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WASHINGTON -- Feminist Majority Foundation today remembers the legacy of former South African President Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life-long commitment to peace and equality.
"Mandela remains an inspiration for all those fighting for liberty, equality and freedom, including feminist activists," said FMF President Eleanor Smeal. "I will always be proud that, as the President of NOW, I was arrested with other civil rights leaders at the South African Embassy protesting apartheid. And I am proud of the role feminists played in eliminating the scourge of apartheid in South Africa."
Mandela's courage, example and determination inspired multiple generations of activists fighting for social and economic justice. His work and impact is visible today and will continue through the efforts of social justice advocates around the world.
Michigan lawmakers are considering legislation that would require women to purchase a separate insurance policy for abortion coverage. The proposed law would prohibit insurance plans offered in the state from covering abortion without the rider, but the proposal also does not require insurers to offer or provide the rider.
The measure would force women who don't purchase these separate policies to pay for abortion services out-of-pocket -- even women who have become pregnant because of rape or incest. Although Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R ) vetoed the same insurance ban last year, pro-choice opponents, led by Michigan Right to Life, circumvented the veto and collected enough petition signatures to send the measure back to the legislature [see PDF].
"Forcing women to decide whether they want to buy 'rape insurance' and even compelling parents to make the unfathomable decision about whether to buy it for their daughters is truly despicable," State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on Monday. "Requiring Michigan women to plan ahead for an unplanned pregnancy is not only illogical, it's one of the most misogynistic proposals I have ever seen in the Michigan Legislature."
Legislators now have 40 days to act on the ban. If lawmakers take no action, the issue will be put to a statewide vote on the 2014 ballot. If they approve the proposal, it will immediately become law, even without the governor's signature.
In a speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama discussed the US economy and the Affordable Care Act, and he called for changes to reduce the growing income inequality in the US.
"I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: Making sure our economy works for every working American," he said.
President Obama highlighted several facts about income inequality - for example, the fact that the bottom 20 percent of income levels has less than a 5 percent chance of making it to the top income levels - before calling for several changes. He discussed closing corporate tax loopholes, discarding incentives to send jobs overseas, and increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25.
An increase in the federal minimum wage would be especially beneficial for women and families, who make up 64 percent of all workers earning minimum wage or less. Senator Tom Harken (D-Iowa) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 in March, but it is currently sitting in a congressional committee awaiting approval.
President Obama also discussed leaving behind stereotypes of low-income people and workers in order to have more productive dialogue. "We have to reject a politics that suggests any effort to address it in a meaningful way somehow pits the interests of a deserving middle class against those of an undeserving poor in search of handouts," he said.
Fast food workers across the US are striking and holding rallies today to call for higher wages.
This will be the largest action yet in the recent history of the fast food labor movement, with actions in 200 cities. Protesters are calling for $15 an hour wages, almost double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Raising wages for fast food workers is particularly important for women. Seventy-three percent of all front-line workers are women, and 43 percent are black or Latino. Fifty-two percent of fast food workers rely on public assistance because their wages are too low to survive on. But as Michelle Chen reports in the Fall 2013 issue of Ms., the National Restaurant Association has opposed increases in wages, and the industry "lobbies fiercely against local, state and national minimum-wage legislation, claiming the pay boost would cause job losses and hurt businesses. Meanwhile, the CEO of McDonald's raked in about $13.8 million in fiscal 2012, an estimated 737 times what the average fast-food worker earned."
"There's a lot of McDonald's workers with different issues, but in the end it's the same story: We're not getting paid enough," McDonald's worker and striker Nancy Salgado told Chen. "We're worried about how are we gonna feed our kids tomorrow, how are we gonna pay the rent."
While President Barack Obama has said he supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, legislation is unlikely to pass the House. Several states and counties have had more success raising their local minimum wages, including California and Connecticut.
GET INVOLVED: The Ms. Blog invites you to be a citizen journalist: Tweet your pictures and first-hand reports from today's protests with @msmagazine, using the hashtag #StandWithRosie.
