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Late Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Senate voted 54 to 45 to table an effort to bar abortion coverage in the proposed national health insurance plan.

The vote effectively assures that the House’s Stupak-Pitts amendment–that does call for such a ban–would not be duplicated in the Senate.

The news triggered an outpouring of relief from women’s rights advocates.

"Today, the United States Senate put women’s health ahead of the anti-choice agenda by rejecting efforts to use health care reform to deny women the coverage for abortion services that most now have," Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, based in Washington, D.C., said in a release late Tuesday.

In the House, 40 pro-choice advocates are threatening to vote against the proposed health insurance legislation if the abortion-limiting language is not removed.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, the two female winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine, are calling for gender balance in scientific institutions, The Associated Press reported Dec.6. Women are often unable to advance in science-related careers after having children because of the lack of flexibility, although as many women as men start out in science, according to Blackburn and Greider. The duo urged scientific institutions Sunday to change their career structures to help more women reach top positions.
  • Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts Senate late Tuesday, The Boston Globe reported Dec. 8. If elected Jan. 19 in the general election, Coakley will be the first female senator from Massachusetts.
  • Mona Pasquil is the first woman, first Filipino American and first Asian American to become a lieutenant governor of California, Global Nation reported Dec. 7. She reached the top when Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi won a special Congressional election last November 6. The lieutenant governor’s powers stayed with her as Garamendi’s chief of staff.
  • A campaign to criminalize men who pay for sex is to be launched in Glasgow, Scotland, the HeraldScotland reported Dec. 8. The "End Prostitution Now" campaign aims to focus on those who create the demand by buying sex. The campaign also aims to raise awareness of the harm caused by prostitution. "Tackling demand is the key to this issue. It is demand which fuels the vicious cycle of sexual exploitation that supplies vulnerable people in to the sex industry," Councilor James Coleman, city council leader, told HeraldScotland.
  • Dec.10, hundreds of Afghan women, many holding pictures of relatives killed by Taliban militants, held a nonviolent street protest in Kabul to demand that President Hamid Karzai break ties with corrupt entities, such as the Taliban, the Los Angeles Times reported. "These women are being very brave," the protest’s leader told the Los Angeles Times, her face hidden by a burka. "To be a woman in Afghanistan and an activist can mean death. We want justice for our loved ones!" In related news, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Dec. 6 that Afghan women and girls continue to suffer high levels of violence and discrimination and have poor access to justice. The report details the status of women and girls in Afghanistan, almost a decade after the fall of the Taliban. The group also charged the government with failing to bring the killers of prominent Afghan women to justice. The 96-page report, "We Have the Promises of the World: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan," details ongoing cases of rights violations.
  • The Women’s Media Center has launched the NotUnderTheBus campaign with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin to "amplify the voices of women and organizations devoted to health care reform that is fair to women," according to a Dec. 10 press release.
  • Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, received a human rights award today, according to a Dec. 11 press release. Obaid was awarded the Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award by the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area.
  • Women who took a commonly-used drug to limit the damage caused by osteoporosis had 32 percent fewer cases of invasive breast cancer, according to researchers, Reuters reported Dec. 11. The data is based on a study of 2,816 women who used one of the bisphosphonate drugs used to treat osteoporosis.




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Supporters of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe used rape to terrorize the political opposition during last year’s debated elections, according to human rights activists, The Associated Press reported Dec. 10.

AIDS-Free World released a 64-page report that documents 380 rapes it said were committed by Mugabe forces. Just over half the women reported the rape to police and few of the perpetrators have been prosecuted.

About 70 women linked to Zimbabwe’s opposition detailed how they had been raped, kept as sex slaves and even forced to watch their daughters being raped. Ten women became pregnant following the attacks and many believe they are now HIV positive.

According to the group, the rapes began in 2007 and increased dramatically in 2008, with 64 percent of the rapes occurring between the March election and the June runoff.

