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9/2/1997 - Oregon Prisoner Denied an Abortion

The Yamhill County, Oregon board of commissioners passed a new anti-abortion law last Thursday. Under this law, Joni Ledbetter, a prisoner jailed on robbery charges, will be denied an abortion and forced to carry her unwanted pregnancy to term because Yamhill county agents will not release her for the procedure. The law prohibits county agents from facilitating abortions in any way.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon plans to challenge the Yamhill County law in court. Executive Director David Fidanque defended women's constitutional right to an abortion, stating, "No government agency can force a woman to continue a pregnancy she doesn't want to continue."

[Source: Reuters - August 29, 1997


9/2/1997 - Israelis Accused of Prostituting South African Women

Ten South African women, lured to Tel Aviv with the promise of legitimate jobs, allege that they were forced into prostitution. One of the accusers claimed that she was threatened with death. The South African women have since been sent home and an investigation is underway.


9/2/1997 - Hong Kong Sex Discrimination Laws Challenge Popular Newspaper

Hong Kong's Apple Daily printed an advertisement for "several pretty female reporters," in an apparent violation of the country's new anti-discrimination employment laws. The new anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from citing sex, marital status, or lack of disability as a condition of employment, but allow employers to request workers of a specific age or race. The publisher of the popular Apple Daily newspaper will be the first organization tried under the new discrimination laws.


9/2/1997 - WOC Honors Diana With Land Mines Campaign

Women Organizing for Change (WOC) is honoring Diana, the Princess of Wales, by lending its efforts to one of her many worthy causes. "There will be many memorials to the Princess of Wales. But perhaps the best tribute to her life would be to make her fight against land mines a success." According to the WOC, the U.S. government has done little to eliminate the use of these destructive devices, which claim many innocent lives each year. If you would like to contribute to WOC's efforts, please contact President Clinton and urge him to join in the fight to eliminate land mines. He can be reached via e-mail (president@whitehouse.gov), phone (202/456-1414), fax (202/456-2883), or mail (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500).


9/2/1997 - Janet Jagan May Become Guyana's First Female Head of State

Janet Jagan, widow of Guyanese President Cheddi Jagan, accepted the People's Progressive Party's presidential nomination on Sunday, August 31st. If elected, Jagan will be the first female head of state in Guyana. A Chicagoan and Jewish-American nurse, Jagan would also be Guyana's first foreign-born elected leader.

Jagan has served in Guyana's highest post of prime minister since her husband's death in March of 1996 and has also served as health minister. Her husband's deputy, Sam Hinds has been president since Cheddi Jagan's passing and will be Janet Jagan's running mate in the coming election.


9/2/1997 - WBNA Attendance Rivals Men's Sports

The Women's National Basketball Association wrapped up a wildly successful inaugural season with a championship game this Saturday. The WNBA drew more spectators than Major League Soccer in August and matched the television audience of men's professional golf. New York's Liberty team drew more fans to Madison Square Gardens than the New York Knicks have since 1987, and both the Phoenix and New York teams averaged more than 13,000 spectators per game. Even the Utah team, which had the lowest average attendance at 7,611, drew nearly twice as many fans as was originally anticipated. The WBNA looks forward to an even more successful season next year.


9/1/1997 - Army Excuses Aberdeen Commander

On July 31, Army officials said the two-star general in charge of Aberdeen should not be held responsible for the widespread sexual scandal that occurred on the base. Four mid-level officers at the Aberdeen Ordnance Center should, however, receive administrative punishment for the sex scandals in their battalions, according to the Army leadership.

Gen. William Hartzog, who heads the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and who determined the disciplinary measures after a seven-month review, excused Maj. Gen. Robert D. Shadley, the Aberdeen commander, because he claims Shadley had no idea of sexual misconduct on the base. Although the Army decided the four officers who were directly responsible for the battalions should receive punishment, an official described the disciplinary action as “nothing earth-shattering” and may not affect the future careers of the men. The Army’s decision prompted Rep. Jane Harman (D- Calif.), a member of a House panel studying gender issues in the military, to comment, “There was clearly a lax environment at Aberdeen and my view is that there is responsibility at the top and through the chain of command. I’ll be watching to see what the Army’s total solution is. It must include some action against senior levels who were asleep at the switch. Wrongdoing must be punished and wrongdoing includes failure to supervise.”


9/1/1997 - U.N. Continues to Deny Taliban Afghan Seat

The international community continues to resist the Taliban's efforts to gain recognition as the official government of Afghanistan. The chairman of the United Nations credentials committee has so far refused to meet with Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, the Taliban's designated ambassador to the U.N. Without the chairman's recommendation, it is virtually impossible that the Taliban will be granted a U.N. seat.

