SIGN UP FOR JOBS NEWS & ALERTS:
print Print    Share Share  
Weekly Email Weekly News Email RSS Feed News RSS

Feminist News

Search Feminist News by keyword

Search News and/or 

first record   previous record  News Stories 1 to 25 of 14194  next record   last record


7/2/2015 - President Obama Will Expand Overtime Pay to Millions of Americans

President Obama is proposing a plan this week to broaden overtime pay that is expected to affect millions of Americans in the working class, especially women.

In an Op-Ed written for and published by the Huffington Post, President Obama summarized what he called a successful week for Americans. Indeed, in just over the span of a week, the Supreme Court protected Obamacare, prevented gerrymandering, ensured fair housing, declared marriage equality a fundamental right, and saved Texas abortion clinics.

President Obama hopes to continue the positive trends, and proposes a plan to give a significant amount of Americans an economic boost. The President acknowledges a trending problem in the way many employers avoid giving overtime pay.

Federal regulation currently places a salary cap for those eligible to receive overtime at $23,660, leaving out a large amount of workers, particularly women, who receive no overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. It is a regulation that was instituted 40 years ago, and President Obama feels it no longer reflects the realities of the working middle class. The President's new rule would allow workers who earn up to $50,440 to demand the standard time-and-a-half pay for work past 40 hours.

"As president, my top priority is to strengthen the middle class, expand opportunity and grow the economy," Obama writes. He then asks, "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do exceptionally well? Or will we push for an economy where every American who works hard can contribute to and benefit from our success?"

Women will likely benefit most from this move, as Time magazine writes, "With average income hovering around $35,154, unmarried women previously experience the double whammy of earning less income than their single male counterparts (single men earned an average of $50,625 in 2013), and being unable to earn overtime pay."

Particularly in the retail industry, companies are finding ways to skirt around overtime compensation laws giving employees managerial titles, without pay compensation. Employees with managerial titles are not entitled to ask for overtime compensation, and can therefore work upwards of 80 hour work weeks without any additional pay. The President commented on this phenomenon earlier this year:

"What we've seen is, increasingly, companies skirting basic overtime laws, calling somebody a manager when they're stocking groceries and getting paid $30,000 a year," Obama said. "Those folks are being cheated."

The proposal must undergo a public comment period before going into effect, and is expected to be implemented in 2016.


7/2/2015 - National Portrait Gallery Honors Dolores Huerta

Feminist Majority Foundation board member and lifelong feminist activist Dolores Huerta was honored by the National Portrait Gallery last night as the first Latina person to have a featured exhibition at the museum.

Huerta is an active defender of civil rights, farm workers' rights, women's rights, and immigrant rights, and has been for over five decades. She was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011 for her tireless work. She also founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation for organizing and advancing human rights.

Huerta is often considered unparalleled in her skill in grassroots organizing, and has celebrated many successes. She co-founded with Cesar Chavez the United Farm Workers Union (UFW). Huerta was also instrumental in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and was a principle UFW negotiator with major growers.

Huerta, a leading women's rights advocate, joined the Feminist Majority Foundation board and the board of its sister organization the Feminist Majority, in 1988.She was a leader of the Feminist Majority's Feminization of Power campaign to inspire women to run for public offices.

The National Portrait Gallery exhibition is titled "One Life: Dolores Huerta," and "highlights the significant role of this Latina leader in the California farm workers movement of the 1960s and 70s." It is the first national museum to feature Huerta's many accomplishments.

At the premier event for the exhibition Wednesday, Executive Director of the Latino Museum Estuardo Rodriguez said that he hopes the national and international attention that the National Portrait Gallery receives has will greatly increase visibility for Huerta and her causes.

'Tonight is an example of the stories that should be in our history books," Rodriguez said. He also spoke to Huerta's determined spirit, remarking on her willingness to go to great lengths for what she believes in. "For Dolores Huerta," he said, "nothing is inconvenient if it's for a cause."

Of the exhibition, curator Taina Caragol writes, "Huerta was instrumental in achieving major legal protections and a better standard of living for farm workers, yet she remains largely under-acknowledged in history."

The exhibition, which opens in July 2015 and closes in May 2016, will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 grape strike launched by Huerta and the farm workers movement. The exhibition includes artifacts from Huerta's many protests, portraits of her as an activist, and even her Presidential Medal of Freedom.


7/1/2015 - Women's Rights Activists are Suing the Kenyan Government for Reproductive Rights

A woman in Kenya is suing the Kenyan government for failure to provide safe and legal abortions, which caused her daughter - a 15-year-old rape victim - to suffer a kidney failure after undergoing the procedure illegally.

Currently, there are four petitioners on the case: the mother of the survivor, the Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya, and two other women's rights advocates. The petitioners are calling on the government to provide expanded guidelines on when an abortion can be performed as well as safe abortion training for medical professionals.

Abortion is currently illegal in Kenya, with a narrow exception for women who prove her life or mental well-being are in danger. Due to Kenya's restrictive laws, many women and girls have to seek illegal abortions which are often botched and dangerous.

"The Kenyan government is allowing thousands of women in Kenya to needlessly die or suffer severe complications every year due to unsafe abortion," said Regional director of Africa for the Center of Reproductive Rights, Evelyne Opondo, "and it must be held accountable."

