Cheers and Jeers



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An Oklahoma judge ruled on August 18 that doctors don’t need to perform ultrasounds and offer women detailed information about the tests before performing abortions, striking down the strictest such law in the nation, reported The Washington Post. Judge Vicki Robertson said the 2008 law–which included other abortion-related provisions–violated a state constitutional provision that requires laws to address only one subject. The Oklahoma law–which was never enforced–was the first to mandate that any woman seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound and that doctors describe the image in detail, including organs and extremities, even if the woman objects.

In South Dakota, a judge ruled on August 20 that forcing abortion doctors to warn pregnant women about a higher risk of suicide is “untruthful and misleading.” Judge Karen Schreier also removed text from the state’s 2005 informed consent law that said women enjoy a legally protected “relationship” with their unborn children, the Argus Leader reported. The judge did uphold the provision that doctors must tell women that abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living, human being.” The state Department of Health and Planned Parenthood both applauded the ruling.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence is launching a comprehensive national database of programs providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence, the group said in an August 17 press statement. The database will be available to the public through the Web site of its partnering organization, Pro Bono Net. This project of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence–which calls itself the only national organization focused exclusively on improving the legal response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking–also had support from the Avon Foundation and Verizon Wireless.
  • The new vaccine designed to protect girls and young women from cervical cancer has a safety record that appears to be in line with that of other vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration said in a joint report on August 19. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found the most common serious complications after vaccination with Gardasil–which has already been given to more than 7 million girls and young women across the country–were fainting episodes and an increased risk for potentially fatal blood clots, possibly related to oral contraceptive use and obesity. While at least 20 deaths and two cases of Lou Gehrig’s disease were also reported, the study found they weren’t necessarily caused by the vaccine.


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Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi accused “establishment agents” of raping and torturing prisoners in a statement posted on a reformist Web site on August 18. According to Reuters, his statement lent weight to charges made by reformist cleric and presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi that some men and women detained in the crackdown following the disputed June 12 presidential election had been raped while in government custody. The turbulence following that vote has plunged Iran into its biggest turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, exposing deepening rifts within its ruling elite and also further straining relations with the West.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said on August 20 that he was ready to consider any documents submitted by Karoubi to support his allegations, the IRNA news agency reported, even though a government probe into post-election events didn’t uncover such crimes. “He can pursue these issues and we are prepared to consider their documents and proofs,” Larijani was quoted as saying. “We have no interest in keeping any part of this issue concealed from the public.”

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Aid workers in Uganda say economic disempowerment is at the root of a high absentee rate at school among girls. As a result, The Guardian reported, this leads to girls using their bodies as “bargaining tools” to get items such as uniforms, textbooks, underwear, and even sanitary towels. Statistics from Plan International, a London-based nonprofit working to eliminate poverty, indicate that 31 percent of these girls become pregnant while in their teens, and nearly 40 percent of the pregnancies are unwanted or unplanned. This issue also plays a role in the practice of “bride price”–a token of appreciation exchanged between two families before marriage–which female members of parliament are now seeking to restrict or even eliminate on the grounds that it contributes to domestic violence, sexual assault and polygamy.
  • A study released by Catalyst on August 18 found that high-level businesswomen tend to be overlooked for promotions during the recession. The nonprofit research group surveyed 873 MBAs who graduated between 1996 and 2007, asking how their careers had fared between November 2007 and June 2009. The results, published in the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, showed that 31 percent of women in the U.S., Canada, and Asia had been promoted during that time period, compared to 36 percent of men. However, in Europe, just 26 percent of women were promoted, compared to 44 percent of men. The organization also found that women worldwide were more likely than men to lose their jobs, with 19 percent of female senior executives getting pink slips, compared to 6 percent of men.
  • A model is set to be caned next week in Malaysia after she pleaded guilty to drinking beer, a prosecutor said on August 19. An Islamic court ordered that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, be lashed six times with a rattan cane after she was caught drinking alcohol in a raid on a hotel nightclub last year. Prosecutor Saiful Idham Sahimi told the Associated Press that Kartika will be the first woman caned under Islamic law after she chose not to appeal the sentence. Saiful said the rattan cane to be used on Kartika would be lighter than the one used on men and its purpose was to “educate” rather than punish. Some politicians and women’s rights activists have criticized the penalty as too harsh.
  • Leaders representing 59,000 women religious question what they say is a lack of full disclosure about the motivation behind the Vatican’s apostolic visitation to study the practices of women’s religious orders in the United States. The Holy See is looking into the religious life of 341 congregations, examining areas such as their finances, identity, governance, vocation promotion, admission requirements, and formation policies. “Part of the conversation revolved around the fact that at a time when congregations of religious women are financially strapped, they are concerned about being asked to pay for an investigation they did not ask for,” Sister Annmarie Sanders, director of communications for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, told Catholic News Service on August 17. The group also issued a separate press statement that day saying they “object to the fact that their orders will not be permitted to see the investigative reports about them” when they are submitted to the Vatican in 2011.

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