Female soldiers testified on Monday that they were recruited for a prostitution ring organized by a sergeant at Fort Hood in Texas.
The officer who organized the ring preyed upon and recruited young female soldiers through a sexual assault and harassment program, which he coordinated. The current trial involves a different man, who allegedly used the prostitution ring, and arose from an investigation into the coordinator, who remains unnamed.
This case adds to the growing outcry over the rate and mishandling of sexual abuse cases in the U.S. military. Reports of sexual assault in the military increased by a whopping 36 percent in 2012, but the vast majority of victims - 89 percent, according to the Pentagon itself - do not report sex crimes at all.
One-half of female victims indicate not reporting sexual assault because they do not believe anything will be done by their commanders. The Military Justice Improvement Act, which is languishing in the Senate, aims to improve the situation by taking prosecution of sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and giving it to independent military prosecutors
TAKE ACTION: Email your Senators to tell them that we must change the current system of handling sexual assault cases. It is simply not working.
Two civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Friday against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means, a woman who was denied a full range of care options when she rushed to Mercy Health Partners after her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan allege that because the hospital abided by the Bishops' religious directives, doctors endangered Tamesha's life by failing to inform her there was virtually no chance her pregnancy would survive or that terminating her pregnancy would be her safest medical decision.
"They never offered me any options," said Means. "They didn't tell me what was happening to my body. Whatever was going on with me, they discussed it amongst themselves. I was just left to wonder, what's going to happen to me?"
Catholic-sponsored hospitals like Mercy Health Partners are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives written by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Directives prevent health care providers from informing their patient that terminating their pregnancy is a legitimate care option, even when the mother's life is at risk or there is no chance the fetus will survive.
The lawsuit argues that because Means was not provided a comprehensive list of care options, she suffered unnecessary harm at the hands of the USCCB.
"A pregnant woman who goes to the hospital seeking medical care has the right to expect that the hospital's first priority will be to provide her appropriate care," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. "Medical decisions should not be hamstrung by religious directives."
The US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama entered a final judgment last week in United States v. Alabama, permanently prohibiting Alabama from enforcing seven provisions of HB 56, a severely restrictive anti-immigration law that affected all aspects of an undocumented immigrant's life.
"The law forced parents to uproot their sons and daughters from their home, and it punished immigrant children for exercising their constitutional right to go to school," said US Attorney Joyce White Vance who called the decision "a return to common-sense immigration law enforcement."
The provisions affected employment, education, transportation, and housing for undocumented immigrants. They required schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K-12 students, criminalized giving a ride or renting to someone who is undocumented, criminalized failing to register one's immigration status, and criminalized the solicitation of work by unauthorized immigrants, among others.
The judgment of the District Court finalized a settlement reached between the parties. It follows an earlier ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to temporarily block the provisions because they unconstitutionally conflicted with federal immigration law.
Three separate lawsuits challenging HB 56 were filed shortly after the law passed. In addition to the challenge by the federal government, a group of church leaders filed suit as well as a coalition of civil rights groups, called the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, represented by the National Immigration Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
12/3/2013 - President Obama Announces HIV Cure Initiative
US President Barack Obama announced the launch of The HIV Cure Initiative yesterday, a $100 million investment in National Institutes of Health (NIH) research into a cure to HIV/AIDS.
"The United States should be at the forefront of the discoveries into how to put HIV in long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies," President Obama said at a White House event commemorating World AIDS Day. "Or, better yet, eliminate it completely."
The funds for the initiative will be drawn from existing resources and will be redirected from expiring AIDS research grants. The funds will focus on further developing research into a treatment that has appeared to cure several people of HIV, but has been too "toxic or premature to apply beyond the research setting."
Other high-priority AIDS research will continue to be supported alongside research for a cure, including treatment during pregnancy, and the effect of the interaction of factors like sex, race, and stigma on treatment. The US will also give five billion dollars to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next two years.
