The Republican-led New York State Senate passed a bill Wednesday to allow local pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception to women without prescription, according to combined news reports.

With the Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act, New York joins seven other states–Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington State–in allowing over-the-counter sales of Plan B, medication that prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.

“The current prescription requirement takes unnecessary time as one must first get a doctor’s appointment and that could likely hamper the effectiveness of emergency contraception because of delay. It is an unnecessary delay in the process for a woman to get immediate care,” said Jen Wylegala, executive director of the New York Chapter of the Republican Majority for Choice, in a press release. The legislation is to expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. George Pataki.

The Food and Drug Administration, however, still has not approved Plan B for over-the-counter distribution, despite of overwhelming support from the agency’s advisory panel in 2003 and experts in the field.

Other Things to Cheer About This Week:

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. announced in a press release Thursday they will challenge in federal court a new Florida law that requires physicians to inform parents when a minor seeks an abortion. The groups argue that the law, which was passed by the Florida Legislature and is set to take effect July 1, will endanger the health and lives of young women seeking abortions because it requires at least a 48-hour parental notice. This delay could endanger the lives of young women who need immediate medical treatment, the groups said.

  • Legislation to double funds for researching uterine fibroids, a medical condition affecting three in every four U.S. women, was introduced Wednesday in Congress, according to a press release by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, (D-MD), who introduced the bill.

  • Mukhtar Mai, the gang-rape victim turned activist in Pakistan, said Wednesday that the government promised to return her passport, allowing her to travel to the U.S., reported Reuters. The Pakistani government, under U.S. pressure, freed Mai from house arrest last week. Earlier, President Pervez Musharraf had justified recent actions to prevent Mai’s travel abroad, saying she would “bad-mouth Pakistan” and embarrass the nation.

  • The naming of South Africa’s first female deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, by President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday, is his most recent step to increase female representation in government, reported BBC News. Mlambo-Ngcuka, the minister of minerals and energy since 1999, is in line to become Africa’s first elected female head of state.

  • Almost 3,000 women, disturbed by brutal rape crimes in India, gathered for self-defense classes in a park in New Delhi last weekend, according to Reuters.

  • Darlene Jespersen, a former bartender fired for refusing to wear make-up, appealed Wednesday a court’s decision in favor of employer Harrah’s Entertainment, a national casino chain, reported The Associated Press. If Jespersen wins, the court’s ruling could help two female Atlantic City casino employees who filed civil rights complaints in response to a weight-limit policy.

  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Bill, 2005 was approved Thursday by the India’s cabinet, reported the online news service Outlook India. The bill is designed to protect domestic violence victims, whose rights were not adequately addressed in the country’s laws, said Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee.


Female teens who try to obtain contraceptives may have to wait at least five days for their parents to be notified, according to the Parents’ Right-to-Know Act, which was re-introduced Tuesday in Congress.

If the bill becomes law, clinics receiving federal funds under Title X will be required to inform parents of minors who seek contraceptives before writing prescriptions. The law does not require the clinics to obtain parental consent before giving contraceptives or other services such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases to minors.

“This bill does nothing but put parents back in charge of their adolescent daughters, said Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who introduced the legislation, reported CNSNews.com, an online news service.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House.

In a statement, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said Coburn and the other “anti-birth control zealots behind this bill are determined to impose their values on others, even if it means more unintended pregnancies and an increased need for abortions,” reported The Daily Oklahoman.

Other Things to Jeer About This Week:

In the first of several hearings analyzing the implications of major Supreme Court decisions, Sen. Sam Brownback from Kansas convened on Thursday a hearing on the implications of the landmark decision that legalized abortion, Roe v. Wade.

“To put it simply, Roe was a mistake,” said Brownback, who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights. A panel of conservatives, including Norma McCorvey–the woman referred to as Roe in the 1973 decision–echoed the sentiment. They were countered by abortion rights supports, including Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wi), who testified in support of the court ruling.

  • Rape has become a preferred weapon of war in Africa’s conflict regions with attackers going unpunished and victims of rape condemned by their community, said United Nations’ official Jan Egeland on Tuesday, according to The New York Times. The official cited findings of a recent study in Uganda where 60 percent of the women in displaced persons camps were victims of sexual violence, as well as examples from Congo and Sudan.

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she had no interest in promoting the cause of giving women in Saudi Arabia the right to drive, reported the Washington Post. Rice said the United States’ push for democracy in the Middle East needed to respect for cultural traditions.

  • Female participation in the U.S. technology industry decreased to 32 percent in 2004 from 41 percent in 1996, according a study by the Arlington, Va., Information Technology Association of America, reported The Associated Press on Wednesday. The drop reflects the shrinking numbers of administrative jobs in the tech industry, the organization said.

  • An estimated 60 percent of abortions in Nigeria, where the procedure is illegal, are performed by non-physicians in unsafe facilities, according to a study by the Lagos-based Campaign against Unwanted Pregnancy, a community-based organization in Lagos, reported the Lagos Daily Champion on Thursday. Approximately 610,000 abortions, a rate of 25 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. occur yearly in Nigeria, the study found.

  • A girls’ school in Afghanistan was attacked and burnt to the ground by armed men, BBC News reported Thursday. The attack is part of a series of assaults on newly established girls’ schools as the country continues to cope with security issues since the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001.

Kamelia Angelova, an intern at Women’s eNews and a freelance reporter based in New York City, studies Journalism and Political Science at Hunter College.