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Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., introduced legislation Sept. 29 to end federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage education, according to a press release from Sen. Lautenberg. Since 1996, the U.S. has spent more than $1.5 billion for abstinence-only programs, despite a Congress-mandated study that found these programs fail to effectively teach teens how to prevent unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The bill would redirect funding for comprehensive sex education, according to the press release.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he foresaw a day when the military would lift its ban on women serving in the special operations forces, reported Agence France-Presse Sept. 30. Although military rules bar women from ground combat, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thrust female troops into firefights and forced U.S. commanders to review the policy. Gates said he expected the prohibition against women in U.S. special operations forces would be phased out similar to how women have been allowed to serve on submarines since earlier this year. The special operations forces units carry out some of the military’s most dangerous and sensitive operations and have remained one of the last all-male bastions in the armed forces, according to the article.
  • An IUD that releases the hormone progestin may be an effective treatment for younger women with early-stage uterine cancer, Italian researchers say, reported U.S. News and World Report Sept. 29. The study followed 34 Italian women. A total hysterectomy is the usual treatment for endometrial cancer, but using an IUD allows women to delay the surgery and remain fertile for longer, according to the study, which was published online Sept. 29 in Annals of Oncology. About 3 to 5 percent of women who have endometrial cancer, which affects the womb lining, are under the age of 40 and will lose their fertility if they undergo a hysterectomy. The IUD is not yet approved to treat endometrial cancer, but it is approved and widely used to treat endometriosis and abnormal uterine bleeding.
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s closest aide has called for more rights for Iran’s "oppressed" women, Reuters Africa reported Sept. 29. "Women have been oppressed and treated unjustly in our society in the past and this oppression still exists," Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, the president’s chief of staff, was quoted as saying by Iranian newspapers Sept. 29. Iran’s Parliament is currently debating a law which, among other things, could give a man the right to take up to three other wives without the consent of his existing spouse. Under the current law, consent is required. Opponents of the law see it as a retrograde step for women’s rights. Mashaie has been under relentless criticism from hardliners since Ahmadinejad’s re-election last year and his comments are likely to fuel controversy, the article reported.
  • A section in the health-care overhaul aims to raise awareness among young women and their doctors about the risk of breast cancer between the ages of 15 and 44, Kaiser Health News reported on Sept. 28. The law provides grants to groups that support young women with breast cancer and directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create education campaigns that will focus on breast cancer and young women, as well as prevention and early detection of the disease. It also directs the National Institutes of Health to develop new screening tests and other methods to prevent breast cancer in young women and improve early detection.
  • Just over half of HIV-infected pregnant women in poor countries received crucial AIDS drugs to protect their unborn children last year, according to the World Health Organization, reported the Associated Press Sept. 28. Fifteen percent of infected pregnant women had access to that therapy five years ago, an important jump in the quest to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015. Overall, the "Towards Universal Access" report shows steady increases in the number of people taking lifesaving antiretroviral treatment last year, to a record 5.2 million in poor and middle-income countries. Still, only a third of people in need can gain access to the drugs and most people living with HIV don’t know about the availability of drug treatment, the report said.
  • The Philippine government will provide contraceptives to poor couples who request it despite strong opposition from the dominant Roman Catholic Church, reported Agence France-Presse Sept. 27. The announcement came from President Benigno Aquino, who stressed that the number of children a couple had was a matter of personal choice. The church wields considerable influence in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic. However, despite the church’s objection, 68 percent of voters in the Philippines believe that the government should provide couples with all legal means of family planning, according to the article.

  • Jeers

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    Women make up nearly half of America’s work force, but the number of females in management positions and their corresponding pay still lags behind that of their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office report, "Women in Management: Analysis of Female Managers’ Representation, Characteristics, and Pay," reported ABCnews Sept. 28. Although there are more women represented across several industries, the number of female managers only increased by 1 percent over seven years–from 39 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2007. Women in non-managerial roles remained at 49 percent of the work force.

  • Although the pay gap for female managers shrank by two cents from 2000 to 2007, female managers still earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, compared to 79 cents in 2000. Working manager moms earned 79 cents for every dollar in comparison to working manager dads–unchanged since 2000.
