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Over 300 women have convened in Vienna, Austria for a three-day conference to analyze women's role in expanding and building democracy in Eastern Europe. U.S. Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt welcomed the participants yesterday and in her opening remarks commented, "The voices of women are vitally important for the creation of democracy." United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will also address the participants of the conference, entitled "Vital Voices: Women in Democracy."
Legal challenges have delayed California's attempt to deny prenatal services to illegal immigrant women. Because several groups, including pregnant women, private clinics, immigrants rights advocates, and the California Medical Association, are fighting the cutoff in court, the earliest it can be implemented is now Sept. 1, 1997. Plaintiffs argue that Governor Pete Wilson's administration's plans violate a federal statute which exempts pregnant immigrant women whose older children were beaten by their fathers from the ban. Individuals have pointed out that the cutoff will raise public health costs because it will cause more pregnant women to go to emergency rooms for high-risk deliveries which earlier checkups could have prevented. A hearing on the cutoff takes place on July 11, 1997 in Oakland Superior Court.
A government study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on July 10, 1997 discovered that calcium supplements given to pregnant women to prevent preeclampsia, dangerously high blood pressure, are ineffective. The condition occurs in about 5% of pregnant women and endangers the lives of both the woman and child. The National Institutes of Health administered the study by randomly giving 4, 589 pregnant women either calcium tablets or dummy look-alikes. Seven percent of the women in each group developed preeclampsia.
Pharmacia & Upjohn has begun to air television advertisements for the female contraception method Depo-Provera. The injectable drug provides 99% effective contraception for up to three months with one injection. First sold in the U.S. in 1993, it contains the active ingredient medroxyprogesterone acetate. The drug company has advertised the drug in magazine ads since February and began television advertisements on July 8th. The ads target young single women, young mothers and older women. Joan Sinopoli, the vice-president of HMC Consumer, the advertising company that created the ads, commented, "Linking birth control, a woman's freedom to plan her life and her family's life is an empowering notion, and one that more women need to hear. Television allows us to make this connection to a broader sweep of mainstream American women."
7/9/1997 - Hawaii Same-Sex Benefits Law Passes
A Hawaii bill allowing same-sex couples limited benefits traditionally reserved for married couples became state law on July 8th without Governor Ben Cayetano's signature. The legislature passed the bill in conjunction with passing a proposal to amend the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriages. The legislation came in response to a State Supreme Court ruling that a state law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. The law provides "couples" the right to share medical insurance, joint property ownership and inheritances. The law does not allow the couples to file joint income taxes or have right to child custody.
Many, however, criticize the new law because it does not apply specifically to same-sex couples and because it does not give all the benefits of marriage. The law says that any two people who are eighteen or over and unable to legally marry each other can apply for the benefits. Technically, the people do not have to know each other, live together or even live in Hawaii to apply for benefits. Gov. Cayetano supported the intent of the legislation, but not the wording and will try to change it in the next session. He commented, "Apparently the religious right did not want the bill to be seen as specifically tailored to same-sex couples. Unfortunately, the Legislature gave in to that, but created another problem."
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and at the medical clinic in Fargo, North Dakota have reported that 24 women who used a popular diet drug combination are suffering from a very rare and serious heart condition. The women developed an unusual and serious heart valve problem and eight of them also have a potentially fatal condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the lungs constrict. The women were taking fenfluramine and phentermine (fen-phen) when they developed the conditions, though doctors still do not know the cause-and-effect process. The report has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to send warnings to thousands of doctors regarding the diet pill use.
Cherie Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is representing a lesbian couple in an employment discrimination case against the British government in front of the European Court of Justice. Lisa Grant, 29, a railway booking clerk and her partner Jill Percey, 38, sued the government claiming that its policy of denying lesbians and gay men travel benefits is in violation of the European Union's anti-discrimination laws. Travel benefits are extended to both married and unmarried heterosexual partners of railway workers. Blair commented before the court, "To say that a human being can be penalized for choosing to express their sexual identity, is equivalent to saying that you can discriminate against a pregnant woman because she could have chosen not to become pregnant." Further she commented, "The court should reject such pedantry. The right to human intimacy is a fundamental right and I would suggest, a fundamental human need." The court plans to deliver a preliminary opinion on September 30, 1997 and a final opinion sometime in early 1998.