The US has been a world leader in funding prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, accounting for 64 percent of total international assistance to low- and middle- income countries. The President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) currently provides life-saving treatment for 6.7 million people. However, PEPFAR and other prevention programs have been held back by the influence of abstinence-based programs, frequent condom shortages in countries with high rates of those living with HIV/AIDS, and the lack of integration of family planning and HIV/AIDS services.
TAKE ACTION: Tell US leaders that HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs must be integrated with comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services including family planning services for women and girls.
12/2/2013 - Federal Court Blocks Indiana TRAP Law
Last Tuesday, a federal court blocked a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law that could have shut down the only healthcare facility in Indiana providing RU-486, or mifepristone, the medication abortion drug. The blocked law would have unnecessarily required the Planned Parenthood of Lafayette to adhere to the same licensing standards as facilities that perform surgical abortions, even though the clinic does not perform surgical procedures.
"Imposing requirements for such things as surgical scrub facilities and surgical recovery rooms when there is no surgical procedure ever performed at the clinic is not only unreasonable, it is utterly irrational," the Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky wrote in their filed complaint.
The federal court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, confirming that the law violated the Planned Parenthood clinic's equal protection rights by targeting it for regulation. However, the judge rejected the portion of the lawsuit that claimed the law was unconstitutional because it was not related to patient safety or care.
While this clinic will now stay open, reports have shown that over 50 abortion clinics across the United States have closed since 2010 because of a coordinated effort in state legislatures to regulate abortion clinics out of existence.
Indiana now has 30 days to decide if it will appeal the judge's ruling.
A bipartisan group of 12 members of Congress are urging US President Barack Obama to issue stronger protections to prevent the sexual abuse of immigrant detainees in a newly-released letter.
The letter comes in light of a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealing the need for additional actions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address sexual abuse in immigrant detention centers. The report revealed that investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and assault in detention centers after often missing important documentation and are not reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters. It also showed that detainees face obstacles when trying to report abuse.
"The government has a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of any person under its charge,"said Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL). "The pervasive and systematic abuse of detainees held in immigration detention facilities, essentially at the hands of the government, is unconscionable. This urgent matter must be addressed quickly and at the highest possible level."
Based on the study, GAO recommends that DHS develop ways to ensure allegations are being reported to the necessary headquarter office, ensure the hotline has access to connectivity data for recording of reports, document consistent standards on detention, and create an oversight process for sexual abuse and assault prevention and intervention efforts in all department facilities. The dozen representatives are calling for four additional actions in their letter to the president: they urge him to finish implementing several aspects of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), including requiring facilities housing immigrant detainees to have a Prevention of Sexual Abuse Compliance Manager, and require ICE and their facilities to implement proper and thorough investigation procedures around sexual abuse, among other changes.
11/27/2013 - Fast For Families Calls for Immigration Reform
Leaders from immigrant rights groups, labor, women's rights organizations, and faith groups have been taking part in "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship" to pressure lawmakers to bring the immigration reform bill to a vote. The fast in Washington, DC is now in its fifteenth day. Many have been fasting for two or three day periods, but longer-term fasters have chosen to go without food until medically necessary.
The immigration reform bill would provide a comprehensive, earned path to citizenship for many of the approximately 11.7 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US. It has already been passed by the Senate and is currently awaiting House approval.
Fast for Families is calling on the nation to join them in a national day of fasting and prayer between December 1 and December 3. Eliseo Medina of SEIU, one of the fast organizers, indicated yesterday that the action has inspired 103 solidarity fasters who have joined Fast for Families in tents the fasters have set up near the Capitol, as well as thousands of other fasters nationwide.
Dae Joong Yoon, a faster with the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, explained why people are fasting: "Immigration reform is not about politics or policy, it is about people. The human cost of our broken system has created moral urgency that demands action. That is why we are fasting."
The fasters have received messages of support from several U.S. leaders including President Barack Obama. Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) both visited the Fast for Families tent earlier this month.
Fasters have declared, "We will fast and pray until the bonds of families are no longer broken. We will fast and pray until immigration reform is no longer a notion, but a reality. We will fast and pray until citizenship is no longer a dream for 11 million aspiring Americans."
