In the Nov. 6 off-year elections, women and pro-choice candidates gained victories while a new study showed that female voters’ involvement is growing more crucial in the 2008 presidential race.

In New Jersey, a record number of women were elected in the State Assembly and Senate, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The state’s legislative branch is now 28 percent female with nine women in the Senate and 25 in the Assembly. The state has vaulted from 43rd in the country in terms of female representation to being tied with California and Connecticut in 15th place.

The activist group Republican Majority for Choice was also pleased with the election results, which included the victories of six moderate, pro-choice Republicans in New Jersey.

In Virginia, 84 percent of the candidates endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia were victorious, the abortion rights group said, ending a 10-year period of dominance for anti-abortion legislators.

Eighty-two percent of 1,003 women surveyed for cable network Lifetime’s Every Woman Counts campaign said they are definitely or most likely voting in the presidential election and 25 percent said they are “paying more attention” to the race due to the candidacy of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Seventy-seven percent of female voters are undecided in the race, but nearly 40 percent said that the 2008 election is more important than previous ones.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Nov. 8, adding workplace discrimination rights based on sexual orientation. President Bush has threatened to veto, and activists are dismayed that a clause to afford equal protection to transgender individuals was deleted from the final version. The Equality Federation, a national coalition of gay rights advocacy groups, released a statement saying that transgender people “are the members of our community most in need of employment protections.”
  • Female corporate directors have higher incomes than male directors, a Nov. 7 study from the Corporate Library, an independent organization that studies executive pay, found. Women on boards of directors at corporations earned a median salary of $120,000 compared with $104, 375 for men. In boardrooms men outnumbered women 8 to 1.
  • Anne Sophie Pic was selected from 8,000 chefs to become the first woman named Chef of the Year in France by the gastronomic guide Michelin. She runs Pic a Valence, in Drome, and represents the third generation in a family of chefs.
  • The Alaska Supreme Court overturned a state law requiring judicial or parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. Although the law was never enforced, the Nov. 6 ruling was a victory for Planned Parenthood and two doctors who challenged the law in 1997, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
  • The minimum age for marriage was raised from 15 to 18 in Bahrain, Gulf News reported Nov. 5. Religious clerics condemned the decision as a violation of Islamic teachings, but women’s rights activist Lamees Dhaif called on the justice minister to uphold the decision and resist the pressure.
  • The state of Pune in India is tackling the consequences of early motherhood with a new intervention program for married girls aged 12 to 19, the India Times reported Nov. 5. In India, 49 percent of women are married before the age of 18, according to the 2007 national family health survey.
  • A nurse who sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan for pregnancy discrimination will be awarded $180,000 after winning a suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, the agency announced Nov. 6. Margaret McIlroy had seen a promotion offer rescinded within 24 hours of disclosing her pregnancy.
  • Former undersecretary of state and close adviser to President Bush, Karen Hughes, said the most overlooked contribution of the Bush administration was its level of women in prominent positions during a Nov. 7 speech at the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria. Eight of Bush’s 18 cabinet members are female, including the secretaries of state, education and labor. Hughes also cited the administration’s efforts to reduce breast cancer in the Arabic-speaking region.

For more information:

Center for American Women in Politics:

Equality Federation:

National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:


Just as a study was released showing that abstinence-only education has no effect on teen pregnancy rates, House Democrats agreed with the president’s request for a large increase in funding it.

On Nov. 6, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a budget that included $141 million total for abstinence-only education. President Bush requested a $28 million increase over last year, and Democrats agreed to fund it.

A Nov. 7 report released by the Washington-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that abstinence programs are not proven to delay sex or reduce the number of partners for teens. Comprehensive sex education programs do reduce pregnancy rates, delay the onset of sexual activity and increase contraception use among teens.

Texas statistics presented further evidence that abstinence-only education doesn’t work; the state has a widespread abstinence-only policy in classrooms and state law requires parental consent for teens to buy contraceptives. Statistics released last month by nonpartisan research group Child Trends show that Texas has the highest teen birth rate in the country, with 63 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19, as well as the highest repeat teen birth rate, the Dallas Morning News reported Nov. 5.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Iranian women’s rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for protesting during a major demonstration in June 2006 that saw multiple arrests and a violent crackdown by police. Ali, whose arm was broken in the protest, will be sent to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran on Nov. 10. Fourteen other activists will be summoned to court in the next two months, Payvand reported Nov. 4, including a woman involved in the Million Signatures Campaign that calls for ending discriminatory laws in Iran. The remainder will be tried for their involvement in peaceful women’s rights protests held in June this year.
  • A study in Australia found that lesbian women are less healthy than their heterosexual counterparts, Australian News Network reported Nov. 8. Lesbian and bisexual women were twice as likely to be smokers and 30 percent more likely to drink more than the recommended amount. It also found that 30 percent of lesbian and bisexual women were likely to be depressed. One cause of the disparity is “the marginalization of lesbian women,” said Jude Comfort, an associate researcher at the Western Australian Center for Health Promotion Research, which performed the study. She cited the factors of homophobia and a health system that was ill-equipped to deal with sexual minorities.

In Memoriam:

  • Mary-jane R. Snyder, an original founder of the National Organization for Women and a lifelong advocate of international reproductive rights, died on Oct. 27 at the age of 91. Snyder was active in Planned Parenthood and was a passionate crusader for family planning in developing countries.
  • Female pro wrestler Lillian Ellison, known as the “Fabulous Moolah,” died on Nov. 2 at the age of 84. Ellison was the first woman to be inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment’s hall of fame, according to USA Today. Her 30-year reign as a world champion ended in 1987 when she was 64.

Sarah Seltzer is the editorial intern at Women’s eNews; Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor.

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