7/9/1997 - McKinney Hearing Continues
Brenda Hoster, the woman who originally brought charges of harassment against the Army's top enlisted man Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, has said she will be willing to testify at the pre-trial hearing assessing the charges under two conditions. Hoster and her attorney will ask the U.S. Military Court of Appeals to order lawyers for McKinney not to question her about her previous sex life. They will also ask the Appeals court to bar testimony in the hearing of General Dennis Reimer, Army Chief of Staff. Hoster claims that the character testimony of the General could unfairly influence the presiding officer in the case and could intimidate other witnesses in the trial.
Of her initial refusal to testify, Hoster commented, "I want to testify, [but] what I've seen these other women go through is absolutely ridiculous." She further commented, "This whole thing, this hearing, is about let's pit the boys against the girls. Let's see what we can dig up on the girls and let's get this over with." Defense attorneys are inundating other women who have brought charges against McKinney with question after question about their sexual past.
Of the General's testimony she added, "Here's the top leader for soldiers. He's going to come in and say, 'Hey, this guy has great character. There's no way he could have done any of these things.' Where does that leave me and the other three (victims)? It's definitely a slap in the face to all of us and it's a slap in the face to any other victims out there or who will be out there in the future." Hoster said she would be more than willing to testify as soon as the Army started "playing by the rules" during the hearing. The goal of the hearing is to determine whether charges brought against McKinney, the Army’s top enlisted man, warrant a court-martial.
In related news, the father-in-law of one of the other female accusers testified on July 8th that the woman felt betrayed by McKinney's sexual advances. Career Army Sergeant Major Harold Lewis testified that his daughter-in-law, Sgt. Christine Roy who claims McKinney pursued her with constant calls and had sex with her against her will while she was eight months pregnant, told him she felt uncomfortable with McKinney's advances. He testified, "I asked if he had called her a lot. She said, 'Yes.' I asked if he had said anything on the phone that made her uncomfortable. She said, 'Yes.' I told her to report it immediately."
Former Congresswoman and Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro said on July 7th that, "If it [the New York Senate race] were today, I'd probably say 'Yeah, I'm going to go'." Ferraro further commented that she would make a firm decision by December of 1997 regarding the 1998 Senate race. If she ran, Ferraro would face Rep. Charles Schumer of Brooklyn and Mark Green, New York City's public advocate, in the Democratic primaries. Whoever wins the primary will face current Republican Senator Alfonso D'Amato in the general election. Ferraro said of D'Amato, "I think he's eminently beatable." It's, 'We really want you to run!' It's very different this time. People are saying please do it."
Ferraro made a Senate bid in 1992, but lost in the primaries to Robert Abrams who later lost to D'Amato. But Ferraro feels that the loss was a reflection a last minute ad blitz inaccurately calling her ethics into question. Ferraro said of the loss, "If I lost it fairly, I probably would have said, 'The public rejected me.' But that is not what happened in 1991 and 1992. It wasn't a rejection by the people. Ferraro also commented that early polling shows her to be the strongest Democratic candidate. She commented, "What I've found, as I go to different events around the state, the response is just amazing.”
7/8/1997 - Japanese Feminist Dies at Age 101
Mumeo Oku, one of the first females elected to Japan's parliament, died from a stroke at the age of 101. Oku made several contributions to the feminist movement in her country since she attended Japan Women's University in the 1920's. During that decade, she founded "Working Women," a monthly magazine devoted to improving the status of women in Japan's patriarchal society. In 1947, one year after women won the right to vote and run for national office, Oku won a seat in the House of Councilors. She served in the upper House of Representatives for three terms until 1965. For four decades beginning in the 1940's, Oku worked with the Housewives' Association, a group she formed to highlight the "voice of the kitchen in politics." Her funeral will take place on July 10th in Tokyo.
7/8/1997 - The Citadel's Legal Battles Continue
Attorneys who fought The Citadel's all-male admissions policy face another battle with the state of South Carolina, this time over legal fees. On July 7, the lawyers requested that a federal judge grant them $6.7 million for the 23,406 hours they spent on litigation that took nearly five years. The state spent 25,385 hours defending The Citadel and used 168 attorneys and assistants while the other side used 49. Yet state attorney Bobby Hood claims that the fees which attorneys have asked for are "full of excess." Val Vojdik, an attorney who challenged The Citadel, said of the military school and its attorneys, "They fought us every step of the way. They fought us on everything."
