All Wal-Mart pharmacies nationwide will stock the emergency contraceptive Plan B, effective March 20, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company announced March 3.

Last month, Massachusetts’ Supreme Court ordered Wal-Mart to stock the prescription drug after three Boston women filed a lawsuit against the company. Illinois currently has a law requiring all pharmacies in the state to carry the drug, while in Connecticut and New York pressure is building for similar legislation. Faced with the prospect of pressure from other states, the world’s largest retailer decided to reverse its policy of not stocking the drug, New York’s Daily News reported.

“I applaud Wal-Mart for making this decision and realizing the importance of having Plan B readily available,” announced Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the author of legislation aimed at forcing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make a ruling on whether to allow Plan B sales without a prescription.

Individual Wal-Mart pharmacists who have moral objections to emergency contraception will still be able to turn a customer down, according to the company’s conscientious objection policy, which is based on the guidelines of a national pharmacists’ association.

In related news, acting FDA chief Andrew von Eschenbach is expected to be appointed the permanent head by President Bush in the coming weeks, Reuters reported Mar. 10. Von Eschenbach has served as acting commissioner since September 2005, when FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford resigned abruptly.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The government of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan is introducing a bill to ban violence against women that it hopes will eventually become a national law, Reuters reported March 9. The provincial government has recently introduced several new laws aimed at raising the status of women in the region. Kashif Azam Chishti, minister for population, welfare and women’s development, told the London-based charity Oxfam that 70 percent of the province’s education development budget goes to female education. He also said that the government is distributing free textbooks and giving stipends to women attending school, increasing female enrollment by 22 percent.
  • A bill protecting health clinics and abortion providers from losing their insurance coverage if they are victims of arson or malicious mischief has been passed by Washington’s state Legislature, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported March 9. The bill was initiated after an Olympia health clinic was damaged in a January 2005 arson attack. After rebuilding, insurers refused to provide the clinic with coverage unless it agreed to stop offering abortions.
  • A new report on female entrepreneurship trends around the world reveals that while a gender gap persists with double the number of male entrepreneurs in both newer and established businesses, female entrepreneurs are just as savvy as their male counterparts in seeking out opportunities, taking risks and networking with other entrepreneurs. The 2005 report, published by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an international research program funded by Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and the London Business School, also found that female entrepreneurs are more optimistic about their positive growth prospects than men.

For more information:

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2005 Report on Women
and Entrepreneurship:

Human Rights Watch
“Mexico: Rape Victims Denied Legal Abortion”:

Women’s Environment and Development Organization
Open Letter on Women and U.N. Reform:


A new study by New York-based independent watchdog Human Rights Watch reveals that Mexican authorities routinely deny rape victims access to safe, legal abortions, Newsweek reported March 7.

In all 31 states and the capital, Mexico City, women who have been raped or whose health is in danger because of their pregnancy are allowed by law to have an abortion. All other abortions are illegal. However, the report found that in 29 states, no clear guidelines exist to guarantee access to safe abortions. “Again and again, we are finding the same cases of women going through the first trauma of being raped and then going through another trauma at the hands of government officials,” the study’s author Marianne Mollmann told the Associated Press.

The report is based on interviews with more than 100 lawyers, doctors, officials and rape victims across Mexico. It was released three years after a 13-year-old rape victim was denied an abortion and brought her case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. On March 7, the Mexican government settled her landmark case, agreeing to pay her $33,000 and provide significant health care and education compensation to her and her son.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • A men’s rights group is launching a legal battle claiming that men should be given the right to “decline fatherhood” and opt out of financial responsibilities for raising a child in the case of an unintended pregnancy, the Houston Chronicle reported March 8. The National Center for Men, based in Old Bethpage, N.Y., has filed a lawsuit, nicknamed “Roe vs. Wade For Men,” on behalf of a Michigan resident who was ordered to pay $500 a month in child support for his ex-girlfriend’s daughter born in 2005. He claims that the mother knew he didn’t want to have a child with her and that she had assured him repeatedly that–because of a physical condition–she couldn’t become pregnant.
  • United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s reform agenda for the world body has been severely criticized by a coalition of international women’s organizations for only paying “lip service” to the cause of gender parity within the organization. In an open letter published March 6, more than 240 women from over 50 countries wrote that they were “disappointed and frankly outraged” that a focus on women was not a central part of Annan’s agenda and voiced the concern “that the position of women in high-level U.N. posts has stagnated,” AP reported. The group cited the example of the new High-Level Panel formed by Annan to initiate U.N. system-wide efficiency in areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment, which has only 3 women out of 15 members.
  • Iranian police charged a peaceful gathering of women’s rights activists meeting in Tehran to celebrate International Women’s Day, Human Rights Watch reported March 9. Hundreds of women had gathered at Tehran’s Daneshjoo Park on March 8, but shortly afterwards the park was surrounded by anti-riot police and Revolutionary Guards who ordered the women to disperse. When the women staged a sit-in instead, the police dumped cans of garbage on the women’s heads and charged into the group using batons to move them out of the park.

Anju Mary Paul is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews. She has an M.A. in journalism from New York University.

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