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights released a report last week documenting the impact of state funding cuts to family planning services on Texas women, particularly women living in the southern Rio Grande Valley [see PDF]. The report asserts that Latinas in Texas - where more than 60 reproductive health clinics have closed since 2010 - face such severely restricted and limited reproductive health care that their human rights are violated.
Latinas in the Rio Grande Valley face almost insurmountable barriers to obtaining reproductive health care that can delay or prevent treatment. Distant and inaccessible clinics, lack of transportation to those clinics, and immigration status can prevent women from receiving the care they need. The high cost of care, as well as appointment wait times that can exceed several months, are also large barriers.
"We want to grow, give back to this country," said a woman interviewed for the report named Liria. "But for that to happen we need to be in good health."
Because of the difficulty in accessing quality care, women may be driven to use illegal products and services that are potentially dangerous to their health, and they may face increased stress, anxiety and insecurity. More unintended pregnancies, higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, and limited access to fertility treatment are also negative outcomes.
Texas has grown increasingly hostile to reproductive rights and access over the past few years. Women's health clinics that offer abortions have been excluded from state funding for women's health, and they have been required to abide by Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) that are impossible to follow, causing many to close. A law passed over the summer requiring physicians who provide abortion to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital has gone into effect as well after surviving a court battle.
11/27/2013 - Karzai Signals Delay On Bilateral Security Agreement
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has declared that he will not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) until after Afghanistan's Presidential elections are held in April 2014.
The Obama Administration has urged Karzai to sign the agreement by the end of the year. The BSA provides that the US will continue to offer assistance to strengthen the security in Afghanistan, provide humanitarian aid, and support economic and civic development. The agreement provides no combat role for US troops.
The Afghan Loya Jirga, or grand council, approved the BSA earlier this week and advised President Karzai to sign the agreement without delay. The Afghan Parliament is expected to consider the agreement soon and present it to President Karzai for finalization. Certain members of Parliament have already voiced strong support for the agreement.
If President Karzai does not sign the BSA before the end of the year, the relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan could potentially disrupt and Afghan women and girls could be placed at grave risk. The Obama Administration has indicated that failure to finalize the agreement could lead to a complete pullout of US forces and the loss billions of dollar in international aid.
With the help and support of the U.S. and the international community, Afghan women and girls have made steady progress in every sector of society. Previously stripped of all human rights and forced into a state of virtual house arrest, women are now 27 percent of Afghan Parliament, over 10 percent of candidates for the upcoming provincial council elections, about 35 percent of all primary and secondary school students, and nearly 19 percent of students attending university.
TAKE ACTION: Ask President Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement and ensure that Afghan women's rights do not move backwards.
11/26/2013 - Feminist Majority Foundation Urges US Supreme Court to Let Women Not Bosses Make Decisions About Birth Control
Contact: Megan Perry
Phone: (703) 522-2214
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the contraceptive coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The provision guarantees that all new health insurance plans cover FDA-approved contraceptives, including the pill and IUDs, without co-pays or deductibles.
Hobby Lobby, a for-profit national craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood, a wood cabinet manufacturer, are arguing that this benefit violates the religious beliefs of these corporations and that they should not be required to provide health insurance plans that cover certain types of birth control.
"Religion should not be used as a cover for profit-making businesses to discriminate against women," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, "nor should women be held hostage to their boss' personal religious beliefs."
"Religious freedom does not mean using your power as an employer to impose your views on others. If the Supreme Court accepts Hobby Lobby's arguments, it will set a dangerous precedent - allowing your boss to determine what medicines and medical procedures you will have access to. What's next? Will the Court allow some bosses not to cover blood transfusions, immunizations, or HIV/AIDS treatment because their contrary to their beliefs?" continued Smeal.
