initially, these groups supported the nomination because Kagan is a woman and Obama tapped her, but now they are less sure.
Sharon Johnson is a New York freelance writer.
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For more information:

Legal Analysis of Kagan's Abortion Rights Record, Center for Reproductive Rights :
http://reproductiverights.org/en/press-room/crr-legal-analysis-of kagans-abortion-rights-record

FDA 'Ella' Approval Faces Anti-Choice Pressure

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FDA 'Ella' Approval Faces Anti-Choice Pressure

By Molly M. Ginty
WeNews correspondent
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
A new form of emergency contraception, effective for five days after unprotected intercourse instead of three, recently pulled through initial FDA hearings. Supporters are worried, however, about continued protest and problems.
ellaOne (ulipristal acetate)(WOMENSENEWS)--U.S. pro-choice advocates are still worried about the drug "ella," which prevents pregnancy from occurring for five days after unprotected intercourse, rather than three, as the current available pills do.
The drug, which has been available as "ellaOne" in 22 European countries since October 2009, won unanimous backing from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, advisory panel on June 17.
This brings it a step closer to U.S. availability, which could come as soon as the fall or winter of 2010.
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In studies involving more than 4,500 women, ella prevented pregnancy up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse. Research published in peer-reviewed journals, including The Lancet and Obstetrics and Gynecology, confirm that it is safe, with mild side effects--headaches, dizziness and nausea--experienced by only 5 to 10 percent of users.
Ella (also called ulipristal acetate), however, is sparking controversy because it is a close chemical relative of mifepristone, the medical abortion pill, known as RU-486, which has been available in the United States since 2000.
RU-486 works for up to nine weeks to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb or to dislodge a growing embryo.
Ella works by preventing ovulation. It's not an abortafacient--a substance that induces abortion--because it does not affect a fertilized egg or embryo. As a result, it doesn't terminate pregnancy as pregnancy is defined by the Washington-based American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Chicago-based American Medical Association and other health organizations.
Before the June 17 FDA ruling, 20 pro-choice groups--including Catholics for Choice, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Women's Law Center, all based in Washington--wrote a letter to the FDA in support of ella.

A Second Letter

Now, these organizations are preparing a second letter to the FDA that will once again stress women's need for a safe, long-lasting emergency contraceptive that prevents unwanted pregnancy.
"We need to get the word out and let people know what ella is, and what it isn't," said Kirsten Moore, president of Washington's Reproductive Health Technologies Project. Moore testified in support of ella at the June hearing.
On any given day, a million American women who do not want to become pregnant have unprotected sex and more than 25,000 women become pregnant every year after being sexually assaulted, report researchers from Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. As a result, notes the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the pregnancies that occur in the United States every year are unintended.
Since 1999, women in the United States have had access to another form of emergency contraception: Plan B. Also called the "morning-after pill," the drug is made by the Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
While Plan B works for three days after unprotected intercourse, ella is effective for five. Those additional two days are significant because sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to five days, which means ella can prevent fertilization during the entire time that sperm are viable. The extra days are also significant because women who live in rural areas or who have other barriers to contraceptive access may not be able to obtain Plan B within its three-day window.
If approved, ella will be sold in the United States by Watson Pharmaceuticals, based in Corona, Calif.
While Plan B is available in the United States to women over age 17 without a prescription, ella would require a prescription for all women who take it. Though Plan B runs around $50, ella will likely cost $100 to $150.
"Plan B has a generic alternative, but ella does not," said Alina Salganicoff, vice president and director of women's health policy for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kaiser Family Foundation. "If you have prescription drug coverage, your policy will likely absorb the cost, but if you don't, you'll have to pay out of pocket."

Anti-Choice Advocates Speak Up

At the FDA hearing on ella, two of the 13 people who spoke to the committee were anti-choice advocates.
One of them was Wendy Wright, president of the Washington-based conservative group Concerned Women for America. She told the committee that ella "interferes with the lining of the uterus" and that the FDA should not "unleash" it on "unsuspecting women."
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Washington-based Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote the FDA and charged that ella could be slipped to women "by unscrupulous men with the intent of causing an early abortion without a woman's knowledge or consent."
Similar objections are echoed on the Web sites of anti-choice groups including the Washington-based LifeNews.com, Students for Life of America of Arlington, Va., and the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League.
Ella's next step is for the same FDA administrators who oversaw the June 17 hearing to review the drug's application and respond to its maker's request for approval. Pro-choice advocates worry that the political opposition could lead to delays in this process, which typically takes at least several months.