Illegal abortion procedures in Kenya cause 35 percent of maternal deaths. In 2012, one-quarter of women and girls who had an illegal abortion had to hospitalized with serious health complications, including cervical damage, septic shock, and uterine perforation.

Last year, the Kenyan government received international attention on abortion access as well. The government chose to execute a nurse who drove a woman seeking an abortion to another hospital for advanced assessment before performing the abortion. The woman and fetus died in the car, and the nurse was charged with murder on two counts, illustrating that strict anti-abortion laws such as the ones in Kenya threaten the lives and well-being of both women and medical professionals.


6/30/2015 - Community Members, Advocates, and Celebrities Stand in Support with Bree Newsome

On June 27, at about 6:30 AM, Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole at South Carolina's Statehouse and removed the confederate flag. Newsome's removal of the flag with the help of a white man is an act of civil disobedience that demonstrates a transcendence of the boundaries of race and gender, and it is a true testament to the power people have when working together.

"For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites," Newsome said in her first-ever statement after the flag's removal. "And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It's the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country. It's a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders."

Newsome is charged with "defacing a monument," a misdemeanor, and faces imprisonment up to three years and a fine of up to $5,000. James Tyson, who aided Newsome by belaying her, was also charged. In just two days, over 4500 people have raised over $114,000 online for her bail fund. According to a statement from Ignite NC, �some of the funds will go towards covering the bonds of Bree and Jimmy and the rest will go toward legal defense funds for other #BlackLivesMatter direct actions.�

Celebrities are also coming forward to support Newsome, both economically and politically. Famed documentary filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted an offer to "pay her bail money or any legal fees she has." A number of other celebrities have taken to social media accounts to share their support, ranging from hip-hop artists like 2 Chainz, Nas, Questlove, and Big Boi to actress Gabrielle Union. Director Ava DuVernay also took to twitter to share her support:




North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber II compared Newsome to Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks in a statement released after the flag was removed. Barber called Newsome a "committed, trained, non-violent messenger of the truth."

At her core, Newsome is a freedom fighter and an organizer. She's the western field organizer for Ignite NC, a non-profit based in Durham, a co-founder of StAY UP NC, and a People's Power Assembly organizer and an organizer with Tribe CLT, a group of "committed individuals dedicated to community building, education, and revolutionary action." She was one of six protesters arrested while participating in a sit-in at North Carolina's Statehouse to protest the draconian "monster" voter suppression bill passed in 2013. An NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate, she has also released a number of videos, short films, and songs, including "#StayStrong: A Love Song To Freedom Fighters," which she performed at the first-ever Black Lives Matter Youth Assembly.

Newsome's father is a former dean of the School of Divinity at Howard University and former President of Shaw University in Raleigh, the university where the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded. He is currently a trustee of Duke University, and president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.


6/30/2015 - Supreme Court Ruling Prevents Gerrymandering in Arizona

In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Ginsburg this morning, the Supreme Court upheld Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, allowing the use of independent state commissions that draw federal congressional districts, taking that power away from the state legislature.

This gives states an opportunity to deal with partisan gerrymandering by giving an independent commission power to draw federal congressional districts.

In 2000, Arizona voters amended their constitution, shifting the responsibility of drawing congressional districts, previously held by the state legislature, to a panel called the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The panel consists of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent. Legislative leaders cannot alter the maps and the governor cannot veto them, though they may comment on the plans drawn up by the commission.

Diminishing the legislature's role in reapportionment is a victory for voters seeking to curb the practice of gerrymandering, the drawing of congressional districts in an effort to manipulate the results of an election. In the Court's opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Majority of the Court referenced a 2005 gerrymandering case, which stated that, "the voters should choose their representative, not the other way around." Chief Justice Roberts joined Justice Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in dissenting.

Today's decision upheld the commission, allowing Arizona voters to transfer powers over federal congressional districting to an independent commission.

California is the only other state to approve a commission that diminishes the legislature's role in a manner similar to Arizona, though 11 other states have commissions that play a role in redistricting.


6/29/2015 - The Supreme Court Just Saved Texas Abortion Clinics

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 today to put a temporary hold on a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that would have closed all but 9 of the state's abortion clinics in Texas.

The order from the Supreme Court comes in response to an emergency request filed by women's health care providers on the behalf of Texas women earlier this month asking the Court to stay House Bill 2, which would have taken effect as law on Wednesday. The law would have required abortion clinics to adhere to strict and costly hospital-like facility requirements. Had it gone into effect, 13 clinics in Texas would have face immediate closure.

"The justices have preserved Texas women's few remaining options for safe and legal abortion care for the moment," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Our Constitution rightly protects women from laws that would create barriers to safe and legal abortion care, but Texas politicians have tried to sneak around the Constitution with sham regulations designed to close clinics' doors."

If the clinics in Texas were to close, an estimated 1.3 million women of reproductive age would live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic. This provision has already forced approximately half of the state's abortion clinics to close their doors over the past two years.

"We're relieved that the high court has, once again, prevented anti-choice politicians from pushing safe and affordable abortion care entirely out of reach for Texas women," said Amy Hagstom-Miller, founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman's Health.

"The 5-4 split- with Justices Kennedy, Bader-Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, voting to keep the clinics open, and Chief Justice Roberts together with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito voting against the clinics- shows just how important elections and judicial appointments are to guarding women's constitutional rights," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

The ruling today means that the Supreme Court will likely determine during its next term whether or not onerous TRAP laws, like the one in Texas, are constitutional.


