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Just in time for New Year’s, electronic monitoring devices were removed on Dec. 30 from the ankles of 11 immigrant mothers detained in Postville, Iowa, following a massive military-style immigration raid in May 2008, Women’s eNews learned Jan. 11.

Women’s eNews first reported the continued shackling on December 17.

"The monitors are off all the ladies," said Violeta Aleman, a bilingual legal assistant at St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church in Postville. Through its Hispanic Ministry, the church has helped immigrants prohibited from working but forbidden to leave the state pay for rent, food, heating and medical bills for themselves and their children.

"The ladies were receiving phone calls from an office in Omaha and they were really scared," Aleman said. "But now they are very happy the GPS devices are finally off."

Tim Counts, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the removal of the tracking devices. He said the women would be required to check in with authorities as their cases wend their way through the federal immigration court system. He said he does not know why the decision was made to remove the monitors after 19 months and because of privacy regulations could not comment on individual cases if he did know.

Several of the women expect to be called as witnesses in upcoming court cases connected with the raid, Counts said. Others are appealing their deportation order, he said.

The women, Guatemalan and Mexican immigrants who came to work at Agriprocessors, a Kosher meat processing plant, were among 389 undocumented workers arrested in the raid. More than a year and a half later, 11 of them still had to wear what they referred to as "shackles" 24 hours a day. The devices took two hours a day to charge and caused bruising and skin irritation. Several of the women said they felt humiliated by being designated as criminals for wanting to work to support their children.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • The United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, is prioritizing assistance to pregnant women in areas affected by the earthquake in Haiti, according to a Jan. 14 press release. This effort is in response to Haiti having one of the highest rates of maternal death in the region. According to UNFPA estimates, one quarter of the impacted population are women of childbearing age. Haiti’s maternal death rate is 670 deaths per 100,000 live births.


  • Josette Perard, a Women’s eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century 2006, was seen walking home after the earthquake that hit Haiti earlier this week, the Lambi Fund of Haiti reported. In 1994 Perard co-founded the Lambi Fund of Haiti in Port au Prince, a nonprofit created to help poor women create economically and environmentally sustainable communities throughout Haiti.


  • Afghan women’s activists praised President Hamid Karzai on Jan. 12 for nominating a record three women to his cabinet, Reuters reported. They said this made it less likely that women’s rights would be hurt by negotiations with the Taliban. Two-thirds of ministers originally proposed by Karzai for his new cabinet were rejected by parliament last month, forcing him to re-write his list. The newly named female candidates include Suraya Dalil, a Harvard University graduate nominated for the job of public health minister; Palwasha Hassan, a women’s rights advocate who’s been offered the women’s affairs ministry; and Amena Afzali, who was offered the ministry of martyrs and the disabled.


  • An Oklahoma County District Court judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a new state abortion law that would have required women to provide detailed information about why they want the procedure and then post that information on a state Web site, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization that filed the challenge, is reporting. The center filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Oklahoma taxpayers: former state Rep. Wanda Stapleton and Shawnee, Okla., resident Lora Joyce Davis. The suit argues that the law violates the state’s single-subject rule, which requires that laws only address one topic at a time. Judge Daniel Owens extended the temporary restraining order already in place until the case is heard on Feb. 19.


  • The health care reform bill includes a new piece of legislation that will fully enable women to choose certified nurse midwives, or CNMs, as a provider of obstetrical and gynecological care. "I am delighted that the Midwifery Care Access and Reimbursement Equity Act has been included in the pending health care reform bill," Elizabeth Stein, a certified nurse midwife in New York City, said in a press statement Jan. 13. "Under the act, CNMs would receive equal reimbursements as physicians for providing women’s OB-GYN care–a key step to ensuring women can select their preferred health care provider." The act will allow approximately 2.86 million disabled women who are between 18-64 years of age full access to midwifery services, in addition to the well-women services that midwives provide to women who are 65 years or older and are covered under Medicare. Stein’s press statement said Medicare currently reimburses midwives at only 65 percent of the rate that physicians receive for the same services rendered.


  • RH Reality Check, quoting the Washington Post, reports that an increasing number of ambassadors posted to Washington are women. While this is good news, RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson, said The Washington Post, which covered this story on the front page of its print edition, buried this story in the "arts and living" section of its online edition.