Pro-Choice Activists' Concerns

When Plan B was under fire from anti-choice activists during the Bush administration, the FDA took more than three years to approve the drug.
"Under President Obama, the agency has taken steps to bring its handling of emergency contraception in line with the science," said Amy Allina, program director of the Washington-based National Women's Health Network. "But there is still an age restriction on over-the-counter distribution of Plan B despite medical community consensus that this is inappropriate and serves only to block timely access for young women. With that mixed record, we think it's an open question whether the agency will bring similar political concerns to its decision on this new emergency contraceptive."
Activists also worry about access to ella. Before Plan B finally became available as an over-the-counter drug in 1999, several anti-choice doctors and pharmacists refused to write or fill prescriptions for the drug when women asked them for it.
During the June 17 hearing, the FDA committee upset some pro-choice activists by asking whether there should be any restrictions placed on ella's sale--such as a recommendation that women take pregnancy tests before using the new drug.
"This requirement isn't made of other emergency contraceptives and we think it's unnecessary and potentially confusing," said Allina. "Pro-choice advocates breathed a sigh of relief during the hearing when the committee moved past that concern."
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Molly M. Ginty (http://mollymaureenginty.wordpress.com) is a freelance writer based in New York City.

For more information:

Background on Ulipristal Acetate, Planned Parenthood:
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/PPFA/fact-ella-EC.pdf
"A New Option for Emergency Contraception: the Facts on Ulipristal Acetate," Reproductive Health Technologies Project:
http://www.rhtp.org/documents/EllaECFactSheet-UPDATEDRAFT6.7.10.pdf

Wal-Mart Plaintiffs Face Historic Class Challenge

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wal-Mart Plaintiffs Face Historic Class Challenge

By Susan V. Stromberg
WeNews correspondent
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Over a million current and former Wal-Mart female employees allege gender discrimination in a single lawsuit. In this news analysis, Susan Stromberg explains what it will take for them to hang together before the courts this summer.
Wal Mart(WOMENSENEWS)--More than one million current and former Wal-Mart female employees alleging gender discrimination stand to be certified this summer as the largest civil rights class action in history.
Their fate lies with the U.S. Supreme Court, which will be asked to decide whether a small group of employees' claims of sex discrimination are indicative of a company-wide policy or just isolated incidents. If the High Court does not hear the case, a lower court's ruling will stand and the trial against Wal-Mart will proceed on behalf of the million-plus plaintiffs.
It's a case of enormous importance for women in the paid work force across the country, says Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the Washington-based National Women's Law Center, one of the many organizations to file briefs in support of the class-action certification.
"The conduct alleged in the Wal-Mart litigation highlights that current law fails to provide adequate deterrence and sufficient tools to address widespread pay discrimination in the workplace," said Graves.
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In a case nearly a decade old, six female Wal-Mart employees sought certification to represent more than one million female employees in a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination in violation of federal law.
The claim of these six women is supported by 120 documented incidents from other female employees. In their suit, the six assert that they were paid less than men in comparable positions, despite higher performance ratings and greater seniority, and that they received fewer--and waited longer for--promotions than men.

Ninth Circuit Decision

Following an April decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the class will encompass all women employed by Wal-Mart at any time since June 8, 2001, when the lawsuit was first filed, and may possibly date back to December 26, 1998, pending clarification by the lower court.
The Ninth Circuit ruling certifying the class focused on whether the accusations made by these six women would be common to all female Wal-Mart employees, as is necessary for class certification.
Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., denies any systematic discrimination and argues that any claims should be tried individually and not as a class action. Among its arguments, Wal-Mart contends that the range of employees within the class is too diverse. It says that six women who have worked in 10 of the retailer's 3,400 stores nationwide cannot represent every female employee from every store--from part-time entry level hourly workers to salaried managers--over the course of a decade.
Before those allegations can be considered on the merits fully, the courts must first decide whether the million women represented by the six plaintiffs can hang together now that Wal-Mart plans to petition the Supreme Court for review.
The issue of class certification is governed by detailed and complicated procedural rules that will determine whether the million stay as part of the Wal-Mart case.
If the Supreme Court either decides not to hear the case or hears the case and agrees with the class certification, the lawsuit will go back to the lower court for a trial to determine if Wal-Mart discriminated against its female employees.
However, if the Supreme Court accepts review and overturns the class certification, each of the million possible plaintiffs would need to file individual lawsuits to raise any claims of discrimination.

