More than 50 California state advocacy groups and health care providers are convening to launch California’s first Emergency Contraception Network aimed at curbing the unintended pregnancy rate, the Pharmacy Access Partnership announced July 5. The nonprofit group in Oakland, Calif., promotes access to reproductive health services and emergency contraception.

An estimated 50 percent of pregnancies in California are unplanned, according to a recent study from the University of California-San Francisco. More than 100,000 California teens get pregnant every year, the seventh highest rate in the country.

“Addressing emergency contraception as a united front in California will allow women to see emergency contraception as a safe prevention of unintended pregnancy,” says Ingrid Dries-Daffner, the network coordinator.

In 2000, California passed a law allowing pharmacists to prescribe and distribute emergency contraception, called Plan B. Only eight states allow this over-the-counter exchange.

Another state program announced its expanding reproductive initiatives this week. The state of Michigan began providing family planning services to 200,000 low-income women, the Detroit Free Press reported June 29. Women who are eligible for Medicaid will be covered for birth control, reproductive health education, and prenatal and postnatal health care. Medicaid does not cover abortions. This initiative is intended to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in Michigan that, in 2001, comprised 40 percent of births. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says this program can save the state millions of dollars.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Domestic violence advocates in Lebanon are urging the Arab governments to protect women by establishing new laws prohibiting gender-based violence. The Beirut-based KAFA: Enough Violence and Exploitation organized a regional meeting June 22-23 titled “Legalizing the Protection Against Family Violence” and gathered 20 nongovernmental organizations from 11 Arab countries; “kafa” means “enough” in Arabic. Arab societies are still dominated by religious authorities, advocates said, and tradition favors men as heads of family. Honor killings and abuse still affect many women. At the end of the two-day meeting, the groups called on Arab governments to enact legislation to protect women against violence and said they would increase efforts on regional and local levels to establish laws on family violence.
  • A band of about 20 women and their children staged a July 2 breastfeeding sit-in outside a Victoria’s Secret store in Racine, Wis., after a nursing mom was asked to breastfeed in the store’s bathroom last month instead of in the fitting room, ABC News reported. Rebecca Cook said her response was, “No, I don’t eat in the bathroom and my daughter doesn’t eat in the bathroom.” The news of the shunned mother spread and about 15 women in Westlake, Ohio, protested also, nursing their babies outside a Victoria’s Secret store. While company policy officially allows mothers to nurse inside the store, not all states allow mothers to nurse in public.
  • A new AIDS pill was approved for sale by the Food and Drug Administration that will give those in developing countries a fighting chance at treatment, reported The New York Times July 6. This pill combines the three powerful doses of medicine an AIDS patient would normally take into one pill. This 3-in-1 anti-retroviral pill was produced by a generic company in India. Whether this pill will save funds is uncertain, but experts say it will make it easier for patients in developing countries to stay the course of their treatment.

For more information:

KAFA: Enough Violence and Exploitation:

“States Open Back Door to Emergency Contraception”:

“Moms Fight to Breastfeed in Public”:


Same-sex marriage took a double hit last week as the highest state courts in both New York and Georgia ruled against the right of same-sex couples to legally marry, The Associated Press reported July 6.

In New York, the Court of Appeals ruled 4-2 to uphold the decades-old law restricting marriage to a man and a woman. The New York court said changes to the law must be enacted by the state Legislature. The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by 44 same-sex couples two years ago. The court’s decision received a swift rebuke from gay rights activists.

“It’s a sad day for New York families,” plaintiff Kathy Burke of Schenectady told the AP. “My family deserves the same protection as my next-door neighbors.”

In Georgia, the court upheld a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that was approved by state voters in 2004. Massachusetts remains the only state that has legalized same-sex marriage.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • In Canada, there are four men for every woman in all job sectors except for support staff jobs, Business Edge News Magazine reported July 6. A group of researchers and women’s rights activists issued a report based on a survey conducted in 2005, noting that women dominate in support staff positions. The study shows that the number of women at the professional level has increased from 20 to 23 percent between 2000 and 2003.
  • Rev. John P. Earl, who vandalized a Rockford, Ill., abortion clinic in September 2000 was assigned to a top position at an Elgin, Ill., Catholic church, the Chicago Sun-Times reported July 6. Earl crashed his car into the garage of the Northern Illinois Women’s Clinic and used an ax to tear down windows, doors and security cameras around the building. He pleaded guilty to charges of property damage and was sentenced to 30 months of probation. Since then, he has been transferred on two occasions to different churches. Earl began work at the St. Joseph Catholic Church last week.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health plans to give out the first wave of grants worth $4.75 million to nonprofit health organizations that encourage adoption and other alternatives to abortion, the AP reported June 29. The grants are part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s “Positive Alternatives Act” passed last year to assist organizations that help women carry their children to term through prenatal counseling and other services. The money will also go toward increasing access to ultrasounds and parenting classes and also to pay for advertisements that promote alternatives to abortion. The grants won’t support clinics that provide abortions, but funded organizations are allowed to mention abortion as an option for their patients.

Malena Amusa, from St. Louis, Mo., is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews. Nouhad Moawad, from Beirut, Lebanon, is the Arabic site intern.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].