The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic group which overthrew Afghanistan's Rabbani government on September 27, 1996, and imposed an end to women's human rights there. For this reason, the Netherlands and other European countries have been reluctant to endorse the Taliban's U.N. membership. Although the U.S. has taken no official position on the matter, women's and human rights groups have pressured government officials not to recognize the Taliban.

"The American government and the United Nations must refuse to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government in Afghanistan. How can women be safe anywhere if some governments can carry out gender apartheid with impunity? Do not think such fundamentalist terror can only happen in a far off country!" said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal at a July 30 noontime picket.


9/1/1997 - Tax Cut Benefits Single Mothers

President Clinton and Congress have agreed to a tax cut that will add a $500 dollar tax credit per child. This credit, according to tax analysts at Deloitte and Touche, will benefit working single mothers. Under the current system, a working mother with two children and an income of $20,000 per year would receive a $771 tax refund . This refund comes from the Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit designed to create incentive to work in low-wage jobs. Under the new agreement, the same working mother will receive an additional $500 per child, for a total of $1,771. The tax cut will also benefit middle-income households with children under 17 or in college, and families with substantial capital gains investments.


9/1/1997 - Study Examines Gender Differences in Math Skills

A study published in Developmental Psychology found that boys’ higher math scores result more from better spatial skills than girls’ low self-confidence. Researchers tested 94 high school students on their math self-confidence and their spatial skills, the ability to mentally visualize and rotate 3-dimensional objects. They discovered that 64% of the difference in math scores stems from boys’ better spatial ability, while 36% results from girls’ lower self confidence. M. Beth Casey, a developmental psychology professor at Boston College and the report’s leading author, believes boys obtain better spatial skills because their elders encourage them to play with blocks and toys such as model airplanes at early ages and to participate in sports. Casey says girls’ math skills would benefit from the same encouragement.


8/29/1997 - D.C. Dept. of Corrections Settles Sexual Harassment Suit

The District of Columbia will pay $8 million to settle a sexual harassment suit filed by seven D.C. Department of Corrections employees in 1994. The plaintiffs allege that sexual harassment, including outright demands for sex and punishment for those who refused sex, pervaded the agency.

A federal court jury found for the plaintiffs in 1995 and awarded $1.4 million to six of the eight women. In August of 1996, a federal appeals court voided the 1995 decision and ordered a new trial on the grounds that U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth erred in refusing the defense's request to call non-expert witnesses. Under the terms of yesterday's settlement, the eight plaintiff will share $1.6 million, or about 80% of what was awarded to them in the 1995 trial. Two other plaintiffs will receive $80,000 each and the large remainder of the settlement, minus the attorneys' $2 million fee, will be shared among women who worked at the agency between April 4, 1991 and July 22, 1997 and reported that they were harassed.


8/29/1997 - Military Jury Sentences Drill Instructor and Sgt. 1st Class

On Thursday in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Sgt. 1st Class Gary F. Alford was convicted on charges of sodomy, adultery, conspiring to violate a military regulation and three counts of violating a military regulation. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Alford was found not guilty of committing an indecent act with a trainee, perjury, sodomy, and four counts of violating a military regulation.

Also on Thursday, a military jury in Columbia, S.C., convicted Sgt. 1st Class Gary F. Alford of 15 counts of sexual misconduct and sentenced him to 4 years in prison for those crimes. Alford was acquitted on two rape counts.

Eight noncommissioned officers at Fort Leonard Wood have plead guilty to or been convicted of sex-related charges involving trainees since last November.


8/29/1997 - Mitsubishi Settles Private Bias Suit

Mitsubishi Motor Corporation has settled a lawsuit with 27 women who claim they were subjected to obscene remarks, unwanted touching, and sexual discrimination at the auto plant. Two of the original 29 plaintiffs chose not to participate in the settlement.

As part of the settlement agreement, Mitsubishi has agreed to donate $100,000 to women's causes and to make substantial cash payments to the plaintiffs. The amount of these payments has not been made public. A more extensive lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accuses Mitsubishi of harassing more that 300 women and is not affected by the settlement of this private suit.


8/27/1997 - Women's Advocate Lucy S. Howorth Dies

Lucy S. Howorth, an accomplished lawyer and champion of women's rights, died on August 23rd of a heart attack. Howorth attended women's suffrage meetings with her mother and was known for her independent and determined spirit.

Howorth, as general counsel to the War Claims Commission, became one of the first women to hold this position at a federal agency. Howorth gave the opening address at Eleanor Roosevelt's 1944 White House Conference on Women in Postwar Policy Making and served on President John F. Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women. Howorth was a former president of the Business and Professional Women's Club of Washington and a vice president for the American Association of University Women, where she defeated the AAUW's policy of racial segregation and led a task force on women's post-WWII employment opportunities. Howorth mentored and advised women throughout her long and successful career.


