cheers & jeers



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A corporate-sponsored initiative to make it easier for women to breastfeed in the workplace was launched Feb. 9 and aims to persuade employers that allowing women to pump their breast milk at work is beneficial for their companies. Allowing the practices promotes better health as well as higher employee satisfaction, according to a press release from the coalition of groups behind it.

The initiative from Corporate Voices for Working Families, Abbott Industries, Working Mother Media and 10 other companies offers a toolkit for employers, including recommendations on how to support workers who breastfeed, as well as a guide for nursing mothers. The guide specifically addresses barriers faced by many lower-wage and hourly working women, who often lack the ability to express milk at work and are more likely to curtail breastfeeding when they return to the job after pregnancy.

Eyebrow-raising headlines have run around the world since ABC News aired footage of actress Salma Hayek breastfeeding another woman’s baby, ABC reported Feb. 11. Hayek met a woman who did not have enough milk to feed her own baby, so she took the infant and fed him on camera and said it was an attempt to feed a hungry child as well as to reduce the stigma on breastfeeding women.

Hayek told ABC she briefly worried about her decision. "Am I being disloyal to my child by giving her milk away?" Hayek said. "I actually think my baby would be very proud to share her milk. And when she grows up I’m going to make sure she continues to be a generous, caring person."

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • After a three-year $90 million trial to test the Pro2000 microbicide, researchers are hailing the results as a major breakthrough, a first in the otherwise perfect failure record of scientists hoping to develop an anti-HIV gel for women, ScienceNOW Daily News reported Feb. 9. Previous trials to test microbicide gels have either proved them ineffective or even harmful to women. While the Pro2000 trial did not reach statistical significance, the results indicated that the gel–which can be applied by women without their sexual partners’ participation–reduced the risk of HIV transmission by 30 percent.


  • In Malawi, the Coalition of Women Living with HIV/AIDS is helping its members grow nutritious crops to improve their health, Voice of America reported Feb. 10. Three-quarters of HIV-positive Malawians are malnourished, and some government policies deny women the right to own farm resources. The group works with women to help them grow vegetables and maize, and some women have also been able to raise goats and chickens.


  • Female parliamentarians in Uganda have called on the government to issue free female condoms to women as a means to reduce HIV infections, Africa News reported Feb. 9.


  • Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman supports civil unions for same-sex couples, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Feb. 9. Huntsman’s position clashes with his Republican party’s stance, which controls the state Legislature, and the 70 percent of Utah residents who opposed civil unions in a recent poll. A state representative from Salt Lake City, Jackie Biskupski, recently abandoned an effort to overturn the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage but called Huntsman’s newfound support for civil unions "a door to walk through." Meanwhile, on Feb. 12, equal-marriage activists staged protests as same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses at agencies across the country, the Associated Press reported. In New York City, hundreds of couples were turned away. The California Supreme Court on March 5 will review the November passage of Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage in the state.


  • A song called "Rampin Shop" was the breaking point for Jamaican authorities fed up with song lyrics that degrade women, the Inter Press Service reported Feb. 11. So-called daggering songs with sexually explicit lyrics have now been officially banned from broadcasting. Women’s rights activists applauded the censorship. "Every single one of us knows the difference between art and vulgarity; between ‘culture’ and lewdness," wrote columnist Bettie Ann Blaine.


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Abortion law reforms have been placed on the back burner by congressional Democrats who increased their ranks in the November elections, the Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 10. One bill–the Freedom of Choice Act–that President Barack Obama championed as a candidate has not been introduced into the new Congress; it would restrict states from limiting the access to abortion guaranteed by the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

The lack of an official status for the bill hasn’t prevented the U.S. Conference of Bishops from launching a postcard lobbying campaign against it. In Texas, Catholic clergy blessed eight boxes of postcards and will send around 60,000 cards to congressional representatives, the (McAllen, Texas) Monitor reported Feb. 10. The Catholic campaign has labeled the bill "the most radical abortion legislation ever considered in the United States."

Even though reproductive health issues were not a top legislative priority for states last year, 17 laws were enacted in 10 states related to abortion, according to a Feb. 10 legislative analysis released by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute. They included measures to require ultrasounds for women before receiving an abortion and allowing medical care providers to refuse to provide services.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Four female journalists were kidnapped, stripped naked and marched through a street in Kenema, Sierra Leone, on Feb. 7, the BBC reported. The journalists were attacked because they criticized the widespread practice of female genital mutilation in the West African nation, where the United Nations estimates that 94 percent of women have been cut.


  • The U.S. citizenship of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people is being questioned by the U.S. government because their births were attended by midwives in Texas towns near the border with Mexico, the Associated Press reported Feb. 11. Even though the people have official birth certificates, the government has claimed that a "history of fraud" among midwives who fill out the paperwork casts doubt on their authenticity.


  • The ordination of female bishops in the Church of England won’t occur before 2014 at the earliest, after a proposal before an official synod was sent back to a review committee for revisions, the Guardian reported Feb. 11. The decision opens up the proposal to new efforts to stymie it, or it could be rejected outright, closing the door to female ordination. The proposal has been drafted as a compromise, allowing traditionalist clergy to evade serving under women while allowing women to obtain high posts in some jurisdictions.


  • Signs of an anti-woman fundamentalism are on the rise in India, Reuters reported Feb. 13, and the growing numbers of independent, urban women are making an "easy target" for religious conservatives. One group known as the Indian Taliban violently attacked women in a pub in Mangalore in January because they were engaging in "immoral activities." A Hindu woman was kidnapped for sitting next to a Muslim man and couples caressing in public have been harassed. In response, thousands of Indians plan to send cartons of pink panties to the fundamentalist group on Valentine’s Day.


  • FOX News host Bill O’Reilly referred to veteran journalist Helen Thomas as the "wicked witch of the east" on his Feb. 9 show. The Women’s Media Center has launched a campaign to demand an apology. To date, more than 10,000 complaining e-mails were sent to the cable network. Thomas has covered the White House since John F. Kennedy was president. During the George W. Bush administration, she was asked to move to the back row of seats during press conferences and give up her traditional front-row seat. During President Obama’s first press conference, Thomas was back in the front row.

Jennifer Thurston is managing editor of Women’s eNews.

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