The European Court of Human Rights awarded Alicja Tysiac of Poland $33,000 after doctors ignored her pleas for an abortion to maintain her eyesight, the BBC reported March 20. The court ruled that her human rights were violated when doctors refused to perform an abortion even though Tysiac was warned that her pregnancy could result in blindness.

After giving birth in 2000, Tysiac suffered a retinal hemorrhage. She now wears glasses with thick lenses that enable only about a five-foot viewing range. She took her case to the human rights court last year to argue that Poland’s abortion law–which bans the procedure unless the health of the mother or fetus is seriously at risk and three doctors approve it–violates women’s privacy rights.

The ruling will have no direct effect on abortion law in the country, but it does draw attention to the legalities women requesting an abortion face and requires that all member nations of the European Union guarantee that abortions are available under the terms of their laws.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Canadian government set aside $300 million in vaccination funding this week to combat human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, the Globe and Mail reported March 20. The funding will temper the $140 cost for each of three shots. An advisory committee recommended all Canadian girls aged 9 to 11 be vaccinated; cervical cancer is the second-most common form of cancer in women aged 20 to 44.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will fully fund its Office of Women’s Health after activists and numerous members of Congress lobbied for the appropriation, the Washington Post reported March 18. Last month, FDA insiders indicated the agency would reduce the office’s fiscal 2007 budget by about 25 percent, resulting in the suspension of the office’s activities for the rest of the year.
  • Shadi Sadr and Mahboobeh Abasgholizadeh, two women detained in Iran for illegally protesting, were released on March 19 after 15 days in solitary confinement, Payvand’s Iran News reported March 20. The two women’s rights defenders were among 31 women arrested during a March 4 demonstration that demanded freedom for five other women on trial for staging an illegal demonstration in Tehran last year. Sadr and Abasgholizadeh were released on $215,000 bail and will continue to face charges, although the government will not reveal what those charges are.
  • Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has called on men to share the domestic responsibilities carried by women at a conference, the Independent reported March 22. Blair said society should do more to help men spend more time nurturing their children and caring for elderly relatives.

For more information:

“Polish Woman Denied Abortion Awaits EU Judgment”:

“Teens Call Hyper-Sexualized Media Images ‘Normal'”:

“Suarez, Free from Prison, Pushes for Law Reform”:


Numerous media images depicting violence against women drew criticism this week. Thirty billboards in the Los Angeles area and ads on New York taxicabs depicted graphic scenes of a young woman being abducted, tortured and murdered to promote the upcoming film “Captivity.” The Los Angeles Times reported March 18 that film studio Lionsgate denied responsibility for the ads and a representative from the studio’s partner, After Dark Films, said the billboards were mistakenly printed and distributed before they were approved.

top model

The CW Network program, “America’s Next Top Model,” required contestants to portray murdered models in its March 21 photo shoot. The show takes aspiring models and challenges them to see who can produce the most magazine-ready photo. The resulting shots depicted women slumped in various positions after being stabbed, drowned, shot or otherwise murdered. The models’ challenge was to “bring to life” the crime scenes.

A new poster ad campaign from the breast cancer foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, features women’s torsos with words over them such as “We only focus on one thing. Or, depending on how you look at it, two.” Taglines threaten to “punch it, strangle it, kick it, spit on it, choke it and pummel it until it’s good and dead,” referring to breast cancer. The campaign has been criticized by bloggers who say the campaign’s violence degrades women.

Meanwhile, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland decreed a Catholic Church TV commercial must be removed because its gender-equality message is too “political,” the National Catholic Reporter reported March 15. The ad presents an array of infants and says they will have less education and face more violence because they are female. It appeals to viewers to help end gender discrimination. Previous ads–which are produced to run during Lent–addressed racism, child soldiers and slavery.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Activist Maria Suarez, who was enslaved for five years and then wrongly imprisoned in California for 22 years for the murder of her captor, faces threat of deportation for a second time, the Christian Science Monitor reported March 22. In May, Suarez’s “T” visa will expire; it’s a visa that allows trafficking victims to stay in the United States for three years while they apply for permanent residency. But because the Homeland Security Department has never developed regulations for how the visas are administered, Suarez has been unable to become a citizen. The State Department estimates 17,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year; advocacy organizations estimate between 50,000 and 200,000 are held captive here against their will.
  • A German court denied a Muslim woman’s request for a speedy divorce on the grounds that her husband beat her, the New York Times reported March 22. Following sharp criticisms from legal experts and Muslim leaders, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, was removed from the bench because her decision could not be legally justified. In her January decision, the judge said that wife-beating was sanctioned by the Quran, and the woman would have to wait the customary twelve-month period for a standard divorce.

  • A female lawyer, Jane Duke, was passed over for an interim U.S. attorney’s position because she was on maternity leave, according to a Dec. 26 story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In the wake of a national fray over the Bush administration’s firing of eight federal prosecutors, the story came to the attention of the National Partnership for Women and Families in Washington, D.C., which criticized the Justice Department on March 21. Duke would have been in line to become a replacement; instead the position went to Tim Griffin, a Republican with close ties to presidential adviser Karl Rove.
  • Two Sudanese women have been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery after facing a Sharia court trial conducted in Arabic–not their first language–without a lawyer, the Sydney Morning Herald reported March 21. One of the women, Sadia Idriss Fadul, had one of her children with her in prison. The man accused in her case was released because there was not enough evidence against him. Their sentences could be carried out at any time, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
  • The British government said that schools can ban students from wearing Muslim veils if teachers believe they might affect safety, security or pupils’ learning, Agence France Press reported March 20. The ministry said head teachers have always had the right to set their school’s uniform policy after talking to the parents. A similar ban on veils in French schools in 2004 sparked widespread criticism.

Alison Bowen is a New York-based reporter with Women’s eNews; Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews; and Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief.

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