cheers and jeers



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For every tax dollar invested in family planning programs, $4 are saved, according to a Feb. 24 report issued by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute. The nonpartisan research organization estimates that family planning programs prevent 1.94 million unintended pregnancies–and therefore 810,000 abortions as a result of those pregnancies–each year.

Without public funding for family planning programs, the U.S. abortion rate would be two-thirds higher. Low-income women are particularly reliant on family planning services, which also function as primary health care.

"Being able to plan your family is critical to staying in school, being able to have a job and stay in the work force and planning your family’s own economy," said report co-author Adam Sonfield. "Obviously the economic outlook in this country makes any policy-making difficult. But expanding health care is a priority."

The authors also recommend that states harvest the savings of preventive family planning to eliminate the complex and costly system of obtaining federal funding through waivers for Medicaid.

Since the 1980s, an increase in Medicaid funding has been driven by 21 states that obtained waivers from the federal government so they could use the funds for family planning and reduce their costs of providing pregnancy care. But the process of obtaining waivers is expensive and difficult for states, and they must be continually renewed, said Sonfield.

In 2006, public expenditures for family planning totaled $1.85 billion and 71 percent of that was funded through Medicaid.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on firearms for people convicted of domestic violence crimes, the Washington Post reported Feb. 25. The 1996 law prohibiting abusers from possessing guns has prevented 150,000 people from obtaining them, according to the law’s author, Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Justices John Roberts and Antonin Scalia dissented, arguing that the law was too vague in its application.


  • The Obama administration will move to rescind the so-called conscience rule implemented by the Bush administration in December, the Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 27. The rule allows health care providers to refuse any service, treatment or drug they morally object to, including abortion, birth control and fertilization treatments for same-sex couples.


  • In an 80-17 vote, the Senate confirmed Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor on Feb. 24. Her confirmation, widely supported by women’s advocacy groups, had been delayed for over a month as Republican lawmakers criticized her support for unions.


  • Khuloud Faqih and Asmahan Wuheidi are the first two Palestinian women to become judges in an Islamic court, the Associated Press reported Feb. 24. They will preside over family law cases–divorces, inheritance, custody–in courts in the occupied West Bank.


  • In Israel, Haneen Zoubi took her seat in the Knesset as a member of the Tajamu Party, AlterNet reported Feb. 25. Although other Arab women have served in parliament, she is the first to represent an Arab party. "I don’t want to become the Knesset address for Arab women’s issues," she said. "I need to raise the interest of the men in my party on women’s issues, not allow their interest to wane because they can dump the issue on me."


  • Female candidates are lining up to run in 2010, the Politico reported Feb. 23. Ohio’s secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, has announced her bid for the Senate, joining her Missouri counterpart, Robin Carnahan. At least five female representatives in Congress are considering bids for the Senate as well, and over a dozen women have expressed early interest in 2010 races.


  • Even as career re-entry programs for working mothers are declining in the economic downturn, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 25, those aimed at bringing mid-level women in scientific fields back into the work force are enjoying a growth spurt. In lower-tier science, engineering and technical jobs, about 41 percent of workers are female, but about half those women quit mid-career.




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In an article examining why women on Wall Street are "disappearing" published by Forbes Feb. 25, the story of Amy Bartoletti at Citicorp is provided as a prime example.

Bartoletti claims she was asked to head up a group to securitize home loans, but a male colleague complained that he wasn’t selected, so they were both made co-heads and earned the same salary, despite her greater experience. They both were required to take a special licensing exam in October; she earned the certification quickly, he did not. In November, Bartoletti was laid off from her job because the bank told her she was "too expensive."

"It’s the old boys’ network," she said.

Bartoletti and four other women have filed a bias complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that investigates workplace discrimination. Since the stock market crash, 260,000 jobs have been lost in the financial and insurance sectors. Women were 64 percent of employees before the economic crisis but represent 72 percent of the laid-off workers, according to Forbes.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Denver radio talk show host Peter Boyles referred to Rep. Diana DeGette as "Vagina DeGette" on air and then refused to apologize for it, the Rocky Mountain News reported Feb. 24. After complaints about his vulgarity, Boyles repeatedly used the term to describe DeGette, the senior member of Colorado’s congressional delegation. After eight days, station owner Clear Channel ordered Boyles to stop.


  • Four women have been named to the 35-member cabinet in Zimbabwe, the Inter Press Service reported Feb. 26. In September Zimbabwe signed the South African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development that requires gender parity in public and private positions by 2015.


  • U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, 59, became the federal judge charged with a sex crime, the Associated Press reported. The Texas judge was accused of fondling two female court employees and attempting to force them into sex acts. On Feb. 23, Kent pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to investigators and immediately retired in exchange for the sex charges being dropped.


  • German state bans on headscarves and religious symbols for teachers and civil servants discriminate against Muslim women, according to a Feb. 26 report issued by Human Rights Watch. The laws have been enacted in the past five years and are in effect in half of Germany’s 16 states. As a result, Muslim women are leaving their jobs and even the country, according to Human Rights Watch.


  • Texas public school students are routinely misinformed in sex education courses that emphasize abstinence over scientifically sound information about reproductive health, the Dallas Morning News reported Feb. 24. Researchers at Texas State University examined documents from 990 of the state’s 1,031 school districts and described the curriculum as "shockingly poor." Ninety-four percent of the districts teach only abstinence; 4 percent of districts provide no sex education at all. "Abstinence-only programs have a stranglehold on sexuality education in Texas public schools," researchers concluded.


  • Religious conservatives have launched a pre-emptive campaign against the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for health and human services secretary, the Washington Post reported Feb. 25. Sebelius is pro-choice and vetoed a bill that would have required doctors to report to the state the reasons for performing an abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The controversy has stalled her official selection by President Obama, according to the Christian Broadcasting Network.


The "size zero row" that gripped the fashion world last year has spread into Britain’s dog shows, the Telegraph reported Feb. 21. Even as the emaciation of models wearing size 0 clothing prompted calls to regulate their body mass at fashion shows, animal rights activists are criticizing dog owners for denying dogs food and water in the hours before competition in order to keep them trim.

Jennifer Thurston is managing editor for Women’s eNews.

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