A federal judge in Missouri suspended regulations that make it more difficult for clinics and doctors who perform more than five abortions a month to operate. The rules--dubbed TRAP laws by opponents--require extensive upgrades to facilities that provide surgical or medical abortion services and govern everything from hallway width to landscaping. Doctor's offices that only prescribe the abortion pill RU-486 are also required to conform and provide surgical suites even when surgeries are not performed. Similar regulations are in place in 28 states and typically receive little public attention, Stateline.org reported Sept. 24. Future rulings in the Missouri case could have national implications.
The European Court of Human Rights upheld court-ordered compensation for a Polish woman who went blind after she was denied a legal abortion, the Irish Times reported Sept. 25. Poland bans nearly all abortion but does allow them if a woman's health is at risk. Doctors who warned Alicia Tysiac that carrying her pregnancy to term would damage her eyesight nonetheless refused to authorize the procedure.
Latin American and Caribbean advocacy groups are rallying behind a regional campaign to decriminalize abortion, which celebrates its 17th anniversary on Sept. 28. Venezuela and Mexico organized civil disobedience marches, while groups in other countries called for legislative reform. The region has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, according to Human Rights Watch. Up to 31 percent of pregnancies end in abortion, and botched procedures account for 13 percent of maternal deaths, according to the Latin American Health and Woman Center in Mexico.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- The U.S. Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Act by a vote of 60 to 39 on Sept. 27. The bill expands federal hate crimes legislation to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The House passed a companion bill in May. President Bush has threatened a veto, but the Los Angeles Times reported that legislators tacked it on to a war funding bill in an attempt to avert a veto.
- Rap musician Master P apologized in front of a congressional panel on Tuesday for the misogynist lyrics that have laced his platinum-selling albums. "I want to apologize to all the women out there. I was honestly wrong," he said, adding that being a father adjusted his attitude. The hearings were arranged after radio host Don Imus was fired for slurring black women in a manner that some felt was influenced by hip-hop.
- Mexican women are now training for military positions such as pilots and engineers, the Associated Press reported Sept. 28. The careers provide a pathway to becoming generals. Female cadets, who remain barred from direct combat, now undergo grueling preparation side by side with their male counterparts.
- The Anglican Church in Australia announced on Sept. 28 that it will allow women to become bishops, but some parishes have vowed to resist. The church has ordained female priests for about 10 years.
- In Connecticut, bishops have agreed to permit emergency contraception for rape victims at Catholic hospitals a few days before a state law requiring them to do so comes into effect. The church previously vowed to fight the mandate by equating Plan B with abortion, but a Sept. 28 joint statement said there is now "serious doubt" about how the pill works. Medical authorities say Plan B prevents ovulation and does not affect existing pregnancies.
- Marin Alsop took the baton Sept. 27 for her first concert as the music director and principal conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, making her the first female leader of a preeminent U.S. symphony. So far, new subscriber ticket sales are up 400 percent, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
- Harvard medical student Sophie Currier will be granted a longer break during her medical licensing exam so that she can pump breast milk for her 4-month-old child, an appeals court ruled Sept. 27. The decision reversed a previous ruling that denied her an extra hour on testing days.
- Cervarix, the HPV vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved for sale in the European Union Sept. 24. The vaccine is a competitor to Merck's Gardasil and prevents cervical cancer caused by two strains of human papillomavirus.
For more information:
Where My Ladies At? Forum on Women and Rap Lyrics:
Nobel Women's Initiative:
"Burmese Women Expose Rapes by Military Regime":
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Myanmar's military regime has cracked down on peaceful protesters and tightened security around the house of opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi in Rangoon. Suu Kyi heads the National League of Democracy, which won elections in 1990. The Myanmar regime has prevented the party from taking power and Suu Kyi from assuming the office of prime minister.
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, is one of 12 women to win the prize and the only laureate--male or female--currently imprisoned. On Sept. 27, the BBC reported that she greeted marching monks in front of her house and prayed with them, her first public appearance in four years.
The Nobel Women's Initiative--started by six female peace laureates to prevent violence by promoting women's rights--issued a special appeal for Suu Kyi's release from house arrest. The initiative urges the United Nations to enable reconciliation and democracy in Myanmar.
"Our sister laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and so many other women and men have risked their safety to return to the streets day after day, year after year, to demand the most basic rights and freedoms," reads a statement on the initiative's Web site. "For 17 years now Suu Kyi has paid the price, imprisoned in her home, while the regime pads its pockets and brutalizes its people."
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Swazi police found approximately 80 fetuses in a stream at Logoba, a shanty town community south of Manzini. "A means must be found to give women control, or at least a say, in sexual reproduction, so they do not have to resort to drastic and dangerous measures," Sipiwe Tsabedze, a social worker, told U.N. news agency IRIN. In Swaziland, abortion is illegal, unwanted pregnancies common and family planning often rejected by men. Prior to the 2006 constitution women had the legal status of minors.
- Financial news service Bloomberg is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of three female executives. The women claim they were demoted and discriminated against after returning from maternity leaves. The company's former CEO, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been sued by female employees in the past. They alleged the company was a "boys' club," the New York Daily News reported Sept. 28.
- Women are contributing to sectarian violence in Baghdad. A gang of Shia women affiliated with cleric Moqtada al Sadr murdered three Sunni Muslim women in the al-Washshash district of the Iraqi capital, the Adnkronos International Iran news service reported Sept. 25. The gang broke into the victims' homes assisted by members of the Mahdi army.
Nudity is being tested as a new campaign strategy in Poland. Candidates of the Seven Women's Party posed naked on their campaign poster for the Oct. 21 parliamentary election, causing a stir. Their slogan? "Everything for the future . . . and nothing to hide." The party was founded by writer Manuela Gretkowska because the Polish government is considering tightening controls on abortion, the Telegraph reported Sept. 26.
Sarah Seltzer is a New York-based freelance writer and the editorial intern at Women's eNews. Dominique Soguel is Women's eNews Arabic site editor.
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