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The Good: The U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a lower court ruling that declared a Utah law banning almost all forms of abortion for women over 20 weeks pregnant unconstitutional. In December of 1996, the 10 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah lawmakers had placed, "an insurmountable obstacle in the path of a woman seeking a nontherapeutic abortion on a nonviable fetus after 20 weeks. It therefore imposes an unconstitutional burden on her right to choose." The Supreme Court, without comment, left the appeals court ruling intact.
The Bad: The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Montana law banning abortions performed by licensed physician assistants. The 6-3 vote overturned a federal ruling which had blocked enforcement of the 1995 Montana law. Montana's law applied to only one person, Susan Cahill, who worked under the supervision of Dr. James Armstrong. Other states could pass similar measures. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Clarence Thomas voted to uphold the law. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented.
Women's Web World, the Feminist Majority Foundation's Online Web Site, has won the Café Underground Award for Web Excellence. The award is presented to an elite group of select sites and web-designers who have displayed and outstanding balance of graphic style, practical applications and political awareness.
6/17/1997 - Flinn Signs Book Deal
Former First Lt. Kelly Flinn, the first female B-52 pilot, has signed a deal with Random House to write a book about her life in the military, the controversy over her affair, and her subsequent general discharge from the army. Tentatively titled Proud to Be, Flinn's Air Force Academy class' motto, Harold Evans, the publisher of Random House, said in a statement that the memoir will be "...of major importance and lasting power by a remarkable woman, who was a groundbreaking pilot and a patriot. Her story of the double standard she endured and the broader implications for women both within the military and outside will prove to have widespread and deep repercussions."
Recently the U.S. Federal Drug and Food Administration ruled that morning-after birth control pills, taken as emergency contraception, are safe and effective. However, some pharmacists are refusing to fill the prescriptions for women seeking the pills. Although the American Pharmaceutical Association, with 48,000 members, supports a pharmacist's right of refusal, it also says that the pharmacist's right must not override a patient's right to treatment. Pharmacists must find some way to help the woman, either by referring her to another pharmacist within the store or refering the woman to another pharmacy.
Recently a pharmacist at Longs Pharmacy in California was reprimanded for refusing to fill a prescription for the emergency contraception to Michelle Crider, 28. Though Crider wanted a second baby, an existing medical condition made pregnancy a possibly life-endangering condition for her. Crider finally got her prescription from a nearby pharmacy, but commented, "I'm still very angry; without knowing my situation, he could have affected a huge part of my life. What if there had been no other pharmacy to go to?" Longs spokesperson Clay Selland commented, "Failure to serve a customer is at issue here. He was disciplined because he should have offered another option to the doctor. Our policy is that…he needs to send it along to another pharmacist that's on duty, to another Longs store…or refer it on to a competing pharmacy."
Japan's public health committee paved the way for the approval of the birth control by softening its negative stance on the pill's use. The committee had earlier concluded that the pill's use could help spread sexually transmitted diseases. A June 16th meeting, however, drew over 100 women supporters who criticized the committee for using the pill to push its own agenda on sexually transmitted diseases. Advocates of the pill's approval argued that the two issues must be discussed separately and that women have a right to access to the birth control pill. The committee, in essence, did not give an opinion either way on whether or not to approve the pill. Its report said that, should the pill be used, condoms should also be used. A spokesperson for a pharmaceutical firm commented, "We have progressed an important step. The committee's report can now be read as saying that it is OK to approve the pill." The committee's lack of a negative stance will aid the pill's approval by the Health Ministry's Pharmaceutical Council, the last hurdle to official approval. Japan remains the only major country in the world which bans the pill for contraceptive purposes.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
6/16/1997 - Army to Close Sexual Harassment Hotline
The Army has announced that it will close the hotline it set up in November of 1996 to address the Aberdeen sex scandal. The hotline will close as of Friday, June 20th. The Army said it was closing the hotline because it had accomplished its job, and calls had dwindled in recent weeks. A sexual harassment and sexual abuse assistance line will supplant the hotline in 30 days or less.
MacDonald Communications Corporation announced at the 1997 Marketing to Women Congress that it will sponsor an award to companies that do an outstanding job reaching women through marketing. In the first year, the award will be given to companies in the financial, health care and automobile industries. The company will also sponsor an award to the company that best markets to women through use of the world wide web. The MacDonald Communications Corporation publishes such magazines as Working Mother, Working Woman, and Ms.
