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9/26/1997 - Abortion Foes Will Protest RU-486

On September 27th, over 2,000 anti-abortion activists will descend upon 12 U.S. cities to protest RU-486 medical abortions.

Christopher Slatterly, head of Legal Defense for Life in Manhattan and organizer of the protest, called RU-486 "a chemical weapon against women and children." Demonstrations are planned at clinics with FDA-approved trials on a RU-486 clone. RU-486 has been used for years in France, Great Britain, and Sweden, where women have found it to be a safe, effective method of medical abortion.


9/26/1997 - Judge Defends Sexually Harassing Speech at KFC

In a ruling released earlier this month, Judge Charles Schaefer wrote that "Use of vulgar and obscene language and terms can serve to promote group solidarity" and that such language, used at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Wisconsin, was meant to "achieve a legitimate business goal."

KFC employee June Lauer left her $9.10-an-hour job after 13 years last summer because her managers referred to women managers as "bitches," discussed oral sex and male genitalia, and asked Lauer if she was "on the rag." One manager would announce on the store loudspeaker that he wanted to turn the KFC into a strip bar and that female employees should get tattoos of Col. Sanders on their breasts. She said their behavior caused her great stress and humiliation. "I don't feel anybody should have to put up with that kind of behavior," she said.

The ruling surprised even the KFC's owner Jim Bratley. He said he didn't know how Schaefer could think obscene and vulgar language would improve worker morale. "Management doesn't condone any of that," he said. The ruling has been appealed, and a sexual harassment complaint filed with Wisconsin's equal rights division is pending.


9/26/1997 - Many Nepal Women Dying, Imprisoned From Illegal Abortions

The Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) stated Wednesday that Nepal has the highest maternal death rate among South Asian countries, with 515 deaths per 100,000 women. Abortion is illegal in Nepal, where 75% of women in jail are imprisoned for having an abortion.

FPAN said women were dying from illegal abortions and subsequent infections. FPAN said poverty, illiteracy, and lack of knowledge about family planning were the main reasons behind illegal abortions. FPAN is planning to increase their free family planning services to reach every district in the country.


9/26/1997 - 50 Million Chinese Females "Missing"

A study of women and health presented to the World Health Organization's Western Pacific Conference yesterday stated that sex-selective abortion, infanticide and neglect were responsible for China's skewed birth rate of 117 males for every 100 females.

The study revealed that despite the fact female babies naturally have better survival rates, more girls die in infancy because they are neglected, malnourished and mistreated while boy babies receive the best medical care.

The authors said that girls recieve less schooling than boys, are less literate, and are victims of pervasive violence. Each of these factors contributes to Chinese women's ignorance about health care. They said that gender discrimination of this kind "inhibit the assertive capacity of women in all aspects of life, affect their ability to institute changes and hamper their access to health-related information. Sex-role stereotyping begins at a very early age and contributes to girls and women being accorded lower status in many areas of life."


9/26/1997 - Lesbian British Nurses Sentenced in Saudi Arabia

British Nurses Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry have been sentenced to 500 lashes with a whip and eight years in prison in Saudi Arabia for the murder of fellow nurse Yvonne Gilford, an Australian. Some accounts say that Gilford's family has reached a $1.2 settlement with Parry. If they do not reach a settlement, Parry and McLcuhlan face death by beheading. They would be the first Western women to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

The Western press has harshly criticized Islamic law for being unnecessarily barbaric. The Saudi law says that the family of the victim can take "blood money" from people sentenced to death in exchange for granting them clemency.

The details of the murder are unclear, with several confusing accounts regarding the exact nature of the relationships between the three women and the circumstances of her death, which occured during a fight between Parry and Gilford. McLauchlan said Parry and Gilford were in a lesbian relationship, but Parry denied it in one confession and admitted to it in another. She said Gilford had fallen on the knife she had intended to attack Parry with, but McLauchlan said Parry stabbed Gilford intentionally. McLauchlan claims innocence, but Parry says McLauchlan was the one to stab Gilford.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the 500 lashes were "wholly unacceptable in the modern world." Fouad Nahdi, editor-in-chief of the Islamic publication Q-News, said while he was critical of the Saudi regime, the British press was being unfair to Moslems. "Beheading is barbaric in Saudi Arabia but the death penalty and the electric chair in the U.S. is not?" he said.

The AFP offered several contradictory reports, some saying that a financial settlement had been reached, others saying it had not. Some articles said only Parry faced beheading, while others said McLachlan was the one. Gilford's family has apparently released several confusing statements regarding whether or not they had waived the right to demand the death penalty. The full details on the situation are currently unknown.