8/27/1997 - Victims of Violence Often Know Their Attackers

A new U.S. Justice Department report released on Sunday, August 24, reveals that nearly half of the 1.4 million people who received emergency-room treatment after a violent attack in 1994 were hurt by someone they knew. Seventeen percent of the victims were attacked by intimate partners such as their current or former spouses or by their boyfriends/girlfriends. Within the group of people abused by their spouses, women were 9 times more likely to be attacked than were men. Relatives composed 8% of the attackers and friends and acquaintances accounted for 23%. Strangers committed 23% of the attacks. The remaining thirty percent of attackers could not be categorized because the victim was not willing to acknowledge the abuse and/or to name the abuser. Bonnie J. Campbell, director of the Justice Department's Violence Against Women Office, stated that the results of this study confirm feminists' claims that domestic violence is highly unreported.


8/27/1997 - Haynes Named Deputy Assistant and Director of Office for Women's Initiatives

President Clinton announced on August 26 that Audrey Tayse Haynes will serve as his deputy assistant and as director of the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach. Haynes will coordinate the work of women's organizations, federal agencies and the White House staff to ensure that women's viewpoints are integrated into government policies and programs.

Haynes is currently deputy secretary of the cabinet for health services in Kentucky and assists in managing Kentucky's $2.5 billion budget. She was Chief of Staff for Lt. Gov. Stephen L. Henry, M.D., and was an advisor to Gov. Paul E. Patton. Haynes was director for the Kentucky Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and was executive director of the Kentucky Literacy Commission from 1989-1993. As executive director of Business and Professional Women/USA and the Business Professional Women's Foundation in Washington, D.C., Haynes strove to achieve the BPW's goal of "equity for all women in the workplace through advocacy, education and information."


8/26/1997 - Clinton Marks August 26th As Women's Equality Day

On August 19, President Clinton issued a proclamation that marked August 26th as "Women's Equality Day" and highlighted the progress achieved under the 19th Amendment and Title IX. "In large measure, because of the 19th Amendment and Title IX, our Nation has reaped the rewards of women's talents, accomplishments, wisdom, and perspective." The proclamation also speaks to the value of ethnic and cultural diversity, stating "... we are all immeasurably enriched when we choose the path of inclusion and empowerment."

The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 and guarantees women the right to vote. Title IX, part of the Education Amendments enacted in 1972, prohibits discrimination against women in schools and in sports programs.


8/26/1997 - Swedish Newspaper Sparks Outrage Against Government's Sterilization Policy

According to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper of Stockholm, Sweden, as many as 60,000 Swedish people were forcibly sterilized this century because they had "undesirable" racial characteristics, physical impediments and/or psychological problems. In response to the newspaper articles, the opposition Christian Democratic Party demanded a parliamentary investigation of past sterilizations.

A spokesperson for Swedish Social Minister Margot Wallstroem reported that the government is considering the request for an investigation and may begin as early as Tuesday, August 26th. In a statement issued last week, Wallstroem promised to consider compensating victims, despite the fact that Swedish law prohibits compensation for crimes that were legal at the time they were committed. Forced sterilization was legal in Sweden until 1975. It is unclear when the last forced sterilizations took place.


8/26/1997 - Men More Likely Than Women to Transmit HIV Through Heterosexual Contact

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco reported on Monday, August 25 that HIV-positive men were far more likely than HIV-positive women to transmit the virus to a heterosexual partner. In the study, the male-to-female transmission rate was estimated at 9 out of every 10,000 unprotected sexual encounters and the rate for female-to-male transmissions was lower (see published study for figures). Male-female transmission rates were highest among men with a history of STDs and injection drug use. Of the 77 HIV-positive male injection drug users, 22 percent transmitted the virus to their partners. Of the 163 women who had an STD, 25 percent were infected. The results of the UCSF study were published in the August edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.


8/25/1997 - Dow Corning Offers 2.4 Billion Breast Implant Settlement

Dow Corning, in an effort to recover from bankruptcy, has offered to pay a $2.4 billion dollars settlement for breast implant claims. In offering the settlement, Dow makes no admission that silicone breast implants cause disease, but admits that the implants "can cause local complications" and that "rupture may occur."

A bankruptcy court must approve Dow's settlement documents before the offer is made to 200,000 women worldwide, who will then vote to accept or reject the settlement. The amount of the individual settlements varies, ranging from $1,000 for an expedited claim to up to $200,000 of compensation for medical treatment. At least two thirds of the plaintiffs must accept Dow's offer in order for women to receive their settlement payments. Attorneys for the plaintiffs report that the compensation is inadequate, but have yet to make a recommendation on whether or not plaintiffs should vote to accept the plan.

Last week, a Louisiana state jury ruled that Dow Chemical was negligent in testing silicone for use in breast implants and concealed evidence of health risks.


