The Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an advocacy organization based in Watsonville, Calif., that recognizes female leadership in the church, ordained eight women as priests and four as deacons in a Pittsburg, Pa., riverboat ceremony July 31, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported. This is believed to be the first ordination ceremony held for women in the United States; the group has held four others since 2002, ordaining about two dozen women.

The female priests will not be recognized by the Pittsburg Diocese or the Catholic Church, which bars women from the priesthood. They expect to be excommunicated for participating in the ceremony. "I am utterly convinced that our ordinations are totally valid," said Patricia Fresen, a bishop in the group.

More than 60 women are enrolled worldwide in the organization’s preparation program. Many of the ordained women minister to the poor and sick, are prolific religion writers and have studied Catholicism for years.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • A South Dakota poll revealed that most state residents don’t support the state’s strict abortion ban, which prohibits all abortions except to save a woman’s life, the Washington Post reported July 31. The Mason-Dixon Poll surveyed 800 registered voters; 47 percent opposed the ban and 39 percent favored it with a margin of error of 3.5 percent. Opponents to the ban gathered enough signatures to delay the state’s law enacted in March and refer it to voters in November.


  • Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki promised to increase women’s rights in a speech to the U.S. Congress, the San Jose Mercury News reported July 30. As violence in Iraq continues to increase and Islamic fundamentalism grows, most women have fewer liberties under Iraq’s new regime. Signs left in western Baghdad threaten to kill women if they drive or fail to wear the religious veil. Out of 275 members of parliament only 30 have signed a declaration to investigate gender inequalities, to compel police to observe constitutionally guaranteed women’s rights and to allow women to go to school without veils.


  • Most Arab TV stations have sent female journalists to cover the conflict in Israel and Lebanon, reported Al-Arabia network Aug. 1. Eight women working for four TV stations were said by Arab media commentators to be more adept at covering the war than men, often risking their lives to produce the news.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected the approval of nonprescription emergency contraception to appease the Bush administration, said senior FDA scientist Dr. Florence Houn in a deposition, the Washington Post reported Aug. 3. Houn was deposed as part of a continuing lawsuit filed by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights after the agency delayed its decision to approve over-the-counter sales. Houn said that former FDA deputy commissioner Janet Woodcock blocked approval to satisfy "administration constituents," hoping to offer it again with age restrictions at a later time.

That time came this week. Andrew von Eschenbach, the FDA’s interim commissioner, announced that he is reconsidering the over-the-counter application for Plan B the day before his confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate. Democratic senators Patty Murray of Washington and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York said they would block his confirmation until the agency makes a final decision.

Plan B, a pill that prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 of intercourse, must be prescribed by a doctor. In 2004, the FDA rejected a proposal to allow nonprescription sales to women 16 and older. A proposal putting the age at 17 was stalled under former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Asian, Hispanic and African American women in large U.S. law firms face harassment, receive undesirable assignments and are excluded from company networks, the Chicago-based American Bar Association announced Aug. 3. White women also experience the same setbacks but at lesser rates, according to ABA’s recent survey of nearly 1,000 lawyers. In the survey, 44 percent of the female lawyers of color reported being passed over for desirable assignments as compared to 39 percent of white women, 25 percent of men of color and 2 percent of white men.


  • Seventy percent of the women in Internally Displaced Persons camps in Uganda have one or more gynecological problems, the Ugandan newspaper New Vision reported July 31. Eighty-five percent of the women surveyed said they were sexually abused. Problems such as chronic abdominal pain, swelling and bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding, infertility, sexual dysfunctions, unwanted pregnancies and genital sores were reported among the women.


  • Female scientists apply for patents 40 percent as often as male scientists, a Harvard Business School study found, ScienceNow Daily News reported August 3. The report said that women lack contacts with key decision-makers in the industry. The study looked at 4,227 biological scientists at U.S. universities between 1967 and 1996 and identified a lack of contacts with industry decision-makers for female scientists as a cause.


  • Women in India make up 39 percent of the HIV-AIDS population in that country with many contracting the disease from their husbands who have multiple partners, a recent study from the United Nations and Indian agencies found, the Hindu newspaper reported July 30. Many women in the study said they didn’t know how to prevent AIDS and 60 percent of HIV-positive widows are under 30 and are outcast by their husbands’ families.


  • Actor Mel Gibson exposed his misogynist side during his July 28 arrest for drunk driving, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported. Gibson called the arresting female officer a "bitch" and referred to her breasts as "sugar tits." Gibson, a Catholic who also starred in the 2000 movie "What Women Want," opposes abortion, divorce and contraception. Gibson was heavily criticized for his anti-Semitic remarks during the arrest and has issued a public apology.


  • The Howard League for Penal Reform in Britain is pressuring the government to close women’s prisons, the BBC reported Aug. 2. The charity claimed the prisons don’t provide good rehabilitation programs for more than 4,600 female prisoners, and 67 percent of released prisoners are arrested within two years. The number of women in prison has increased by 147 percent from 1994 to 2004; the majority convicted are for non-violent offenses.

In Memoriam:


  • Jean Baker Miller, author of the groundbreaking 1976 book, "Toward a New Psychology of Women" that explored women’s mental health and socio-politics, died July 19, the Wellesley Centers for Women in Massachusetts reported. Miller argued that women’s propensity to connect emotionally is a political advantage. "Dr. Miller created the first psychology of people who at last can realistically hope and learn to work with and love their political equals all their lives," said author Christina Robb.


  • Covering the current Israeli-Lebanon conflict, Lebanese photographer Layal Najib, working for Agence France Press, was killed by a missile July 23.


For more information:

Roman Catholic Womenpriests