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Democratic women in the House of Representatives delayed action on the FY 1998 agriculture appropriations bill on July 17 to protest the Republican leadership's decisions on amendments to the Foreign Operations spending bill. The women were able to halt consideration on the appropriations bill by using a series of procedural votes, so most Republicans relented and voted to suspend work on the bill. The Foreign Operations bill should go to the House floor this week. The Democratic women vehemently oppose an amendment the Republican leaders have allowed to be offered that would "reinstate the gag rule on international family planning and...defund the U.N. Fund for Population Activities."
Illinois governor Jim Edgar used his amendatory veto powers last week to give unmarried biological fathers legal status to bring criminal complaints against doctors who perform D&X abortions. Edgar, who usually favors abortion rights likely invoked his veto powers to satisfy conservatives in light of the upcoming 1998 elections. Women's rights activists, however, have pointed out that doctors in Illinois rarely perform D&X procedures. Thus, Edgar's veto allowed the moderate governor to give conservatives a symbolic victory without making a significant change in his state.
On July 19, the Episcopal Church rejected a proposal which would have recognized same-sex marriages. The day before the vote, the head of the church had reminded clergy and laity of his request twelve years ago asking the church to make everyone welcome. While voters did not heed his request, the proposal failed by such a narrow margin that proponents of same-sex marriages remain encouraged. Later this week, the church will vote on ordaining gay men and lesbians.
The publicly-funded University of Connecticut Medical Center has made plans to join with Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, to provide a center for out-patient surgery. The center will not provide abortions or sterilization for women, however. Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has joined an increasing number of people in arguing that the limit on to treatment for women, in order to abide by the tenants of the Roman Catholic Church, is unacceptable. Several hospital trustees also questioned the ban. One trustee, Richard Treibick commented, "How can we as a secular institution be involved in something that basically violates gender equity? How can we enter in an agreement with a religious entity and be bound by their rules? So what are we doing here?"
University officials claim that if they built the center without the Catholic Church, they would lose a significant share of customers and thus any small profit margin they hoped to accumulate. The board has tabled a vote on whether or not to approve the merger. The Health Department must also decide whether a medical need for the new center exists. Anne Stanback, executive director of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund, commented on the merger, "What this means in simple terms is that women's access to a full range of legal reproductive health services has been sacrificed for the sake of a business deal."
According to a 1995 study conducted by the group Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholic Churches have been involved in over 57 mergers or affiliations since 1990. In at least ten of those instances, the mergers resulted in the elimination of reproductive health services, like abortion, tubal ligation and birth-control counseling.
7/18/1997 - McKinney Now Charged with Assault
A fifth woman has brought charges against the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney. This woman is the first, however, to charge that McKinney physically assaulted someone in performance of her duties. McKinney is currently being charged with sexual misconduct and solicitation of adultery. A hearing to determine whether or not the Army holds McKinney over for a court-martial will now be expanded to include these new charges.
In related news, Brenda Hoster, the first woman to bring the charges against McKinney, will testify at the hearing. Her lawyer announced that prosecutors agreed to object if defense attorneys questioned Hoster about her sexual history during cross-examination. Hoster had earlier refused to testify because defense attorneys questioned other women who brought allegations against McKinney about their sexual histories and prosecutors did not object. The presiding officer over the hearing, Col. Robert Jarvis, has said he will enforce a military rule that prohibits defense attorneys from questioning women about their sexual histories in these types of matters, if the prosecution objects.
A former Miller Brewing executive who sued the company for firing him has been awarded $26.6 million by a jury in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1993 Patricia Best complained to Miller Brewing Company officials after co-worker Jerold Mackenzie told her about a Seinfeld episode. In the episode, the main character could not remember the name of the woman he dated, and knew only that it rhymed with a word for a female body part. Subsequent to Best making her complaint, Mackenzie was fired from his job and sued later sued the company and Best. Mackenzie claims the company used the sexual harassment excuse to fire him; the company claims that the comment was one in a long line of problems they have had with Mackenzie. In 1989, the company had also reprimanded Mackenzie for sexual harassment. The award includes a $24.5 million verdict against Miller, $1.5 million against Best and $601,500 against Miller executive Robert Smith.