9/26/1997 - Women's Military Memorial To Open Soon

With the two-year, $21.5 million female-headed construction effort drawing to a close, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA) in Arlington National Cemetery will be dedicated Oct. 18. The WIMSA education center, honoring the 1.8 million women who have served in the U.S. armed forces, will feature a Hall of Honor, 14 display bays, a 196-seat theater and a computerized registry of members. The memorial area will also include a fountain, a reflecting pool and 11 etched glass tablets that light up at night.

Thirty-eight year old Margaret Van Voast, on-site project manager, was never in the military, but her experiences in the mostly-male construction industry gave her a common bond with the honored women. Van Voast, who with several other women managed the entire endeavor, from its construction to locating women veterans and fund-raising. She states, "This building is going to be a part of history, and we are a part of that history. It's pretty amazing to walk away and know that this will still be here generations from now."


9/26/1997 - Afghan Women Continue to Suffer After One Year of Taliban Rule

One year ago, on September 27, 1996, the Taliban extremist militia took over the Afghan capital city, Kabul, and made Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes. The Taliban banned women them from working, going to school, or leaving their homes without a close male relative. The Taliban claimed it would continue the women's paychecks and that the restrictions on women would eventually be lifted. However, paychecks to women stopped six months ago, and even in the cities of Herat and Kandahar, where the Taliban has ruled for two and three years, women are still under the same severe restrictions.

Foreign aid projects which provide food to Afghan widows and children have a hard time keeping up with the enormous numbers of people who need help because women cannot earn a living now. A high-ranking humanitarian official stated that up to 40 percent of aid cash spent in Kabul goes towards women's needs that did not exist before the Taliban entered the city.

The Taliban has hindered the work of these aid projects by issuing decrees that aid projects must not provide aid directly to women, but only through a male blood relative. It also temporarily closed down one feeding project when it was discovered that men were in the same compound -- but not in the same room -- as women attending a farewell dinner.

"One year ago many women expected things would change with UN and aid agency pressure, but what we've seen over the past year is them losing hope," said Niamh Murnaghan of the British relief group OXFAM. "Women are horribly depressed because they have had all social life and public interaction stripped away."


9/25/1997 - Grand Slam Cup May Allow Women

Grand Slam Cup tennis organizers said Tuesday that they would consider allowing women to play in the yearly tournament, which offers $6 million in prize money.

The Grand Slam Cup is reserved for the top players in each of the four Grand Slam events. Axel Meyer-Woelden, who founded the Cup in 1990 and recently died, had wanted women to participate in the Cup or to have their own version of the tournament. Tournament director Bill Dennis said Meyer-Woelden's plan was "definitely a good idea, and something we will work on."


9/25/1997 - Norway's Brundtland Seeks WHO Position

In her bid for director general of the World Health Organization, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland has hit the campaign trail.

In the next two months, she will visit WHO executive committee members in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan called Brundtland a "strong candidate" for the post, which will be decided at a WHO assembly in May.

Brundtland surprised Norwegians when she resigned as prime minister last October and did not run for Parliament this year. Improving health care has been a dream of hers since childhood. She said the WHO job combined her "whole life and experience and involvement in basic conditions in people's lives."


9/25/1997 - Little Rock, Arkansas Abortion Clinics Subject of Terrorism

Washington, D.C. - On the morning of President Clinton's speech at Little Rock's Central High School, bomb scares were investigated at two local abortion clinics. According to news reports, the suspect rented two Ryder trucks, mimicking the terroristic tactic of the Oklahoma City bombing, and left them parked in front of the clinics. Upon arrival, bomb-sniffing dogs detected what investigators treated as explosive devices. Before finding that both trucks contained only road flares, investigators evacuated both clinics and several surrounding buildings. Additionally, a clinic worker arriving at the third clinic found the door locks tarred, barring entry into the clinic.

Alarmed by the spate of abortion clinic terrorism, increasingly bombs and arsons, Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, demanded this latest terrorist attempt to disrupt clinic operations be treated as a violation of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE). Smeal stated, "Despite the fact that these bomb scares were false, we strongly believe federal agents should investigate them as FACE violations. This latest terrorist attack disrupted clinic operations and resulted in the evacuation of not only the clinics, but of surrounding businesses as well."

Anti-choice extremists have historically targeted the Little Rock clinics, especially since Clinton, who is pro-choice, became President in 1992. In 1994, these same clinics, were targeted when national anti-choice extremists converged on the city to challenge the constitutionality of FACE.

Since the beginning of 1997, seventeen clinics nationwide have suffered arsons or bombings - a number triple that of 1996. Additionally, a survey released earlier this year by the Feminist Majority Foundation, reveals that 27.6% of clinics faced severe anti-abortion violence in 1996, including death threats, stalking, bombings, arsons, blockades, invasions and chemical attacks.


9/25/1997 - NOW To Continue Court Battle Against Operation Rescue

In a landmark decision Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David Coar in Chicago held that the evidence against Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion extremists on racketeering charges aimed at closing that clinic was enough to continue to a jury trial.

