A federal judge in Kansas ruled that the state’s attorney general incorrectly enforced a 1982 state child abuse law to require health-care providers to report most sexual activity of minors under age 16–including consensual sex–as child abuse. Under the attorney general’s opinion, which argued that all sexual activity among minors was “inherently injurious,” physicians who failed to report their sexual activity could have faced misdemeanor charges carrying up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000, the Kansas City Star reported April 19.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group based in New York that brought the lawsuit, hailed the ruling as an important victory for privacy rights and as the first ruling to protect the health care privacy rights of young people. Privacy is the legal basis for abortion rights in the United States.
The Kansas attorney general’s policy “is part of a larger trend by the anti-choice movement to limit adolescents’ privacy in and access to reproductive health care,” the center said in a press release.
“Any threat to that privacy will drive teens away from health-care services, endangering their well-being instead of protecting it,” said Bonnie Scott Jones, lead attorney in the case. “States cannot be allowed to simply pull up a chair in every doctor’s office in the state and listen in on teenagers seeking health services.”
More News to Cheer This Week:
- Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a pro-choice Democrat, vetoed three bills on April 17 which would have restricted women’s medical choices, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The first bill would have prohibited state and local governments from using public funds to cover abortion in insurance programs, which are mostly paid for by private individuals. The second bill would have amended the state’s existing parental consent law to require consent forms to be notarized and the third bill–which passed by a broad margin–would have prohibited women from selling their eggs. Both the house and senate are controlled by Republicans in Arizona.
- The Pakistani practice called ‘vani,’ in which a family or clan gives away a daughter in forced marriage as a compensation to settle disputes, is being increasingly called into question by the public, the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks reported March 16. One event in late 2005 brought widespread public attention to the custom. Three teen sisters from a village called Sultanwala warned that they would commit collective suicide if they were forced to marry men from a rival family. The practice was outlawed two years ago and the Supreme Court has ordered police to protect women in vani marriages.
- In late 2005, an Alabama commission of criminal justice officials, mental health providers and advocates was convened to develop gender-specific prison regulations in order to improve women’s experience in prisons by focusing on rehabilitation and less on punishment, the Birmingham News reported April 19. The state has nearly 2,000 women in prison, a 53 percent jump since 1995. The number of female juveniles in youth facilities has jumped nearly 35 percent. The commission recommended increasing mental health services and modifying parole and work-release guidelines to make it easier for paroled women to care for their children.
For more information:
Center for Reproductive Rights–
Judge Rules that Attorney General’s Policy Will Drive
Teens Away from Seeking Medical Care:
Women’s eNews Links: Incarceration:
Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran:
Iran’s police force is gearing up for the season with a campaign to crack down on women who show too much of their bodies in public, reported the Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, on April 20.
“In our campaign, we will confront women showing their bare legs in short pants,” said Tehran’s police chief, Morteza Talai. “We are also going to combat women wearing skimpy head-scarves, short and form-fitting coats, and the ones walking pets in parks and streets,” he added.
Women “creating noise pollution” by playing car stereos too loudly also risk being jailed, as do women who do not wear the veil; they can face prison sentences of up to two months.
Since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, conservatives in Tehran’s city council have pressured the police to get tough. Every woman in Iran, regardless of nationality or religion, must obey the dress code and cover her shape and hair outside the home. Fifty patrol cars will cruise Tehran enforcing the rules this summer.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- The results of a University of Massachusetts study of breast cancer survivors published in the June 1 issue of the American Cancer Society’s journal, Cancer, found that during the five-year study period only 1 in 3 women had received annual mammograms. Women with a history of breast cancer face a three-fold increased risk of a malignancy in the other breast, and more than 2.3 million women in the United States have been treated for breast cancer. Mammography is thought to identify cancer at earlier stages and reduce deaths, so researches are concerned that cancer survivors who do not receive mammograms will face higher mortality rates.
- Donors to so-called crisis pregnancy centers that try to dissuade women from obtaining abortions may soon be eligible for a tax credit in Missouri, The Associated Press reported April 13. The Missouri state House voted 125-32 to approve a bill that would give the credit–which could be used on income taxes and some types of business taxes–to such centers last week. The measure would authorize a tax credit worth half the value of donations between $100 and $50,000, and would be limited to $2 million annually. The bill will now move to the state Senate for consideration.
Elizabeth Dwoskin is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews. She is a freelance writer and radio producer based in New York.
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