February 11, 2012

Prop 8 Overturned; Staples Slams Breastfeeding

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

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A federal appeals court panel in San Francisco ruled Feb. 7 that California’s voter-mandated ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, reported The Wall Street Journal. In a 2-1 vote, the panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California’s 2008 law, known as Proposition 8, used the state’s initiative power to target a minority group and take away a right the group possessed without legitimate reason.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Obama administration’s compromise with religiously-affiliated institutions on the matter of providing birth control without co-pays or deductibles maintained the key component that women, regardless of an employer’s religious links, will have access to contraception without paying out-of-pocket, reported the Washington Post Feb. 10. If a religiously-affiliated institution opts out of providing birth control coverage, employees can be covered directly by the insurance company that provides the employer’s plans.
  • In response to a personhood bill recently approved by an Oklahoma Senate panel, Oklahoma State Sen. Jim Wilson, who is pro-choice, added an amendment that would make the father of the fetus financially responsible for the mother’s health care, housing, transportation and nourishment during the pregnancy, according to Tulsa World Feb. 9. The amendment failed. Another pro-choice state senator, Constance Johnson, introduced an amendment criminalizing male masturbation, reported AP/CBS Houston Feb. 9.
  • J.C. Penney’s lead executive defended the company’s decision to hire Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson despite the anger of One Million Moms, a program of the American Family Association, with a mission to promote Christian values in the media.The group takes issue with the fact that DeGeneres is a lesbian, reported CBS Feb. 9.
  • The Pentagon is recommending to Congress that women be allowed to serve in jobs closer to the front lines, opening up about 14,000 additional jobs to women, reported the Associated Press Feb. 9. Despite the current ban, the necessities of war have already propelled women to the front lines as medics, military police and intelligence officers.
  • Birth and abortion rates among U.S. teens fell to record lows in 2008 as increased use of contraceptives sent the overall teen pregnancy rate to its lowest level since at least 1972, Reuters reported Feb. 8. However, disparities among racial and ethnic groups persist, with black and Hispanic teens experiencing pregnancy and abortion rates two-to-four-times higher than their white peers, the study shows.
  • A group of senators is launching a bid to organize one million people in support of women’s rights, The Huffington Post reported Feb. 8. Led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., seven Democratic senators and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are appealing to backers on all of their websites to sign on to "One Million Strong For Women" in hopes of harnessing the energy displayed in the backlash against Komen.
  • The World Bank launched a free iPhone and iPad app that uses photographs to highlight women’s issues, The Bangkok Post reported Feb. 8.
  • New York’s hotels have agreed to equip their employees with panic buttons that will summon help immediately in case of a sexual assault attempt, The New York Times reported Feb. 7.
  • Mozambique is expected to pass a bill to legalize abortions in March in an effort to reduce the country’s high rate of unsafe backroom abortions, The Christian Science Monitor reported Feb. 7. Clandestine abortions are responsible for more than 5,000 maternal deaths each year, according to the Ministry of Health.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hailed the participation of Tunisian women in political life, particularly in regards to the prominent presence of female membership in the Constituent Assembly, Tunisia Live reported Feb. 7.
  • Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee launched a peace foundation in her home nation of Liberia aimed at lifting young girls out of social squalor and giving them life skills, AFP reported Feb. 6. Gbowee called teen pregnancy a major problem in Liberia, along with gender-based violence, low literacy levels and high infant and maternal mortality rates.
  • Two Saudi female activists have filed lawsuits against the government for refusing to issue them driver’s licenses and banning them from driving a car, The Telegraph reported Feb. 6. Manal al-Sherif, the icon of an Internet campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a ban on driving, and human rights activist Samar Badawi filed their suits against the Interior Ministry.
  • Dozens of people demonstrated outside of Israel’s parliament to push lawmakers to adopt legislation that could curtail sex trafficking by punishing clients of prostitutes with up to five months in jail, The Jerusalem Post reported Feb 5. They would also have to attend a two-day educational program, known as the "School for Johns."
  • The Women’s Sports Foundation and the Association of Title IX Administrators are condemning opposition to the sexual assault guidelines that colleges and universities must follow, according to a press release issued by the Women’s Sports Foundation Feb. 8. The organizations claim that the guidelines schools must follow, set by the Department of Education, offer sufficient due process and that the "promptness" requirement that colleges must adhere to is fair and just.
  • A city in the United Arab Emirates announced that it has launched a women’s dispatch taxi service to cater to women and families in the emirate, The Gulf News reported Feb. 6. Female taxi drivers in the city of Sharjah will be allocated to transport women to universities and hospitals, in addition to other destinations.
  • Mothers angry at Facebook for taking down photos of women breastfeeding their children staged nurse-ins at the company’s new Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters and satellite offices around the world, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Feb. 7. Facebook officials said that breastfeeding photos are taken down only when they are flagged as inappropriate and that sometimes errors happen.