NOW filed the class-action lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). NOW President Patricia Ireland said "the court has said that Randall Terry and his co-conspirators will be held responsible for all the acts of terrorism and violence Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) has orchestrated in their war to deny women our constitutional right to abortion."

Judge Coar ruled that NOW provided sufficient evidence that Operation Rescue and PLAN had forced "the closing of clinics through the use of fear," actions that fall under RICO.

Terry and co-defendant Joseph Scheidler called RICO unconstitutional, claiming they had a "moral imperative" to stop abortion by violating the law. The NOW vs. Scheidler case was initiated in 1986 by then NOW President Eleanor Smeal, when the president of the local Pensacola NOW chapter was injured during a clinic invasion by John Brut, a leader of the local Rescue America.


9/25/1997 - New York Schools Chancellor Defends All-Girls School

Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew said yesterday that the experimental all-girls public middle school in East Harlem would remain single-sex and that he would not create an equivalent school for boys.

Crew will likely battle the Education Department and the New York Civil Liberties Union in court on civil rights charges because the Young Women's Leadership School violates the Title IX prohibition on sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs.

Crew said admitting boys would defeat the purpose of the school, which is to help girls excel in math and science. Studies say girls perform best when boys are not in the classroom. Crew sees no reason to create a similar all-boys school, which the "quid pro quo" law of Title IX would dictate. "This is a case where the existence of the all-girls school makes an important statement about the viable education of girls," Crew said.


9/25/1997 - Little Rock, Arkansas Abortion Clinics Subject of Terrorism

Washington D.C. -- On the morning of President Clinton's speech at Little Rock's Central High School, bomb scares were investigated at two local abortion clinics. According to news reports, the suspect rented two Ryder trucks, mimicking the terroristic tactic of the Oklahoma City bombing, and left them parked in front of the clinics. Upon arrival, bomb-sniffing dogs detected what investigators treated as explosive devices. Before finding that both trucks contained only road flares, investigators evacuated both clinics and several surrounding buildings. Additionally, a clinic worker arriving at the third clinic found the door locks tarred, barring entry into the clinic.
Alarmed by the spate of abortion clinic terrorism, increasingly bombs and arsons, Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, demanded this latest terrorist attempt to disrupt clinic operations be treated as a violation of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE). Smeal stated, "Despite the fact that these bomb scares were false, we strongly believe federal agents should investigate them as FACE violations. This latest terrorist attack disrupted clinic operations and resulted in the evacuation of not only the clinics, but of surrounding businesses as well."

Anti-choice extremists have historically targeted the Little Rock clinics, especially since Clinton, who is pro-choice, became President in 1992. In 1994, these same clinics were targeted when national anti-choice extremists converged on the city to challenge the constitutionality of FACE.

Since the beginning of 1997, seventeen clinics nationwide have suffered arsons or bombings - a number triple that of 1996. Additionally, a survey released earlier this year by the Feminist Majority Foundation, reveals that 27.6% of clinics faced severe anti-abortion violence in 1996, including death threats, stalking, bombings, arsons, blockades, invasions and chemical attacks.



9/24/1997 - Medical Tests Must Include Women, FDA Says

After years of research which kept women of childbearing age out of studies and away from treatments because they might get pregnant and the medication might harm the fetus, the FDA stated yesterday that it wants to delay any medical trial that discriminates on the basis of sex.

The FDA proposed regulations that would put on hold any trial that excluded women or men because of possible harm to the reproductive system. Although the FDA told drug companies in 1993 to include women equally at all stages of testing, in 4,000 clinical studies done in the past three years, 25% excluded women solely because of a pregnancy risk.

Women's advocates attacked such discrimination, asserting that women should be told of the risks and allowed to make their own decisions. Being a part of a clinical trial is often the only way to get access to drugs for life-threatening diseases such as AIDS. The recommendation came after the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development and the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS advised that women not be excluded from AIDS drug testing, because many women with HIV are of childbearing age and should have equal access to the drugs.

The FDA said inclusion of women of all ages in studies is crucial to enable researchers to determine what doses should be used and how drugs should be labelled for women patients. Deputy Food and Drug Commissioner Mary Pendergast said the proposal "sends a strong message to the industry that we really do want them to open the doors of trials to women."


9/24/1997 - Family Planning Funds Discussed

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) are sponsoring a measure that would increase access to birth control information and services.

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) President Kate Michelman said that the 3 million annual accidental pregnancies are a sign that many people do not have access to the information and health services they need to "responsibly manage their reproductive lives."

The measure would require insurance to cover birth control prescribed by doctors, and would start a public awareness campaign about emergency contraception. It would also seek an increase in federal family planning funds, increased STD research, approval of RU-486, removal of government-imposed restrictions on health care providers regarding information on abortion, and full legalization of Roe v. Wade.