Air traffic controllers Jan Gonzales and Linda Owens have filed a class-action internal complaint with their employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for sexual harassment. Because six months has passed since they filed the complaint, their lawyers can now file a lawsuit in federal court. The lawyers said about 25 female controllers have submitted statements which accuse their male coworkers of using crude and hostile language about women, making anonymous threats, stalking, and committing other harassing acts spanning the last two decades. San Francisco lawyer Brad Yamauchi said he will initiate the class action on behalf of the females alleging that the hazing and belittling of women was aimed at getting them to quit or preventing them from being promoted to better-paying assignments at bigger airports.
7/18/1997 - Harvard Allows Same-Sex Marriages
On July 16, Rev. Peter Gomes, a gay pastor of the Harvard University Memorial Church, announced that the nondenominational church has decided to allow same-sex marriages. Immediate controversy over this decision arose as conservative clergy members denounced the move while lesbians and gay men praised it. Same-sex marriages, frequently called commitments or blessings, have no legal standing.
7/17/1997 - Hoster to Give Sworn Statement In McKinney Trial
Colonel Robert Jarvis, the presiding officer in the pretrial hearing on allegations of sexual misconduct by the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, has ruled that Retired Sergeant Major Brenda Hoster must give a sworn statement in the hearing against McKinney. Hoster accused McKinney of sexual harassment, but has refused to testify at a hearing to determine whether or not he will stand trial because other women who have testified against McKinney have been unfairly questioned about their past sexual lives by defense attorneys, she has said. Defense attorneys will be able to cross examine Hoster with regards to her statement, and lawyers for the defense said they have not ruled out probing into her past sex life. The Army is still considering whether or not to call Hoster back into active service, thereby forcing her to testify at the hearing itself.
7/17/1997 - NAACP and Government Officials Urge Opposition Against Congressional Bill Eliminating Affirmative Action
On July 16, leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and government agencies encouraged a large audience of African Americans to take political action against a congressional bill which wants to eliminate federal affirmative action programs. After pointing out that pervasive discrimination still exist, NAACP and government officials urged individuals to write their congressional representatives to voice opposition to the McConnell-Canady bill, named for the republicans who sponsored it. Gregory Stewart, general counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the number of cases filed that allege discrimination have increased dramatically during the past few years. Although the NAACP and government agencies focused on race on Wednesday, the bill hurts women as well as people of color.
Boasting thirty-three Georgia O'Keeffe pieces in its permanent collection, the Georgia O'Keeffe museum opened has recently opened in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Anne Marion, of the Burnett Foundation, made the museum a reality by having the foundation buy the property for the land. Marion herself also hired and oversaw an architect to mold the ten galleries of the museum, created two advisory boards, staffed the museum, and acquired the thirty-three O'Keeffe pieces. Marion did this all within two years, and the museum opened with the largest O'Keeffe collection in the world and a total display of 117 art pieces. O'Keeffe first came to New Mexico in 1929 and returned there almost yearly. After her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, died in 1946, she moved there permanently. In New Mexico, O'Keeffe created her most celebrated works. O'Keeffe died in 1986 at the age of 98, leaving behind more than 2,200 pieces of art.
Brandeis University has announced its intentions to establish a center for the study of Jewish women and has stated that singer/director Barbara Streisand will serve as the center's honorary chairwoman. Hadassah, a 385,000-member Jewish women's group, plans to fund the International Research Institute on Jewish Women with a $1.5 million grant. The group has also agreed to find another $6 million in funding in order to create a permanent endowment for the center. The institute will not offer classes to students but will concentrate on research.
A study conducted by the University of Toronto, and published in the July 17th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that a treatment of aspirin and the hormone prednisone does not effectively reduce women's chances of miscarriage. The study further found that the combination drug therapy could actually increase the chances of premature birth. The group based its results on a group of 385 women each of whom had previously had two miscarriages and who tested positively for sensitive immune systems.
A Fayette, Kentucky Circuit Court jury has awarded Mary Lous Moses $125,000 in damages for the sexual harassment she endured while working for Applied Technologies Inc. manager Sam Brookshire. Moses claimed that while working at the Lexington, Kentucky branch, Brookshire repeatedly sexually harassed her by following her around constantly, repeatedly professing his love for her and touching her.
