The U.S. House of Representatives voted May 28 to repeal the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, 229-186, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press secretary, Drew Hammill, told Women’s eNews. The "don’t ask" policy bans openly gay and bisexual people from serving in the military. If a similar bill passes in the Senate next month, the repeal would occur after a military review of the ramifications of the bill and approvals by the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- On May 30, the 33-driver Indianapolis 500 will include four women–Simona De Silvestre, Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher and Ana Beatriz –the most to ever qualify for the race, reported The Columbus Dispatch May 27.
- Female parliamentarians participating in the National Convention on the Role of Women Parliamentarians in Peace, Security and Reconciliation in Islamabad, Pakistan, concluded the convention with a pledge of zero tolerance against any form of violence against women, reported Pakistan’s Daily Times May 27. National Assembly Speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza urged the parliamentarians to join hands in promoting female-friendly policies and enacting gender-sensitive legislation.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a contentious policy statement issued in April, reported CNN May 27. The statement had condemned the practice of female genital cutting overall, but suggested that to "satisfy cultural requirements" doctors in some communities should be able to use a clitoral "nicking" procedure, which the academy likened to ear piercing. "We retracted the policy because it is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world," the organization’s President Judith S. Palfrey told CNN.
- In a landmark decision affirming women’s rights on May 27, Mexico’s Supreme Court required all its states to distribute emergency contraception to rape victims and provide them access to legal abortions, reported Human Rights Watch.
- American Express OPEN released a study examining the successes and challenges associated with federal contracting among female and minority business owners, reported Business Wire May 26. It found that federal contracting can be fruitful for business owners willing to persevere, as two-thirds of women whose firms do business with the federal government generate more than $1 million in sales, despite taking nearly two years, on average, to land their first federal contract. In 2008, American Express OPEN paired with Women Impacting Public Policy to launch Give Me 5, a program aimed at educating female business owners to increase the number of federal contracts awarded to women. Now, the U.S. Small Business Administration is bringing the Give Me 5 program’s government-contracting curriculum to its network of 110 Women’s Business Centers across the country.
- Premature birth rates declined for the second year in a row in 2008, marking the first two-year decrease in almost 30 years, according to The National Center for Health Statistics, The New York Times reported May 24. The rate of preterm births–babies born at least three weeks early–declined to 12.3 percent in 2008, from 12.7 percent in 2007 and 12.8 percent in 2006. Although rates dropped for all races, significant differences remain: The preterm birth rate among non-Hispanic black newborns was 17.5 percent, compared with 12.1 percent for Hispanics (of any race) and 11.1 percent for white babies. Reasons for this disparity are not well understood, the article reported.
- Death rates for children under age 5 are dropping in many parts of the world, a study by the British medical journal The Lancet finds, and women’s improving levels of education are given as one among a number of explanations, The New York Times reports May 24.
- Health reform’s language on sex discrimination could have positive implications for girls and women that include services for postpartum depression, lactation breaks and the end of gender rating in insurance premiums, wrote Feminist Majority Foundation President and Ms. Publisher Eleanor Smeal in the spring issue of the quarterly Ms. Magazine.
The Oklahoma Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of an abortion bill that would require physicians who perform abortions to report certain information to the state Health Department, reported The Associated Press May 25. The legislation also mandates that the questionnaire requiring up to 37 answers be posted on the Health Department’s Web site. In a vote of 33-15, the Senate voted to override the veto on May 25; a similar veto-override measure passed the House by a vote of 84-13 on May 24.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Earlier in May, a nun and administrator at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix were excommunicated for approving a first-trimester abortion to save the life of a critically-ill patient, reported Newsweek May 27. The abortion took place late last year. Bishop Thomas Olmstead of the Phoenix diocese ordered Sister Margaret McBride’s excommunication, noting that the mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s. The 27-year-old patient was a mother of four in her 11th week of pregnancy. She was suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a serious complication with a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy would kill her, reported The New York Times May 26. Sister Margaret’s approval of the decision to terminate the pregnancy was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians and an ethics committee.
- Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of a West Bank settlement has prohibited women from running for the post of local secretary, reported BBC May 26. Levanon has been quoted as claiming that women lack authority to hold the position, must only be heard through their husbands and should not mix with men in the late evening meetings of community leaders.
- A dress-code regulation banning Muslim women from wearing revealing clothing in a devoutly Islamic district of Indonesia’s Aceh province took effect May 27, reported the Associated Press. Women found violating the ban more than three times could face two weeks detention, and shopkeepers caught selling offending clothing–including tight dresses, short skirts and jeans–face revocation of their business licenses.
- Kamla Persad-Bissessar shattered Trinidad’s glass ceiling to become the country’s first female prime minister, reported The Miami Herald May 26. The landslide win over incumbent Prime Minister Patrick Manning occurred May 24. Her victory bolsters a trend of women being elected to lead countries in Central and South America, including Argentina and Costa Rica.
- Fifty years after its invention, the pill remains the leading method of birth control in the United States, a new report says, just edging out female sterilization, reported HealthDay News May 26. The report, released by the National Center for Health Statistics and based on interviews conducted from 2006-2008, suggests that an estimated 62 percent of the 61.9 million women aged 15-44 in the country were using birth control; 10.7 million women in this age range use the pill, while 10.3 million have been sterilized.
- This year’s World No Tobacco Day, an initiative of The World Health Organization taking place on May 31, will focus on women, reported the Osceola Sentinel Tribune May 26. Women account for approximately 20 percent of the world’s 1 billion smokers and 17.4 percent of adult women in the U.S. smoke. In response, World No Tobacco will "draw particular attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing towards women" and will emphasize "the importance of controlling the epidemic of tobacco" among this population, the article reported.
- A study suggests no pregnancy-rate disparity exists between black and white women when frozen embryos are used during in vitro fertilization, reported Reuters May 26. With frozen embryos, the pregnancy rate for white and black women was 30 and 28 percent respectively, with the small difference likely due to chance. In contrast, previous studies have shown when fresh embryos are used in initial in vitro fertilization attempts, 40 percent of white women gave birth versus only 17 percent of black women.
- After nearly 25 years at the Ms. Foundation for Women, Sara K. Gould is stepping down as president and CEO, effective November 19, 2010, according to a press statement by the foundation May 25. Executive Vice President Susan Wefald will serve as interim president until Gould’s replacement is named.
- Premature birth risk appears to be genetic, say researchers, reported the BBC May 25. The study from the University of Aberdeen found that women born prematurely or who have brothers or sisters who were born too early are up to 60 percent more likely to have a premature baby themselves. It was based on maternity records of 22,343 Scottish mothers and their daughters. The researchers say the work may help others to predict and plan for these high-risk births.
- Several speakers at the Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health annual fundraiser in Manhattan had difficulty fighting back their tears as the first George Tiller Abortion Provider Award was presented on the evening of May 24. Adam Jacobs of Mount Sinai hospital received the award. Tiller, one of the few physicians in the United States who was willing to perform abortions in the second trimester, was murdered May 31 in the vestibule of his church, and the anniversary weighed on the minds of the 200 physicians and donors who attended.