The Senate dealt a major blow Thursday to President Bush’s plans to reduce the deficit by sharply cutting federal spending on a wide array of government programs, including many that aid women and children.

Democrats and moderate Republicans banded together to strip language from the fiscal 2006 budget resolution cutting entitlement spending by $15 billion, most of which was expected to come from Medicaid, the government-subsidized health insurance program. Instead, the Senate agreed to establish a commission that would study ways to slow the program’s growth.

“We shouldn’t risk the health of millions for the sake of expediency,” Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon who sponsored the amendment, said in a statement. “A short delay will allow a full study and ensure that any changes improve Medicaid’s sustainability while maintaining access to care.”

Senators also rejected proposed cuts in health care, education, community development and other programs before passing their final version late Thursday.

The vote sets up a battle between the Senate and the House, which approved budget resolution with the program cuts on the same day. House and Senate negotiators will attempt to resolve their differences in conference committees later this year.

Other reasons to Cheer:

–The House of Representatives approved an amendment last week to an emergency supplemental spending bill that would send $3 million in aid to pregnant women who were victims of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia late last year. The $3 million would represent about 11 percent of the total amount requested by the UNFPA to meet the immediate needs of tsunami victims, according to a statement issued by one of the amendment’s chief sponsors, New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney. The House passed the spending bill on March 16; it now awaits action in the Senate.

–Uighur businesswoman and women’s rights activist Rebiya Kadeer was unexpectedly released on medical parole Thursday from a Chinese jail. Kadeer had received an eight-year sentence in 2000 for sending newspaper clippings overseas and was convicted for “endangering national security.” According to Amnesty International, Kadeer made significant contributions to securing women’s rights in China in the 1990s when she founded the Thousand Mothers Movement to promote employment for ethnic Muslim Uighur women. Kadeer was also an official representative to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Kadeer’s high-profile release coincides with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s official visit to Beijing this weekend. In addition, Radio Free Asia reports that on the day of Kadeer’s release, the U.S. dropped plans to table a human rights resolution against China at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva this year.

–Khadija Mohammed, a young woman who had been experienced genital mutilation in her home country of Somalia, is currently waiting for asylum in Oakland, Calif., after a groundbreaking case was decided in her favor. On March 10, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that genital mutilation constitutes persecution and makes a woman automatically eligible for asylum. The appeals court rejected the argument by government attorneys that female genital mutilation on its own cannot be a basis for a claim of past persecution because it is “widely accepted and widely practiced.” The court ruled 3-0 that “the fact that persecution is widespread” does not make a “particular asylum claim less compelling,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The court also said that a woman who has been forced to undergo the procedure has suffered a “continuing harm.”

–A Michigan ban on abortion that was scheduled to take effect on March 30 has been halted–at least until a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban is considered. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of American argued that the law is unconstitutional because it could be interpreted as a ban on all abortions and does not allow exceptions for when a mother’s life or health are in danger. Under an agreement reached by Attorney General Mike Cox and three groups that filed suit, the abortion law was put on hold until June 15, reports The Associated Press.


Rules used by doctors to identify patients who will develop osteoporosis are actually not useful in predicting which women will develop the bone-thinning disease, new research shows.

The rules are better at showing which women won’t get osteoporosis, according to a study that appears in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine. In other words, if the rules predict that osteoporosis will develop, it may or may not. In contrast, if the rules predict osteoporosis won’t develop, then it is highly likely that it won’t.

The new findings are based on a study of 202 women who were evaluated with three clinical prediction rules. Each of the rules assigns points for known osteoporosis risk factors–like age, gender, family history, bone structure and body weight–and then adds them together, according to Reuters Health. The higher the score, the more likely the disease is to develop. In the present study, the scores were compared with actual bone test results.

“Our results suggest that these clinical prediction rules do not perform well as a general screening method to identify postmenopausal women who are more likely to have osteoporosis,” the investigators note. The rules, however, “may be useful in identifying women who need not undergo testing, especially younger postmenopausal women.”

Other reasons to Jeer:

–Three quarters of the lesbian respondents to a recent survey have delayed obtaining health care for at least one reason, compared to only half of heterosexuals. Health care costs and the lack of adequate health insurance were cited as the most common reasons why lesbians have delayed obtaining health care. Sixteen percent of the lesbian women surveyed also reported that they have delayed obtaining health care because they were concerned they would be discriminated against. The national online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with the Mautner Project, The National Lesbian Health Organization, and included 2,209 U.S. adults, of whom 119 have self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The information of an additional 341 self-reported lesbians was compared with the sample.

–Most women–and particularly minority women–can’t recognize the warning signs of a stroke, according to research published this week in the journal Circulation. According to the report, only one quarter of women 65 or older are well informed about the warning signs of a stroke and about stroke prevention. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association.

Corrie Pikul is a Women’s eNews intern and freelance writer based in New York City. Allison Stevens is Women’s eNews’ Washington bureau chief.