  • A Jan. 7 blog entry in Women and Politics.org details Kim McMillan’s penchant for breaking gender ground in Tennessee politics.


  • Germany’s top-circulation women’s magazine, Brigitte, will be replacing professional models with real women, Deutsche Welle reported Jan. 7. It’s a response, they say, to what the modern woman wants. Brigitte is not the first to come up with the concept. In 2004, Dove beauty products launched their own hugely successful "Campaign for Real Beauty," and the company has been using laypeople as models ever since.




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A Brazilian doctor whose work helped save the lives of tens of thousands of children through a church-run network that provides basic health care and support to infants was among the many killed in the Haiti earthquake this week, The Christian Science Monitor reported Jan. 13. Zilda Arns was in Haiti to support the local volunteers of the Pastoral da Crianca (Children’s Pastoral), a group she founded in southern Brazil in 1983.

The group teaches uneducated mothers the importance of health care issues, such as breastfeeding, vaccinations and proper hydration, and then instructs them how to pass on that knowledge to friends and neighbors in Brazil’s most impoverished communities.

Today, the Pastoral is one of Brazil’s most respected organizations and Arns was one of the nation’s best-known faces. The group is present in 42,000 Brazilian communities, with 260,000 trained volunteers attending to 1.8 million children under the age of 6. In those communities, the infant mortality rate is 11 per 1,000 births; in Brazil overall it is 22.5.

Aid agencies say it is too soon to know how many people were killed and injured in this week’s earthquake, but it is sure to be in the tens of thousands, Voice of America reported Jan. 15. The United Nations reports about 10 percent of the housing in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince has been destroyed, leaving some 300,000 people homeless. The full assessment of the damages inflicted by the powerful earthquake will take several days to complete.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Israeli police said on Jan. 14 that they arrested a sect leader suspected of enslaving and sexually abusing 17 women and the 40 children he had with them, AFP reported. Goel Ratzon, 59, is accused of keeping at least 57 women and children in cramped apartments in several locations in the Tel Aviv area, the article reported. Ratzon has been known to head a sect of women who were said to adulate him, have sex with him and raise his children. He is also said to have held these women under his strict control, enforcing a draconian book of rules which specified behavior and punishments.




    • The number of working moms who are the sole breadwinners in their families rose last year to an all-time high, and the number of stay-at-home dads edged higher, caused partly by massive job losses, the Associated Press reported Jan. 15. About 4 percent or 963,000 moms were the only parent in the labor force. The share of fathers as the sole worker was much bigger–28.2 percent or 7.3 million–but still the lowest since 2001. The share of couples who both work stayed the same at 66 percent or 17 million.


    • A U.S. study shows that 1 in 4 female teens has been involved in a serious violent activity in the past year, a Kansas City Star blog reported Jan. 14. Male teens were still more aggressive, though, as their rate was 1 in 3. There may be a connection between fighting and drug and alcohol use.


    • Gov. David A. Paterson, after publicly lending support to Harold E. Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who is weighing a New York primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, cooled off when he heard that women’s rights activists attacked Ford’s record on reproductive rights, The New York Times reported Jan. 13.


    • Kim Gandy, former president of National Organization for Women (NOW), has become vice president and general counsel of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority, according to an announcement on Ms. Magazine’s Web site on Jan. 12.


    • Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined Fox News on Jan. 11 as a contributor. The Fox deal instantly ignited speculation that Palin is weighing a presidential bid, though she has given no such indication, the Washington Post reported. The former Republican vice presidential nominee will appear as a pundit on various Fox shows.


    • The Kansas trial of anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, who is accused of killing abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, was set to begin this week, Reuters reported Jan. 11.

    Roeder, 51, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tiller, a 67-year-old abortion provider who was shot in the head while serving as an usher at his Wichita church in May 2009. Tiller was one of the few late-term abortion providers in the United States. Last week Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert said he would allow defense lawyers to argue Roeder’s actions amounted to voluntary manslaughter, a charge that can be applied when a defendant acts with the belief that circumstances exist justifying deadly force. A manslaughter conviction would bring a much lighter sentence than the life sentence a premeditated murder conviction could bring.