Plan B Decision Near; Mammograms Questioned

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers:

After months of delay, the Senate approved Lester Crawford to head the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. The breakthrough came after Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt announced that the agency would make a decision by Sept. 1 on whether to give the emergency contraceptive pill known as “Plan B” over-the-counter status. That announcement prompted two Democratic senators–Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington State–to lift a hold they had placed on the nominee to protest the agency’s inaction on the decision.

“It is long past time that the American people had a decision on Plan B and the FDA has finally agreed to give women across the country what we have fought for from the beginning–a yes or no decision,” Murray said in a release.

Other Things to Cheer About This Week:

  • The board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra made history Wednesday when it formally tapped Marin Alsop to become the first woman to head a major American orchestra, the Baltimore Sun reported. Ignoring pleas from the orchestra’s musicians to extend the search to other candidates, the board offered the post of music director to Marin Alsop, currently the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England.
  • The Ministry of Women’s Affairs announced Thursday that female civic educators have been dispatched to inform women in provincial areas of Afghanistan through local media, mosques and schools about the September parliamentary elections, reported Reuters. Every team consists of three women and aims to encourage voting among at least 1,000 women per province.
  • Five-year imprisonment for branding women as witches is a provision of the Witchcraft Atrocities (Prevention) Act 2005, passed Tuesday by the Indian state government of Chhattisgarh, reported the online edition of Hindustan Times. The legislation is a response to an escalating number of crimes against rural women allegedly involved in supernatural practices.
  • Haitian women launched Tuesday a support network for female candidates in the upcoming local elections in October, reported U.N. News Center.
  • South Korean women have equal rights to membership in an extended family or clan as male adults do after the Supreme Court voted Thursday to reverse Korea’s century-old patriarchal clan system, reported South Korea’s JoongAng Daily newspaper. Under Confucian tradition, only men older than 20 years of age are recognized as members of a clan board–a decision-making body of a common-descent social group.
  • Mohammed Amin Adam, Ghana’s deputy northern regional minister, said Wednesday that women should receive priority consideration in allocations by district assemblies and nongovernmental organizations, reported GhanaWeb.
  • The second Women Ordination Worldwide international conference seeking admission of women to the Catholic priesthood will gather 400 people in Ottawa, Canada, this weekend, reported the Ottawa Citizen.

Jeers:

The Journal of National Cancer Institute published a study that indicated that mammography is not as effective in real life as it is in carefully controlled medical studies, the American Cancer Society announced on Tuesday. Researchers found no benefits of the medical check-up when they compared women who died of breast cancer to women who never got breast cancer.

“I hope the results of our study will serve as an impetus to investigators and funding agencies,” said Dr. Joann Elmore of the University of Washington School of Medicine, who conducted the study. “We can’t be complacent about screening.”

Robert Smith, the director of the cancer screening for the society, said that Elmore’s study is an occasional report and should not discourage evidence of a long-term trend in medical advice in favor of mammography.

Other Things to Jeer About This Week:

  • The rights of Iraqi women in regards to marriage, divorce and family inheritance will dramatically change if the draft of the new constitution is passed, according to news reports. A chapter of the draft grants women equal rights as long as they do not violate Sharia law. Marriage, divorce and inheritance would be subjected to the law practiced by the family’s religion under Article 14 of the chapter. Shiite women in Iraq are not allowed to marry without family consent, and under Sharia men divorce simply by stating their intention three times in their wives’ presence.

    Outraged women’s groups protested the proposal Tuesday in Baghdad. Iraqi officials say that the constitution is not finalized.

    “We want to a guarantee of women’s rights in the new constitution,” Hannah Edwar, an organizer of the protest, said.

  • The National Cancer Institute released a report Monday that found that despite an overall decline in cervical cancer deaths in the United States, cervical cancer mortality remains high in certain populations that lack access to quality health care. Those groups with the highest mortality rates include African American women in the South, Hispanic women along the Texas-Mexico border, white women in Appalachia, American Indians of the Northern Plains, Vietnamese American women and Alaska Natives, the report showed.
  • The National Women’s Law Center, a legal advocacy group in Washington, D.C., objected Monday to a plan approved by the National Governors’ Association that they said would allow states to assess new medical co-payments to all Medicaid beneficiaries, regardless of their medical need or ability to pay. Under the current system, needy beneficiaries are exempt from cost-sharing plans. “Imposing co-payment requirements on those who cannot afford them is counterproductive and harmful,” Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a release. “Study after study shows that requiring out-of-pocket payments for the very poor results in their not getting care when needed and no money savings in the long run.”
  • Two more California women, who took RU-486, the so-called abortion pill, died due to suspected bacterial infections, according to press reports. The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday drug labels’ will be changed to warn women and doctors about signs of illness not always accompanied by fever but the agency said it is not alarmed by the already five fatalities.
  • More Hispanic women smoke cigarettes in the United Sates than they do in their native countries due to cultural influences, revealed a systematic review of studies by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, according to a Tuesday press release. There is no similar increase in Hispanic men, the study found.
  • Mixed-sex running races in Pakistan have been disrupted in recent weeks by conservatives, who claim that women and men cannot play sports together because of religious and social values, reported Reuters on Wednesday.
  • Zimbabwean women encourage “negative attitudes” towards sex by wearing Western-style revealing clothing, said Kenneth Mutiwekuziva, deputy minister for small and medium enterprise development, reported the state-run Herald newspaper on Wednesday.
  • Cambodia’s Ministry of Health Women reported that women accounted for 60 percent of the patients with HIV/AIDS between 2003 and 2004, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua on Thursday. Among 100 women with the disease, 42 were women infected by their spouses.
  • Australian opposition leader Jenny Macklin said Thursday that women in Australia earn 66 percent of the men’s total earnings and may get even less if the government adopts industrial changes to replace collective labor agreements with individual ones, reported Australia’s daily newspaper The Age.
  • Men in Lebanon can kill female family members for compromising the family’s honor under the Lebanese Penal Code, which is gender-biased and outdated, reported national newspaper the Daily Star on Friday. The legislation recognizes adultery as a crime for women but not men, argued women’s rights activists at the Lebanese Press Federation.
  • A pregnant housewife, whose name was not reported, was gang-raped on Wednesday in a moving car in New Delhi, India, reported Indo-Asian News Service. The Delhi Commission for Women has recorded 350 cases of rape in the capital this year alone.
  • Women, some in their teens, were smuggled into the U.S. from Honduras to dance in New Jersey bars and were often raped by their traffickers, according to a federal indictment returned on Thursday after agents arrested the assailants in January, reported the Associated Press. Raped victims, who became pregnant, were forced to take abortion-inducing drugs to stay on the job.

–Allison Stevens contributed to this report.

Kamelia Angelova, an intern at Women’s eNews and a freelance reporter based in New York City, studies Journalism and Political Science at Hunter College. Allison Stevens is Washington Bureau Chief at Women’s eNews.

For more information:

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra–
Historic Musical Milestone: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Appoints Alsop:
http://www.baltimoresymphony.org/pressroom/pressreleases/view.asp?id=30000173

National Cancer Institute–
An Analysis: Excess Cervical Cancer Mortality [Adobe PDF]:
http://crchd.nci.nih.gov/meetings/Excess%20CervCanMort.pdf

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