Wal-Mart Attorney Hopeful

Wal-Mart attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., of the New York-based law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, is hoping the High Court will take the case and undo the class certification.
Boutrous believes the ruling certifying the class contradicts numerous decisions of other federal appellate courts and the Supreme Court itself, making it appropriate for review.
"This conflict and confusion in class action law is bad for everyone--employers, employees, businesses of all types and sizes and the civil justice system," Boutrous told Women's eNews.
If certified, the class members will be allowed to seek back pay and injunctive relief, which would require Wal-Mart to end any discriminatory practices. The issue of whether the plaintiffs may seek punitive damages also requires clarification by the lower court.
For now, lead plaintiff Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart greeter in Pittsburg, Calif., is pleased with the Ninth Circuit's ruling allowing her case to go forward as a class action.
"It has taken a very long time and a tremendous amount of work, but it looks like we're finally going to get our day in court," said Dukes in a press statement. "That's all we've ever asked for."
Her attorney Brad Seligman of The Impact Fund, based in Berkeley, Calif., is optimistic about that day in court.
"We are very confident that at the end of the day, we will prevail. The evidence is that strong and the wrongdoing is that clear," he said.
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Susan V. Stromberg is an attorney and freelance writer.

Sex Crime Expert Asks Gore's Accuser: Why Now?

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Monday, June 28, 2010
Sex Crime Expert Asks Gore's Accuser: Why Now?
By Wendy Murphy
WeNews Commentator
Monday, June 28, 2010
A long-time advocate for crime victims is torn about Nobel Laureate Al Gore and the woman accusing him now of a sexual assault in 2006. She believes her yet asks: Why was she silent for so long and why did she go public now?
Wendy MurphyI'm as fierce an advocate as exists for crime victims, but I'm having a tough time figuring out how to feel about Al Gore being publicly accused now of committing a sexual assault in 2006.
It's not that he didn't seem the "type." After the Catholic priest scandal, I gave up thinking there was a man alive who wasn't capable, though if Jimmy Carter gets in the same trouble I will lose my lunch.
But the go-green halo around Gore's presence set him apart somehow. Not that being an environmentalist makes a guy a saint, but Gore seemed almost desperate to have us see him as more moral than the average Al.
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I asked a bunch of women in my community how they felt about the Al Gore news, and they said perplexing victim-blaming things such as "She was in her 50s. Doesn't he know menopausal women aren't horny?" And, "How did she not know that a request for a three-hour massage at 10:30 p.m. is code for 'the guy wants a hooker?" A couple of women cracked jokes: "After she rejected him, did he Tip-per?"
The greenest of the green people I talked to felt betrayed. Gore was their leader and the movement is now, um, stained. The woman even said, according to the transcript of her interview with Portland, Ore., police made public on the Internet, that her "Birkenstock Tribe" friends told her to "suck it up" and not tell anyone or the "world's going to be destroyed from global warming."
I imagine the Nobel Prize people are similarly distraught.

The Cry of Liar Has Not Rung Out

The most interesting issue for me, however, is the way nobody seems to be calling woman a liar. Women who report sex crimes being called liars is a national sport in this country--more so when the accused is someone of substance. But Gore isn't even denying the woman's claims, much less calling her a liar. This not only helps the woman's credibility, it makes me wonder why the case itself took the odd series of twists and turns on its way to this very delayed public exposure.
Significant delay in the reporting of sexual assault typically incites claims of "false accusation." (The typical case is not reported promptly, which should make delayed reports more credible. But I digress). Hell, merely being female usually serves the same purpose. And when the claim is made against a person of wealth or influence, the motive is assumed to be money. But few saying these things about Al Gore's accuser.
Maybe it's because the woman saved the pants she was wearing when she noticed a stain she believed might be Gore's DNA, suggesting a denial might make things worse, a la Bill Clinton's denial before he knew about The Blue Dress.
The accuser told cops in 2009 she saved evidence in A "bank vault." Does it make sense that the woman--who has had more than enough time to obtain DNA test results from a private lab--would mention saving stained pants if the stain produced nothing of forensic value?