  • The GAO report found that more women are earning college and graduate degrees and the number of working women aged 25 to 64 with college degrees nearly tripled during the years 1970 to 2008.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The first survey of Alaskan women about sexual assault and domestic violence found that more than half had been victimized at some point in their life and about 1-in-8 had been victimized in the year before the survey, reported Anchorage Daily News Oct. 1. Reported crimes have indicated that Alaska has been struggling with high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence, but the survey, conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, found the numbers were much higher than the state believed. The study suggests that an estimated 6,181 Alaskan women were victims of sexual assaults last year; of those, possibly 3,700 were victims of forcible rape. Alaska law enforcement said that 503 forcible rapes were reported, according to the article.
  • Drug companies are being accused of turning the loss of sexual desire that some women experience into a medical condition that can be treated by pills, reported the Guardian Oct. 1. An article in the British Medical Journal argues that drug companies have tried to construct a scientific basis for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction with biased surveys. For example, in 1999 a study found 43 percent of women suffered from sexual dysfunction. However, two of the survey’s authors had financial ties to the drug industry. The drug company Pfizer, manufacturer of Viagra, ran half-day courses for doctors across the U.S. that claimed up to 63 percent of women had sexual dysfunction. The article stated that many of these drugs have proved ineffective as sexual dysfunction is normally psychological.
  • A Sept. 29 hearing to vote on the International Violence Against Women Act was postponed, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Web site. The proposed law would seek to make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority. Anu Palan, director of communications and outreach for Women Thrive Worldwide, based in Washington, D.C., said the hearing was postponed because many senators were in their home states campaigning and unavailable. The postponement was not politically motivated and anti-violence bill was among several agenda items to be delayed, she said. The vote is likely to take place after the elections.
  • A proposed Michigan state law would require doctors to use the most advanced ultrasound equipment available at their office to show women considering an abortion images of the fetus, reported National Public Radio Michigan Sept. 30. The law passed in the state Senate Sept. 29, although doctors in Michigan are already required to do an ultrasound before a woman can get an abortion. Sarah Scranton with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan says the law, which exists to dissuade women from abortion, is completely unnecessary and invasive. Scranton says lawmakers should focus on improving sex education and allowing emergency rooms to offer rape survivors emergency contraception.
  • There are reports of an alarming rise in the number of under-aged girls being lured to New Delhi for work, only to be sold into prostitution, reported Australia’s Herald Sun Sept. 30. Girls from some of India’s poorest tribal states went to New Delhi with false promises of work at the Commonwealth Games, an international sports competition for Commonwealth countries. Hundreds of young girls are believed to have been successfully trafficked into the city’s burgeoning number of brothels, massage parlors and escort agencies.
  • A letter from two senators is the only thing blocking congressional approval of a decade-long effort to build a women’s history museum in the nation’s capital, USA Today reported Sept. 29. The "hold" is on a bill that would sell land near the Smithsonian Institution for the National Women’s History Museum. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., placed the hold on the bill, saying their concerns are financial because though the museum would pay fair market value for the land, the group has raised little money. They add that the new institution would duplicate more than 100 similar museums, some of which already get taxpayer subsidies. The article reported that abortion politics are also in play: The senators’ action came two days after the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, wrote DeMint asking for a hold because the museum would "focus on abortion rights without featuring any of the many contributions of the pro-life movement in America." The House passed the bill last year; unless the Senate takes it up soon, supporters will have to start over with a new Congress next year.
  • District Attorney Ken Kratz of Calumet Country, Wis., has been accused by at least five women of inappropriate advances, reported the Green Bay Press Gazette Sept. 25. Most recently, an alleged victim of domestic violence accused Kratz of offering to help her with a victim impact statement in exchange for sex. In a case that came to light last week and began the investigation, Kratz acknowledged he sent inappropriate text messages to a 25-year-old domestic violence victim. Kratz was prosecuting the offender, her ex-boyfriend, at the time. Gov. Jim Doyle is currently trying to remove him from office, according to the article.