6/26/2015 - Supreme Court Declares Marriage Equality a Constitutional Right

In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy this morning, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that same-sex couples fundamentally have equal protections under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all 50 states to both license a marriage and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex. The opinion of the Court, delivered by Justice Kennedy, reads that "marriage is fundamental under the Constitution," and applies "with equal force to same-sex couples."

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of live, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," wrote Justice Kennedy. "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves... They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Previously, only 37 states had provisions allowing same-sex marriage. Along with marriage equality, this morning's Supreme Court decision affords same-sex couples many state and federal benefits, including benefits in taxation, inheritance and property rights, hospital access, medical decision-making authority, birth and death certificates, worker's compensation benefits, and more.

"When President Obama took office in 2008, only two states recognized legal marriage for same-sex couples. Now the nation does," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "At last, SCOTUS recognizes that love is love, and that all 50 states must recognize marriage equality."

Republican leaders are digging their heels in and showing their determination to fight against marriage equality and Obamacare, which was upheld by the Supreme Court just yesterday. Already, the majority of Republican presidential candidates have come out against the Supreme Court's decisions on both issues. As GOP Republican National Committee leader Reince Priebus said, "As a Party, we believe in the importance of traditional marriage between a man and a woman."

While feminists and activists everywhere are celebrating, many are also keeping in mind the many areas of discrimination that LGBT communities face. For example, 29 states lack explicit protections for LGB individuals, and 32 states lack explicit protections against discrimination for transgender individuals or based on gender identity. As the Center for American Progress writes, "in 16 states and counting, same-sex couples can legally marry and then be legally fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartments, denied credit, refused hotel rooms, and discriminated against in education all because of their sexual orientation."


6/26/2015 - President Obama Delivers Moving Eulogy in Charleston

The nation is remembering the nine victims of the Emanuel AME Church mass shooting this week, as President Obama gave an unforgettable eulogy for State Senate Reverend Clementa Pinckney.

President Obama knew Reverend Pinckney personally, meeting him during his 2008 election campaign. He recounted Pickney's impressive life, as he became a pastor at age 13, a minister at 18, and was the youngest African American to be elected to a position in the South Carolina House at just 23. The President spoke of Reverend Pickney's kind spirit, calling him a good man and saying he was "full of empathy and fellow feeling."

In his eulogy, President Obama also mentioned the Reverend's uphill battle as a minority in the state senate. "His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up- he stayed true to his convictions." Reverend Pinckney, however, was always protecting those in need, as the President said, "he encouraged progress as a reverend and as a state senator."

President Obama honored Pinckney's memory too by urging action on gun violence, police violence, and the removal of the confederate flag, saying that it represents "more than ancestral pride."

"Maybe then we can realize the way racial bias affects us in ways we might not realize," he said." History must not be a sword to justify injustice, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past."

He ended by singing the first verse of "Amazing Grace," and ended his eulogy with the names of the victims of the Charleston shooting: Sen. Rev. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson.

Some 5,500 people attended the funeral for Rev. Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina, with estimated millions watching a live broadcast. Attendees included President and Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, Speaker John Boehner, SC Governor Nikki Haley, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and many fellow members of Pinckney's church.


6/25/2015 - Supreme Court Decides: Obamacare Lives

In a momentous victory, the US Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and protected access to health insurance for millions of families and individuals.

In its 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court ruled in King v. Burwell that federal financial assistance made available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to purchase health insurance should be available to all eligible individuals, regardless of the state in which they live.

"At last, conservative efforts to kill Obamacare in the courts have decisively failed," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. "It is shameful that Republican leaders are already announcing that they will continue to fight to kill Obamacare and take away health care from millions of low-income people I am confident that this will be a major presidential issue, and that a majority of voters will demand that conservative politicians stop playing games with people's health and lives."

Under the ACA, the federal government provides financial help, in the form of tax credits, to middle- and low-income individuals to purchase health insurance through Health Insurance Marketplaces. Some states created their own marketplaces, but 34 states controlled by Republican governors refused to set up state marketplaces and therefore had to rely on use federally-facilitated marketplaces to allow individuals to buy health insurance. The issue in this case centered on whether these tax credits could be made available to families and individuals in those 34 states.

Failing to provide tax credits in those 34 states would likely have had devastating effects for around 9 million people - including over 3.5 million women, approximately one-third of whom are women of color - who may have no longer been able to afford insurance coverage. These millions would have lost critically needed health insurance, including access to preventive care that contained essential reproductive health benefits.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts explained that "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them." Without tax credits, a key reform of the ACA would have unraveled, leading to a "death spiral" where the cost of insurance rise, the number of people insured would plummet, and insurers would flee the market. With its decision, the Court refused to accept an argument that would essentially overturn the ACA and disrupt the necessary health care reforms initiated and implemented by the Obama Administration.


6/25/2015 - The Supreme Court Fair Housing Ruling is a Civil Rights Victory

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, just upheld the use of disparate impact claims under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which bans housing discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.

This case ruled that a plaintiff does not need to prove intent to discriminate- a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. Instead, the plaintiff can use the tool of disparate impact to show discrimination based on a policy or policies of the defendant.

"A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant's policy or policies causing that disparity," the majority of the Supreme Court said. "A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas."

