Women’s issues have surged to the forefront of the 2008 presidential campaign.

During a week of events themed to women, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed extending family leave policies to smaller companies and granting $1 billion to states as incentives to implement their own family leave policies. The current law applies to businesses with over 50 employees, which Clinton would expand to businesses with 25 employees or more providing new coverage to 13 million people.

When asked on Oct. 10 to contemplate a victory by abortion rights supporter and Republican front-runner Rudolph Giuliani, NARAL Pro-Choice America political director Elizabeth Shipp told the Huffington Post that it would benefit the pro-choice movement by softening anti-abortion dogma. Giuliani also was endorsed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a notable social conservative whose administration has worked to dampen abortion rights in his state.

Republican Mitt Romney also touched on women’s issues in campaign appearances in Iowa, saying “marriage comes first” and that he planned to tackle the issue of single motherhood, the Boston Globe reported Oct. 17.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Women’s rights activists flooded foreign embassies in Myanmar with female underwear to protest the lack of diplomatic pressure on the military regime. “The Panties for Peace” campaign, conceived by an activist group in Thailand, played on the junta’s superstition that contact with women’s lingerie will deplete their power, the Guardian reported Oct. 19.
  • Astronaut Peggy Whitson became the first woman to command the International Space Station on Oct. 19, USA Today reported. Whitson received a horsewhip–traditional mark of authority for male Kazakh chieftains–as a gift from Russian astronauts last week. Pamela Melroy–the only female astronaut qualified to lead a U.S. Space Shuttle mission–will command the Discovery in its next launch and dock at the space station. She is the second woman to command a shuttle mission in NASA history.
  • The U.S. Senate blocked an attempt to cut off funding to women’s health providers in a 52-41 vote Oct. 18. Sen. David Vitter, R.-La., sponsored an anti-abortion amendment to a health and education spending bill, which would have denied federal funding to providers such as Planned Parenthood that use separate funds for abortion services. Vitter was implicated in July in a scandal involving a Washington, D.C., prostitution ring and publicly apologized to his wife and colleagues for this “sin in my past.”
  • Scientists are at work on a genetic contraceptive that could eliminate the negative side effects of traditional hormonal birth control, the Independent reported Oct. 16. The genetic therapy would not block ovulation but would target a gene that allows sperm to bind to the egg, preventing side effects like moodiness, headaches and weight gain that can be caused by hormonal birth control. Researchers at Harvard University say the contraception could come to market in about 10 years.
  • Three Nevada women were awarded $99 million in damages in a lawsuit against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals that claimed hormonal treatments caused their breast cancer. The company faces a large number of similar suits across the country and plans to appeal.
  • Women who identify themselves as feminists tend to have more successful relationships and better self-image, according to an Oct. 16 Rutgers University study. After following 242 U.S. undergraduates and 289 adults, researchers concluded women who considered themselves feminists tended to be in more stable, healthier heterosexual relationships and men with feminist partners reported similar results.
  • India’s first women’s political party, the United Women Front, launched Oct. 17. “Through this front we want to ensure that the issues of priority concerning half the country’s population come to the forefront in India’s national agenda,” party president Suman Krishan Kant told the Times of India. India’s parliament is 8.8 percent female.
  • Sayeeda Warsi, a human rights lawyer, became the first Muslim woman to take a seat in the British House of Lords on Oct. 15. Baroness Warsi is a member of the opposition Conservative Party.
  • The International Women’s Media Foundation has awarded its 2007 Courage in Journalism Award to Mexico’s Lydia Cacho, who crusades against child pornography and gender violence; Serkalem Fasil of Ethiopia, who was charged with treason; and the six female reporters of McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau. Peta Thornycroft of Zimbabwe will receive a lifetime achievement award at the Oct. 23 ceremony.


Eleven states received a failing grade and the rest received less than satisfactory grades in a 50-state women’s health report card issued by the National Women’s Law Center Oct. 17. The United States overall received failing marks when it comes to meeting benchmarks for women’s health.

“As each year passes the nation as a whole and states are falling farther behind,” said Judy Waxman, the center’s vice president for health. The report found that regular dental visits and other check-ups were largely occurring at a satisfactory rate, but that women were suffering in terms of declines in reproductive health, an increase in obesity and other key health indicators.

Vermont was ranked as the No. 1 state for women’s health. Grades were based on status indicators like access to key services, the existence of certain health conditions, and the prevalence of health-promoting activities. Mississippi was ranked last.

Although some states have made progress implementing new policies beneficial to women’s health such as covering smoking cessation policies with Medicaid, such policies take several years to yield significant improvement. Access to health insurance, the level of the gender wage gap and the incidence of poverty are 3 of the 10 benchmarks missed by every single state. “A troubling number of women in this country continue to lack health insurance,” the report said.

For more information:

NARAL Pro-Choice America, 2008 Elections Guide:

National Women’s Law Center, National Report Card on Women’s Health:

International Women’s Media Foundation, Courage in Journalism Awards:

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More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Birth-control critic Dr. Susan Orr was nominated to oversee the $300 million budget of the Department of Health and Human Services family planning program. Orr, who has worked at the Christian advocacy group Family Research Council, has gone on the record as saying contraception is part of a “culture of death.”
  • Four U.S. Marines stationed south of Hiroshima, Japan, stand accused of gang-raping a 19-year-old woman on Oct. 19. The U.S. embassy and military say they are cooperating fully with Japanese authorities investigating the case. The United States has 40,000 troops stationed in Japan.
  • A Philadelphia judge dropped sexual assault charges against a man accused of raping a prostitute, charging him instead with “theft of services,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported Oct. 12. The defendant is accused of luring a woman to an abandoned lot, inviting his friends and participating in a gang rape while the woman was held at gunpoint.
  • A national women’s symposium held the weekend of Oct. 12 in Cordoba, Argentina, sparked confrontations between pro-choice activists and Catholic opponents. Catholic women told Christian news service Agencia Nova that pro-choice workshop participants physically assaulted them. Over 10,000 pro-choice women marched to Cordoba’s central cathedral, where 500 members of Catholic organizations counter-demonstrated.
  • A referee benched a Muslim athlete because she wore a head covering to an Oct. 13 soccer match in New Jersey. Iman Khalil, 15, has worn the scarf to every game in the last six years, USA Today reported Oct. 15. Under the soccer association’s rules, players are permitted to wear head coverings for religious reasons.

Sarah Seltzer is the editorial intern; Dominique Soguel is the Arabic editor.

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