U.S. women were a deciding factor in determining the outcome of the 2006 midterm elections, according to results from two polls released Nov. 17, and helped bring record numbers of women to the U.S. House, the Senate and state legislatures around the nation.

"Women’s votes led the way for change," said Eleanor Smeal, publisher of Ms. magazine, during a press conference to announce the findings. "There was a five-point gender gap and in close races this was the deciding margin. Without the women’s vote, the balance of power would not have shifted."

Smeal noted the gender gap revealed in the Virginia Senate race, which determined the Democratic takeover of the Senate. In that race, 45 percent of men voted for Democrat James Webb but 55 percent of women voted for him and closed the race. Women’s votes also determined results in the Missouri and Montana Senate races. In addition, the House will gain 22 new pro-choice members when it convenes.

Women are perceived to be more trustworthy and ethical as candidates, a key factor in influencing the takeover of Congress after Republicans faced a series of scandals in the past year. And for the first time, a majority of adults said a woman will be elected president by 2016. Female candidates also increase voter turnout; about one-third of respondents said they were more likely to vote in an election if a woman was a candidate.

"I believe women are going to be the dominant force in politics over the next decade," said Stacy Morrison, editor in chief of Redbook magazine. "More participation is a result of having more female candidates."

One poll, conducted by Lake Research and commissioned by Ms. magazine and the Women Donors Network, surveyed 1,000 likely voters to coincide with the election. The second poll, commissioned by Lifetime Television and Redbook magazine, surveyed 1,031 adults after the election.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • Segolene Royal won her bid as Socialist Party nominee to run for the presidency of France, the Financial Times reported Nov. 16. Royal hopes to become France’s first female president in the May 2007 election. She received 60 percent of her party’s vote. "France is going to write a new page of its history," Royal said.


  • After months of delays, Pakistan’s national assembly has voted to amend the country’s strict Sharia laws on rape and adultery, the BBC reported Nov. 15. Previously, rape cases were tried in Sharia courts in which rape victims faced prosecution for adultery if they did not produce four male witnesses to the crime. Now, judges can decide whether rape cases will be tried in civil courts, if the bill is ratified as expected. Also, the death sentence for the crime of adultery has been eliminated, although those convicted can still face five-year prison sentences.

    "It is a historic bill because it will give rights to women and help end excesses against them," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told Parliament after the vote.


  • Plan B emergency contraception began to arrive in pharmacies nationwide this week, Barr Pharmaceuticals announced Nov. 17. The Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales in August. After agreeing with the manufacturer over a dual labeling scheme that notes the prescription requirement for minors, the product is being shipped nationwide. Women over 18 will have to ask a pharmacist directly for Plan B, but will no longer need a prescription.


  • A federal appeals court ruled that an Ohio abortion law is too restrictive because it gives young women only one chance in court to avoid the need for obtaining their parents’ consent, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Nov. 14. However, the court upheld a provision that requires all women to meet with a doctor and then to wait at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion.


  • Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister Prince Nayef publicly expressed his support for allowing Saudi women to vote, Reuters reported Nov. 15. In an interview with Kuwait’s Al Anbaa newspaper, Nayef stated that a woman’s right to vote was more important than a woman’s right to drive. "We will look into the possibility of women participating in next municipal elections," Prince Nayef said. A ministry spokesperson denied the remarks the next day and said the interview did not occur.

For more information:

Women’s eNews Spotlight on 2006 Midterm Election Races:

"Dangerous Trends, Innovative Responses":

"Fashion World Says Too Thin Is Too Hazardous":

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Former football star O.J. Simpson will appear on Fox News to discuss his new book titled "If I Did It," in which he reveals how he might have murdered his ex-wife and her friend if he were guilty. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman but was later found liable for their deaths in a civil court and ordered to pay over $33 million to their families.

"Disgust and revulsion are the only possible reactions to the news," Esta Soler, president of the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund, said in a press statement. "Two families suffered an unimaginable loss 12 years ago, and two children lost their mother. Now those children will see their father discuss or recreate the crime for entertainment and profit. It is beneath contempt."

Book publisher Judith Regan told the Associated Press she considers the book to be Simpson’s "confession." Fox News has scheduled the interview to broadcast on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29; the book goes on sale Nov. 30. Announcing the interview, Fox said that Simpson describes "how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • President Bush appointed Dr. Eric Keroack, who works for five Massachusetts crisis pregnancy centers, to oversee the federal government’s family planning efforts as deputy health and human services secretary Nov. 16. N.Y. Rep. Carolyn Maloney called the appointment outrageous, noting that Keroack considers birth control to be "demeaning" to women. "It’s no coincidence that we learned about this after the election, because you can be sure that the vast majority of American voters wouldn’t stomach this appointment," Maloney said in a press statement. "The women of America should realize that the fringe-right attack on their reproductive choices is not limited to abortion; they are going after the availability of birth control, and they are determined."


  • In Missouri, state Rep. Edgar Emery, a Republican, inserted statements into a legislative report that said that abortion is partly to blame for illegal immigration because it is causing a shortage of U.S. workers. He also wrote that "liberal social welfare policies" have discouraged Americans from working and encouraged immigrants to cross the border illegally, the Associated Press reported Nov. 13. The legislative report estimated that Missouri has 80,000 fewer residents as a result of legalized abortion.


Brazilian fashion model Ana Carolina Reston–who worked for top New York modeling agencies Ford, Elite and L’Equipe–died from anorexia nervosa, the New York Post reported Nov. 16. The 21-year-old had been hospitalized in Sao Paulo since Oct. 25 and friends reported that she only ate apples and tomatoes in recent months. At the time of her death, the 5-foot-7-inch Reston weighed 88 pounds.

Irene Lew is editorial intern at Women’s eNews.

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