Jeers

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Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg considers breastfeeding mothers as a serious threat to economic recovery and job creation, Think Progress Health reported Feb. 7. Stemberg, a longtime supporter of Republican policies and candidates such as Mitt Romney, complained that President Obama’s health care reform law hurts businesses by requiring them to provide what he dubbed "lactation chambers" for new moms who need to breastfeed at work.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said in an interview with NBC’s "Today" show that he is concerned that the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to work certain jobs on the front lines in battalions will cloud men’s judgment, reported CBS Feb. 10.
  • A bill passed by the Virginia Senate, which is virtually a shoo-in to pass in the House and which Gov. Bob McDonnell has said he will sign, allows private adoption agencies to deny placing children in homes that conflict with moral or religious stances of the agency, reported The Huffington Post Feb. 9. Its passage will mean that Virginia is the second state, after North Dakota, to give adoption agencies the right to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
  • Fourteen percent of households in Haiti claim that at least one household member was a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake in 2010, and about 70 percent feared sexual violence more now than before the earthquake, according to a report by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, released Feb. 6.
  • Women with low levels of literacy face disproportionately lower wages than men with similar literacy levels, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported Feb. 8.
  • The British government’s decision to increase the threshold at which workers are to be automatically enrolled onto company pension schemes could affect 2 million women, the Trades Union Congress warned, BBC News reported Feb. 8.
  • A U.S. federal judge allowed the state of Texas to begin enforcing a law requiring abortion providers to show or describe to a woman an ultrasound image of her fetus, Reuters reported Feb. 7. However the judge criticized an appeals court that earlier overturned his decision to block parts of the statute.

Noted:

  • Greg Kelly, television anchor and son of New York City’s Police Department commissioner, will not be charged after accusations were made that he met a woman for drinks and subsequently raped her, according to the Associated Press Feb. 7.
  • A central Pennsylvania college is under much scrutiny after federal regulators found out a vending machine on campus has been selling students the "morning after" pill, Syracuse.com reported Feb. 8. Shippensburg University has been offering the birth control option for at least two years. Peter Gigliotti, spokesperson for the university, said the college started providing the pills when a survey found 85 percent of students supported it.
  • Barack Obama has the highest percentage of campaign contributions coming from women than any other presidential candidate this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Feb. 7. About 44 percent of campaign funds for Obama came from women, while 56 percent came from men. In comparison, Mitt Romney’s campaign raised 30 percent of its funds from women. Rick Santorum’s campaign similarly raised about 32 percent of campaign contributions from women. Santorum surprised many by winning two caucuses and a primary on Feb. 7, reported the Wall Street Journal Feb. 8.
  • A controversial memo circulated by House Republicans argued for a "prenatal discrimination bill" by referring to "black abortions" and calling abortion the leading cause of death in the black community, Mother Jones reported Feb. 7.
  • Karen Handel, a high-ranking official from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, resigned Feb. 7 following the dispute over whether the group should continue funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, reported the Associated Press.
  • Chinese mothers who travel to Hong Kong to give birth to a second child are being fined on their return for breaching Beijing’s one-child policy, The Boston Herald reported Feb. 7. Tens of thousands of Chinese women a year travel to Hong Kong to give birth, some to avoid fines for second children under China’s one-child policy.
  • John F. Kennedy carried on an 18-month-long affair with a teen White House intern, according to a new book published this week. The author, a 69-year-old grandmother, claims to be the late U.S. president’s lover, The Associated Press reported Feb. 6. In her memoir, "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath," Mimi Alford details how their relationship started in the summer of 1962.
  • Mexico’s former education minister, Josefina Vázquez Mota, easily won the nomination of the ruling party, the National Action Party, The Christian Science Monitor reported Feb. 6. If she wins the July 1 election, Mexico will join the other Latin American countries that have elected women as presidents: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Argentina.
  • Nearly three-quarters of U.S. black women worry about not having enough money to pay their bills, a survey by The Washington Post  and Kaiser Family Foundation released Feb. 5. The financial stress may be an extension of a lack of job skills and extended family commitments. Fewer than half of black women believe they have the necessary skills to be competitive in the current job market.

In Memoriam:

  • Florence Green, a veteran of the Women’s Royal Air Force and the last living veteran of World War I, died at the age of 110 in an English nursing home, UPI.com reported Feb. 7.

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