The U.S. federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was struck down by two federal courts Jan. 31, because it lacks an exception for the health of the woman. Both the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York and the 9th Circuit in San Francisco called the law unconstitutional, Reuters reported, with the San Francisco court also stating that the law was vague, “depriving doctors of fair notice of what it prohibits and encouraging arbitrary enforcement.” Both decisions could be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Bush administration is in fact currently appealing to the Supreme Court a similar decision by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The 2003 law has never taken effect because of the various legal challenges against it. Women’s health advocates and their attorneys challenge the law repeatedly because the language in the law is so vague that it could ban abortions after 12 weeks and because it has no exception to protect the health of the pregnant woman.
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Chilean president-elect Michelle Bachelet’s new cabinet will be comprised of an equal number of men and women, she announced Jan. 30. Her decision puts Chile in the top ranks of countries when it comes to female representation in government. In the latest annual survey conducted by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, Rwanda tops the list with 49 percent female members of its lower house. The United States is 69th on the list, with only 15 percent of seats in Congress held by women.
A special "tribunal" was held at the Latin American phase of the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 29 to hear testimonies from international activists and victims of gender-based violence and discrimination. Although the tribunal has no legal authority, its organizers--various nongovernmental organizations from Asia and North and South America--hope the testimonies will draw attention to the impact on women of such problems as “femicide” and state-sponsored terrorism, the Inter Press Service reported.
The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony Feb. 1 from leading figures in women’s sports on how a Department of Education policy is chipping away at Title IX gains, the Washington, D.C.-based National Women’s Law Center announced in a press release. A 2005 Department of Education clarification of Title IX removes schools and universities’ obligation to seriously investigate whether they are satisfying women’s interests in sports. Schools can now claim compliance after sending a simple e-mail survey to female students asking about their interest in additional sports opportunities.
The former commander of Abu Ghraib prison, Col. Janis Karpinski, said publicly that several female U.S. soldiers posted in Iraq died of dehydration after refusing to drink in the afternoon and evening. They were afraid of being assaulted or raped by male soldiers when they used the women’s latrine at Baghdad’s Camp Victory in the night, Karpinski said, the Web site Truth Out.org reported Jan. 30. She said at the event that the problem occurred at bases throughout Iraq, where women’s latrines are often located away from the barracks and have insufficient lighting.
Karpinski, the highest officer reprimanded in the Abu Ghraib scandal, spoke Jan. 21.at a New York event sponsored by an Oakland-based anti-war group Not in Our Name. She claimed that the cause of the female soldiers’ deaths was covered up under orders from Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez, the former senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, again according to Truth Out.org. Karpinski quoted Sanchez as saying, “The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.”
The Department of Defense has not responded to the accusation. In January 2005, it issued a new sexual assault prevention policy.
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Up to 3 million U.S. women may suffer from ischemic heart disease, and half of these cases may be missed in standard check-ups. That’s because plaque buildup in women’s arteries is more diffuse, unlike the large blockages found in men’s arteries, observed a report published by the National Institutes of Health Jan. 31. This disease is particularly common in young women and is just as dangerous as the better-known version of the disease that afflicts mainly men.
Catholic hospitals are not offering emergency contraception to sexual assault patients in 35 percent of the cases they handle, a survey by the Washington-based advocacy group Catholics for a Free Choice reported Feb. 2. A telephone survey in California, New Mexico, New York and Washington state indicated that hospitals were not providing or were making it very difficult to obtain emergency contraception, despite state laws requiring sexual assault victims to be given it upon request.