(WOMENSENEWS)–Significant efforts were made during 2007 to advance women’s rights and to reduce health disparities and violence. Some of those efforts, however, fell far short: the U.S. abortion rights movement suffered a major defeat by the Bush appointees to the Supreme Court. Here are the Women’s eNews top news stories for women during 2007:


  • Taking over as chief of the World Health Organization on Jan. 4, Margaret Chan made the annual deaths of 529,000 women from pregnancy-related causes an international priority. By the end of October, the global health community had mustered donations over $1.4 billion for the effort. The WHO estimates it will cost $4 billion to $6 billion to reduce maternal and newborn death rates by 95 percent in 75 countries health organization will focus on.
  • The gender and viability of female presidential candidate New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton became the focal point of the 2008 U.S. election campaign as she took the lead in fundraising and opinion polls. Clinton used the occasion of Women’s History Month in March to highlight women’s issues such as reproductive rights and introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act. Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and other candidates also intensified their efforts to appeal to women, who traditionally vote in larger numbers than men and favor Democrats. The race tightened by the end of the year.
  • In March, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced the Women’s Equality Amendment into Congress with over 200 co-sponsors. The bill restarts the ratification process for the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1972. Maloney’s bill coincided with a period of high hopes among women’s rights activists. On Jan. 4, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took over as the first female speaker of the House and became the most powerful woman in the nation. Two months later female politicians and women’s rights activists gathered to set a legislative agenda for U.S. women, including proposals to reduce unintended pregnancy, guarantee workplace equity and fund social programs.
  • International abortion rates are dropping, according to data released in October. Researchers with the WHO and the Guttmacher Institute linked the declines to the wider availability of family planning services and contraceptive access. The number of women of childbearing age who had abortions dropped to 29 per 1,000 in 2003 from 35 per 1,000 in 1995. Abortion was legalized in Portugal in March and in Mexico City in April.
  • Mexico implemented a sweeping law to address gender-based violence in what many advocates saw as a direct response to the large number of unexplained murders of women as well as an epidemic of other forms of violence against them. The law establishes violence against women as a national priority, setting Mexico ahead of other Latin American nations and many in the world. It calls for gender training of officials, studies and research, better services for victims, public education and punishment of abusers.

For more information:

United Nations Population Fund, Safe Motherhood Initiative:

Supreme Court decision, Gonzalez v. Carhart

MDG Monitor, Tracking the Millennium Development Goals:

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  • When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart in April, it outlawed a specific medical procedure for the first time in U.S. history while eliminating the 1992 precedent that abortion restrictions must include exceptions to protect women’s health. The case also marked the tipping point for President George W. Bush’s strategy of nominating anti-choice jurists to the bench. As attacks–including an election strategy of proposed abortion bans and state ballot initiatives to establish fetuses as human beings–intensified on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion, a Center for Reproductive Rights study concluded in November that up to 30 states would further restrict or ban abortion if the precedent fell.
  • At the midway point in the United Nations’ 15-year effort to reduce global poverty by reaching eight so-called millennium development goals, the international organization announced in July that sub-Saharan Africa was not on track to meet any of the goals before the 2015 target. The goals place a heavy emphasis on gender equality, improving women’s health and universal education as a foundation for reducing poverty. Efforts to reduce the number of people who live on less than $1 a day and to achieve universal primary education are falling far short.
  • Women have suffered extensive violence and seen their status plummet in U.S.-occupied Iraq as sectarian clashes raged across the conflict zone and the power of Islamic groups grew. In March activist organization Madre raised the first alarm by documenting an increase in sexual assault and decried the failure of Iraq’s constitutional process to take the concerns of secular women’s groups into account when forming the post-invasion government. Women, often widowed, felt the keenest hardships as they endured the mass displacement of people and joined an exodus of more than 2 million refugees from Iraq.
  • President George W. Bush acknowledged on Jan. 31 for the first time that the income gap among Americans was widening. In September, the Census Bureau released data that showed women’s incomes had dropped 1.2 percent in 2006, continuing the feminization of poverty in the United States. Women comprise 56 percent of those living below the poverty line and head over half of poor households. Congress approved an increase in the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour in May.
  • The abuse of female migrant workers and the trafficking of women around the world reached a crisis point as activists worked to raise the issues’ public profile. The U.S. government estimates that over 800,000 people–mostly women–are trafficked across international borders each year, many subjected to enslavement and abuse. Globally, about 192 million people have also migrated out of their homelands for economic reasons, according to the International Migration Organization. In the United States, the national immigration debate stalled over the summer after female activists took the lead in pressing for protections for domestic workers and abuse victims seeking citizenship.

In Memoriam:

  • The first woman democratically elected to lead a Muslim nation, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated on Dec. 27 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, following an election rally. At least a dozen others were killed in the bombing and shooting attack. Ushered from power as prime minister twice under the shadow of corruption charges, Bhutto had no shortage of political enemies. Upon her return from exile in October to run for office, Bhutto survived a suicide bomb attack that killed 150 others and faced intense threats from Islamic extremists, who targeted not only her pro-Western stance but also her gender.
  • Among other notable women who died in 2007 were three in Congress: Juanita Millender-McDonald of California, Jo Ann Davis of Virginia and Julia Carson of Indiana. News-making women who made their final headlines in 2007 included Molly Ivins, Grace Paley, Liz Claiborne, Beverly Sills, Brooke Astor, Madeleine L’Engle, Kitty Carlise Hart and Lady Bird Johnson.
  • The women’s movement also bid farewell to activists who made history. Catherine Gertrude Roraback was co-counsel in the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court case that legalized birth control. Lorraine Rothman was a pioneer in the women’s self-help clinic movement of the 1970s. Mary-jane Snyder was a founder of the National Organization for Women. Judith Vladeck was a crusading labor attorney and Angela King was a founding member of the United Nations Group on Equal Rights for Women.

Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women’s eNews.

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