Birth control is basic health care for women. A majority of Americans agree that women should have access to affordable birth control and support full coverage of birth control as a preventive service. As many as 88% of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used birth control pills, injectables, the contraceptive patch, or IUDs at some point in their lives. What's more at least 14% of women using the pill are doing so to treat painful conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or severe cramps, and studies have shown that the pill reduces the incidence of ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Four San Jose State University students have been charged with misdemeanor hate-crime and battery for committing hate crimes against their 17 year-old black roommate.
The harassment and crimes started when the victim's three roommates and an unnamed student started calling the victim "three fifths," referring to a time when slaves were considered three fifths of a person during census counts. From there the harassment increased. The roommates wrote racial epithets on a dry erase board in their shared living space, displayed pictures of Hitler and other Nazi related images, and put up a confederate flag. They physically harassed him by barricading him in his room and piling furniture against his door, as well as physically restraining him and locking a U-shaped bike lock around his neck. The roommates also tried to get him to enter a closet, knowing that he was claustrophobic, where they had removed the inside doorknob.
"He told university police he always locked his door at night because he was scared of most of the other students living in the four-bedroom suite," the San Jose Mercury News reports about the victim. "He also didn't feel safe studying in his own room and believes his grades weren't as good as they could be as a result."
In October, the parents of the hazed roommate reported the harassment to campus police, who then reported it to the District Attorney's Office. The accused roommates claim that the hazing was all in jest and was not racist. If convicted of the misdemeanor hate-crime and battery charges, the students could face up to a year in prison.
Fellow students have held rallies on campus in support of the victim, and the NAACP has called for felony hate-crime charges against the students in question.
11/22/2013 - Senate Fails to Vote on Military Sexual Assault Bill
After hours of debate, the Senate failed to vote yesterday on the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), MJIA would move the decision of whether to prosecute sexual assault cases out of the chain-of-command and give it to independent, objective, trained military prosecutors.
Six in ten Americans support letting independent prosecutors decide whether to prosecute sexual assault cases in the U.S. military, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Support is equally divided between men and women, and majorities of Republicans and Democrats also support taking sexual assault cases outside the chain of command. The Feminist Majority urged the Senate to take up MJIA last week.
MJIA would amend the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA), but Senate Republicans - using the filibuster - blocked MJIA from coming to a vote on the floor yesterday. There was also no vote on NDAA. The Senate then headed into a two-week recess.
11/22/2013 - Janet Yellen Closer to Becoming Fed Chief
The Senate Banking Committee voted 14-8 to approve the nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. This bipartisan vote means that the Yellen will now be considered by the full Senate. If confirmed, she will be the first woman in history to lead the central bank.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) applauded the committee for its vote. "Janet Yellen has impeccable credentials, and I'm very pleased she was voted out of committee with bipartisan backing, said Senator Warren. She recognizes middle-class families are still struggling to dig out of the hole the financial crisis created, and that now is no time for the Fed to pull back."
The Senate vote yesterday to change the filibuster rules to require a simple majority - rather than 60 votes - to end debate on certain presidential nominees means that Republicans will not be able to block Yellen from receiving a vote on the Senate floor. The Senate is expected to vote on her nomination after the Thanksgiving recess.
Yellen is the current vice chairman of the Federal Reserve and has a long history of experience with central banking.
Congress passed the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013 on Tuesday, reaffirming and strengthening its commitment to reducing global HIV/AIDS. The 2013 act updates the program to require, among other changes, more collaboration between US departments to combat HIV/AIDS, to require a study of treatment providers, and to extend funding for orphans and other children left vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
The program, which began in 2003, has supported HIV testing and counseling and antiretroviral treatment for millions of people. PEPFAR has created partnerships to support countries' efforts to implement HIV prevention programs and care services and has focused efforts on reaching particularly vulnerable populations.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-IL), an original co-author of PEPFAR in 2003, praised the passage of the Act and its continued bi-partisan support. She also expressed confidence in the program. "I believed then, as I do now, that we can achieve an AIDS-free generation with the right investments, like protecting funding for programs for orphans and vulnerable children, supporting the Global Fund, and guiding the transition toward greater country ownership, while also expanding effective combination prevention programs and HIV/AIDS research," said Lee.
