Teens who have had an abortion are no more likely to become depressed or have low self-esteem than their peers whose pregnancies don’t end in abortion, reported a press release by the Guttmacher Institute Sept. 24. The Oregon State University study found that having experienced low self-esteem and depression before having an abortion were the factors most closely linked to experiencing these issues again. A 2008 study by the American Psychological Association found no evidence of mental health problems in adult women following abortion, but because of a scarcity of evidence on teens, no conclusions were drawn.
Thirty-four states currently require women to receive counseling before an abortion is performed; seven of these states require women be warned of possible negative psychological consequences resulting from the procedure. The study suggests that, "laws mandating that women considering abortion be advised of its psychological risks may jeopardize women’s health by adding unnecessary anxiety and undermining women’s right to informed consent."
More News to Cheer This Week:
- A study indicates that gender-based violence in Kenya targeting women has significantly declined compared to the 2007 general election period, reported Kenya’s The Daily Nation Sept. 24. The country’s Coalition on Violence Against Women conducted the survey and found that incidences of violence against women were recorded in 6 of 52 constituencies during this past voting period. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger observed that violence against women still runs deep within the society, weakening women at the domestic, political, economic and social levels, reported the article.
- A historic vote on Sept. 22 created an executive body in the Swiss Parliament made up of more female ministers than male, propelling the country to the forefront of sexual equality in politics, reported the Guardian Sept. 23. With the election of Simonetta Sommaruga to the seven-member Swiss federal council, four women and three men are at the helm of the country’s political system. In a country that only gave women the vote in national elections in 1971–and in which one canton blocked them from local votes until 1990–the creation of the first female-dominated federal council has been greeted as a symbolic leap forward. Women are still outnumbered 3-to-1 in the Parliament and few have made it to the top of the business world in Switzerland, the article reported.
- Twenty-nine women in Afghanistan from a class of new army recruits will take the lead role in security from foreign forces by 2014, reported BBC News Sept. 23. They are the first female Afghan officers since the early 1990s, as women were forbidden from serving by the Taliban. Their recruitment is part of a huge U.S.-funded training program. The aim is to strengthen Afghan army and police ranks so that 150,000 foreign forces can begin to withdraw. The women will not however be sent to the front line of the fight against the Taliban, which is at its fiercest since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the article reported.
- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden marked the 16th anniversary of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, reported United Press International Sept. 23. Biden helped draft the act when he was a Delaware senator; it passed as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. "Violence against women is the very worst abuse," said Biden in the article.
- Meryl Streep, a long-time supporter of the National Women’s History Museum, pledged $1 million to the future building of the museum in Washington, D.C., Sept. 21. She pointed out that we should be astonished that there’s no women’s history museum, but there is a postal museum, reported the Washington Post Sept. 23. Legislation allowing the women’s history museum to purchase land on the National Mall is currently on hold in the Senate.
- A women’s group in Iowa has set a 10-year goal for gender equity for the state. By 2020, the group hopes women will hold 50 percent of the seats in the state legislature and federal delegation, and Iowa will have elected its first female governor, reported the Iowa Independent Sept. 23. The group, 50/50 in 2020, chose the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage for their end goal. Currently, women make up only 23 percent of the Iowa legislature. Iowans have never elected a woman to the U.S. Congress, Senate, nor to the office of governor, the article reported.
- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a new program to introduce cleaner cook stoves around the world at the Clinton Global Initiative, her husband’s annual philanthropic conference, the New York Times reported Sept. 21. She said the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has a goal of placing cleaner stoves in 100 million homes by 2020. The program primarily targets women and girls, who do most of the cooking globally. Clinton said as many as three billion people are exposed to toxic chemicals and smoke because they use unsafe stoves to cook, which leads to a range of respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and lung cancer; these stoves also add to greenhouse gases. Clinton said the U.S. government has contributed $50 million to help launch the program.
- The United Nations is launching a campaign to address the ongoing problem of rape in Haiti since the devastating earthquake, which hit the island nation in January, Afro reported Sept. 18. Rape has become extremely prevalent in the camps set up for those displaced by the quake.
Debate for the repeal of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy regarding gay soldiers was blocked by the Senate, but left open the chance for another vote later this year, reported the New York Times Sept. 22. President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have all said they favor repealing the 17-year-old policy. The repeal might be easier to pass in the Senate after Dec. 1 when a Pentagon study on the effects of ending the policy is due, the article reported.
