thumb pointing up Spain’s government has issued procedures to protect the privacy of women who have abortions. Under the new rules, women’s medical records may only be opened by a court order, Agence-France Presse reported July 11. Earlier this month, Spain’s ruling Socialist party placed a relaxation of the nation’s abortion laws into its platform.

The move–initiated by Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa de la Vega–came after police investigating alleged irregularities of a private clinic’s abortion procedures questioned women in their homes after learning their names through clinic records. In January, private clinics went on strike for five days, accepting only emergency cases, to protest what they saw as the harassment of investigators, who had also detained a dozen doctors, according to RH Reality Check.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Instead of wedding gifts, some same-sex couples in California are asking friends to contribute money to fight a November ballot measure that would make theiir unions illegal, Reuters reported July 14. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau said it will not count same-sex marriages in the 2010 census, the Washington Post reported July 17.
  • The British government is set to increase the number of women appointed to the boards of public institutions to at least 40 percent by 2011 as part of its Equality Bill, trade paper Personnel Today reported July 16. Currently, 34 percent of public appointees are women, and people from ethnic minorities hold less than 6 percent of posts.
  • Doctors and activists in Africa are beginning a public health campaign to stop the practice of geophagy, the eating of earth or clay commonly practiced by pregnant or lactating women as a way to reduce nausea or supplement a mineral-deficient diet, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported July 16. Clay contains harmful parasites that, when ingested, can cause lead poisoning, intestinal obstruction and colon rupture.
  • Former Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney was chosen to be the U.S. Green Party 2008 presidential candidate on July 12 with 313 out of 532 votes at the party’s convention in Chicago, Reuters reported. McKinney was the first black woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives and served for six terms before losing her seat in a primary race in 2006.
  • Navanethem Pillay, a judge at the International Criminal Court, has been named human rights chief for the United Nations, Reuters reported July 18. In her native South Africa, Pillay defended the right to legal assistance of apartheid dissidents, including Nelson Mandela, and exposed torture and unlawful interrogations during the apartheid era.
  • Kay Ryan, 62, will become 16th poet laureate of the United States this fall. Ryan has previously won prizes from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.


thumb pointing down The world’s population is projected to rise to 7 billion in 2012 and could reach 12 billion by 2050, the United Nations warned while commemorating World Population Day on July 11. According to the U.N. Population Fund, 190 million women become pregnant each year. Around 50 million choose abortion, but unsafe procedures kill about 680,000 of them each year.

Mali has the world’s highest fertility rate and 2 in 5 women ages 15 to 19 are pregnant or have already given birth, according to the CIA World Factbook. Contraceptive use and family planning methods should increase if the world is to curb its growth rate and improve maternal health while reducing infant mortality, U.N. agencies said.

In the Palestinian territories, there are no government-supported birth control programs.

In the Philippines, former president Fidel Ramos criticized the country’s current administration for rejecting government purchase of contraceptive supplies and passing responsibility for all family planning programs on to local government, the Manila Times reported July 12. Ramos expressed concern over the influence of the Roman Catholic Church for promoting what it calls natural family planning as the only acceptable mode of birth control.

The Bush administration has blocked funding for the U.N. Population Fund since 2001, accusing the agency of supporting coercive abortion in China. On July 17, a House subcommittee approved $60 million in funding for the agency, reported, but reaffirmed the administration’s stance on China. The proposed funding could provide contraception, safe motherhood medicines and supplies, treatments for obstetric fistula and programs to end female genital mutilation and child marriage in developing nations. However, Bush is expected to refuse any funding for the U.N. agency.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Almost two-thirds of Egyptian men said they have sexually harassed women and the majority say women are to blame, according to a survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, Reuters reported July 17. The survey was conducted with more than 2,000 Egyptian men and women and 109 foreign women. The forms of harassment include shouting sexually explicit remarks, touching or ogling women, and exposing their genitals to women.
  • A French court has denied citizenship to a Muslim woman from Morocco by deciding her practice of Islam is incompatible with French values since her husband requires her to cover her entire face and body, the BBC reported July 12. She was previously denied citizenship in 2004. Politicians, women’s rights activists and some Muslim leaders welcomed the court decision.
  • After an extended maternity leave law passed in April 2007, British employers are now more hesitant to employ women or offer them promotion, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the BBC reported July 14. Women can take up to 52 weeks off and are paid up to 29 weeks, or they can receive 90 percent of weekly earnings for six weeks and approximately $234 in benefits for 33 weeks. The commission is now calling for shared parental leaves to address the issue.
  • Ten Iranian women’s rights activists have gone on hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison to protest physical abuse, reported July 11. Evin Prison houses political and social prisoners, and the activists were arrested during a protest against economic corruption in Tehran.
  • A July 16 Amnesty International report criticized Venezuela for lagging behind in efforts to establish a support system for battered women, the AP reported. The country passed new domestic violence laws in 2007 that require its 23 states and more than 300 municipalities to build women’s shelters. So far, none have.
  • Bangladesh’s Islamic party, the Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, has called on the interim government to bar women from becoming head of state or head of government, reported Bangladesh’s Daily Star July 13.


  • Afghan’s only female athlete to participate in the 2008 Summer Olympics Games disappeared from her training facility in Formia, Italy, on July 4, and is believed to be seeking political asylum in Europe due to threats by extremists, Spiegel International reported July 14.
  • Charlotte Bunch, a Women’s eNews Leader for the 21st Century 2002, will step aside as executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University next summer as a result of a long-term reorganization. Bunch founded the center 20 years ago and has been a guiding force in recognizing women’s rights as human rights, in particular at global meetings in Vienna in 1993 and in Beijing in 1995 where pressure was placed on all countries to report to the United Nations on their progress in providing full citizenship rights to women.

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

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].