Dems Stay Pro-Choice; Jailed Moms Lose Kids

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The Democratic Party retained strong support of abortion rights in a revised position statement last week that put new emphasis on curbing unintended pregnancy through better access to affordable family-planning services and comprehensive sex-education programs.

"The platform is unwavering in protecting a woman’s right to choose," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York. "It is also a broad victory for women, recognizing that women’s health care is not limited to a single issue."

The drafting committee agreed on Aug. 9 to add the new language, according to the Wall Street Journal. It drew mild plaudits from abortion-rights opponents who were happy to see a stronger focus on pregnancy prevention.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • Colombia’s highest court has allowed emergency contraception imports for distribution, RH Reality Check reported Aug. 11.


  • Governors are appointing more women, the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University of Albany in New York found in a report released this summer. The number jumped to 35 percent of governor-appointed posts last year from 28 percent in 1997.


  • A major U.S. political party will consider a female presidential nominee for the first time since 1972 when supporters of Hillary Clinton nominate the failed presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention later this month. "Having her delegates tallied at the convention will ensure that this important step in history will never be forgotten," Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women in Washington, D.C., said in a press statement. In 1972, the late Shirley Chisholm, a congresswoman from New York, was considered by the Democratic Party; eight years before that Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was up for nomination at the Republican convention.


  • Britain’s Muslim Institute has released a new marital contract with the force of law that recognizes and protects a woman’s equal rights in marriage, the Telegraph reported Aug. 8. The contract is considered the most significant development in British recognition of Sharia, or Islamic religious, law. The contract guarantees a woman’s right to divorce, retain financial and property rights and eliminates the requirement that she have a guardian.


  • An American Psychological Association panel found no credible link between mental health problems and abortion in a report released during the group’s annual conference this week, Reuters reported Aug. 13. Anti-choice groups have argued that abortions can cause depression and other mental illnesses and a South Dakota state law that took effect in July requires doctors to inform women of such a link before providing the procedure. Psychologists analyzed hundreds of studies to prepare their report.


  • Congress may consider a bill that makes room near the National Mall for a national women’s history museum. The legislation was introduced last month and awaits action in the House and Senate. The National Women’s History Museum currently exists only online.


  • Religious authorities in Nepal have begun a search for a new "kumari," widely revered as a living goddess and the incarnation of the deity Kali, Reuters reported Aug. 13. The chosen girl may be as young as 3 when selected to spend her childhood in a temple. Critics have called the practice a violation of a girl’s human rights.

Women to Cheer at the Beijing Olympics:


  • Katrina Emmons of the Czech Republic was awarded the first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics after breaking a record in the women’s 10 m air-rifle event. Chen Xiexia won the women’s 48 kg weightlifting, the first gold medal for host nation China. Erin Carroll of Australia lost a badminton match to become the first athlete eliminated from competition. She cheerfully told the Guardian she’d spend the next two weeks watching sport and eating what she liked now that she no longer has to stick to a training diet.


  • Mali’s first women’s basketball team to compete in the Olympics held a brief, improbable first-quarter lead against the dominant U.S. women’s team before losing 41 to 97. The Mali women asked to pose for photos with their U.S. opponents, idols to many players around the globe.


  • The United States swept the women’s saber event. Mariel Zagunis took gold, Sada Jacobson silver and Becca Ward bronze. Don’t get into a sword fight in America, the Guardian newspaper quipped.


  • British weightlifter Michaela Breeze picked up a bronze medal despite a serious back injury that caused her to grimace in pain each time she hoisted her weights. She said she stayed in competition because there was no one to take her place.


  • Corey Cogdell earned her first bronze medal in a women’s trap match that included a suspenseful four-way shootout to determine the field’s victors. Cogdell learned how to shoot while hunting moose in her native Alaska.


  • Czech kayaker Stepanka Hilgertova, 40, turned in solid runs during early heats in her fifth trip to the games. But she capsized in the medal slalom and lost to Elena Kaliska of Slovakia. Hilgertova’s training partner is fellow Czech national team member and her 21-year-old son, who couldn’t beat her this year to qualify for the Olympics.


  • Kirsty Coventry, who has broken three world records and won three silvers in swimming at the games, has resisted media pressure to condemn her native Zimbabwe’s government. In a June interview with Australian television, however, she said something had to change in the country, where power-sharing talks between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe have reached an impasse. Mugabe has drawn international criticism for his hard-line autocratic policies. On Thursday various news agencies reported his government had confiscated Tsvanirai’s travel documents.

(Compiled from NBC, BBC, Fox Sports, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Associated Press, the Guardian and Women’s Sports Foundation.)




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Prison officials in Vancouver, Canada, reversed a four-year policy of allowing incarcerated women to care for their infants and children while in jail, the Canadian Press reported Aug. 14. Children will now be placed with relatives or into foster care.

Safety was cited: Prison staff are not trained in infant care or first aid and are not prepared to handle emergencies.

Social worker Alison Granger-Brown resigned over the decision. "I perceived they were taking us away from rehabilitation and therapeutic programming and deeper into policy that was more about containment," she said.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • The Taliban claimed responsibility for killing three female Western workers with the refugee assistance group International Rescue Committee and their driver in Afghanistan on Aug. 13, Agence France-Presse reported.


  • Enrollment in the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food, milk and formula to low-income families, has been linked to lower breastfeeding rates in a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Human Lactation. "Breastfeeding promotion programs encourage women to start but don’t provide the support to continue," co-author Renata Forste told the New York Times Aug. 11.

In Memoriam:

The world’s tallest woman, Sandy Allen, 53, died in Shelbyville, Ind., on Aug. 13, the Indianapolis Star reported. Allen was 7 feet, 7 and one-quarter inches tall and held the Guinness World Record for height since 1975. No exact cause of death was given. Allen had suffered from diabetes and blood, kidney and breathing problems in recent years.

Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women’s eNews.

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