6/16/1997 - Study Shows Fewer Women Directors Hired
The Directors Guild of America's annual report shows that 91 percent of film directors hired in the United States in 1996 were men and 93 percent were white. The guild's president, Jack Shea, commented on the findings, "Employment levels for DGA women and minorities are simply unacceptable. The producers must find more effective ways to bring talented females and individuals with a diversity of ethnic backgrounds into our business." The number of days worked by DGA women declined from 22.76 percent in 1995 to 22.63 percent in 1996. The guild's vice president, Martha Coolidge, added, "These statistics are an embarrassment to our industry. It is bad enough to see how small the growth is in working days for minorities, but it is particularly disheartening to see the percentage of days worked by women actually dropping."
6/16/1997 - German Law Criminalizes Marital Rape
A law approved on June 13th in Germany makes marital rape a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. Female ministers and women's rights activists have lobbied for over 25 years to get the law changed; previously rape was a crime only when the woman was not married to her attacker. Legislators were successful in dropping a clause from the legislation which would have allowed for withdrawl of the woman's charges. Critics charged that the clause weakened the law because it allowed the husband to pressure his wife into dropping the charges. A study conducted by German authorities shows that, since 1993, 350,000 men have raped their wives.
6/13/1997 - Promise Keepers Hold No Promise for Women
On June 13th, the Feminist Majority Foundation, joining other national women's rights, religious, lesbian/gay/bisexual, and domestic violence organizations, condemned the hidden agenda of the all-male, religious right organization, the Promise Keepers. "Some reactionary male want-to-be-patriarchs -- the so-called Promise Keepers -- are preaching to football stadiums of men that men must resume their rightful place at the head of their household," said Alice Cohan, Feminist Majority Foundation Director of National Programs, "The submission of women is at the core of all these attacks on women's rights and is a backlash to the changed role of women in every facet of our society."
"Despite their best attempts to hide an anti-women, anti-abortion agenda, one must only examine the major leaders and funders of the Promise Keepers' movement to uncover their real goals. Their empires have been built on misogyny, not 'brotherly love.' Pat Robertson, the religious right media mogul and founder of the Christian Coalition, provides major coverage of the Promise Keepers through the 700 Club. James Dobson, whose organization Focus on the Family is one of the largest religious right entities in the country, kept Promise Keepers afloat financially in the early years. Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ empire has lent at least 85 full-time staffers to Promise Keepers' national headquarters in Colorado. Another leading supporter is Gary Bauer, head of the anti-abortion and anti-lesbian/gay Family Research Council," said Cohan.
Serving as Promise Keepers National Spokesperson is Mark DeMoss of the DeMoss family, whose foundation pours millions of dollars into religious right causes including the anti-abortion Life, What A Beautiful Choice advertisements. Finally, there is Bill McCartney, former football coach and founder of Promise Keepers. McCartney is militantly opposed to women's reproductive freedom, and has been a featured speaker at events of the anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue. During an Operation Rescue rally, which was trying to close a local women's clinic, McCartney declared that abortion had become 'a second Civil War.'
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has appointed Irish President Mary Robinson to serve as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Robinson, who will end a seven-year term as Ireland's head of state in December, will travel to New York in July to begin discussions on her post, which is based in Geneva. The United Nations begins its annual General Assembly at the end of September.
Planned Parenthood of Virginia, along with four other state Planned Parenthood affiliates, three health clinics and two physicians, has filed suit claiming that Virginia's new parental consent law is unconstitutional. The parental consent law requires girls under the age of 18 to notify a parent at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion. The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1st. The groups are claiming that law denies young girls their privacy and due process rights. Simon Heller, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy of New York commented on the lawsuit, "In its eagerness to limit access to abortion services, the Virginia legislature has trampled on the constitutional rights of young women. The majority of young women already involve their parents without the government's interference. Forcing the others to do so will have dire consequences."
For eight years Alex Kelly lived in Europe, off his wealthy parent's money, avoiding a United States trial for raping two women. On June 12th, a Connecticut jury convicted him of raping a girl over a decade ago. Kelly turned himself in to authorities in Switzerland in 1995 when authorities closed in on his location and his passport was close to expiring. A 1996 rape trial ended in a 4-2 deadlocked jury in favor of conviction.
The 1997 jury's foreman Robert Derleth said of the conviction, "We just reviewed the evidence and the evidence spoke for itself." The husband of the women who was raped read a statement on her behalf, "I am grateful that the jury was able to focus on the truth, and hope that what I have done will help other women who have been raped to obtain justice."