Accuser's Attorney Told Police She Would Pursue Case in Civil Court

Al GoreBut here's what I'm stuck on.
The woman filed a report with the police in late 2006, a few weeks after the incident, but then refused to show up for two scheduled police interviews. Her attorney said she did not want the case to be prosecuted in criminal court and would resolve the matter in civil court, instead.
She stayed quiet for a couple of years, not saying anything more to law enforcement officials until January 2009, which makes me wonder why she was content with silence for a while and what changed. Did Gore promise something but never deliver? Did she start off principled; then become greedy?
Was someone blackmailing Gore until he refused to be at their mercy forever? Did Tipper jump the marital ship last month because she found evidence that Al wrote a big check he couldn't explain? Or because Al decided to stop paying his extortionist and had to tell the truth to his wife as a pre-emptive strike before the inevitable news scandal broke?
If the woman wanted money from Al Gore, should we care that she was victimized? Her lawyer said she was proceeding "civilly" when she refused to be interviewed by cops back in 2006, which indicates she was planning to ask Gore for money. What became of that civil case?
If law enforcement refused to press charges because they knew the woman was looking for money, shouldn't we be outraged? Isn't that the kind of corruption that generated huge public outcry when, in the early 1990s, Michael Jackson reportedly paid Jordy Chandler $20 million in exchange for Chandler refusing to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Jackson for child molestation.

Gore Stays Mum Too

It's not as though the cops think the woman is lying. How could they? The fact that Gore is saying nothing makes it especially difficult not to believe the woman's story. That the Enquirer wrote about it further suggests she's telling the truth, even in the face of reports that she asked the Enquirer for a million bucks to tell her story. Tabloids don't have the highest reporting standards, and paying sources undermines their integrity, but they can be sued for libel like any other publication.
Regardless, her story rings true. In more than 70 pages of a transcribed interview with police, her descriptions of the sexual assaults seem credible simply because of the restrained nature of what she accused him of doing. The woman describes Gore moving her hand down toward his penis during an abdominal massage and how he touched her breasts and buttocks, "painfully" squeezed her nipples, and "flipped" her onto the bed, pinning her down and lying on top of her. If she were lying, why not make it juicier?
She even included things about herself that could paint her in a bad light. She told the police that she sat on the bed next to him even after she feared being assaulted and that she didn't leave right away.
Back in 2006, the women told the police, according to the same transcript, that all she wanted was the return of her "pre-assault sense of peace and safety. . . and for this man to be stopped from what he has been doing."
I believe her account.
However, until someone reveals the whole truth about the civil case and whether money exchanged hands for the sale or the silence of this whole sordid story, I can't find a way to give much of a damn about either of them.
But let's give Tipper a standing ovation for jumping ship before she had to figure out whether to "stand by her man."
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Wendy Murphy is an attorney and adjunct professor at the New England School of Law in Boston, where she manages the Sexual Violence Legal News and Judicial Language projects. She is also the author of "And Justice for Some."

Feminist Cheers & Jeers of the Week: Title IX Turns 38; U.K. Cuts Pregnancy Benefits

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Title IX Turns 38; U.K. Cuts Pregnancy Benefits

By WeNews staff
Saturday, June 26, 2010
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Cheers

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  • June 23 marked the 38th anniversary of Title IX, the U.S. law prohibiting institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex. The law has been credited with dramatically changing education throughout the nation.



    More News to Cheer This Week:

    • New legislation designed to aggressively address the sexual-exploitation of children by sex-traffickers was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill would add $45 million to law enforcement and victim-assistance efforts, reported LifeSiteNews.com June 24. "Too many think that sex trafficking is only a problem in foreign countries. But here in the U.S., an estimated 100,000 underage girls--most of them American citizens--are exploited through commercial sex each year," said Rep. Maloney.
       
    • A group of Palestinian women in the West Bank this month launched Nisaa FM, a rare all-women's radio stations in the Arab world, reported Voice of America June 24. Founder and manager Maysoun Odeh says the station is to entertain women, but also empower them, providing hope and inspiration for the future. "We broadcast success stories of women regionally, internationally, or locally in which they can take example from, and they know that they can do something and they can achieve something regardless of the situation," says Odeh.
       
    • The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation announced June 23 that it will award the 2010 Women's Rights Prize to two organizations that have contributed significantly through litigation, law reform and education to advancing women's reproductive health and rights in many countries, reported Globe Newswire June 23. The recipients are the Center for Reproductive Rights and Comite de America Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer. Earlier this year, Women's eNews named Patricia Gruber one of its 21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2010.
       
    • Angela James and Cammi Granato have become the first two women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, reported The New York Times June 22. James was a member of the Canadian national team--which won the gold medal in 1990--and Granato was the captain of the United States team that took home the gold at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. The Hockey Hall of Fame, which limits the number of annual inductees to five, altered its rules this year to include female players. "I look at this as a great day for women's hockey," said James.
       