"The politically orchestrated and systematic campaign of sexual violence unleashed against women who supported the opposition carves yet another chapter in the annals of Robert Mugabe’s legacy of depravity," group leader and former UNAIDS envoy Stephen Lewis told the Associated Press.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • More than 20 mourning mothers were arrested Dec. 5 in Iran during an anti-government protest, The New York Times reported Dec. 6. The women have been mourning children killed, detained, tortured or missing during unrest in Iran since the disputed June 12 elections. They have participated in this protest in a Tehran park every Saturday since the June death of Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, whose shooting became a symbol of the government’s violent oppression. The arrests are believed to be part of Iran’s effort to suppress a large rally planned for today, National Student Day, according to The New York Times.
  • A hearing began Dec. 9 in a case pushing for Irish women’s rights to abortion, The Associated Press reported. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, is hearing the lawsuit brought by three women challenging Ireland’s abortion ban, claiming the government violates the human rights of pregnant women by forcing them to travel abroad for abortions and denying care at home. A verdict is expected next year. International Planned Parenthood Federation said that since 1980, at least 138,000 Irish women and girls had to travel abroad to access safe and legal abortion services.
  • U.S. experts’ mammogram guidelines could have a negative effect on African American women, who appear to have a higher risk of developing fatal breast cancer early in life, according to a research center, NPR reported Dec. 7. African American women ages 35 to 44 have a death rate from breast cancer twice that of white women the same age. The guidelines recently put out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force covered a broad segment of American women based on the data available. "Unfortunately, the data on African Americans, Hispanics and to some extent Asian Americans is limited," Lovell Jones, director of the Center for Research on Minority Health in Houston told NPR.
  • Women and children in the United Kingdom are feared to have ended up back in abusive homes following the closing of a refuge, BBC News reported Dec. 9. The city council said it was forced to shut down Queen’s Hall Women’s Hostel after the managers failed to apply for a license. "It was a very distressing two days for the women and children who came here looking for a safe haven and were told they had to leave," Reverend Paula Hunt, chairwoman of a hostel committee told BBC News. "In some cases we don’t know where they went; some may have gone back to the situation they were in."
  • Dec. 10 marked the 61st Human Rights Day, and in Bangladesh it is women and girls who are the main victims of human rights violation, The Daily Star reported. The report, entitled "November Human Rights Monitoring Report on Bangladesh," found that 130 workers in the ready-made garments sector were injured during clashes related to over-due wages during the month of November. In addition; 27 women reported rapes, 25 women said they were subjected to dowry related violence and 3 women were victims of acid throwing. The study was conducted by Odhikar (meaning "rights"), a nonprofit group that monitors the abuse of civil and political rights.
  • Women are outnumbered by men in the top U.S. boards of directors 1 to 6, a ratio unchanged from 2008, Reuters reported Dec. 9. Based on data from Fortune 500 companies, women continue to hold only about15 percent of the seats, according to New York-based Catalyst, an organization that works to advance women in business. Women also represented only 6.3 percent of corporate top earners in 2009. Sixty-one of the Fortune companies had no women on their board of directors and 67 of the companies had only about 25 percent women on their boards of directors.
  • A California man charged with drugging and raping at least two women he met on MySpace pleaded not guilty to three counts of rape today, according to Orange County authorities, the Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 11.


  • Mexico violated human rights conventions by failing to properly investigate the 2001 killings of three young women in Juarez, according to a ruling released Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 11. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Mexican government to pay damages to the families of the three women and told authorities to take additional steps in acknowledging their negligence and finding the killers.
  • The breach between conservative and liberal Episcopalians widened when a lesbian was elected as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, drawing fire from Anglicans worldwide, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 7. The Rev. Cannon Mary D. Glasspool, 55, is in the line to become the second openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, after the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who took office in New Hampshire in 2004. Robinson, who was open about her sexual orientation since her seminary days, was elected late Saturday on a seventh ballot, after several votes ended in deadlocks.
  • More than 10 percent of women of Korean heritage may be at risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy, according to a Dec. 11 press release by EurekAlert. The study of 16,000 women in Hawaii by Kaiser Permanente found that Korean-American women’s risk of gestational diabetes is one-third higher than average; more than double that of Caucasian and African American women. The study appears in the December issue of the Ethnicity and Disease journal.
  • A report released Wednesday lifted the veil on the taboo topic of female trafficking and forced prostitution in Jerusalem, CNN reported Dec. 11. The 26-page report titled "Trafficking and Forced Prostitution of Palestinian Women and Girls: Forms of Modern Day Slavery," was researched by SAWA, a nonprofit Palestinian group that combats violence against women. The report found that trafficking and forced prostitution in Palestinian territories operates on a small-scale basis, but are also frequent and widespread. It also found that the women and girls involved have few means of escape.

Kimberly St. Louis is an editorial intern at Women’s eNews through the New York Arts Program. She is a senior at Ohio Wesleyan University studying journalism and politics and government.