The U.S. Senate, led by California’s Barbara Boxer, voted 53-41 to overturn the so-called global gag rule that bans family planning aid for international groups that offer abortion services or provide information about abortion, the Los Angeles Times reported Sept. 7.

The Senate bill must be reconciled with the House version of the budget bill, which includes a similar measure that allows the government to provide contraceptives directly to the same groups. Both votes indicate Democrats’ efforts to curb the anti-choice actions of recent Republican administrations. The global gag rule–also called the Mexico City policy–was initiated by Ronald Reagan, reversed by Democrat Bill Clinton and restored by George W. Bush in his first days in office. Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

Boxer said the bill “could significantly enhance the health and well-being of millions of women around the globe.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A coalition of British parliamentarians is moving to liberalize the United Kingdom’s abortion law to make it easier for women to obtain the procedure, the Independent reported Sept. 2. The proposal would eliminate the requirement that a doctor approve abortions and allow nurses to carry out the procedure in some cases.
  • Brazil’s ruling Labor Party has become the first national party to put the decriminalization of abortion in its political platform. Illegal abortions hospitalize roughly 238,000 Brazilian women each year. Abortions are currently only legal in cases of rape or to save the life of the woman.
  • Women now form a 54 percent majority of Canada’s core government employees, the National Post reported Sept. 4. The increase is partly due to the drop in the pool of available jobs in categories dominated by men, as well as increases in the number of women working in administrative and foreign-service positions.
  • North Carolina is providing free progesterone shots to low-income and uninsured pregnant women, the Raleigh News and Observer reported Sept. 6. The shots can help prevent premature births and cost about $250.
  • The public transportation service in Delhi, India, will launch a 24-hour helpline for female passengers to report sexual harassment during their commutes, One World South Asia reported Sept. 5. Transit employees will also receive “gender sensitization” training.
  • Parnaz Azima, an Iranian American broadcaster at Radio Farda, was allowed to leave Iran after seven months; she was accused of spreading disinformation, Radio Free Europe reported Sept. 4. Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant with the Open Society Institute, and peace activist Ali Shakeri are still jailed. In Saudi Arabia, eight women were detained for four days and released after demanding a public trial for male relatives, the Peninsula reported Sept. 6.

For more information:

Access Denied:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Suicide Trends:

University of Warwick, Research on Doctors’ Gender:

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Following criticism of anti-depressant use among U.S. children in 2004, a new study finds that reduced usage may have resulted in more suicides, especially among girls, Reuters reported Sept. 6. Suicide rates hit their highest level in 15 years, with the largest increase among girls aged 10 to 14.

In other health news, gonorrhea among Scottish women has risen 61 percent in the past year, the Scotsman reported Sept. 6. Chlamydia cases have increased 6 percent and genital herpes increased 15 percent in the first six months of 2007. Health officials said a lack of education could be a factor.

The gender of doctors may affect a woman’s health, research from Britain’s University of Warwick suggests. Twice as many women as men aged 45 to 64 have undetected myocardial infarctions, indicating that there is a discrepancy in the way women are diagnosed, Science Daily reported Sept. 6. Taking a patient’s age into consideration is a significant factor in diagnosing coronary heart disease, and researchers found that female doctors placed more weight on men’s ages than they did women’s ages.

African American women are less likely to respond to a hormone-based treatment for a deadly type of breast cancer than other U.S. women, research from the University of Michigan has found. The research provides one explanation of higher death rates for African American women, the AP reported Sept. 6. Later diagnoses and lack of aggressive treatment have also been linked to black women’s higher mortality form the disease.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The Iraqi government has frozen the bank accounts of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, community radio program “Democracy Now!” reported Sept. 7. The watchdog group, led by activist and journalist Yanar Muhammad, has been critical of the U.S. occupation. It has documented the disappearance of 4,000 women since the 2003 invasion and says most have been trafficked for prostitution.
  • Two women accused of prostitution were beheaded in northwestern Pakistan by Islamic militants, the BBC reported Sept. 7. A note left with the bodies read: “We have started doing this to end obscenity in the area.” Music and movie stores have also been targeted.
  • Abstinence-only sex education advocates are putting pressure on Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the Boston Globe reported Sept. 6. Patrick has vetoed language in the state budget supporting an abstinence program and rejected $750,000 in federal funding to pay for it. Washington-based National Abstinence Education Association is spending $75,000 on media ads to persuade the governor to change his mind.
  • In Wales, the number of women leaving the work force rose to 7.2 percent in 2006 from 5.5 percent in 2005, the BBC reported Sept. 4. The most common reason for quitting was the lack of training and development.
  • About 1,300 women from the former Soviet Union have been stranded in Cuba since the fall of communism, Reuters reported Sept. 5. The women were drawn to service in Fidel Castro’s revolution, but when Cuba’s isolated post-Soviet economy deteriorated the women were forgotten by their homeland. Zoia Barash, who went to Cuba in 1963, is struggling to live on a $10 monthly pension after 30 years working in Cuba’s film industry. “We were young and Cuba was beautiful when we got here,” she said.


Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, conceded defeat in the nation’s Sept. 6 election, the AP reported. She lost by 2,940 votes. Her People’s National Party contested preliminary results, saying opponents campaigned after the official cut-off and voters were prevented from casting ballots. Simpson Miller’s concession ends the party’s 18-year hold on power.

Nouhad Moawad manages Women’s eNews’ Arabic site, Tereza Perazza is Brazil correspondent and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.