The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved nonprescription Plan B for women aged 18 and older on Thursday, the Washington Post reported Aug. 24. The emergency contraception will be sold over-the-counter in pharmacies and health clinics and will help millions of women avoid unwanted pregnancies. About half of the 3.5 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute in New York.

Women’s rights activists such as Annie Tummino–the lead plaintiff in a suit filed against the FDA to compel the agency to issue the much-delayed decision–are continuing their push to expand access to all women without age restriction. Tummino said the limit is “completely arbitrary” because studies show Plan B doesn’t cause harm to younger women. Tummino also said her lawyers will press their case that the Bush administration tampered with the FDA approval process for political reasons.

Some activist groups, including the Pharmacy Access Partnership in Oakland, Calif., are concerned that anti-choice pharmacists will continue to deny Plan B to customers despite the decision.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Oprah Winfrey announced that 73 girls were selected for a special school the billionaire talk show host established in South Africa, the BBC reported Aug. 22. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls will open in January 2007 and plans to expand to include 450 students. “It will train them to become decision-makers and leaders,” Winfrey said. “It will be a model school for the rest of the world.”
  • Women over 50 will be ideal bosses for businesses in the future because of their flexible management skills, reported the technology news site Silicon.com Aug. 23. The British Telecom-funded study found that older women are more comfortable working from home or with flexible hours, and businesses in the future will rely on them for administrative skills. Futurologist Ian Pearson said women will become more important in the future workplace for their social and emotional skills.
  • The World Water Week conference in Stockholm found that women in poorer countries are more effective in managing water resources than men, reported Agence France Presse Aug. 22. Women dominate water collection in many cultures and management success is linked to their knowledge of resources, location, quality and storage methods. According to the United Nations, 40 women served their nations as ministers of water or environment in 2005.

For more information:

“Plan B Activists Prepare for Next Battle at FDA”:

“Ebadi: Surely They Will Not Come for Me”:

“Maloney Calls for Truth in Clinic Advertising”:

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The number of charges for criminal violations such as sexual harassment and falsifying documents filed against U.S. military recruiters doubled from 2004 to 2005, reported Reuters Aug. 14. Reports of recruiter misconduct rose from 4,400 cases in 2004 to 6,600 cases in 2005.

After a six-month investigation, more than 80 military recruiters had been punished in the past year for sexual violations, the Associated Press reported Aug. 23. At least 100 women reported being either raped, assaulted on couches in recruiting offices and government cars, or groped on their way to medical exams. Most of the victims were between the ages of 16 and 18.

“This should never be allowed to happen. The recruiter had all the power,” an 18-year-old victim told the AP. “He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him.”

Almost 20 percent of female cadets at the Citadel said that they were sexually assaulted by recruiters since enrolling at the South Carolina military college last spring. The jump in violations is due to a lack of oversight from the Defense Department, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Nobel Peace Prize winner and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi was ordered by the Iranian government to close her Defender of Human Rights Center on Aug. 9. In an open letter, Ebadi said she would defy the government’s attempts to pressure her to stop defending Iranian political prisoners and feared imminent arrest as a result. The center represents about 70 percent of the nation’s political prisoners for free and reports human rights violations in Iran to international organizations.
  • Women in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are finding it harder to gain employment than men, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Aug. 19. According to an Aug. 18 study from the Washington-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research, African American women experience the worst economic conditions. Women, who once made up 56 percent of the city’s work force, are now only 46 percent, said the report. Even before Hurricane Katrina, women in New Orleans earned less than men and lagged behind women nationwide.
  • At least 200 women were raped in the Kalma refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, in the past five weeks, according to the New York-based International Rescue Committee, the AP reported Aug. 23. This camp normally has a handful of rape cases a month. In the past few weeks, another 50,000 people have become refugees in the ongoing conflict between ethnic African groups, the Arab-led Sudan government and the murderous “janjaweed” that terrorizes the countryside.

  • Two major anti-choice activist groups are expanding their “crisis pregnancy centers” to target black and Latino women in Washington, D.C., the AP reported Aug. 21. Care Net, based in Sterling, Va., and Heartbeat International in Columbus, Ohio, are part of a nationwide effort to encourage women of color to avoid abortions. More than 2,300 crisis centers operate across the country, mostly in the suburbs. A recent congressional report condemned their use of misleading information and advertising tactics.
  • A Sunday school teacher of 54 years in Watertown, N.Y., was fired by the minister of the First Baptist Church because of her gender, the AP reported Aug. 21. Rev. Timothy LaBouf, also a member of the town’s city council, decided to enforce a “literal interpretation” of the Bible’s first epistle to Timothy saying, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Teacher Mary Lambert is 81 years old.
  • China’s one-child-per-family policy has widened the gap in the nation’s male-female gender ratio, Reuters reported Aug. 17. A Zheiang University study says there were 1.23 men for every woman during the period between 1996 and 2001, up from 1.11 men between 1980 and 1989. Researchers said sex-selective abortions were the cause. China jailed a prominent activist last week for accusing health officials of forcing women to have abortions and claiming that 7,000 women have been sterilized to enforce the one-child policy.


Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski was the latest office-holder to feel the sting of the electorate’s anti-incumbent mood. He was defeated in an Aug. 22 primary by Republican Sarah Palin. She will face Democrat Tony Knowles, who has already served two terms as governor, in November. Also in Alaska, Democrat Diane Benson won her party’s congressional primary on Tuesday and will take on entrenched incumbent Don Young this fall. In Wyoming, GOP Rep. Barbara Cubin won her party’s nomination in the state’s Aug. 22 primary.

Malena Amusa, from St. Louis, is an editorial intern at Women’s eNews. Nouhad Moawad is the Arabic site intern at Women’s eNews. Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief.

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