Kelly's lawyer promised to appeal and commented, "I consider this just a chapter in this long litigation." Kelly could face 20 years in prison; he will be sentenced on July 24th. He also faces another trial in the case of a second woman who accused him of rape four days after the first accuser came forward.
A federal judge has convicted Reverend Norman Weslin, the head of the so-called Lambs of Christ, and ten other of the group's members of blocking entrances at a Planned Parenthood in Rochester, New York. Wesson and three others were sentenced to four months in jail from U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer. Four others were placed on four months of supervised release and required to do 120 hours of community service. The defendants had, on December 7, 1996, resorted to super gluing the entrance of the clinic, and entangling themselves in a device called a "stove" to block the entrance. The bench trial of the defendants is first in New York tried under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Fuller of the Darmstadt Germany training center has been convicted by a military court of raping a subordinate, indecent assault, and three counts of forcible sodomy. Though Fuller could have faced life in prison for the rape charge alone, he was sentenced to only five years in prison and given a dishonorable discharge. A second rape charge was downgraded to the indecent assault charge, and Fuller was also found guilty of three counts of cruelty and maltreatment, fraternization, kidnapping and a reduced charge of unlawful entry. Another count of rape and an indecent exposure charge were dismissed on technicalities earlier this week. Six soldiers sat on the jury.
Fuller denied all charges, and his lawyers argued that the sex was consensual while prosecutors said Fuller used his rank to intimidate the women. Last week, the same military court cleared another soldier at Darmstadt of six counts of rape but sentenced Sgt. Julius Davis to two years in prison on a conviction of multiple counts of indecent assault. Davis also was reduced in rank and got a bad-conduct discharge. Fuller, Davis, and a third sergeant also under investigation have been relieved of their duties at Darmstadt.
Pioneer female pilots gathered at the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C. on June 10th for the opening of an exhibit dedicated to the history of women in flight. At the opening, Fay Gillis Well, 88, handed Doris Lockness, 87, Amelia Earhart's blue flag. Both of the women flew with Earhart in the early part of this century. Lockness, who still pilots her own plane, will carry that flag to Kansas where Earhart's 100th birthday anniversary will be held in late June. Gayle Ranney, a bush pilot in Alaska, was another member of the large group of women pilots who attended the opening. She talked of the self-reliance necessary to fly in Alaska. She commented, "[if a 60-knot storm blows up] you have to tie that puppy down…I've had moments when I've said: 'Hey if I get out of this, I'm not coming back.' But I always did." Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo compiled the exhibit, which includes photos and biographies of more than 35 female aviators.
6/12/1997 - First Syrian Female Pilot Begins Work
Wadad Shujaa, 18, Syria's first female pilot, will shortly begin working as a co-pilot with Syrian Airways. Shujaa graduated from the Aviation Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma after completing 190 hours of flying time. She took her first solo flight after only twelve hours of training.
6/12/1997 - Woman Catches Flasher with a Flash
On May 23rd, Myko Kona was flashed by a handyman who had stopped to ask her for directions. Jimmy Robert Jewell exposed himself and also began masturbating. Kona, however, had a disposable camera ready and quickly took pictures of him, his actions and the license plate on his van. Jewell tried to grab her through the passenger side window of his van after she took the pictures, but she broke free and ran away. With her pictures, the police were able to identify Jewell and track him down to his home in San Pedro, California. Jewell, already on parole for a drug conviction, was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon (the van) and indecent exposure. He told police that he had exposed himself ten to twelve other times since he had been released from prison.
6/11/1997 - Mifepristone Introduction in US Possibly Delayed
A dispute between the European company which agreed to manufacture mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) and the Population Council, the U.S. sponsor of the pill, could delay the pill’s introduction into the U.S. The Population Council commented, "What we want to say is that there's a dispute [with the manufacturer] and we're continuing to talk to them, and our commercial partners are very actively looking for other manufacturers." The Population Council did not know why or whether this would delay the pill's introduction to the U.S. market.
Mifepristone is a drug which offers women an alternative to surgical abortion. It has been legal and popular in the European community for years, and won conditional U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval only in the fall of 1996.
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation which would make employment discrimination against lesbians and gay men illegal. Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT), the bill's chief Republican sponsor in the Senate, has yet to schedule a date for considering the bill in the Labor Committee, which he chairs. The House did not take up the legislation last year, and there are no assurances that it will take up the bill this year. Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), however, who replaced Sam Nunn, said he would vote for the legislation. Nunn voted against the measure in 1996 when it failed in the Senate by only one vote. The bill's sponsors have also modified it in order to reflect some concerns from last year's opponents. This bill will not allow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect information on employees’ sexual orientation. It also will not allow the government to require quotas for hiring lesbians and gay men. The bill also specifically excludes religious organizations.