"Our country remains deeply segregated and we need not only provisions of the Fair Housing Act to be intact, but we need aggressive, and affirmative enforcement of the act by the federal government and by state jurisdictions," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

"Losing this case would have resulted in a serious blow to the Fair Housing Act," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It's troubling that this was only a 5 to 4 decision. Upholding the integrity of the Fair Housing Act is essential if we are ever going to desegregate our neighborhoods."

"The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is incredibly pleased that the United States Supreme Court today has reaffirmed core principles of fairness and equality," the organization said in a statement, "by clearly and unambiguously recognizing both the legality and the importance of the 'disparate impact' protections of the Fair Housing Act in addressing housing discrimination."


6/24/2015 - Marc Benioff Wants Women to Have Equal Pay and Opportunity at Salesforce

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, has laid out a plan to ensure equal pay and equal hiring at the global cloud-based software company.

Women Surge, a new program he's instating, is aimed filling gendered gaps in pay and Salesforce's team, as well as pushing women into other opportunities such as leadership positions and important meetings.

"My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement," Benioff said. "When I'm done there will be no gap." He added that thus far, he's given some of the women in his company raises, but he's not done. "I expect to be giving a lot more," he said.

Benioff was shocked when he examined his own company and found that gender-based wage gaps existed. He is now taking steps that have been called both "radical" and "brilliantly simple" to guarantee that all of his employees are compensated fairly and equally, and he's taking it upon himself to personally ensure the entire 16,000 person work force is paid equally.

Benioff is also interested in the gender makeup of his company. Currently, only 29 percent of Salesforce employees are female, and in leadership roles that percentage shrinks to just 15. "We have to take the goal of 50-50," he said. "There has to be a goal. This should be a metric that every CEO manages." Now, Salesforce is putting quotas on the number of women present for meetings, making sure women are equally considered for promotions, and deliberately including women speakers and leaders in its annual Dreamforce event, a nation-wide tech conference.

A dearth of women in the tech field is not unique to Salesforce. In the tech industry, women are largely outnumbered by their male co-workers. At Google, Apple, and Twitter alike, the percentage of female employees remains around 30.

Democratic women in the Senate have been raising the alarm on unequal pay, pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would greatly lessen the gender pay gap experience by women in the workforce, as well as prevent retaliation against women seeking pay parity. The PFA, introduced in the Senate in 2013, has since been blocked by Republicans in the Senate more than once.

Senator Rosa DeLauro, one of the leaders for this bill, spoke on her frustration in the minimal improvements to lessen the gender pay gap since the Equal Pay Act passed more than 50 years ago. "The gap has barely budged in over a decade," DeLauro said. "It's not an abstract problem, and it hurts people on a daily basis." DeLauro cited specifically a study released in March, which showed that even in the female-dominated profession of nursing, men make significantly more than women.


6/23/2015 - Confederate Flag Debate Intensifies in Wake of Charleston Shooting

Politicians, retailers, and activists are taking part in a push in South Carolina to have the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of the state Capitol. This movement follows the massacre of nine African American people by a 21-year-old white man in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week.

Wal-Mart, Sears, and Amazon,announced today that they will no longer carry Confederate flag merchandise. "South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also joined the support for removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol groups, switching her view on the subject from when she ran for re-election last year. The Confederate flag, which many view as a symbol of racism and white supremacy, was added to the state Capitol in 1962, in response to Civil Rights efforts in the state.

Removing the flag will require a two-thirds vote by the general assembly. Although their legislative session ends this week, Governor Haley announced that she will be using her authority to call them back into an emergency session to vote on the issue.

"My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony," Governor Haley said.

"It's past time to take down the Confederate flag, and it's currently imperative that both parties come together and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and stop all other voter suppression efforts and excessive gerrymandering aimed at suppressing the vote, especially of African Americans, and the vote of Latina/os, young people, and women." said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

Smeal speaks of recent legislative efforts to make voting in South Carolina more difficult for some groups, including stricter voter identification laws, limits on early voting, and elimination of same-day voter registration. Women and people of color are the most affected by voter ID laws. For example North Carolina has strict identification requirements that require particular forms of government-issued photo IDs. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, however, 25 percent of eligible African American voters, and 16 percent of Latina/o voters do not have such identification. The issue is further compounded for women who have recently changed their last names, or whose names do not reflect that of their birth certificate.

The shooting that sparked a heightened debate about the Confederate flag took place last week in one of the oldest African American churches in South Carolina. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, claims that he went to the church specifically to "shoot Black people," and that he was intending to start a "race war." He shot and killed nine African American churchgoers, including its pastor and state Senator Clementa Pinckney (age 41), Cynthia Hurd (age 54), Tywanza Sanders (age 26), Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (age 45), Myra Thompson (age 59), Ethel Lee Lance (age 70), Rev. Daniel Simmons (age 74), Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor (age 49) and Susie Jackson (the eldest at age 87).

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, every flag at the South Carolina Capitol has been flow at half-mast, with the exception of the Confederate flag.

Governor Haley hopes that the flag will be removed from the State Capitol grounds before the Fourth of July, saying "This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state."


6/23/2015 - Senate Narrowly Approves of Vote for Fast Tracking the TPP

The Senate voted this morning to advance consideration of trade promotion authority, also known as "fast track" authority, for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), barely getting the 60 votes necessary to continue the bill.