Though Moses reported his actions to supervisors numerous times, the company did not take any action against Brookshire until Moses finally reported the harassment to the company's headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. After six years of harassment, Brookshire was transferred to the company's Louisville office and told to stay away from Moses. The company argued that it responded quickly to Moses' complaints, but the jury did not agree. The jury found that Brookshire's actions created a hostile work environment and found the company liable for not putting an end to the harassment sooner. Company officials said during the trial that Moses, who still works for the company, might be fired after an upcoming merger takes place. Moses' lawyers have filed an injunction against the company, barring it from firing her.
According to a study published July 14, women under the age of 45 are twice as likely to have heart attacks if they have a certain combination of blood-borne factors, including too little folate and too much of the protein homocysteine. Researchers studied 79 women who survived heart attacks and compared them to 386 healthy women. Women with the highest blood levels of folate, a nutrient found in orange juice, bananas, beans and broccoli, had approximately a 50% reduction in heart attack risk compared to women with lower levels of the nutrient. Women in the top 10% for homocysteine levels had 2.3 times the risk of heart attack compared with those in the bottom 50%.
In related news, African-American women between the ages of 25 and 54 are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than white women of the same age group; the data reverse for women between the ages of 65 to 74. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obtained this information by studying follow-up data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey involved 11,406 individuals between the ages of 25 and 74 who had not suffered coronary heart disease when the study began. The follow-up time was about 19 years. CDC researchers are encouraging doctors to work with African-American women under the age of 65 to reduce factors which contribute to heart problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and cigarette smoking.
7/16/1997 - Sears Diversity Fair Increases Representation of Women and Minorities in Senior Management
Minority- and women-owned executive recruitment firms around the country made presentations to Sears, Roebuck and Company on July 15 for Sears' second vendor diversity fair. More than twenty-five firms met with Sears human resource directors to explore opportunities to increase the representation of minorities and women in Sears senior management. The first diversity fair in 1996 resulted in millions of dollars in immediate contracts and allowed women- and minority-owned vendors to meet Sears buyers and learn how they could more effectively serve large retailers. When discussing the company's goals this year, Sears chair and chief executive officer Arthur C. Martinez said, "To meet the needs of the multi-cultural communities we serve, Sears must expand the breadth of diversity on its management team. Our strategy is to build a workforce that reflects the unique characteristics of our customers."
7/16/1997 - Female Participation in Athletics Increases
According to Thomas B. Doyle, Vice President of Information and Research at the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), female participation in athletic activities has been increasing and changing dramatically in the last five years. He based his remarks on "Sports Participation in 1996", a two-page report from a NSGA survey of 35,000 US households. In team sports such as soccer and basketball, female participation has increased by more than 55% since 1991, a rate which exceeds the growth for those two sports in the past five years. In the most strenuous fitness activities, including exercising with equipment, running/jogging and working out at clubs, the rate of growth in female participation also surpasses the overall growth. Doyle said women's outdoor activities are moving towards "more adventuresome categories" such as backpacking, canoeing and kayaking/rafting. Growth for the last activity was most significant; female participation in kayaking/rafting has increased 116%.
Janeth Ravner Rosenblaum, the former president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the League of Women Voters, died on July 15th of lung ailments. Rosenblaum also served on the national board of the League and as acting president of its Overseas Education Fund. Rosenblaum also volunteered for the American Red Cross and the D.C. Board of Elections.
The first world conference on breast cancer has featured an important debate over whether or not women with a breast cancer related gene should have mastectomies. Some argue that because eighty percent of women who carry the gene will have breast cancer, they should have mastectomies. Others argue that mastectomies are an extreme step which force women to mutilate themselves even though undergoing the procedure is not necessarily a proven prevention measure. Often, removing a tumor is enough to prevent the disease from spreading. Bella Abzug, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and leader of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) in New York, has been battling breast cancer for four years. She argued at the conference, held in Kingston, Canada, that many women were unnecessarily undergoing the procedure. She further commented, "There is a lot of fortune-telling and bookmaking going on."
The conference has brought together representatives from over thirty countries to battle the disease, which claims one million lives per year. When the conference ends on July 17th, participants are expected to adopt a worldwide action strategy for battling the disease.