Although PEPFAR has had unprecedented success in fighting HIV/AIDS globally, the problem remains staggering - particularly for women. Over half of all people living with HIV are women, and it is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal and National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill have urged that the next leader of PEPFAR must therefore ensure that women's rights are at the center of the U.S. response to HIV/AIDS. US Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby - who led the implementation of PEPFAR - stepped down from his position earlier this month. Smeal and O'Neill have called on President Obama to appoint a woman in the past.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2013
Feminist Majority Applauds Change in Senate Filibuster Rules and the Confirmation of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
WASHINGTON --The U.S. Senate voted 52-48 today to change the filibuster rules to require a simple majority - rather than 60 votes - to end debate on presidential nominees to the executive branch and the federal bench, with the exception of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We congratulate Senator Reid on his leadership," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "Republicans have been engaging in an egregious abuse of power by systematically blocking presidential nominees to the federal bench and disproportionately affecting the appointment of highly qualified women and people of color."
Immediately after the rule change, the Senate voted 55-43 to confirm Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Millett is an accomplished lawyer who has argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and has had over a dozen years of service in the Department of Justice. She was one of three very qualified women nominated to this D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals who were recently blocked by Senate Republicans.
"At last we will break the logjam of judicial and executive appointments, end the dysfunction of the Senate, and stop Republican denial of the re-election of President Obama" said Smeal.
The Massachusetts Senate voted Tuesday to gradually raise the state's minimum wage from $8 to $11 per hour by 2016. The raise will help over 600,000 workers, particularly women, who make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationwide.
"Hard working people working full time and being paid our minimum wage now are living in poverty," Senator Dan Wolf told the Associated Press. "Raising the minimum wage is an important step to rebalancing our top-heavy economy."
The Senate also voted to tie the minimum wage to inflation, to require it to always be at least 50 cents higher than the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), and to raise the minimum wage for tipped employees, like waiters, to half of the minimum for other workers.
The bill was approved by a 32-7 vote. It will now head to the House, which is unlikely to vote on it until next year, and then to Governor Deval Patrick, who has expressed support for increasing the state's minimum wage. If it passes, Massachusetts will have the highest state minimum wage in the US. It will begin taking effect on July 1, 2014 when it will rise to $9, and then it will rise by one dollar each July until it reaches $11 in 2016.
California recently enacted a similar law raising the state's minimum wage from $8 to $10.
11/20/2013 - Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Abortion Law
In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The law, which went into effect on October 31, immediately forced about one-third of the state's abortion providers to stop providing services.
"We are disappointed by the Supreme Court's failure to block this unnecessary, burdensome Texas law. It's only purpose is to deny women access to abortion - an essential part of women's reproductive health care," said Katherine Spillar, Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "Texas women deserve better."
The Court's decision was not on the constitutionality of the Texas law. That question will be considered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to hear arguments in January.
Last month, a federal district court struck down the Texas admitting privileges requirement, ruling that it was unconstitutional. Judge Lee Yeakel found that the provision had no rational relationship to improving patient care, treatment, or outcomes, and would place an undue burden on women seeking abortion services.
The state immediately appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which granted the state's request to stay Judge Yeakel's decision and allow the law to go forward pending a decision on the law's constitutionality. Texas abortion providers then filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to block the law.
Last night, voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico defeated an unprecedented ballot measure that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks and contained no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the woman.
The proposed measure was the first of its kind to be introduced on the city-level and drew national coverage for the robust campaigns launched around it, both for and against. Yesterday's election drew record numbers of voters, with about a quarter of Albuquerque's registered voters, 87,296 in total, voting in the special election -- more than voted in the regular election for mayor earlier this month, according to MSNBC.
"Together, we sent a strong message to the legislators across the country -- both on the state and national level -- who are proposing similar bans: We will not go back. We will not stop fighting," said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation.