The cloture vote, which was needed in order to proceed with a vote on fast track authority for the TPP, was narrowly passed at 60-37. All Senate Republicans and 13 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the motion to proceed. Democrats voting in favor of fast track included Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The Senate now only needs a majority, or 50 votes, in order to pass fast track legislation.

The Senate approved fast-tracking the TPP in May as a package deal that included Trade Adjustment Assistance, a bill that provides assistance to workers who will lose their jobs because of the TPP. At the time, Senate Democrats would not agree to approve fast-track without the TAA.

Republican leaders in the House then decided to separate the two provisions, requiring members first vote on the TAA and then on fast-track, but both bills had to pass for fast-track to reach President Obama. House Democrats blocked TAA two weeks ago, a bill they would usually support, in order to stop fast-tracking of the TPP.

In addition, House Republicans have amended the customs bill, part of the larger trade package, to weaken anti-human trafficking measures in the fast track bill. Under an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the US may also be prevented from considering climate change during trade negotiations.

Over 2,000 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, released a joint letter opposing fast tracking the TPP, representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been negotiated in near-secrecy, has been heavily criticized by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Fast-tracking TPP would prevent lawmakers from addressing concerns in the agreement by offering amendments. It would also prevent Congress from having significant input into US trading partners. That is a big concern, especially since among the countries included in the TPP is oil-rich Brunei, a country that adopted a vicious new penal code last year that threatens the rights and lives of women, lesbians, and gay men.

The Feminist Majority released a petition asking people to urge their Senators and Representative to vote against Fast Track and oppose the TPP.


6/22/2015 - The Fifth Circuit Has Put Texas Abortion Clinics in Crisis

The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to suspend a ruling upholding harmful anti-abortion provisions from June 9, despite an emergency request filed by women's health care providers asking the Court to "preserve abortion access for all Texas women."

The Texas Appeals Court previously stated that forcing a woman seeking abortion care to leave the state does not pose undue burden. The ruling from earlier this month also reverses a lower court's order blocking Texas' admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, said that the June 9 ruling "put a road full of unnecessary hurdles in front of every woman in Texas who has decided to end her pregnancy." Indeed, an estimated 1.3 million women of reproductive age will now live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic.

"For scores of Texas women, the repercussions of this ruling will be devastating," Miller added.

This provision has already forced approximately half of the state's abortion clinics to close their doors over the past two years. The court claimed that this is not an undue burden on Texas women, despite only seven clinics in Texas currently meeting these standards.

The decision means 13 clinics are facing imminent closure, leaving only 9 in the entire state of Texas.

The women's health care providers will now submit an emergency application to the Supreme Court of the United States, requesting the Supreme Court justices stay the Appeals Court's June 9 ruling. This would allow the clinics to stay open while the providers ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

"As the Fifth Circuit once again turns a blind eye to the devastating consequences of Texas' clinic shutdown law, it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "No woman should be forced to cross state lines or travel hundreds of miles for essential health care."


6/22/2015 - Planned Parenthood Cleared to Apply for License in New Orleans

The Louisiana health department has allowed Planned Parenthood to apply for a license to provide abortion services in New Orleans, backtracking on a previous rule that barred the organization from opening a clinic in the city.

In January, under the administration of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) issued a letter to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast refusing to allow its new state of the art clinic in New Orleans to perform abortions on the legal "excuse" that it did not show a need for a new facility to perform abortions in Louisiana. In 2012, Jindal's administration passed a state law requiring abortion clinics to show that there is need for another clinic before applying for a license. Planned Parenthood challenged this decision, and the Feminist Majority Foundation and New Orleans Abortion Fund released a petition demanding that the DHH rescind the regulations.

In a letter released on Friday, it seems the DHH listened. It revoked the requirement that an outpatient abortion facility provide a "facility need review," clearing the way for Planned Parenthood to open a clinic in Louisiana. The new clinic will be just one of five abortion clinics in the state of Louisiana. The DHH did not provide a reason for the change in regulation.

"Planned Parenthood is now one step closer to providing safe, legal abortion in Louisiana," said Jewel Bush, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, in a statement.

The new health center that Planned Parenthood intends to license will offer a wide array of health care services, including screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases and- if its application to the state for a license is successful- abortion care.


6/19/2015 - TPP "Fast Track" Headed Back to the Senate Again

In what has become a procedural roller-coaster, the House voted 218 to 208 yesterday to pass Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trade Promotion Authority, also known as "fast-track," will now go back to the Senate for a vote on Tuesday to determine whether or not to move forward with the bill.

The Senate approved fast-tracking the TPP in May as a package deal, that included Trade Adjustment Assistance, a bill that provides assistance to workers who will lose their jobs because of the TPP. Senate Democrats would not agree to approve fast-track without the TAA.

Republican leaders in the House decided to separate the two provisions, requiring members first vote on the TAA and then on fast-track, but both bills had to pass for fast-track to reach President Obama. House Democrats blocked TAA on Friday-- a bill they would usually support-- in order to stop fast-tracking of the TPP. It is unclear as to how the Senate will vote on fast-track without the TAA.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who was one of the authors of the original trade package, explained to CNN that the minority of Democrats who supported the TPP have been called out for their support of fast-tracking. Fearing backlash from labor groups if they vote again for the TPA without the worker's rights and assistance that they TAA offers, Senate Democrats may be more hesitant to vote for "fast track" this time around.