7/8/1997 - Title IX Gets National Attention
Following recent celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in publicly-funded educational institutions, the Washington Post published an extensive feature on Sunday, July 6 on how women athletes at the University of Texas sued the university and gained more athletics opportunities for women. As a result of the lawsuit, the University of Texas agreed to provide equal funding and opportunities for women's and men's athletics, and will comply with this agreement this year.
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a state law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. In response, the Hawaii legislature has passed a law which would allow same-sex couples marriage benefits. Governor Ben Cayentano has said he will sign the bill granting such spousal benefits as medical insurance, state pensions, inheritance rights and the right to sue for wrongful death. Same-sex couples will not have, under the law, the right to divorce, have child custody, or file joint income taxes. Couples must apply for the benefits; the state expects anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 couples to apply for the benefits within the next three months. In return for the benefits, the legislature will propose to Hawaii voters a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
7/7/1997 - Ireland Re-elected as NOW President
National Organization for Women activists from across the country have re-elected President Patricia Ireland at the organization's annual conference. Upon re-election, Ireland announced that the organization is launching "The Victory 2000 Campaign." The campaign will focus on electing 2,000 feminists to office by the year 2000. The campaign will also concentrate on re-electing feminists, such as Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to office
7/7/1997 - NEA Supports Affirmative Action Programs
The National Education Association, the largest teacher's union in the United States, has voted to support affirmative action programs. At the organization's annual conference, delegates voted to urge local unions to use affirmative action programs in education hiring. The NEA issued the vote in light of recent congressional and legal challenges to current affirmative action programs.
Dorothy Buffum Chandler, who helped her husband build the Los Angeles Times and fostered charity drives throughout Los Angeles, has died at the age of 96. Chandler married Norman Chandler, the L.A. Times publisher from 1944 to 1960, and was the mother of Otis Chandler, who served as the newspaper's publisher from 1960 to 1980 and still serves on the Board of Directors of Time Mirror. Dorothy Chandler began work at the newspaper in 1948 and, during her work, took a keen interest in the women's page and established the Times Women of the Year awards.
Chandler also helped raise funds for cultural institutions throughout the city. She raised the money to save the Hollywood Bowl and helped raise $19 million to fund the downtown Music Center in L.A. The Music Center, which is frequently the site of the Academy Awards, now bears her name.
David Halberstam, who wrote a book describing the leading communications empires in the country, described Chandler as "a woman before her time. A feminist pioneer… Always, above else, a presence." L.A. Mayor Richard Riorden said of her, "In culture, she certainly was the most outstanding leader in the history of the city."
The "Beetle Bailey" cartoon General Amos Halftrack, who spends most of time objectifying his secretary, Ms. Buxley, will soon undergo sexual harassment sensitivity training. Mort Walker, the cartoon's creator has said he decided that the General should undergo the training after recent charges that inappropriate sexual behavior runs rampant through the military. Editors’ negative reaction to the character's sexism also led to the decision.
Beginning on July 7th, the general will undergo a four-day sensitivity training. After the training is over, Walker has said that the general will no longer make comments about being a "hands on" general, ogle after his secretary, nor will he ask Ms. Buxley to file things in a bottom drawer so he can look at her legs. The general will still be a bumbling bureaucrat and a horrible golf player.
Federal Judge Eugene H. Nickerson, of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, has ruled that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional. Nickerson has also become the first judge to rule that the military's ban on lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates a person's first amendment rights because the military discharges a person for declaring that he is gay or she is a lesbian. The judge also ruled that the ban on lesbians and gay men violates the equal-protection guarantee of the fifth amendment.
In 1995, Nickerson made a similar ruling in the same case regarding the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The government appealed the 1995 decision, but an appeals court refused to affirm or sustain the ruling. Instead, the appeals panel sent the case back to Nickerson and asked for a ruling regarding the constitutionality of a ban on lesbians and gay men in the military. In making his second ruling on the case, Nickerson commented on the government's claim that the policy was needed for unit cohesion, "a euphemism for catering to the prejudices of heterosexuals…It assumes that, provided homosexuals stay in the closet, heterosexuals will believe there are no homosexuals present in their unit. In fact, homosexuals are present and are entitle to be present."