    • More than 100 women's and reproductive-rights organizations wrote a last-minute letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to include abortion funding in his G8 maternal- and child-health initiative, reported Winnipeg Free Press June 22. Though abortion has been legal across Canada since 1988, the Conservative prime minister had said he would not include abortion or family planning and contraception in the maternal- and child-health initiative he was set to introduce at the G8 summit in Ontario.
       
    • An evangelical feminist movement is offering support to Catholic sisters in the United States under investigation by the Vatican, according to a press statement by the group June 21. Members of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus--Christian Feminism Today are extending their support, solidarity and prayers to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and to the 341 congregations of women currently undergoing apostolic visitation.
       
    • The United Nations Development Fund for Women and the United Nations Global Compact June 21 announced 39 lead signers of the CEO Statement of Support for the Women's Empowerment Principles, according to a Development Fund press statement. The CEO Statement of Support commits business leaders to use the seven Women's Empowerment Principles as guide posts for actions that advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community, and communicate progress through the use of sex-disaggregated data and other benchmarks.
       
    • A three-year, $500,000 renovation of the Kabul Women's Garden in Afghanistan is set to finish July 5, reported The New York Times June 20. The labor force for the renovation is 50 percent female and every 40 days, a new crew of female laborers is brought in to give more women an opportunity to earn money and learn skills. The eight-acre enclosure allows inside only women and male children under 9-years old. Burqas usually come off once women enter the gates, reported the article, and dressing rooms are available for the women to change into normal clothes, makeup and high heels. The garden is considered an oasis of freedom for women, with opportunities for relaxation--including fitness classes, hair salons and a mosque with religious instruction given by a woman--as well as opportunities for employment as chefs, police officers and store owners.





    Jeers

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    Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced heavy credit reductions and froze benefits for thousands of mothers and pregnant women across the United Kingdom, reported The Guardian June 22.
    Among the reductions are the elimination of infant tax credit--which is paid until the youngest child's first birthday--and the health in pregnancy grant--which is paid to all pregnant women beyond their 25th week of pregnancy. The amount of child benefit will be frozen at its current level for the next three years.

    More News to Jeer This Week:

    • China has dropped significantly in world rank in terms of female representation in parliament, with 62 countries now having more women in parliament than China compared to 15 in the 1990s, reported The New York Times June 24. "It's not that China has gotten worse," says Zou Xiaoqiao, director general of the international liaison department at the Women's Federation, "It's that the rest of the world has gotten better." China has held steady at just more than 20 percent female parliamentary representation while countries like Rwanda, Nepal and Burundi have surged ahead, reported the article.
       
    • A new study shows that high levels of common flame-retardant chemicals appear to alter thyroid hormone levels in pregnant women, reported The Los Angeles Times June 21. The link is important because the chemicals, in high enough levels, could affect the pregnancy and the health of the fetus, explained Jonathan Chevrier, one of the study's authors. The chemicals--called PDBEs or polybrominated diphenyl ethers--are found in carpets, textiles, foam furnishings, electronics and plastics.

    Noted:

    • Nearly 1 in 5 American women beyond childbearing years never gave birth, as fewer couples--particularly higher-educated whites--view having children as necessary to a good marriage, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center released June 25, reported the Associated Press. The figures indicate that among all women ages 40-44, about 18 percent--or 1.9 million--were childless in 2008. That's up from 10 percent--or nearly 580,000--in 1976, reported the article. Broken down by race, roughly 20 percent of white women are childless, compared with 17 percent of black and of Hispanic and 16 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander women.
       
    • A new study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that children prenatally exposed to relatively high maternal blood sugar levels have lower insulin sensitivity and greater post-meal insulin secretion--independent of body composition and other confounding factors, reported the University June 25. The study's findings suggest that the prenatal environment may program fetal carbohydrate metabolism. "Many other studies have shown that children from mothers with high blood sugar during pregnancy are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes," says study co-author Paula Chandler-Laney. "Now, this study is the first to show that even for children who have not yet become diabetic, there are changes in the way the body secretes and responds to insulin following prenatal exposure to high maternal blood sugar."
       