In addition, House Republicans have amended the the customs bill, part of the larger trade package, to weaken anti-human trafficking measures in the fast track bill. Under an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the US may also be prevented from considering climate change during trade negotiations.

"We're really nervous about a provision that binds the hands of negotiators and prevents them from doing anything on climate change," said Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesperson for the environmental organization 350.org.

Over 2,000 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, released a joint letter opposing fast tracking the TPP, representing labor, environmental, farming, civil rights, digital rights, human rights, public health, faith, student, consumer, and other concerns.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been negotiated in near-secrecy, has been heavily criticized by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Fast-tracking TPP would prevent lawmakers from addressing concerns in the agreement by offering amendments. It would also prevent Congress from having significant input into US trading partners. That is a big concern, especially since among the countries included in the TPP is oil-rich Brunei, a country that adopted a vicious new penal code last year that threatens the rights and lives of women, lesbians, and gay men.

The Feminist Majority released a petition asking people to urge their Senators and Representative to vote against Fast Track and oppose the TPP.


6/18/2015 - Adults Shout Racist Insults at Girl Scouts Protesting Animal Abuse

A group of young Girl Scouts who were protesting animal abuse received threatening racial insults by adults attending a public Cecil County meeting in Maryland last month.

The Girl Scouts had become concerned with animal rights after reading about poor conditions and mistreatment of pets in local shelters. The girls then attended an Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission meeting, bringing homemade signs and speaking up during public comment.

"I felt really bad for the animals because that wasn't a really good home for them," said 10 year old Amayah Spurlock.

After the meeting, adults who reportedly were supporters of the animal shelter in question, began harassing the young girls, many of whom are African American, with comments like "go back to Baltimore, where you belong."

"They were calling us animals and stuff," 13 year old Arianna Spurlock told ABC News.

In a video recording of the verbal altercation, troop leaders can be heard asking the crowd not to make racial comments. "Saying that they belong in Baltimore because they're black, that is wrong. Please don't say that, okay?" one man said.

The Girl Scouts were left shaken and confused by the incident. "As kids we always were taught that if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all," said 11 year old Lily Talley, adding "they shouldn't have done that."

Cecil County executive Tari Moore has since reached out to the troop and apologized to them, denouncing the treatment of the Scouts, and offering to meet with them to discuss what happened.


6/17/2015 - The Senate Blocked the Military Justice Improvement Act Again

The Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), championed by Senator Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY), was once again blocked by the Senate in a vote yesterday.

Gilibrand filed the MJIA as an amendment to the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan amendment, which would move the decision of whether to prosecute serious crimes in the military, including sexual assault, from the chain-of-command and give responsibility to independent military prosecutors, was introduced with 25 cosponsors, including 6 Republicans.

Although the MJIA received a majority of votes, it fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. This is the second year in a row the Senate has blocked this legislation.

Sexual assault in the military is a serious problem that, although the Department of Defense has recognized and promised reform, DOD data show that little has changed in both the number of assaults per year and the retaliation against those who report assault. These data show that the number of military members who experience sexual assault has remained largely the same, and more troubling, that the retaliation rate against those who do report has increased.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is leading Senate opposition to Gilibrand's bill, aiming to keep procedural responses to sexual assault within the military. McCaskill cites a slight drop in the number of assault and the small rise in the number of reported incidents as proof that military justice reforms are showing progress.

Senator Gilibrand and the 49 that voted with her yesterday are not convinced, and Gilibrand says that she will not give up. In a statement, she wrote:

"While I'm incredibly disappointed by the outcome, it comes with a silver lining: We counted five new Senators among our 'yes' votes - growing our bipartisan coalition and making clear to the military that we will not quit until our work is done."


6/17/2015 - BREAKING: Loretta Lynch Takes Oath of Office

Attorney General Loretta Lynch took the oath of office today, becoming the first African American woman to serve in the role. Lynch was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor using Frederick Douglass' bible at the investiture ceremony, which gives her official rank United States Attorney General.

Lynch was nominated for the post in November by President Obama, and then faced an unprecedented five month delay as Senate Republicans refused to bring her nomination up for a vote. The amount of time she waited to be confirmed totals the wait time of the last seven attorney general nominees combined.

During the ceremony this morning, Lynch thanked her father and mother, both of whom were on the stage with Lynch, President Obama, and Justice Sotomayor, for overcoming Jim Crow segregation. Lynch referenced challenges facing the Department of Justice, particularly in regards to police violence against African Americans in the United States.

"As we confront the very nature of our citizens' relationship with those of us entrusted to protect and to serve--these are indeed challenging issues and challenging times," Lynch said.

President Obama remarked that as a child, Lynch would attend court proceedings with her father in Durham, North Carolina, and see first-hand the effects of segregation in the South. Obama called Lynch's parents "her biggest cheerleaders."

"Her intelligence, her judgment, and her grace under fire have earned the trust and admiration of those she works with and those she serves," President Obama continued.

As of this month, there are 330 federal Obama judgeship nominees that have been confirmed. A few dozen are still pending, awaiting Senate action. Obama is also responsible for appointing the most diverse group of judges in history. As of January this year, 42 percent of Obama nominees for the federal bench are women, 19 percent are African-American, 11 percent are Hispanic, and 11 percent are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual men or women. At the same time, 9 of the 13 federal Circuit courts of appeals are composed of a majority democratic appointment. Until recently, 10 out of 13 had a majority of appointments by Republican presidents.