A task force drafted to study sex and race bias in the federal courts in New York, Connecticut and Vermont has concluded its three-year study and concluded that bias does exist in the federal court system. The task force's report found that bias occurred in many ways and during all aspects of legal proceedings. The bias included ethnic slurs, patronizing behavior and imitation of the language of people of color. The report expressed concern of "stereotyped thinking about the seriousness or the reality of sexual harassment claims." The report cited an unnamed judge who said in open court that a plaintiff's sexual harassment claim was not serious because, "her employer only stared at her breasts, rather than touching them, and 'most women like that.'" The nine-member task force was composed of six women and three people of color, six judges and three lawyers. Charles Ogeletree, professor of law at Harvard Law School, hoped that the study would "serve as a wake-up call that not only are incidents of bias widely perceived by participants, but there's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that bias really does exist in the system."
6/11/1997 - Randy Tate Named as Christian Coalition Director
Former U.S. Congressional Representative Randy Tate (R-WA) has been chosen to replace Ralph Reed as the Director of the Christian Coalition. Tate lost re-election in 1996 after having served only one term in the House. Tate was recently tagged by Washington state's Democratic Chair as the "poster boy of the radical right." Tate was also known as one of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's closest allies in the Class of 1994. Tate will have a lot to deal with as the Christian Coalition is in the process of answering a federal suit filed in July of 1996 by the Federal Election Commission. The suit alleges that the Coalition violated its tax exempt status by spending thousands of dollars to promote Republican candidates.
6/10/1997 - Supreme Court Refuses to Hear F.A.C.E. Challenge
In a decisive victory for pro-choice supporters, the United States Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The court, without comment, refused to hear an appeal by leading abortion opponents. In 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed the law, which prohibits the use of force, threats or blockades that interfere with access to reproductive health, Randall Terry and Reverend Patrick Mahoney filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. They claimed that the law prohibited the expression of their beliefs and assembly. A federal judge and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia disagreed, finding that the law "prohibited conduct, and not speech." The appeal also claimed that Congress did not have the authority to enact the law because the anti-abortion activities were not related to interstate commerce. Again, the courts disagreed with the abortion opponents and sided with the government. The government had argued that, "The evidence before Congress demonstrated that the campaign to eliminate abortion services through violence and obstruction was succeeding and had forced many clinics to close…Interference with abortion services is a problem of national scope."
Leaders of the task force investigating the bombings of Atlanta Northside Family Planning Services clinic and the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian and gay night-club, held a press conference on June 9th to ask for the public’s help in locating possible suspects. The multi-agency task force released photographs of two men who were spotted at the abortion clinic the night before and the morning of the bombing. The agency also released parts of a letter, in which a group called The Army of God claimed responsibility for the bombings and promised that they would bomb more places. The investigators are certain that the people who wrote the letter committed the bombings because of details contained in the letter but not publicly available. They called special attention to phrases in the letter, which includes many grammatical and spelling mistakes, such as the reference to the Otherside Lounge as the "sodomite bar" and a statement that the abortion clinic bomb was "aimed at agents of the so-called Federal government, i.e. A.T.F. F.B.I. Marshall’s etc." The letter also threatened to "wage total war on the ungodly communist regime in New York and your legislative bureaucratic lackey’s in Washington."
If anyone has any information which could help the agency, or recognizes phrases in the letter or the men in the photographs, they should call 1-800-ATF-BOMB.
Air Force General Joseph Ralston has withdrawn his name for consideration as the next Chair of the Joint Chief of Staff, the highest non-civilian military post. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s decision to consider him for the post came under heavy criticism after the Pentagon revealed that Ralston had had an extra-marital affair. Members of Congress and the military saw a double-standard applied to Ralston because of his rank and gender. Recently, First Lt. Kelly Flinn faced a possible court-martial and was forced into a general discharge, because she, who is single, had an affair with a married civilian man. Ralston had a prolonged extra-marital affair thirteen years ago while he was married and trying to reconcile with his wife. Ralston eventually divorced, and court records show that his inability to end the affair was a prime reason.
Representative Nita Lowey (NY-D), who led the Congressional outrage at the military’s double-standard, commented on Ralston’s decision, "Gen. Ralston did the right thing and now we can focus on the policy rather than just on this case, and hopefully the panels will come up with recommendations that make sense. The Pentagon has two options – either change the rules or apply them consistently."