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French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt was among 15 hostages released July 2 after six years of captivity by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the BBC reported. Betancourt was kidnapped in February 2002 while campaigning as a presidential candidate in territory controlled by FARC, which has been trying to overthrow the Colombian government for 40 years.

Her first comments Wednesday night were broadcast on Colombian radio: “I never expected to get out of there alive.” She was greeted by her mother, Yolanda Pulecio; her daughter, Melanie Delloye; and son, Lorenzo Delloye, at the airport in Bogota and then flew to France.

Betancourt started her political career in Colombia in 1990 after drug dealers assassinated a presidential candidate. While thanking President Alvaro Uribe Velez, whom she had been running against when kidnapped, she said, “I continue to aspire to serve Colombia as president.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A proposed law in Britain would require public sector employers to publish the pay gap between male and female employees and encourage private companies to do the same, Reuters reported June 26. Equality Minister Harriet Harman proposed the law to encourage women to complain when they are underpaid. It will also allow positive discrimination in favor of women and ethnic-minority candidates, for example, boosting the level of senior female staff or increasing the proportion of ethnic-minority officers in police forces to make local districts more representative. British women in full-time positions earn on average 17 percent less than men and part-time female workers on average earn 26 percent less.
  • The Salvation Army charity organization opened its first safe house in Australia for 10 victims of human trafficking, Voice of America reported June 27. More than 1,000 people are trafficked to Australia for the sex trade or to work in agriculture. Trade in people has become a $29 billion industry with approximately 2 million people trafficked around the world yearly, according to the United Nations.
  • Canada’s Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wants to curb Caesarean section births, up by 17 percent from 1993 and at an all-time high with more than 25 percent of women undergoing the procedure, the Toronto Star reported June 26. The increase is due to changing demographics, rising obesity rates and fear of malpractice lawsuits. A study last year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that a Caesarean birth is three times more dangerous for healthy mothers than vaginal births.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has set up a new call center on reproductive health as part of its family planning initiatives, the Press Trust of India reported June 29. In 25 days, the center received 5,559 calls; 1,400 were about contraception, followed by sexual health concerns in males, pregnancy and reproductive health.
  • Two women were named to Foreign Policy’s 2008 Top 20 Public Intellectuals list. The Washington-based magazine selected the world’s top 100 public intellectuals and then readers voted for the top 20. Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and human and women’s rights activist in Iran, was No. 10. Somalia-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament and an activist, is No. 15. Ali is a critic of Islam’s treatment of women and the writer of “Submission,” a film that renounces the subjugation of Muslim women and that led to the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh.


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The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled June 27 that South Dakota can enforce a law requiring doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that the procedure ends a human life, the Associated Press reported. Patients must also be told they have a right to continue the pregnancy and that abortion may cause psychological harm, such as thoughts of suicide, despite a lack of scientific evidence for such claims.

On July 2, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment rights of two anti-choice activists were breached when they were ordered by school officials and sheriff deputies to stop circling a Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., middle school with their truck showing graphic photos of aborted fetuses, the Los Angeles Times reported July 3.

Meanwhile, Jim Wallis, an evangelical leader and editor of the Christian journal Sojourners, denied reports that he asked presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama to add a plan to reduce the number of abortions to the Democratic Party platform, Newsweek reported June 27. Wallis said he had instead proposed reshaping the debate over abortion. His statement came a day after a coalition of black pastors and anti-choice advocates protested on Capitol Hill against Planned Parenthood, which they call “racist abortion providers” that mostly hit black communities. The group urged politicians to reject campaign donations from Planned Parenthood’s political action committee.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • In the midst of political turmoil surrounding Zimbabwe’s June 27 President Robert Mugabe’s re-election that was boycotted by the opposition, women’s rights groups argue that women are being left vulnerable as male opposition supporters have fled rural areas, the Inter Press Service reported June 28. The ruling party’s militia detains women and children, and they are frequently victims of assault, torture and sexual violence, according to the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a group that records political violence incidents.
  • The worldwide Anglican Communion with 80 million Christian followers faces a historic split due to the issue of ordaining women and gays as bishops, the Times of India reported July 1. A band of 1,300 dissident priests, mostly from Africa and Asia, declared their separation from the church. The schism has been brewing since 2003 when the first openly gay bishop was appointed in the United States.
  • Four Catholic charity workers who helped a 16-year-old Guatemalan immigrant obtain an abortion by signing consent forms were fired after a church officials were told about it. A Catholic leader in Richmond, Va., issued a statement in the Catholic Virginian newspaper apologizing that the teen was allowed to obtain the abortion while under the care of a program that aids undocumented immigrant children without adult guardians.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration turned down Merck’s application to expand its marketing of the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, to women ages 25 to 45 due to concerns on its effectiveness for that age group, Reuters reported June 25. The vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer and genital warts and is approved for people aged 6 to 26. Merck said it will not pursue further approvals for now.


Abortion appears to be on the rise and becoming less of a taboo in the Arab world, according to family planning officials, the Los Angeles Times reported June 29. In most Arab nations, abortion is legal only in cases of rape or when the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, and many are performed by midwives or “back-alley” practitioners. One reason for the increase in abortion appears to be the decrease in early marriages. In Egypt, for example, 10 percent of 15-to-19-year-old females were married in 2003, down from 22 percent in 1976.

Besa Luci, a native of Kosovo, is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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