Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who authored the nation’s Family and Medical Leave Act 14 years ago, said this week he will introduce a new bill to include up to six weeks’ paid leave for workers who take time off from their jobs to care for sick family members, newborns or new adopted children.

The current law allows parents to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs. The United States, Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea are the only nations that offer no national maternity leave program, according to ABC News.

“The U.S. does not do nearly enough to ensure that our workers aren’t forced to choose between their family and their job,” said Dodd. “Now more than ever, millions of workers need to be able to take care of their young children and aging parents. No worker should be penalized for caring for their family.”

Dodd, a Democrat, said his bill will also expand the number of people who are qualified to take leave. The program would run on a “shared-cost” mechanism, involving the employee, the employer and the federal government.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The number of U.S. women who die from heart disease decreased by 17,000 from 2003 to 2004, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced Feb. 1. Previously 1 in 3 women with heart disease died from the condition; the ratio is now 1 in 4. The institute attributed the change to increasing public awareness. A separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, however, found that women who live in polluted areas are significantly more likely to develop heart disease.
  • The Egyptian government has launched a grassroots campaign to end female genital mutilation, McClatchy-Tribune News Service reported Jan. 30. The program is focusing on 120 villages and combines education with incentives to discourage the practice. Last month, the villages of Eneiba and neighboring al Aqab issued an official statement against FGM after three years of intensive lobbying work.
  • The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network in Washington, D.C., is expanding its online sexual assault hotline. Previously available two hours a day, the hotline will operate six hours a day as of Monday, Feb. 5. Calls will be answered from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. During these hours, victims of abuse can receive real-time online help from trained volunteers. The service is free and confidential.
  • The Uganda AIDS commission has set a goal of providing treatment to at least 90 percent of people with HIV-AIDs, now estimated at 1.1 million in that country, the news site AllAfrica.com reported Jan. 24. The annual rate of new infections is 135,000. The commission said it will build 107 new hospitals and 160 health centers by 2012 in an effort to target 500,000 HIV-positive people annually.
  • After pressure from more than 100 Bloomington, Ind., residents and Indiana University affiliates, planners of a “Girls Gone Wild” event canceled their visit to the town, the Indiana Daily Student reported Jan. 25. “Girls Gone Wild” videos frequently document party scenes and depict young women removing clothes or engaging in sexual antics. Organizers have withheld comment since canceling the event.

For more information:

RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline:

“Thai Activists Monitor Trial of Anti-HIV Gel”:

“Today Is Red Letter Day for Women’s Heart Disease”:

Note: Women’s eNews is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites and the contents of Web pages we link to may change without notice.


South Dakota’s state House of Representatives voted this week to approve a new abortion ban, allowing the procedure only in cases of rape and incest, and only if the crime was reported within 50 days and victims are willing to submit DNA evidence, the Associated Press reported Jan. 31.

In November, the state’s voters defeated a similar ban–which allowed only an exception to save a woman’s life–but polls indicated that the abortion ban would have been approved if it had allowed exceptions for rape and incest.

Although legislators have broadened the bill’s terms, it carries a tougher maximum penalty than the last year’s measure. Violators will now face 10 years in prison instead of five.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Pharmaceutical trials to test a microbicide gel made from cellulose sulfate were halted in South Africa, Benin, Uganda and India, Reuters reported Jan. 31. The gels were being tested on 1,333 women and were widely anticipated as a way for women to prevent HIV infection. Instead, researchers found that the gel, developed under the brand name Ushercell, increased the risk of infection; 35 women contracted HIV during the trial.
  • “While the findings are unexpected and disappointing, we will learn scientifically important information from this trial that will inform future HIV prevention research,” principal investigator Dr. Lut Van Damme said in a press statement from CONRAD, the Arlington, Va., research group conducting the trials.

  • Japan’s health minister, Hakuo Yanagisawa, described women as “birth-giving machines” in a speech commenting the low birthrate in the country, the AP reported Jan. 30. In 2006, Japan’s birth rate was 9.37 births per 1,000 people. The Japanese government is trying to persuade couples to have more children to maintain population. Women’s rights advocates have called for the health minister’s resignation.
  • Administrative officials at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, used a theology professor’s gender as grounds to dismiss her, the AP reported Jan. 31. The professor, Sheri Klouda, was originally hired in 2002 to a tenure-track position, but claims that the seminary’s president, Paige Patterson, told her in 2006 that women are biblically forbidden to teach men and refused to consider her for tenure. Klouda was finally terminated in late 2006.


The Canadian town council of Herouxville, Quebec, issued a declaration that forbids new immigrants from murdering women, Reuters reported Jan. 31. Published on the town’s Web site, the declaration cautions new arrivals to abstain from “killing women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, (and) circumcising them,” among other warnings. The declaration drew criticism from townspeople and other Canadians who say that it thrives on false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam.

In Memoriam:

Molly Ivins, a best-selling author and Texan writer known for her humor and outrageous wit, died this week of breast cancer at her home in Austin. She was 62.

“She was the human campfire we’d gather around,” Rusty Todd, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, told the AP. “There’s a bunch of us real sad.”

A darling of liberals, Ivins wrote a political column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for nine years, until 2001, and wrote for the Minneapolis Tribune, New York Times, Dallas Times-Herald and Time during her nearly 40 years as a journalist. Ivins was a strong advocate for women’s rights and never held back her opinions on any topic. When she was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, she wrote to her readers: “I don’t need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done.”

Toyin Adeyemi is editorial intern at Women’s eNews; Nouhad Moawad oversees the Arabic site; Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief.

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