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Congress Acts Pro-Woman; VA Services Fall Short

Saturday, May 24, 2008

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(WOMENSENEWS)--

Cheers

On May 21, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., to reduce maternal deaths at home and abroad, her office announced. The resolution makes the United States part of the U.N. Population Fund's initiative to reduce women's deaths from pregnancy and childbirth. Since 2002, the Bush administration has withheld funding from the agency because it says it supports coerced abortions in China.

On the same day, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held the first hearing on a bill to benefit breast cancer patients 12 years after it was first introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. The bill would extend hospital stay coverage for cancer patients who have mastectomies. An online petition has gathered 22 million signatures to support it.

During a teleconference, DeLauro said the insurance industry has blocked the bill from moving forward, but the subcommittee is now led by Rep. Frank J. Pallone, D-N.J., who scheduled the hearing. "People know you can't get anything on the agenda without the chair of the committee determining that," DeLauro said.

The subcommittee also discussed a bill that would mandate the National Institute of Health to conduct research on environmental factors that might cause breast cancer by authorizing a five-year, $40 million grant program for the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.

On May 22, the Senate passed a war funding bill that includes a provision to eliminate a disincentive for suppliers to sell discounted birth control bills to about 400 university health centers and public clinics, Congressional Quarterly reported. The provision had been eliminated in 2006, leading to a spike in birth control prices for college students and low-income women.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A May 20 study from the American Association of University Women concludes that girls do not succeed at the expense of boys and income disparities rather than gender has a greater impact on educational performance and achievement. The study examines student performance over the past 35 years in 50 states and focused on standardized test scores. Both girls' and boys' performance is improving. The association says the study debunks the "boy's crisis" theory in education and provides a more extensive view of gender equity trends.
  • The British Parliament rejected with a 304-to-233 vote proposals to lower the time limit for abortions from the 24th week of pregnancy to between 12 and 22 weeks. In 1990, the limit was reduced from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. Most European nations limit abortions to the 13th week of pregnancy, but Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands allow them in range of 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • In West Africa, a Burkina Faso court convicted 15 women for the genital mutilation of 14 female infants. Karidjia Zerbo, who performed the procedure, was sentenced to two years in prison; the 14 mothers of the infants received suspended one-year sentences. Female genital mutilation was banned in Burkina Faso in 1996 but remains a widespread cultural practice in 28 African countries.
  • Female ski jumpers from six countries--Canada, the United States, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Norway--have sued the Vancouver organizing committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics for not allowing women to compete in ski jumping. Their lawsuit asks the committee to either hold a competition for women or ban the men's equivalent event.

Jeers

The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to offer services to 180,000 women who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported May 20. "It's not your father's VA--it really isn't," said Patricia Hayes, the VA's national director of women's health care issues. "We have geared up and are gearing up. But there are places that may have gaps."

Services, ranging from pap smears and mammograms to support for military sexual trauma, suffer from budgetary shortfalls and the male-orientated army tradition.

The VA is now conducting a long-term study of 12,000 female veterans. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced legislation requiring the study of how serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has affected the physical, mental and reproductive health of women and how the VA is dealing with their medical problems. Nearly 1 in 5 female veterans seeking care has suffered "military sexual trauma," according to the VA, which now provides women-only group therapy, female counselors and women-only entrances to clinics.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Mexico City law enforcement agents are failing to address sexual violence despite a sweeping February 2007 law mandating enforcement of women's complaints of violence, the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported May 18. Mexico City's commission on human rights reported a 12 percent increase in women's complaints against police for failure to follow through in cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse since the law was introduced. In 21 of 31 Mexican states, rapists can still escape punishment if they say they were acting to satisfy an erotic fantasy. In 19 states, the rapist is off the hook if he later marries the victim.
  • All charges against a Saudi couple accused of severely abusing an Indonesian domestic worker were dropped, the BBC reported May 22. The judge awarded the victim, Nour Miyati, $670. Miyati, 25, lost several fingers and toes from gangrene because her employers allegedly tied her up for a month and left her without food in 2005.
  • Attacks on black lesbians are increasing in South Africa and a lesbian is murdered every three months, according to People Opposed to Women Abuse. The local group says at least 10 lesbians have been murdered since 2006. Activists protested in front of a court where four people accused in the April murder of Eudy Simelane appeared, the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian reported May 18.
  • At Harvard University, students in the Harvard Right to Life group are promoting an initiative to refund health insurance fees that help pay for abortion services, the Politico reported May 15. The proposed refund is $1 per term for students enrolled in the insurance plan and has raised questions about whether students will be able to opt out of other services they don't support, such as birth control.
  • Cuba's state television refused to broadcast a documentary highlighting the issue of sexually aggressive male exhibitionism in the country, the Inter Press Service reported May 19. The Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry film contained interviews with 2,000 women. Of these, 97.7 percent had had at least one experience with a "flasher," and 62 percent reported several encounters.

Noted:

  • Nelly Avila Moreno, the leading commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, surrendered to the secret police May 18, reported the Los Angeles Times. Known as "Karina," she was a member of the paramilitary for 24 years and resigned because she feared a comrade would kill or capture her for the $2 million bounty placed on her by President Alvaro Uribe. Negotiating under an amnesty law, Moreno may receive up to eight years in prison for murder, extortion and kidnapping. She was also linked to a series of massacres in the region of Uraba, close to the Caribbean Coast.
  • Although homosexuality is illegal in Iran, the government supports and funds half the costs for those wanting to undergo gender reassignment surgery, reported the Women's International Perspective on May 17. The government must approve the surgery, then the person's gender is officially changed on birth certificates. Gender reassignment surgery was legalized 20 years ago for "diagnosed transsexuals" on the basis they have a medical condition that can be "fixed." There have been over 450 gender reassignment surgeries in the past 12 years.

Besa Luci is a journalist from Kosovo and the current editorial intern at Women's eNews. Dominique Soguel is Women's eNews Arabic editor.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

For more information:

AAUW, "Where the Girls Are" report:
http://www.aauw.org/research/WhereGirlsAre.cfm

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