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A new, longer-lasting emergency contraceptive pill to prevent unwanted pregnancy moved closer to the U.S. market on June 17 after a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel unanimously backed it, Reuters reported. The one-pill treatment was deemed as safe and effective.

The pill is made by the French drug maker HRA Pharma, but is to be sold by Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc in the United States. It has already been approved for use in Europe under the name ellaOne.

The current emergency contraceptive option in the United States, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd’s Plan B, is approved for use up to three days after intercourse. Ella aims to prevent pregnancy for as long as five days after unprotected sex. Unlike Plan B, which is available for women aged 17 and older without a prescription, ella would require a doctor’s note if cleared for the U.S. market, Reuters reported. A spokesperson for HRA Pharma said the Food and Drug Administration’s decision is expected by October.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Ashoka, the world’s community of leading social entrepreneurs, and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth, announced June 17 the 16 winners of their Young Champions competition. It’s the first international fellowship to focus on supporting a new generation of global leaders dedicated to improving maternal health, reported PR Newswire. Each winner will spend nine months abroad working with and being mentored by an Ashoka fellow with expertise in maternal health.
  • Two new studies find that giving pregnant and nursing women triple antiretroviral drug therapy, or treating breastfed infants with an antiretroviral medication, can dramatically cut HIV transmission rates, reported HealthDay News June 16. In one study in Botswana, a combination antiretroviral drug therapy given to pregnant and breastfeeding women kept all but 1 percent of babies from contracting the virus during six months of breastfeeding. Without the drug therapy, about 25 percent of babies would have become infected. A second study in North Carolina found that giving breastfed babies an antiretroviral drug once daily during their first six months of life reduced the transmission rate to 1.7 percent. About 40 percent of the 430,000 children infected with HIV worldwide each year are infected through breastfeeding, reported the article.
  • Before the mostly-male world leaders descend on Toronto for the G20 summit next week, 21 young women from around the world are meeting for the G(irls) 20 summit to discuss global policy and offer a voice for 3.3 billion women worldwide, reported The Canadian Press June 16. These girls–one representing the African Union and 20 mirroring the role of the G20 delegates–will send their policy conclusions to the world leaders attending the G20 summit, hoping to have their voices heard.
  • Closing arguments will be heard June 16 in the first federal trial examining whether bans on same-sex marriage violate civil rights, reported the Associated Press. The landmark case involves two same-sex couples suing to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which voters passed in 2008. It is expected to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Human Rights Watch called on Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to ban the practice of female genital mutilation and said in a report released June 16 that the majority of women in the region–nearly 73 percent–undergo the procedure, reported the Associated Press. According to the World Health Organization, about 6,000 girls are cut daily, and the U.N. says a total of about 70 million girls and women in 27 African and Middle Eastern countries have undergone the procedure, reported the article.
  • EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, announced the launch of a new program on June 17, according to a press statement by EMILY’s List. Called EMpower, the program will engage younger women and men across the country to connect and elect more pro-choice Democratic women to office. Members of EMpower will have the opportunity to meet candidates and elected officials and stay engaged through an interactive Web site and events throughout the year.




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The Criminal Court of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, ruled that an 18-year-old Emirati woman who accused six men of gang raping her will serve a one-year sentence for consensual sex, reported The Los Angeles Times June 17. Human Rights Watch’s Middle East North Africa Researcher Nadya Khalife wrote that society’s beliefs and the courts’ posturing against extramarital sex, rather than rape, is a disadvantage for female victims and often causes them to stay silent about sexual crimes.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is fighting New York State legislation that would eliminate the requirement that midwives have a written practice agreement with a doctor or hospital, reported The New York Times June 17. The group argues that written agreements are needed to keep women safe, particularly in the event of complications. Supporters of the legislation, however, say that most midwives–who handle low-risk births–have relationships with doctors, whether in writing or not, in case complications develop. New York Association of Licensed Midwives’ President Laura Sheperis says that New York has 800 to 900 practicing midwives–more than any other state–and that about 10 percent of them have trouble obtaining written practice agreements, which must be renewed every year, reported the article.
  • A teenage girl in the Swaroop Nagar colony on the north-western outskirts of New Delhi, India’s capital, is believed to have been brutally tortured and killed by her family for wanting to marry a boy–also tortured and killed–from a different, lower caste, reported BBC June 16. The girl’s father and uncle have been arrested in what police have described as a case of "honor" killing. After his arrest, the deceased girl’s uncle told reporters, "I’m not sorry . . I would punish them again if given a chance."
  • Women make up only 2 percent of the world’s self-made billionaires, reported June 16. Of the world’s 1,011 billionaires, only 14 are women who made their own money rather than inheriting all or part of it. The small but impressive group includes Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling and Disney executive-turned eBay CEO-turned California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
  • Women seeking abortions in Louisiana will first be required to get an ultrasound under a bill that received final passage June 16, reported the Associated Press. Opponents say the bill will make abortions more costly, since an ultrasound at health care facilities range in cost from $80 to $300. However, testimony from both sides of the debate indicates that more than 95 percent of women who get abortions in Louisiana already have ultrasounds performed, without the requirement in place, suggesting the bill won’t create significant change.
  • A fourth-grade teacher at a Christian school who was fired for getting pregnant before marriage said she was shocked when the principal asked her when she conceived, AOL News reported June 14. She didn’t think that her honest answer would leave her unemployed.
  • American University’s Women and Politics Institute released a study indicating that female lawmakers composed 13.5 percent of the total Sunday show appearances by all representatives and senators this year, according to the Web site The suggestion that the Sunday shows are less hospitable to women has prompted a debate over who’s to blame among network producers, Capitol Hill political operatives and women’s advocates. Women make up 17 percent of the membership of the House and Senate, a proportion that is only a couple of percentage points higher than how often they appear on Sunday shows. But some advocating for more appearances by women said the shows should be working harder to have women appear in numbers more closely approximating their percentage of society as a whole.
  • Australian Sen. Steve Fielding prompted outcry June 16 after suggesting that the government’s proposed new parental benefits may encourage women to have abortions simply to claim paid maternity leave, reported Agence France-Presse. The government plans to introduce the country’s first paid parental leave scheme next year, providing 18 weeks of paid leave–at $470 per week–to care for a newborn. The new benefits could also apply to women who have stillborn babies; Fielding says this makes it unclear what entitlements are allowed to those who terminate their pregnancies. The government dismissed the claim, saying the benefit would not apply to women who choose to end a pregnancy, reported the article.