8/25/1997 - Abortion Rights Defender Mary Louise Smith Dies

Mary Louise Smith, a lifelong defender of reproductive freedom and women's rights, died of lung cancer on August 22. In her 82 years, Smith achieved much and inspired many. Smith chaired the Republican National Committee from 1974-1977 and remains the first and only woman to have served in that post.

Smith was a founding member of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus and served on the board of directors for the Iowa chapter of Planned Parenthood from 1986-1992. In 1991, Smith helped to create the women's archives for her alma mater, the University of Iowa. Iowa State University established a Mary Louise Smith Endowed Chair in Women and Politics in her honor.


8/25/1997 - French Admonish Pope for Prayer at Antiabortion Crusader's Grave

The French, who respect and revere their country's long-established principles of separation of church and state and laicism, or religious tolerance, were angered by the Pope's plan to visit an antiabortion crusader's grave on Friday, August 22. A public statement issued by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's governing Socialist Party read "the meaning of such a gesture can only cause discontent and risks encouraging in our country the determination of those who wage a struggle bearing the mark of intolerance." This statement was issued several hours before John Paul, in Paris for the World Youth Festival Days, traveled by helicopter to the nearby grave of Jerome Lejeune, a French geneticist and prominent antiabortion activist. Lejeune, a friend and intellectual soul mate of the pope, founded a prominent antiabortion group called Let Them Live and discovered the extra chromosome that causes Down's syndrome. Ironically, Lejeune's research has led many women to end their pregnancies upon learning that their fetuses hold the congenital defect that causes the disease.


8/25/1997 - Prosecutor Seeks to Add Rape to McKinney Allegations

Lt. Col. Michael Child urged Army hearing officer Col. Robert Jarvis to add rape to the many allegations filed against Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene McKinney, the Army's top enlisted official. Child alleges that the incident in which McKinney had sex with an enlisted woman amounts to rape because of the abuse of power McKinney used to manipulate his victim. McKinney has denied the allegations through statements issued by his defense counsel.

Jarvis has 15 days to decide whether or not McKinney will stand trial on sexual misconduct charges. Jarvis' recommendation will then be considered by Col. Owen Powell. The final decision on whether or not the case will proceed will be made by Maj. Gen. Robert F. Foley, commander of the Military District of Washington.


8/25/1997 - Citadel Chief Promises Zero Tolerance for Hazing

Twenty women and 538 men entered their first week of basic training, known as "hell week," today at the Citadel. Cadet Commander Emory Mace addressed the incoming class and promised "zero tolerance" for hazing and swift punishment for those who violate this policy.

Two of last year's four women enrollees dropped out due to harassment. The Citadel responded by naming a new president and cadet commandants and by recruiting a woman assistant commandant and a dean of women. Cadet Commander Mace, whose daughter Nancy is one of the two remaining women from last year's freshmen class, has promised to "decrease the tempo" of hell week this year by shortening the period of rigorous military training, using a revised set of college rules, increasing the amount of adult supervision in the barracks and requiring cadets to undergo sexual harassment training.


8/25/1997 - Reaction to U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling on Prop 209

Washington DC -- "The 9th Circuit's decision not to reconsider the April ruling by one of it panels which upheld Proposition 209 is a tragic reversal of America's promise of equal job and educational opportunitites for women and for racial minorities. We have already seen the devastating consequences of the UC Regents' decision to suspend recruitment and outreach to racial minorities in the admissions results to University of California graduate programs. As a result, California has lost the best and the brightest minority students to out-of-state schools more welcoming to qualified minority applicants.
"For Governor Wilson to claim the court's decision is a "vindication of the the civil rights activism of the 1960s" is disingenuous, at best. The radical right -- which used stealth tactics to launch and fund the Prop 209 campaign and which has taken over the California Republican party -- is anti-women's rights and anti-civil rights.

"Prop 209's constitutional provisions prohibiting affirmative action were passed last November through a well-funded campaign of massive deception. The Proposition was worded to mimic the great Civil Rights Act of 1964, confusing voters as to its real intent and impact.

"Prop 209's backers can only get away with this deception only so long. You can be sure that as Wilson proceeds to implement Prop 209, it will become clear to all that its impact is to slam the door closed to better jobs, business opportunities and education for women and racial minorities in California, returning us to the corrupt "good-old-boys system" of favoritism.

"Whatever happens in the appeal of this latest ruling to the US Supreme Court, the battle for equal opportunities for women and racial minorities will not stop here. The radical right is not going to succeed in pushing women and minorities back. Organizing against Prop 209's successor efforts in other states and in Congress has already begun.

"We predict that as the impacts of Prop 209 become clear, the "Gender Gap" which inflicted damage on the Republicans in the last election, will become nothing short of a "Gender Gulf." Governor Wilson, Mr. Connerly, and their radical right backers should understand one thing: Women will have the last word on our opportunities and our futures."