6/16/2015 - China's Maternal Mortality Rate Has Decreased Dramatically

The National Health and Family Planning Commission released a report this month showing that China's maternal death rate has dropped by over seventy-five percent in the past twenty-five years.

China's maternal mortality rate dropped from 23.2 per 100,000 births in 2014 to 21.7 per 100,000 births. The maternal mortality rate in 1990 was 88.8 per 100,000 births, which means there has been a 75.6%-percent drop in the last twenty-five years.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission attributed China's progress to more social programs that gave allowances to rural Chinese women to give birth in hospitals and equitized medical care. Chinese health professionals also give free pre-pregnancy check-ups and care to reduce the spread.

"[The lowered mortality rate is] the result of strong political will and willingness to invest in healthcare for children, which is a tremendous achievement given the size of the country and population," said Pia MacRae, country director for Save the Children in China. MacRae recognizes, however, that China still needs to take further steps in addressing inequalities in children's health due to uneven development across the country. She says there is still much to be done on lasting improvements in children's health, in particular supporting the training and supervision of frontline health workers in remote areas of rural China.

According to the China National Program for Women's Development (2011-2020), China wants to continue the decrease the number of maternal deaths to 20 deaths per 100,000. With this new report, China officially meets their Millennium Development Goals, as designated by the United Nations. Members of the UN were to cut their maternal mortality by seventy-five percent by 2015.


6/15/2015 - New Poll Reaffirms That 1 in 5 College Women are Sexually Assaulted

A recently released Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll reaffirmed the commonly-cited statistic that one in five women, or twenty percent, who attended college in the past four years say they were sexually assaulted. The data also show that students are divided about the definition of consent, that victims of sexual assault suffer from trauma, and that a small minority of victims report the crime.

The Post-Kaiser poll defined sexual assault to include five types of unwanted contact: oral sex, vaginal sexual intercourse, anal sex, sexual penetration with a finger or object, and forced touching of a sexual nature. In all, 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men said they experienced one or more of the types of unwanted contact listed while in college. And while most of the victims told someone they trusted about the incident, only 11 percent reported the crime to police of college authorities.

The findings of these data reflect the findings of a 2005 congressionally-mandated report by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), underscoring the lack of progress in lowering the 1 in 5 statistic of college sexual assault over the past decade. The NIJ report, which studied random samples from almost 2,500 schools including 2 and 4-year institutions, also found that twenty percent of college women experienced sexual assault, while only 12 percent reported the crime.

The effects of sexual assault manifested in different ways, according to victims. Victims reported having trouble concentrating, resulting in poor grades, panic attacks, and other post-traumatic stress symptoms like rage or depression. Respondents in the poll also gave mixed responses on the topic of consent: In instances of verbal consent, where a "yes" or "no" had been obtained, students were clear on what constituted as consent; responses became much more muddled, however, when asked about consent through non-verbal means such as body language. For example, when asked if actions like a nod, undressing, or getting a condom established consent, 40 percent said it did while 40 percent said it did not. The poll found that men were much more likely to infer consent from sexual foreplay than women.

Responses also varied along gender lines in perceptions of the amount of sexual assault victims. 58 percent of men polled think the number of women assaulted at their school is less than one in five, while an equal 58 percent of women think the number of women assaulted on their campus is one in five or greater. The poll also suggested that campus characteristics- such as size, private versus public, religious affiliation, or reputation for being a "party school" - were non-factors, with the exception of the presence of fraternities and sororities, which was linked to an increased likelihood that women were assaulted.

The poll was conducted from January to March of this year, and surveyed a random national sample of 1,056 women and men between the ages of 17 and 26 who were undergraduates at four-year colleges or had been at some point since 2011. It spanned more than 500 colleges and universities of varying sizes in every state and the District of Columbia.


6/12/2015 - An Appeals Court Just Upheld the Law Closing Abortion Clinics in Texas

Texas' Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld harmful anti-abortion provisions this week stating that forcing a woman seeking abortion care to leave the state does not pose undue burden. The decision also leaves 13 clinics facing imminent closure.

The decision allows the state to uphold 2013 bill HB 2, requiring that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the costly hospital-like standards for buildings known as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC). It gives Texas clinics twenty two days to achieve this multi-million dollar requirement.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, said that the ruling "put a road full of unnecessary hurdles in front of every woman in Texas who has decided to end her pregnancy."

"For scores of Texas women, the repercussions of this ruling will be devastating," Miller added. "Indeed, an estimated 1.3 million women of reproductive age will now live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic."

The ruling also reverses the lower court's order blocking Texas' admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor. This provision has already forced approximately half the state's abortion clinics to close their doors over the past two years. The court claimed that this is not an undue burden on Texas women, despite only seven clinics in Texas currently meeting these standards.

The seven clinics that comply are in Texas' major cities: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Only two clinics (in McAllen and El Paso) serve the Rio Grande Valley area. These two clinics will be closed due to non-compliance with ASC standards. In El Paso, women will face a round-trip of over a thousand miles to obtain abortion care, traveling to neighboring New Mexico to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion.

"Not since before Roe v. Wade has a law or court decision had the potential to devastate access to reproductive health care on such a sweeping scale," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"We now look to the Justices to stop the sham laws that are shutting clinics down and placing countless women at risk of serious harm," Northup said, urging the Supreme Court to take up the case.

