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Two pro-choice victories in Virginia this week: Gov. Bob McDonnell backtracked from a bill requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion, reported USA Today Feb. 22. Legislators also tabled for the rest of the year a controversial "personhood" bill defining life as starting at conception, the AP reported Feb. 23.

McDonnell still supports a version of the bill that requires women to undergo an external ultrasound. However, McDonnell’s retreat from the original version is widely seen as a tactical victory for pro-choice activists, who energetically protested the bill and popularized the view that it was tantamount to "state-sponsored rape."

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Maryland’s legislature has passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, theBaltimore Sunreported Feb. 23. The bill will now go to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he will sign it next week. Challenges are expected to bring the law to a ballot referendum this November. Recent polls have shown that people in the state are evenly divided on the issue. If the law survives the expected referendum, same-sex couples can marry starting January 2013.
  • U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is urging top military officials to let women serve in front line combat, saying barring women from those units could make it harder for them to rise up the military ranks,Boston.com reported Feb 22.
  • In a piece of political pushback, Democratic lawmakers in Georgia were planning to introduce a bill banning men from seeking vasectomies, theAJC blog reported Feb. 21. "Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies," said Rep. Yasmin Neal, author of the bill. The bill responds to measure that would prohibit abortions on women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant instead of 24 weeks.
  • Josefina Vazquez Mota, the first female presidential candidate in Mexico, is steadily rising in popularity and catching up to frontrunner Enrique Pena Nieto, Reutersreported Feb. 20.
  • Qatar announced Feb. 20 that it will send as many as four female athletes to the Olympic Games in London, ESPN reported.
  • U.N. experts called on Morocco to consolidate and advance the country’s achievements on women’s rights by tackling gaps in its legal framework, the U.N. News Center reported Feb. 21.


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A Democratic committee was barred from televising a hearing with Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who had previously been prevented from speaking at an all-male panel on contraception last week, Politico reported Feb. 22. Her testimony can be viewed here.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Seven states sued the federal government over a mandate that allows employees of religiously affiliated organizations to get birth control through their health insurance plans, reportedBloombergFeb. 23. The lawsuit claims that the law violates free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. The lawsuit, filed Feb. 24 in federal court in Nebraska by the state’s attorney General Jon Bruning, claims "the requirement violates free exercise of religion and freedom of speech rights." The case, brought on behalf of Catholic schools, organizations, and individuals, was joined by Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
  • Government budget cuts may prove deadly for low-income women who are increasingly unable to get critical cancer screenings that once were offered free by state governments, The Huffington Post reported Feb. 20
  • A group of New York City Orthodox female activists has agreed to modify its agenda and instead establish a separate emergency service staffed entirely by women after more than a year of attempting to win the consent of Hatzolah — an Orthodox Jewish emergency medical service in New York — to allow qualified women to join the ambulance service, The Jewish Voice reported Feb. 22. The negotiations began after the activists proposed that the female EMTs could respond to calls from women in the Orthodox community experiencing sudden childbirth or other gynecological health crises.
  • Liberia’s Senate considered a bill Feb. 23 to intensify the nation’s existing anti-gay laws, a senator said, as another West African nation, Cameroon, announced the arrest of 10 women suspected of being lesbians, reported the Associated Press Feb. 22. The legislation in Liberia would make homosexuality a first-degree felony, instead of a misdemeanor, with prison terms of up to 10 years.
  • Women and girls are scarcely present either on screen or behind the scenes in Academy Award-nominated movies, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism said in a press statementFeb. 22.
  • More than 600 Ugandan girls are trapped in Malaysian prostitution rings with little way out, a report from Uganda’s consul in Kuala Lumpur reveals, The Washington Post reported Feb. 20.
  • Specific types of prenatal testing lead to a greater number of abortions, said Rick Santorum Sunday on CBS’s "Face the Nation," The Politico reported Feb. 19. "A lot of prenatal tests are done to identify deformities in utero and the customary procedure is to encourage abortions," the Republican presidential candidate said. Santorum didn’t mention if he would ask for the ban of such prenatal tests, but said the government should not force doctors to provide that type of specific testing free.


  • The state Senate of Wisconsin is set to take up a contentious bill Tuesday that would further mandate how a physician ensures a woman isn’t pressured to have an abortion, The Chicago Tribune reported Feb. 21. The bill adds more rules that physicians must follow to make sure a pregnant women isn’t intimidated to abort by a partner or family member. The legislation also bans doctors from using a webcam to speak with patients before prescribing abortion-inducing drugs.
  • French police detained Dominique Strauss-Kahn for questioning Feb. 21 over allegations he took part in orgies in Paris and Washington paid for by a pair of businessmen,The New York Postreported Feb. 21.
  • Ireland has convened a group of prominent medical professionals and lawyers to advise the government on its abortion laws, reported The New York Times Feb. 21. The decision comes after last year’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Ireland’s abortion laws violate its Constitution.
  • An interactive billboard at a London bus stop aims to show a 40-second advertisement only to women and girls, BBC News reported Feb.20. The advertisement, by Children’s Charity Plan UK, highlights the issue of women and girls in developing countries. Men won’t get to see the advertisement in order a tactic believed to make them aware about gender discrimination, the charity said. A camera will measure facial features of the person standing at the screen to decide whether it is a man or a woman.

In Memoriam:

  • U.K. Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, an American, along with award-winning French photographer Remi Ochlik, died when a shell hit a makeshift media center in the Baba Amr district in Syria, reported the BBC Feb. 22. Colvin’s final report from Syria can be read here. Colvin, a native of Long Island, N.Y., was a foreign correspondent for the U.K. Sunday Times for two decades and covered many war zones in that time, losing sight in one eye in 2001 after being hit by shrapnel while reporting from Sri Lanka.

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