Senate Republicans unanimously blocked debate of the bill. The vote was 56 to 43, with Democrats falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The policy bars gay and transgender people from serving openly in the armed forces. By blocking the bill, Republicans also held up passage of the Dream Act, which was to provide a route to citizenship for youth who are in the country illegally, but had attended college or served in the military, the LA Times reported.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- A report, released by members of the House of Representatives and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights on Sept. 22, documents the impact of the Hyde Amendment on poor women, according to a press release from the Center of Reproductive Rights. Hyde prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion except under limited circumstances. The report concludes that funding restrictions deprive women of the ability to do what is best for their health, themselves and their families. The research comes at a time when Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey is circulating a bill to codify Hyde and create new tax penalties that will make coverage of abortion services unavailable in private insurance policies, the statement said.
- New United Nations global maternal mortality estimates contradict the Indian government’s claim that it is "on track" to meeting U.N. goals for reducing maternal mortality, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Sept. 20. An assessment by the World Health Organization and other U.N. agencies found that even though India is "making progress" in declining maternal mortality, it is not "on track" to meeting its goal under the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The 2008 figures, the latest global estimates, were released in advance of the U.N. Summit on Millennium Development Goals, which started Sept. 20.
- Christine O’Donnell, the Republican party candidate for a Senate seat in Delaware, used campaign money to pay half her rent, according to a Federal Elections Commission filing, reported the Christian Science Monitor on Sept. 21. The Tea Party-endorsed candidate claims to have done nothing wrong because her home served as campaign headquarters. The complaint was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., a nonpartisan watchdog group who also claim that O’Donnell spent campaign money on gas for personal travel, meals and a bowling outing. The questionable 2010 expenses total more than $20,000.
- A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that women aged 50 to 69 are less likely to die from breast cancer if they undergo a mammogram screening, but not by as much as researchers expected, reported the Wall Street Journal Sept. 23. In the study, mammograms were associated with a 10 percent decline in mortality, or a third of the total reduction in mortality. It’s also not clear how much of that is due to screening alone given the more coordinated care that is introduced with screening programs. The study also suggested that increased awareness and improved treatments rather than mammograms are the main force in reducing the breast cancer death rate, reported The New York Times Sept. 23.
- The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation awarded their women’s rights prize to the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and Comite de America Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de lose Derechos de la Mujer(CLADEM)for their significant contribution to protecting women’s reproductive rights. The recipients were given the award along with a $500,000 grant at a Sept. 21 ceremony in New York City. The Center for Reproductive Rights was recognized for its dedication to fighting for women’s reproductive health globally. Their efforts have led to expanded access to birth control, safe abortion, prenatal and obstetric care and reliable information for women in more than 50 countries. CLADEM is a regional organization in Latin America and the Caribbean that promotes, monitors and defends women’s rights as human rights. Currently, there are about 200 individual and organizational associates in 14 countries affiliated with CLADEM.
- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said his annual conference to link philanthropists with the fight against global poverty is focused on women because they’re not considered equal to men in many parts of the world, Bloomberg reported on Sept 21. There are still places where women are seen as "part human and part property," Clinton said at the opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative’s meeting in Manhattan. "Is there a widespread belief, deep down inside, that men should have more rights than women? It’s worth thinking about." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that improving the status of women and girls in developing nations is a key to reducing poverty and promoting economic growth.
- Pooled resources, as opposed to bilateral assistance, is the key to help finance and achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and leading advocate for the goals, said in an op-ed for the Financial Times Sept. 21. He said that the last decade has shown that bilateral aid–aid given from one country to another–rarely reaches the needed national or regional scale because it is slow, political and often swayed by business contracts. He suggested replacing it with multi-donor pooled funding that has a clear timeline, objectives and accountability, citing the example of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. A decade ago these three diseases were out of control, he says, but now thanks to the funds, millions of lives have been saved and the diseases are manageable.
- A group of abortion clinics sued Louisiana’s health department Sept. 20 over a new law, reported CNBC. The law gives the state’s health secretary more discretion to shut down an abortion clinic for safety or health concerns. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit, said the Department of Health and Hospitals isn’t allowing clinics to correct the alleged deficiencies before revoking a clinic’s license. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New Orleans, says the law deprives these clinics basic protections given to other licensed health care facilities and encourages discriminatory enforcement against them. Previously, abortion clinics could continue to operate while appealing a license suspension.
- In Afghanistan, some daughters are dressed and treated as boys in families with only girls, reported the New York Times on Sept. 21. Although there are no statistics on how many Afghan girls masquerade as boys, when asked, Afghans of several generations told a story of a female relative, friend, neighbor or co-worker who grew up disguised as a boy. In most cases, a return to womanhood takes place when the child enters puberty. Afghan families have many reasons for pretending their girls are boys, including economic need, social pressure to have sons and, in some cases, a superstition that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. A made-up son can also more easily receive an education, work outside the home and even escort her sisters in public, the article reported.