FMF sent a team of National Campus Organizers to Albuquerque to mobilize student voters on the ground. FMF, Young Women United and ProgressNow New Mexico also sponsored shuttles from local campuses to the polls, which were overwhelmed by students.
Dolores Huerta, FMF board member and co-founder of United Farm Workers, also campaigned with student leaders in Albuquerque.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2013
WASHINGTON -- Feminist Majority Foundation today applauded and celebrated Ms. magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem on being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Steinem was one of 16 honorees to receive the prestigious award from President Barack Obama today at The White House. She was honored for her leadership "in the women's liberation movement," the White House said, as well as for cofounding Ms. in 1972.
Before she helped start the groundbreaking feminist magazine, she helped launch New York magazine, where she was a political columnist and features writer. The author of a number of books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, she's also an inspirational, widely traveled speaker and a founder of the Women's Media Center.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal and Ms. Executive Editor Katherine Spillar were both present at the ceremony.
"Gloria has been instrumental in promoting feminist issues for more than 40 years," said Smeal. "The FMF has been honored to carry on her work with Ms. for the past 12 years. I value my long and productive friendship with Gloria and look forward to many more. She is a beacon of feminist wisdom and strength."
"We can never thank Gloria enough for all the work she's done on behalf of women's rights," said Spillar. "This presidential honor is so well-deserved - and, as Gloria said, it honors the entire women's movement."
Other medal recipients today include the late astronaut Sally Ride, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, country singer Loretta Lynn and former president Bill Clinton.
Last week, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division rejected a lower Family Court's ruling that a woman's decision to move across the country while pregnant was tantamount to "appropriation of the child while in utero" and therefore could bar her custody case from being heard in her new location.
The lower Family Court had found in May that petitioner Sara McK's decision to relocate from California to New York to attend Columbia University while pregnant could bar New York courts from hearing her child custody case. The Family Court referee departed from typical custody statute - that custody cases be heard in a child's home state, in this case New York, where the child was born - based on the "appropriation" characterization. This interpretation of the statute placed unconstitutional constraints on a woman's basic decisions, such as where she lives, works, and attends school while pregnant. It also meant fathers could limit the movement of pregnant women.
The recent decision to reject the earlier ruling "affirms that women who become pregnant may not be penalized for exercising their rights to travel and to seek an education," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
The Appellate Division's ruling made clear that courts cannot hear custody matters that are filed prior to birth, and that McK's relocation should not have factored into the lower Family Court's finding.
In several other cases, the rights of pregnant women have been restricted in the name of protecting the fetus. One pregnant woman was detained after trying to get help for her painkiller use, and another was charged with attempted feticide after a suicide attempt.
LGBT people of color are the most disadvantaged workers in the US, according to a new report released last week by the Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Black Justice Coalition.
The report, entitled A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color, details how LGBT people of color, who live at the intersections of various marginalized identities in the US, face unique barriers to employment and education. Inequality, lack of workplace protections, and violence and discrimination in schools all contribute to high rates of poverty and unemployment for many LGBT workers of color.
"Contrary to popular stereotypes, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population, making it critical to address the unique obstacles they face," said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. "Bias and prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression intersect to the detriment of LGBT workers of color."
According to the report, LGBT youth of color often face multiple forms of harassment at school, have fewer support systems, and are at greater risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline [see PDF]. At work, LGBT people of color experience higher rates of discrimination and are less likely to have adequate mentors. Discriminatory immigration and tax laws as well as unequal job benefits, including lack of appropriate forms of family leave, also disadvantage LGBT workers of color.
The report makes several concrete recommendations to achieve workplace equality. In particular, the authors recommend that Congress pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act to help LGBT students feel safer at school. National laws to ban employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression and sexual orientation should be implemented at the federal, state and local levels. In addition, efforts should be taken by Congress and state lawmakers to protect against wage discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
"While there are laws in place to help protect workers from discrimination based on race and ethnicity, it is still legal to fire or refuse to hire someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation in the majority of states," said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at CAP.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) which would protect people from discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation in the work place. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), however, has opposed the legislation.