cheers and jeers



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A federal judge ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make Plan B emergency contraception available to 17-year-olds and to reconsider its 2006 policy implemented during the Bush administration that requires a prescription for those under 18, the Washington Post reported March 24. In the ruling, Judge Edward R. Korman said the age restriction was an “arbitrary and capricious” decision that was influenced by “political and ideological” considerations.

“I think FDA is now in a position where it can make a fair decision because of the change in leadership and the commitment by everyone involved to make science-based decisions,” Susan F. Wood, a scientist who resigned from the FDA in 2005 to protest politically motivated delays in the agency’s approval of the drug, told the Post. “This is a chance for the agency to demonstrate it is back on track.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Vermont state Senate passed a bill 26-4 on March 23 to legalize same-sex marriage, and on March 26 the New Hampshire state House did the same, reported. Both votes represent an advance for advocates of equal marriage rights pressing for gains in all six New England states by 2012. If the Vermont bill wins final passage and overcomes a gubernatorial veto, the state would become the first to legalize same-sex marriage through a legislative–as opposed to judicial–measure.
  • For the first time, health authorities in Northern Ireland have published rules to inform doctors about when abortions may be performed legally, the Associated Press reported March 17. Doctors have refused to perform all abortions because of the lack of official guidance over the two allowed exceptions: to preserve the life of the woman and to avoid long-term or permanent impacts to her physical or mental health.
  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pressing for an end to England’s rule of primogeniture, which gives precedence to male heirs over women in the monarchy’s line of succession, the Times of London reported March 27. Brown also seeks an end on the prohibition against Catholics succeeding to the throne. If the law is changed, then Princess Anne, the queen’s only daughter and her second child after heir Prince Charles, would rise from 10th in the line of succession to fourth, and a first-born daughter would not be displaced by a younger brother.
  • After he blamed condoms for worsening the AIDS pandemic as a kickoff to a trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI condemned gender violence in a March 21 speech in Angola, the AP reported. “Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma,” the pope said.
  • The European Parliament adopted a resolution report March 23 calling for a ban against female genital mutilation and a coordinated response in all member states. The resolution also calls for a grant of asylum to any girl or woman who is at risk of being cut in her home country but faces opposition from some parliamentarians.
  • Fifteen women freed from California prisons on parole are scheduled to gather in a celebration in San Francisco on March 28 and make a public call for the release of 30 other women. Most of the women served time–between three and 30 years–for killing abusive husbands or partners in self-defense or to protect their children from abuse.
  • Three female teens and their parents sued a Pennsylvania district attorney who threatened to file child-pornography charges after the teens “sexted” photos from a slumber party over their cell phones, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported March 26. In one photo, two teens are wearing their bras, and in the other photo a girl is stepping from the shower partly covered by a towel. The prosecutor is accused of abusing the power of his office.
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland introduced a bill to award all the female pilots who served during World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal on March 12. Over 1,100 served in the Women Air Service Pilots corps, flying military aircraft on non-combat missions, and 38 were killed on duty. They were not officially recognized as veterans until 1977.


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Thirty-five Islamic clerics have asked Saudi Arabia’s information and culture minister to ban women from appearing on television or print media, including TV broadcasters and anchors, the AP reported March 22. The minister, Abdel Aziz Khoja, was appointed by the king in a recent shake-up that was interpreted as a signal of the king’s modernizing influence and desire to enact some social reforms.

The case of an 8-year-old girl who was married to a 47-year-old man to pay off her father’s debts was reviewed by an appellate court, which refused to certify the marriage, CNN reported March 25. Although that decision allows the girl’s mother to proceed with a legal case to nullify the union, the appeals court declined to end the marriage outright and returned the matter to the judge that first authorized the marriage last year.

Over 1,700 Saudi women say they are humiliated by having to buy undergarments and lingerie from male sales clerks. Now they are launching a national boycott and pressing for enforcement of a 2006 law that requires only female staff in women’s apparel shops, the AP reported March 23. Currently, women are not allowed to try on their bras in the stores before purchase since that would require them to undress with men nearby.

Such indignities led Saudi activists with the National Society for Human Rights to call on March 22 for an end to discrimination against women. The group also criticized the religious police for heavy-handed and intrusive enforcement of gender segregation codes and called for judicial reforms, an end to child marriage and providing more opportunities for women to enter the work force.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The Afghan government arrested the manager of a TV station after it broadcast pictures of women dancing in short skirts and “plunging necklines,” the AP reported March 25.
  • According to the official records of police in Lagos, only six women have been raped this year, Nigerian news site Next reported March 23. Lagos is the former capital city and has a population over 7 million. Activists estimate that at least 20 rapes occur for each that is reported to authorities.
  • Forty percent of working women surveyed in Korea said they are delaying pregnancy because it risks their job and career advancement, the Korea Times reported March 24. National law provides for a paid 90-day leave for pregnancy, but women say they feel penalized when they return to the workplace. “I gave birth, and suddenly I became designated as a less competitive woman,” said one 35-year-old mother who said she decided not to have additional children because her status was lowered at work.
  • Women who are abused spend 42 percent more for health care per year than women who are not abused, according to a long-term study of 3,000 women published this week in Health Services Research. Five years later, women who were abused still faced costs 19 percent higher. Costs were 33 percent higher for women who suffered psychological abuse.
  • Hiram Monserrate, a state senator in New York, was indicted on a domestic violence charge on March 23 and is accused of slashing his girlfriend’s face with broken glass, the AP reported. Monserrate, a former police officer, claims it was an accident. Members of the New York State Senate were encouraged in a closed-door session to donate to Monserrate to cover his legal fees.

Jennifer Thurston is managing editor of Women’s eNews.

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