This ruling will especially impact low-income women and single mothers. It adds significant burdens such as coming up with the cost and means of travel, taking additional time off work, and often finding lodging, due to Texas' 24-hour mandatory waiting period.


6/12/2015 - New Nigerian Law Forbids Bans Genital Mutilation

Last month outgoing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a law formally banning female genital mutilation (FGM). Despite the progressive action, many say that it will take years for FGM practices to cease due its cultural pervasiveness.

The United Nations defines FGM as any "harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization." The practice of FGM is often done without anaesthesia, medical professionals or proper equipment. An incomplete list of potential effects of the procedure includes infection, infertility, heavy bleeding, cysts, complicated childbirth, and chronic pain.


"With such a huge population, Nigeria's vote in favour of women and girls is hugely important," FGM programme manager of Equality Now Mary Wandia told the Guardian. "We hope, too, that the other African countries which have yet to ban FGM - including Liberia, Sudan and Mali, among others - do so immediately to give all girls a basic level of protection."

According to a 2013 UNICEF report, about 125 million girls and women in the world undergo FGM procedures. FGM is most common in Africa, where it is known to be practiced in 29 countries. A handful of Asian, Middle Eastern, and South American countries regularly practice FGM, and it can be found in some western countries including Canada, Australia, and the United States among diaspora populations.

"It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women," Stella Mukasa, Director of Gender, Violence and Rights at the International Center for Research on Women wrote on the topic of FGM. "Doing so involves laws and policies, as well as community level engagement and programs that work to empower girls directly."


6/11/2015 - UPDATE: Murder Charges Dropped for Georgia Woman Taking Abortion Pills

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards announced yesterday that murder charges against a Georgia woman who ended her pregnancy using a prescription abortion pill she ordered online have been dropped.

According to Dougherty County authorities, Kenlissa Jones was arrested on Saturday after a call from hospital social worker. The social worker reported to police that Jones had gone into labor after taking four abortion pills she had purchased over the Internet. Jones then delivered the fetus, which did not survive. Following her arrest, Jones was taken to the Dougherty County jail, charged with murder and possession of a dangerous drug, and held without bond.

The original murder charge was unprecedented in Georgia, a state that has specific laws protecting women from legal prosecution for acts committed against unborn fetuses.

"I dismissed that malice murder warrant after thorough legal research by myself and my staff led to the conclusion that Georgia law presently does not permit prosecution of Ms. Jones for any alleged acts relating to the end of her pregnancy," Edwards said yesterday in a statement. "Although third parties could be criminally prosecuted for their actions relating to an illegal abortion, as the law currently stands in Georgia, criminal prosecution of a pregnant woman for her own actions against her unborn child does not seem permitted."

The National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) applauded Edwards for dropping the charges, and is calling on prosecutors to drop all charges. NAPW says that Jones "should never have been arrested in the first place."

"A person's health decisions during pregnancy -- including the decision to end a pregnancy -- should never be the subject of criminal investigation, arrest, prosecution, or public disclosure of medical information without consent," NAPW said in their statement. "It is especially troubling to see a young black mother of a toddler charged with a crime that carries the death penalty."

Edwards told a local news station that Jones' case will likely go before a grand jury.


6/10/2015 - Georgia Woman Charged with Murder for Taking Abortion Pills

A 23-year-old Georgia woman was arrested yesterday and charged with malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug for attempting an at-home abortion using the drug misoprostol. The charges, which are unprecedented in the state of Georgia, have left groups on all sides of the abortion debate stunned.

According to Dougherty County authorities, Kenlissa Jones was arrested on Saturday after a call from hospital social worker. The social worker reported to police that Jones had gone into labor after taking four misoprostol pills she had purchased over the Internet. Jones then delivered the fetus, which did not survive. Following her arrest, Jones was taken to the Dougherty County jail and held without bond.

"We don't believe there is any law in Georgia that allows for the arrest of a woman for the outcome of her pregnancy," said Lynn Paltrow, attorney and Executive Director for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).

NAPW released a statement condemning the arrest of Jones, saying that not only is there no law in Georgia that allows for the arrest of women based on the outcome of their pregnancies, such an arrest is actually at odds with existing state law.

"There are no criminal statutes in Georgia that permit punishment of women based on pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes - and the constitution, as well as human rights principles, prohibit such punitive laws directed to pregnant women," the statement reads.

Indeed, Genevieve Wilson, a director of the anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life, says she was "very surprised by the arrest," and that "I'm thinking that perhaps whoever made the arrest may not have known what the laws really are."

Paltrow and other abortion rights activists are concerned with the increasing trend of criminalizing pregnant women, as in the case of an Indiana woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for charges of feticide after suffering a miscarriage. Patel was convicted of both terminating her pregnancy on purpose and abandoning a live, delivered fetus. However, there is no evidence to support the idea that she abandoned a living fetus - there was no evidence she took an abortion-inducing pill, and no proof the fetus was alive once it existed her body. Patel has remained consistent that what happened was that she suffered a miscarriage, and has since filed an appeal.

"People who seek medical attention for any aspect of pregnancy - including prenatal care, labor and delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion - should not fear arrest. There is no role for police or prosecutors in reproductive health," the NAPW states.