  • Nicky Diaz Santillan, the former housekeeper of California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, claimed that Whitman was aware of Santillan’s status as an undocumented immigrant, reported CBS News Sept. 29. Santillan is suing Whitman for lost wages for the abrupt firing after nine years of employment. Whitman maintains that Santillan lied about her status and only came clean when she feared it would come out in the campaign. However, Santillan’s attorney revealed a letter she says was sent to Whitman and her husband in 2003 from the Social Security Administration, indicating that their housekeeper’s Social Security number did not match her name, reported CBS News Sept. 30. Whitman denied that she ever saw the letter. Whitman’s run for office has included a hard line against immigration, including tougher regulations against employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
  • The NFL received its highest grade ever for racial diversity hiring practices, but is still behind on hiring women, the Associated Press reported Sept. 29. The annual report card by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida gave the NFL its first ‘A’ on racial hiring practices in 18 years on Sept. 29. However, the football league earned a ‘C’ for gender hiring and an overall grade of ‘B.’ The percentage of women in management positions in the league office decreased from 27.6 to 27.5 since last year; women in team professional administrator positions went down by 1 percent; and there was a 2 percent decrease for women in senior administrator positions, according to the study. The number of female vice presidents increased by five, the only major stride in gender hiring.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for six months wards off baby infections, further evidence suggests, BBC reported Sept. 28. Regardless of other factors, such as good health care and vaccination programs, breastfeeding still gives babies a boost, say Greek researchers. They say it is the composition of breast milk that helps babies fight infections. The findings, from a study of 1,000 vaccinated infants, are published in Archives of Diseases in Childhood. Researchers say the benefit only comes with exclusive breastfeeding. World experts already recommend that infants are exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months of life.
  • Unhappy romances take a greater emotional toll on men than women, U.S. researchers suggest, UPI reported Sept. 28. The study of more than 1,000 unmarried young adults ages 18-23 challenges the long-held assumption that women suffer more than men when romances go sour, say the researchers. The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, finds for young men, their romantic partners are often their primary source of intimacy, while young women are more likely to have close relationships with family and friends. Men get greater emotional benefits from the positive aspects of an ongoing romantic relationship. Romantic strains may be associated with poor emotional well-being in men because it threatens young men’s identity and feelings of self-worth, the study authors suggest.
  • Laws that prohibit street prostitution and operating a brothel have been declared unconstitutional by an Ontario Superior Court judge, the National Post reported Sept. 28. The judge struck down three sections of the province’s Criminal Code that make it illegal to operate a "common bawdy house," to profit from prostitution-related activities or to "communicate" on the street for the purpose of prostitution. The provisions "force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person," said the judge, in finding that the laws breached the Charter of Rights. The long-awaited ruling was issued nearly a year after a lengthy hearing in which three women involved in the sex trade industry were arguing that the laws were unconstitutional. The federal and Ontario governments, as well as three Christian groups, all joined to argue that the laws were valid and should stay in place. The court challenge was only to the three Criminal Code sections and did not include prohibitions against prostitution involving people under the age of 18 or laws aimed at prosecuting pimps. The judge stayed her ruling from taking effect for 30 days, to give the federal government time to consider the impact of the decision. The federal government could also go to court to seek a longer stay, as it appeals the decision.
  • Efforts to expand research on women’s health in the United States over the past two decades have made great strides in some areas, while are lacking in others, reported Bloomberg Businessweek Sept. 27. On one hand, the Institute of Medicine review shows declines in cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, cervical cancer, depression, HIV/AIDS and osteoporosis, due in part to requirements for researchers to include women in studies, as well as increased funding. However, there has been little progress in several other health issues important to women, including unintended pregnancy, autoimmune disease, alcohol and drug addiction, lung cancer and dementia, according to the article.
  • A teacher at a Bronx elementary school has been reassigned after writing on a Web site about her past as a sex worker, reported the New York Times Sept. 26. In a short online article in The Huffington Post on Sept. 7, the teacher, Melissa Petro, criticized Craigslist for shutting down its "adult services" section. She said that she used Craigslist to meet men and it provided "a simple, familiar forum through which I could do my business with complete anonymity, from the safety and convenience of my own home," the article reported.