    • Women in Islam, Inc., announced this year's recipients of the Dr. Betty Shabazz Recognition Award to be filmmaker Kathleen Foster and founder and executive director of Turning Point for Women and Children Robina Niaz, according to a press statement by the organization June 25. Since 2002, Women in Islam, Inc., has been celebrating annually the example and legacy of Dr. Betty Shabazz--the widow of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)--by recognizing other women of all backgrounds and faiths who demonstrate an unwavering and courageous dedication to helping others.
       
    • There is no new evidence to indicate fetuses feel pain in the womb before 24 weeks, according to a recent report by the United Kingdom's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reported BBC June 24. The report explained that nerve connections in the cortex--the area in the brain that processes responses to pain--does not form properly before 24 weeks. Even after 24 weeks, the report concludes, a fetus is naturally sedated and unconscious in the womb. The issue of whether a fetus of 24 weeks or below can feel pain had been raised in the debate over whether the current legal time limit for abortions should be reduced.
       
    • Julia Gillard was sworn in as Australia's first female Prime Minister after Kevin Rudd--faced with a revolt from within his own governing party--stepped down from the position June 24, reported The New York Times.
       
    • A Portland, Ore., massage therapist, 54, gave local police a detailed statement in 2009 alleging that former Vice President Al Gore groped her, kissed her and made unwanted sexual advances in a hotel suite during a late-night massage session in October 2006, reported OregonLive.com June 23. The Portland Police Bureau did not consult with the district attorney's office about the statement and the case is currently closed. "The case was not investigated any further because detectives concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations," a police statement said in response to press inquiries. National Enquirer broke the story on its Website June 23.
       
    • A five-month investigation by The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute has found evidence supporting that the three American hikers arrested last July by Iranian forces near the Iraq border were on Iraqi territory when arrested, not in Iran as Iranian officials have asserted, reported The Nation June 23. The investigation revealed further that the Revolutionary Guards officer who likely ordered their detention has since been arrested on charges of smuggling, kidnapping and murder. As of June 23, the hikers, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd, had been detained by Iran for ten months and twenty-three days. Shourd filed a news story to Women's eNews on Syrian women's resistance to the imposition of strict Sharia laws shortly before she was seized. Women's eNews published the piece June 7 with the help of her mother.
       
    • An Australian study suggests that a woman's body may be unconsciously selective about sperm, allowing some men's to progress to pregnancy but kill off the chances of less suitable matches, reported Agence France-Presse June 23. University of Adelaide professor Sarah Robertson said her research suggests that sperm contain "signaling molecules" that activate immunity changes in a woman so her body accepts it, but some apparently-healthy sperm fail to activate these changes, suggesting that the female system can be "choosy" about its biological mate, reported the article.
       
    • Nikki Haley won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in South Carolina June 22, reported USA Today. If she's victorious in the general election, Haley will become the state's first female governor. The Susan B. Anthony List--which supports anti-choice female candidates--hailed Haley's victory as "an example of the electoral power of authentic, pro-life feminism in this election cycle."
       
    • A new study reveals that women who have menopause early--before the age of 46 either naturally or with the surgical removal of both ovaries--have more than twice the risk of cardiovascular trouble, heart attack and stroke after the age of 55, reported Agence France-Presse June 21. Though past research has linked early menopause and cardiovascular disease in mostly white and European populations, this new research involved a multiethnic mix of more than 2,500 white, black, Hispanic and Chinese-American women. "Our study is observational; therefore, we cannot conclude that early menopause somehow causes future cardiovascular," said Melissa Wellons, lead author of the study. "However, our findings do support the possible use of age at menopause as a marker of future heart and vascular disease risk."
       
    • Female condoms with "teeth" meant to protect women against rape are being distributed in South African cities where World Cup games are taking place, reported CNN June 21. Invented by South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers, Rape-aXe is a tampon-like latex condom lined with jagged rows of teeth-like hooks that will attach onto a man's penis during penetration. It is painful but doesn't break the skin, and once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it --a procedure Ehlers hopes will be performed with authorities on standby to make an arrest. Critics accuse Ehlers' device of being a medieval method of fighting rape. "Yes, my device may be medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades," says Ehlers. "I believe something's got to be done . . . and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."
       
    • Eight men participated in the June 11 Ladies No-limit Hold 'em Championship--just one of the tournaments in the 57-event World Series of Poker running through mid July--sparking a heated debate on gender segregation in the poker world, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer June 21. Shaun Deeb, who dressed in drag for the event and has since apologized for his costume, says he stands by his point that segregation by sex is wrong in a game of mental acumen. Annie Duke, one of the best-known female players in the world, agrees and advocates discontinuing the ladies championship event.