The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families is putting the state’s recent abortion ban–which would have taken effect July 1 and criminalized all abortions except those threatening a woman’s life–before the state’s voters in November.
Women who have abortions in the state would not be prosecuted, but their doctors could face up to five years in prison under the law. There is currently only one clinic in the state offering abortion services and a doctor flies in from Minnesota to perform the procedures.
The campaign–a coalition of local leaders and national reproductive rights groups based in Sioux Falls–rounded up over 1,000 volunteers to circulate petitions. To challenge the abortion ban with a state referendum the state required 16,728 signatures; on May 30 the campaign said it was filing petitions with 38,416 signatures.
Instead of opting to challenge the ban in court, the ballot-box campaign decided the ban’s proponents were out of step with South Dakotans and opted for a grassroots approach, reported the Los Angeles Times May 31. “It proved to be extremely easy for us to gather these petitions,” said Sarah Stoesz, a coalition member. “It underscores that the governor, the legislature and the anti-choice movement have over-reached.”
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- Five Kuwaiti women announced Wednesday that they intended to run for the National Assembly in June’s election after Parliament was dissolved by the ruling sheikh in May of 2006. Kuwaiti women, granted suffrage in April 2005, represent 57 percent of voters. In June last year, Masouma Mubarak became the first woman in Kuwait’s history to hold government office when she was appointed to a minister’s position. Tibat Al-Ibrahim has set herself apart from the other candidates in the race, announcing she will work to separate religion from the state. “If someone wants to apply the Sharia on himself, this is his own business,” she said.
- The GABRIELA Network, a U.S.-based organization focused on the rights of Filipino women, sent an all-woman legal team to the Philippines May 26 to review the “political persecution of women’s rights activists, political leaders, members of the opposition and the Batasan 6,” a group of congress members facing rebellion charges. The legal team, made up of five female lawyers and activists from the New York-based civil rights groups, the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, says that the country’s democracy is threatened and estimated 500 political killings in the island nation.
- DC Comics is diversifying its comic book cast by introducing a new Mexican hero named Blue Beetle, a Chinese team called the Great Ten and–defying not one, but two comic stereotypes–Batwoman as a lesbian socialite, the BBC News reported. Rival company Marvel has made similar changes. In “The New Avengers,” Marvel’s top-selling book, a black hero recently married the white mother of his child. Writer Judd Winick introduced a Japanese lesbian superhero to the “Exiles” series and says he was influenced by his Chinese American wife and her sisters who thought Wonder Woman’s dark hair was as close as they would get to a character that reflected their heritage.
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A constitutional amendment passed by Ohio voters in 2004 that banned same-sex marriages is having an unintended consequence, The Associated Press reported May 26. An appellate court has ruled that the state’s domestic violence laws define legal relationships in a manner that conflicts with the marriage amendment, and therefore, crimes of domestic violence that fall outside legal marriages cannot be prosecuted in the same way.
One fallout from the ruling came with the court’s decision to throw out the conviction of Logan County resident Dallas McKinley, who received a six-month jail sentence and five years probation in December 2004 after hitting his girlfriend and throwing objects at her, the Lima News reported May 24. Reversing the judgment, however, the court said that the domestic violence law could no longer apply to the case. McKinley now may only be retried on a misdemeanor assault charge because he wasn’t married to the victim.
Logan County’s prosecutor will appeal the decision to the state’s high court, but until a ruling comes individual counties will interpret the amendment’s provisions differently. Until the high court’s ruling, nearby Greene County prosecutor Suzanne Schmidt said, “Unmarried defendants who would have faced felony domestic violence charges will be charged with misdemeanor assault charges.”
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- Women whose genitals have been ritually mutilated are significantly more likely than other women to experience serious complications during childbirth and to deliver stillborn babies, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organization. The study, which involved over 28,000 women in six African countries where the practice is prominent, found that women subjected to the most serious form–removal of the clitoris and labia–are 30 percent more likely to require a Cesarean section and 70 percent more likely to experience severe postpartum hemorrhaging. Nearly 100 million women and girls have had the procedure worldwide.
- Kenya’s Parliament passed a new sex crimes bill, but eliminated “key sections to outlaw marital rape and female genital mutilation,” the BBC reported June 1. In addition, alleged sexual assault victims can now be questioned about their reputations by the accused and false accusers face stiffer penalties. The watered-down bill introduces minimum sentences for rape and includes offenses against men and boys. It is expected to be signed into law by Kenya’s president.
- About one-third of Scottish women smoke while pregnant, reported Britain’s Evening Times. Smoking is linked to low birth weights and premature deliveries, say doctors, but many of these women can’t or won’t stop smoking. The rate of pregnant smokers has dropped throughout the United Kingdom, but the figures are falling more slowly in Scotland. In addition, teens are more than four times as likely as women in their 30s to continue smoking throughout their pregnancies.