A recent study reveals that almost one in every ten Argentine women suffers from clinical anorexia or bulimia. According to mental health experts, eating disorders among young women in the country are three times higher than in the United States and in all likelihood the highest in the world. The country's most prominent supermodel, Mancini, slipped into a coma after enduring liposuction on her already thin frame. The Hospital for Anorexia and Bulimia in Buenos Aires attempts to combat the problem by making its hundreds of patients eat five times a day, tearing all the sizes from clothing, and forbidding scales. More than 70 women a week check into the already-crowded hospital. While male patients do not comprise anywhere near the majority of patients in the hospital, the percentage of them who check in has increased from five percent five years ago to 12 percent today.
7/3/1997 - Women Underrepresented in Secret Service
Although women have been accepted into the Secret Service since 1970, only 10% of agents are women. To qualify for the United States Secret Service, an individual must undergo 16 weeks of training, pass physical fitness tests and detailed background checks and spend about eight years at the service's field offices investigating counterfeiting and other financial crimes. Contrary to the common stereotype, however, potential agents do not have to be male. When he goes recruiting, Special Agent Anthony Triplett discovers that many women do not realize they can join the Secret Service. "A lot of women…initially are not sure it's something they want to do or something they can do," Triplett said. "I've had people ask me, 'Do you have female Secret Service agents?'"
Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen T. Compton will step down from his position, but remain on the Court, after receiving a private rebuke from the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct for sexual harassment. The Commission found that on two occasions Compton's conduct toward two different female court employees violated the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct because it constituted sexual harassment. The Commission's private rebuke is the lowest level sanction that can be issued. Neither Compton, the Commission nor the two female employees commented on the nature of the allegations.
The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that that state's 24 year-old ban on lesbian and gay sex is unconstitutional. The court ruled that the government has no right to govern the private sex lives of consenting adults and that the ban violates Montana's Constitutional right to privacy. Currently, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma still outlaw lesbian and gay sex.
The June 27th suspension of Lt. Col. Martin T. Utzig marks the first time the Army has decided to assign responsibility to a commander for sexual misconduct in training units at Aberdeen. Six drill sergeants and a captain in Utzig's battalion face charges of sexual assault against subordinate trainees. Delmar Simpson, the first Aberdeen drill sergeant convicted of rape, was under Utzig's command. His suspension shows a willingness on the Army's part to listen to members of Congress and other critics who believe the entire command structure at the northeast Maryland post has contributed to the secrecy surrounding the sex scandals. More than 50 women have allegedly been harassed at Aberdeen. During Utzig's suspension, Capt. Kathy Sorenson will be acting commander at the battalion.
Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM), a small New York-based abortion rights group, plans to offer mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) free to 10,000 women as part of an effort to make the drug available to American women. The group has approval from the Federal Drug and Food Administration to use its own version of the drug in research trials. Although the Population Council, also a New York based group, holds patent rights for mifepristone, other groups conduct research on patented drugs, but cannot use them for commercial gain. Lawrence Lader, the group's President, says that with new funding from the John Merck Fund, the Abortion Rights Mobilization will add research sites to New York City, Westchester County, Texas, Maryland and Florida. Currently, the group has provided approximately 1,000 women with the pills free of charge, although the women do have to pay for two required doctor's visits where mifepristone and a prostaglandin is administered. Lader commented, "We have the money, and this will provide coverage for women in all different parts of the company…Obviously, the long-term answer to getting mifepristone to American women will have to come from the Population Council. We'll get out of the business as soon as they're ready. But who knows when that will be?" The Population Council has currently run into problems with its manufacturer and is exploring whether the Abortion Rights Mobilization's manufacturer, so far not publicly known, is capable of full-scale production
A study released on July 1, 1997 by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shows that conservative foundations have given over $210 million within a three year period to reshape national policy debates and push the U.S. and states legislatures to the right. The study said, "Two-thirds of their grant dollars went to organizations and programs pursuing policy agendas based on the privatization of government services, deep reductions in federal anti-poverty spending, industrial deregulation and the transfer of responsible social welfare to state and local government and the charitable sector." The report studied the funding pattern of the following twelve foundations: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; the Earhart Foundation; the Charles G. Kock Foundation; the David H. Kock Foundation; the Claude R. Lambe Foundation; the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation; the JM Foundation; the John M. Olin Foundation; the Henry Salvatori Foundation; the Sarah Scaife Foundation; the Carthage Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The foundations have given financial support to, among others, the following conservative think-tanks: the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Free Congress Research and Education Fund, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy.