Ernesta Ballard



The Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced Tuesday that local chapters would provide a free one-month supply of birth control pills or an emergency contraception kit to women displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. “Women and families escaped the storm with their lives, leaving behind birth control and other items critical to their well-being,” read a statement on the Planned Parenthood Web site.

Other News to Cheer This Week:

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday sent a formal request to the Department of Justice for information regarding the removal of references to emergency contraception from a sexual assault victim treatment protocol, according to an ACLU release. The Department of Justice released its first national protocol for treating the victims late last year but did not mention emergency contraception or recommend its use among survivors of sexual assault victims, the release said.
  • Women campaigning for the upcoming Afghan elections have found ways to circumvent discriminatory laws, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Afghan law prevents women from talking to men alone unless they are related, making it difficult for the candidates to talk to male voters and gain their support. But, female politicians say, many are getting around the problem by working through wives of potential male voters, befriending and informing them of their campaign.
  • Seven Democratic female senators delivered more than 40,000 questions to the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday in hopes they will be posed during hearings on the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, according to a release by the office of Democrat Patty Murray of Washington. The questions were submitted by members of the public through an “Ask Roberts” Web site the senators created in July.
  • The California Senate passed legislation Thursday that would legalize marriage for same-sex couples, The Associated Press reported. The 21-to-15 vote marked the first time a legislative body approved a gay marriage bill and sets up a fight with the California Assembly, which rejected a similar bill in June.


Reports by citizens and police are increasing about rapes of girls and women trapped in New Orleans’ Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, according to combined news reports.

“We have been hearing about episodes of violence, including rape,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters reported Thursday. The center said rape-prevention experts and injury centers will be installed to help in shelters and the New Orleans Superdome.

Other News to Jeer This Week:

  • New Jersey and Virginia, among the lowest ranking states for number of female legislators, are expected to have a continuing disappointment this election year, according to a Friday press release from the Center for American Women and Politics, part of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers. New Jersey has only 33 women competing for 80 possible seats in the state assembly, a drop from the 41 candidates in 1997. In Virginia, only 16 are vying for the 100 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates.
  • Women’s sports still lag in media coverage and few women hold high-ranking positions within the sports world, a group of speakers said during a session of the Madison Square Garden Sports and Entertainment Speaker Series, the Herald News of New Jersey reported Saturday. Fewer than 19 percent of athletic directors are women; men coach 44 percent of women’s teams while women only coach 2 percent of men’s teams. Newspapers cover women’s sports less than 6 percent of the time. Donna Lopiano, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said that coverage of women’s sports “tied with horses, cars and dogs.”
  • Women with “social or familial adversity” are more likely to face domestic abuse after giving birth, according to a University of Bristol study by Dr. Erica Bowen, reported Reuters UK Wednesday. Five percent of the study’s women experienced abuse during pregnancy; that figure jumped to 11 percent after delivery.
  • The number of women in poverty has increased for the fourth consecutive year since 2000, reaching 14.3 million in 2004, according to an analysis of new Census data released Tuesday by the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. Despite an overall economic recovery over the past few years, women saw their median salaries decline and the numbers without health insurance rise, the report showed.
  • After a five-week hunger strike to have their asylum requests honored by England, two Ugandan women have been hospitalized, according to a press release from the London-based Legal Action for Women on Thursday. The detainees’ protest has been taking place in England’s Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre. The protesters say they face potential rape and torture from the Ugandan government and the insurgent army if they are deported.

In Memoriam: Ernesta Ballard, honored by Women’s eNews in 2003 as a Women’s eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century, died on August 11 at the Cathedral Village retirement community in Philadelphia. Ballard was a lifelong activist for reproductive rights and the Equal Rights Amendment.

“I wish that Women’s eNews had been here 25 years ago,” she said at the 2003 Women’s eNews gala honoring her. She explained that when she and 75,000 others marched in Washington in the 1970s for women’s reproductive rights, it received no media coverage. When she asked a local newspaper editor who was also friend why this was, he replied: “Ernesta, it was a non-event.” She added, “That would not happen today.”

Ballard also helped establish many women’s organizations, including the Pennsylvania Women’s Campaign Fund and the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women. She died from complications resulting from a stroke, according to a Thursday obituary in The New York Times.

— Allison Stevens contributed to this report.

Rachel Corbett is a Women’s eNews intern and freelance writer based in New York City. Allison Stevens is Washington Bureau Chief at Women’s eNews.