Dr. Eric Keroack, who has been embroiled in controversy since he was appointed as the Health and Human Services Department's chief family planning officer in November, abruptly resigned his post on March 29, Reuters reported.
Keroack's selection by President Bush was met with strong criticism from women's groups over his anti-abortion stance and his previous work with five Massachusetts "crisis pregnancy" centers. Massachusetts state Medicaid officials took an undisclosed action against Keroack earlier in the week, which led to his departure.
In his federal position, Keroack oversaw $283 million in family planning grants used to provide contraception to low-income women, but his opposition to contraception provoked 107 House Democrats and three Republicans to call for his resignation in December.
"It's a good day for women's health," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said. "Keroack was unqualified to run the nation's family planning program. The nation's family planning program should be run by a champion for women's health and safety."
More News to Cheer This Week:
- The 'Yogyakarta Principles' for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights were introduced at the U.N. Human Rights Council's session in Geneva by a group of 29 advocates, the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission announced March 29. The principles recommend a strategy for how governments should treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and address rape and other forms of gender-based violence; extrajudicial executions, torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment; medical abuses; repression of free speech and assembly; and discrimination in work, health, education, housing, access to justice and immigration.
- Several thousand women marched in Mexico City to support a bill that would legalize abortion in the capital city, the Associated Press reported March 29. The proposal has faced stiff opposition from President Felipe Calderon and Catholic activists, but the city assembly is expected to approve it, legalizing abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.
- Los Angeles-based nail polish manufacturer OPI Products announced March 29 that it will remove the hazardous solvent toluene from its products following requests from women's and environmental health groups. Toluene and other chemicals common in nail and cosmetic products have been linked to cancer, birth defects and other health issues. Last spring, OPI began to remove dibutyl phthalate from products by improving formulas and finding alternatives. OPI representatives also said they offer a formaldehyde-free version of nail hardener while they try to find a replacement for the chemical.
- The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to increase funding to help low-income women access tests to detect breast and cervical cancer. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program helps uninsured or underinsured women get mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Funding will rise from $202 million in 2007 to $275 million in 2012; currently 1 in 5 eligible women receives assistance.
- Ria Cortesio became the first woman to umpire a Major League Baseball game since 1989 when she officiated a spring-training match between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 29, the AP reported. Cortesio currently umpires in a minor league but plans to continue moving up. Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who has made headlines over the years for dusting up umpires, pledged not to argue with her. "I think there is a place for women in the umpiring ranks; they're certainly as qualified as anybody else," he said.
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Pregnancy discrimination complaints have increased 23 percent since 1997, the Baltimore Sun reported March 28. The complaints are from women like Kimberly Sudhoff, who said she wasn't hired when a potential employer found out she was four months pregnant, and range from demotions to firings.
The record 4,901 complaints filed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year boosted pregnancy discrimination to one of the fastest-growing bias allegations. Although the rise partly reflects the increased number of women working, it may not account for all discrimination because women still consider filing a complaint a "career killer," according to the article.
"Women should never be forced to choose between motherhood and their livelihood," EEOC spokesperson David Grinberg said. "Employers should be sensitive to this issue."
More News to Jeer This Week:
- The South Carolina Senate will lose its only female member when Sen. Linda Short retires next year, the State newspaper reported March 26. South Carolina has the lowest ranking in the nation of women in the legislature, with 8.8 percent of lawmakers compared to 23 percent nationally. Rep. Catherine Celps, who serves in the South Carolina House, plans to run for the Senate to fill the open spot left by Sen. Scott Richardson, who resigned last month. The Senate has not been completely male since 1979.
- An acid attack against an Ethiopian woman is sparking concern that such attacks are increasing, the Washington Post reported March 27. Kamilat Mehdi's face and flesh was burned by sulphuric acid in the first known attack in Ethiopia, where 70 percent of women suffer from domestic violence, according to the World Health Organization. Acid attacks against women have been reported in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, three cities in Britain and Uganda, according to the British organization Women at Risk.
- Sexual harassment of students in exchange for grades or degrees has been severe in Nigeria's universities for years and now has spread to secondary schools, the Washington Post reported March 26. A recent survey of more than 300 women at four universities found that 80 percent said sexual harassment was their main concern. Nigerian Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili said he was "shocked" the trend had spread to younger students.
- After 10 days at trial and five hours of deliberation, a New York jury rejected a woman's claims that she suffered "cruel and inhuman treatment" during her 21-year marriage, the New York Daily News reported March 29. New York does not allow "irreconcilable differences" as grounds for a divorce, and the woman, Chana Taub, requested a jury trial in the two-year-old case because she thought she would have a fairer hearing that with a judge alone.
- Quebec's chief electoral officer Marcel Blanchet has issued a rule requiring female Muslim voters who cover their faces to lift their veils in the polling place, the National Post reported March 27. Blanchet said he made the decision to preserve the election's "serenity."
Prominent women in the Middle East offered a diversity of opinions over the status of women and the progress of women's rights in a March 27 article from the Inter Press Service News Agency. Najla al Awadhi, one of eight women to serve in the United Arab Emirates federal advisory board, said her country was a model for other Gulf nations. "If you look at the history of women's (empowerment), it took the United States 100 years to give women the right to vote," she told the IPS. "This country is 36 years old and we have sent women to parliament." However, Leila De Vriese of Zayed University in Dubai countered that any type of activism or agitation on the part of women is almost impossible. And Princess Reem Al Faisal said women were often to blame for their lower status. "The most rigid people preventing change have been the women themselves," she said.
Alison Bowen is a New York-based reporter with Women's eNews and Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women's eNews.
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