  • A report released June 18 points to great disparities in the maternal mortality rate in New York City based on age, ethnicity, insurance coverage and weight. The report was released at an event cosponsored by The New York Academy of Medicine and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The report examined 161 pregnancy-related maternal deaths between 2001 and 2005. It found that women 40 years and older were 2.6 times more likely to have a pregnancy-related death than women under age 40. Nearly 80 percent of the women who died had Cesarean sections. The leading causes for maternal mortality during this time were embolism, hemorrhage, infection and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Together these factors accounted for 63 percent of the 161 pregnancy-related deaths. Black, non-Hispanic women were seven times more likely than white, non-Hispanic women to die during pregnancy. Two of the neighborhoods identified as having extraordinarily high maternal mortality rates were primarily African American and middle class. The death rate for women with no insurance was nearly four times higher than for insured women and nearly half of all women who died from pregnancy-related causes were classified as obese. What the report did not outline, however, were the causes for these disparities.
  • The New York Senate approved legislation June 15 that would adopt no-fault divorce and permit couples to separate by mutual consent, reported The New York Times. New York is the only state without no-fault divorce; to get a divorce under current state law, one party must allege cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery or abandonment, or the couple must be legally separated for one year. The legislation still has to pass the State Assembly, which is considering two bills that would include some version of no-fault divorce. Some women’s advocates oppose the measure, fearing that no-fault divorce would deprive women–especially poor women who can’t afford lengthy litigation–of the leverage they’d need to obtain fair alimony or child support agreements from husbands seeking to divorce them.
  • Obese women have four times as many unplanned pregnancies as healthy-weight women despite having less sex, shows the first major study investigating the impact of obesity on sexual activity, reported Reuters June 15. The study also found that obese women under 30 were less likely to seek contraceptive advice or use oral contraceptives. The study found no connection between body mass index and sexual dysfunction in women.
  • Campaigns on ballot measures pertaining to the legal status of same-sex couples, including same-sex marriage, have minimal impact on voters, a June 15 study by New York University’s Patrick Egan finds. The share of the public saying they intended to vote for or against these measures typically changed very little over the course of the campaigns, the report says.
  • Eve Ensler–playwright of "The Vagina Monologues" and founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls–announced her diagnosis of uterine cancer via a personal message on June 14. In her message, she announced the publication of her first commentary since her diagnosis in which she writes that her cancer is arbitrary and pales next to the "systematic, strategic and intentional" violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Illness and treatment only reinforced my determination to shake global indifference to the terrible violence in Congo," writes Ensler in the piece, entitled Congo Cancer.
  • Hawaii’s Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has until June 21 to announce whether she will veto the only pending civil-unions legislation in the nation, reported The Associated Press June 13. The bill would allow same-sex and straight couples to establish government-recognized relationships with the same legal rights and responsibilities as married couples.
  • One Law for All Campaign, based in London, is organizing a march June 20 to protest the use of Sharia and other religious laws in England, according to the group’s press release. The campaign will make public its new report, entitled "Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights," which is said to outline how Sharia is practiced in Britain and document how Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals are circumventing British law and human rights legislation. June 20 marks the day when 27-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan was shot dead by Iran’s security forces at a protest in Tehran.