United States District Judge Ronald Lagueux has issued an order blocking enforcement of Rhode Island's partial birth abortion ban. The judge set a hearing for August 4th to determine whether or not the law, as written, is overly broad and thus unconstitutional. The lawsuit, brought by Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island and two doctors, contends that the law is so vaguely written that any doctor performing an abortion after the first trimester, using any procedure, could face felony indictments.
Both the United States Senate and House versions of the defense spending bill maintain the ban on abortion at overseas military hospitals. The Senate and House bills authorize $268 billion in military spending. This is $6.6 billion more than President Bill Clinton's administration requested and $3 billion more than allotted in the 1997 budget.
California Governor Pete Wilson (Rep) signed a bill on July 14th protecting a woman's right to breast-feed her baby in public. Wilson supported the legislation because nursing promotes maternal and infant bonding and also reduces health care costs for children. Proponents of the measure believe it will lessen the fear of public disapproval which contributes to the low rate of breast-feeding in the United States. When similar legislation was introduced in the state two years ago, however, some Republicans argued that it was unnecessary, and others feared it would lead to public nudity. Despite the opposition that remains today, the legislation will go into effect January 1, 1998, making California the 13th state to explicitly permit breast-feeding in public.
During an address to the "Vital Voices: Women in Democracy" forum held in Vienna, United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton urged female leaders in former communist countries to work hard for women's rights. Clinton addressed over 1,000 prominent women leaders, representing 19 post-communist Eastern European countries, at the conference and urged them to banish poverty and prejudice. Clinton emphasized, as she has throughout her world travels, that government must treat women's rights as integral to local, state and global economies as well as basic human rights. During international speeches, Clinton often notes that although women comprise half the world's population, they comprise seventy percent of the world's poor and approximately sixty-six percent of those who cannot read or write. In war zones, she notes, women and children are over ninety percent of the refugees. At the forum, Clinton also announced a $3 million U.S. grant to promote micro-credit and similar pilot programs designed to improve the status of women in the former Soviet Bloc. Vesna Pesic, a leader in Serbia'' opposition democracy, commented on Clinton's advocacy for women's rights, "She's not just a first lady, she's a politician with a tough, persuasive voice. She seems very committed to her views, and I think people like her sense of conviction."
According to statistics made available at the conference, women earn as low as forty percent of men's wages for the same work in the former Soviet Bloc; Ukranian women represent seventy percent of that country's unemployed; Belarus professional women must look three times as long as male counterparts for work. The problems facing women in Eastern Europe have increased dramatically since the fall of communism. Many women no longer receive child-care or support from pension programs. And, unemployment throughout the region has increased dramatically.
In 1995, then eleven year-old Valerie Ambrosie won an essay competition designed to generate a name for the Mars rover. Ambrosie suggested that the rover be named after Sojourner Truth, a famous abolitionist and women's right advocate. Ambrosie wrote in her essay, chosen from over 3,500 entries, "It's only logical that the Pathfinder be named Sojourner Truth, because she is on a journey to find truths about Mars. The Pathfinder should have strong personalities in order to go under harsh conditions like that on Mars. Truth, while on tours, went under many harsh conditions. Even before, she went under harsh conditions as a slave." Ambrosie was the valedictorian of her eighth grade class and is on full scholarship to Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, Connecticut. Sojourner is currently exploring the surface of Mars.
7/14/1997 - Egypt Continues Ban on Genital Mutilation
Health Minister Ismail Awadallah Salaam announced on July 11, 1997 that the Egyptian health authorities will continue to enforce a ban on female genital mutilation despite a June 24 court ruling against the ban. Salaam's ministry has filed an appeal with Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court challenging the mid-level administrative court's decision. Islamic fundamentalists oppose Salaam, arguing that genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, the full or partial removal of the clitoris of pre-pubescent girls, protects women from the results of excessive desire. The practice, however, has can lead to death and has been linked to sexual dysfunction and emotional and physical trauma. Salaam defended his decision, saying, "The decision to ban female circumcision was a sound decision, in line with the proper concept of religion…Linking female circumcision with Islam is an insult to the religion." Procedurally, it is unclear whether or not Salamm has the power to ignore the lower courts ruling and enforce the ban.