New Jersey has joined California, Maine and Pennsylvania to become the fourth state to reject federal funds for abstinence-only education, reported the Newark Star-Ledger Oct. 26. New Jersey health and education officials said they rejected the funding because new rules will not let teachers talk about contraception and that the strings attached to the money contradict the state’s own sex education and AIDS education programs.
Since 1997, New Jersey has taken the money, totaling nearly $800,000 each year, but state officials said the new federal guidelines have become less flexible. The funds are usually distributed to local nonprofit organizations, such as the Camden County chapter of the American Red Cross and Catholic Community Services, which run education programs, some that take place in schools, for about 11,000 children age 10 through 14. Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs said the new guidelines require organizations to follow all sections of the federal abstinence-only education program, including one that teaches that monogamy in marriage is the "expected standard of human sexual activity" and that sex outside of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.
"Monogamy is not a bad idea, but having the government of New Jersey dictate these things for families is not something we wish to do," Jacobs said. "It isn’t the function of state government to create standards" for sexual activity.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- Women in India are now protected from physical violence, emotional torture and mental abuse, reported the Hindustan Times Oct. 26. Under the nation’s new Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, husbands, male partners, brothers and sons are subject to punishment if they engage in acts of domestic violence, including harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives.
- Maryland officials have restored health benefits for thousands of legal immigrant women and children who were dropped from a state health Medicaid program 16 months ago, the Baltimore Sun reported Oct. 20. In July 2005, the state eliminated $7 million from a Medicaid program covering thousands of low-income pregnant women and children who have been in the country legally less than five years.
- The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 25 that same-sex couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples and ordered the state Legislature to choose between legalizing same-sex marriage or creating civil unions with equal rights, benefits and obligations, reported the Newark Star-Ledger Oct. 26. The Legislature will have 180 days to make a decision.
- Radio Zine, a new radio show for women founded by women is gaining popularity in northern Iraq, reported Voice of America Oct. 24. The program’s director, Chilura Hardi, launched Radio Zine over a year ago in the Kurdistan regional capital, Irbil, to create a public forum where women could address their concerns. Topics on recent shows have included polygamy, terrorism, adulterous husbands and breast cancer.
- A new contraceptive vaginal ring undergoing trials in Australia is expected to last 12 months with a lower failure rate than birth control pills, reported the Australian Associated Press Oct. 24. The ring uses less estrogen than the lowest dose pill on the market and contains enough of the hormone–along with a new form of progesterone–for 13 cycles. Unlike other vaginal rings, the new contraceptive ring does not have to be replaced monthly.
For more information:
"Some States Abstain from Abstinence-Only Funding":
"Lesbian Couples Shut Out of Immigration Reforms":
"In Radio, Iraq Women Are Raising Their Voices":
Nicaragua’s national assembly voted 52 to 0 to ban all abortions, even in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, reported the BBC Oct. 26. Nicaragua already had restrictive anti-abortion laws, with women and doctors who take part in abortions facing prison sentences of up to six years.
Members of Nicaragua’s medical association and United Nations representatives opposed the timing of the vote, which coincided with Nicaragua’s upcoming presidential elections on Nov. 5. They claimed that the abortion debate had become too politicized.
Hundreds of people protested outside the National Assembly in the capital of Managua on the night before the vote, saying the law would be a death sentence for some.
"They are forcing women and girls to die. They are not pro-life, they are pro-death," said protester Xiomara Luna.
More News to Jeer This Week
- The Bush administration has announced new Title IX regulations Oct. 24 that will allow public school districts to expand the number of single-sex classes and schools, as long as enrollment is voluntary, wire services reported Oct. 25. Schools and classes must be of "substantially equal" quality for members of the excluded sex. "I don’t know how the Department of Education plans to define ‘even-handedly,’ but in our decades of experience with gender discrimination, separate is unequal," said National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy in a press release.
- A prominent Australian cleric, Sheikh Taj al-din Al Hilaly, implied in a sermon that raping women who do not wear the veil is justified, the Australian reported Aug. 26. "If you take out uncovered meat . . . and the cats come and eat it," the cleric said, referring to a gang rape in Sydney in 2000, "whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred." Australia’s sex discrimination minister, Pru Goward, called for Al Hilaly’s deportation.
- Katie Couric’s arrival as anchor and managing editor on the "CBS Evening News" has not translated to more airtime by female correspondents on the network’s evening news program, reported the trade journal Broadcasting and Cable Oct. 23. Since Couric took over in September, women have received 40 percent fewer assignments than they did under her predecessor, Bob Schieffer. Under Schieffer, stories filed by women averaged 5.8 minutes each night; under Couric, that average has dropped to 3 minutes. The average for men is unchanged, at 10.1 minutes.
- African families living in Britain are importing African practitioners to circumcise their daughters, the Times of London reported Oct. 23. In addition, many British families from Africa are sending their daughters back home to undergo the ritual. Although female genital mutilation is illegal in Britain and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, the Britain-based Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development estimated that 25,000 young girls are at risk of having the procedures performed on them. The forms of female genital mutilation vary dramatically throughout the regions that practice it.
- John Spencer, the Republican candidate running against Hillary Rodham Clinton for a New York Senate seat, said that Clinton used to be ugly and speculated that she got "millions of dollars" in plastic surgery to make her look pretty, reported the New York Daily News Oct. 23. "You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," said Spencer. "I don’t know why Bill married her." Spencer claimed the story was a fabrication the next day but Daily News reporter Ben Smith stood by his story.
Irene Lew is an editorial intern at Women’s eNews.
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