In a similar vein, Abiya Inayatullah, president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, met with House members last week to encourage them to support international family planning funds. Like Boxer and Lowey, she seeks to reduce abortion rates by providing better birth control services.

Recent House amendments proposed that no U.S. funds be used for family planning services that also provide abortion services. While the sponsors, such as Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), think reducing the funds will reduce the abortion rate, Inayatullah called that attitude "unconscionable" and said they were not living in the real world. She invited Rep. Smith and other supporters to travel with her to developing countries with poor family planning services, and talk to illiterate, impoverished women first-hand. "You cannot continue to play politics when it comes to the lives of women around the world."

Inayatullah said that the loss of $62 million in international family planning funds since 1995 has caused more abortions and rising maternal death rates. Seven million couples in developing countries lost access to contraceptives, leading to four million unwanted pregnancies, 1.6 million additional abortions, and 8,000 more maternal deaths.


9/24/1997 - Clinton to Speak at Lesbian and Gay Rights Dinner

Accomplishing what no other sitting president has, President Clinton will address a Nov. 8 dinner sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay and lesbian civil rights group.

White House Spokesman Mike McCurry said that Clinton has worked closely with gay men and lesbians "on issues that are of primary concern" to the gay community, despite his support of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for homosexuals, a policy that has been criticized harshly by lesbians and gay men.


9/24/1997 - Study Finds Antidepressant May Alleviate PMS Symptoms

A recent study found that women who suffer from severe premenstrual syndrome (about 3-5% of menstruating women) can be helped with the antidepressant drug Zoloft. Sixty-two percent of the women who took Zoloft showed "much or very much improvement," as compared to 34% of the women who took a placebo. Prior studies have established that other depressants, including Anafranil, Prozac and Paxil, can effectively treat severe menstrual symptoms.

Two hundred women participated in the study, funded by Zoloft's manufacturer Pfizer, Inc. The FDA has not approved Zoloft as a treatment for PMS.


9/23/1997 - Home Depot Pays $87.5 Million in Gender Bias Lawsuit

Three days before trial, Home Depot USA has agreed to settle a class action gender discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of about 8,000 women employees at their west coast division.

This lawsuit is one of four nationwide filed against Home Depot, alleging that the company paid women less than men, gave women fewer raises and promoted them less than male employees. A spokesperson for Home Depot said the $87.5 million payment was not an acknowledgement of guilt. Many were surprised by the settlement, which followed strong denials and an agressive defense.

Sixty-five million will be split between the 8,000 women and $22.5 million will go to the lawyers. The settlement also requires Home Depot to set up a system for all employees to inform managers when they want promotions.


9/23/1997 - Study Claims Chinese Workers Abused at Nike Plants, Nike Cuts Ties with Indonesian Companies

Global Exchange released a study last week charging that workers at Nike and Reebok plants earned as little at 10 cents an hour and worked 17 hours a day under enforced silence.

Global Exchange worked with two human rights organizations in Hong Kong that interviewed workers at four Chinese sports shoe factories employing over 80,000 people. Chinese labor law states that no one under age 16 can work in a factory, yet workers as young as age 13 were observed, the report said.

The researchers found that many workers made less than the minimum wage of $1.90 for an 8-hour day and often worked 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, and 2-5 hours of forced overtime.

Nike said the study was "erroneous," and that when they sent former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Andrew Young to tour the plants last year, he did not see any labor violations.

In an unprecedented action on Monday, Nike fired four Indonesian contractors because they did not pay minimum wage or meet Nike's rules for working conditions.

Nike stated that they will use the sports-glove manufacturer Seyon again if it complies with Indonesia's minimum wage laws.


9/23/1997 - African Women Organizing

About 40 women from grassroots organizations in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other countries in the Horn of Africa met recently to discuss how to rebuild their war-torn societies.

Women's organizations are struggling to restart schools and hospitals, and are looking into getting grants from international donors to help them. Many have started programs in their hometowns and are looking for more support. For example, with help from the European Union and an Italian humanitarian group, Somalian woman Halima Arush started a boarding school in Merca for militiamen who agreed to give up their guns in return for shelter, food, and education.

The women agreed that peace was the priority in the conflict-ridden area. "While the men are discussing who should take power, the women are the ony ones who are dealing with the basic problems -- how to educate the children, rebuild schools and hospitals," said Hibaaq O. Basbas, director of the Center for the Strategic Initiatives of Women. Once peace has been achieved, they will work to attain equal rights for women, who have little political presence.

Basbas said the Strategic Initiative for the Horn of Africa will help women organize at the grassroots level to promote women's rights, eliminate gender discrimination, encourage alliances between women from different areas, and put women in leadership roles.


9/23/1997 - Martin Subpoenaed in Mitsubishi Sexual Harassment Case

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Lynn Martin has been subpoenaed to testify on her study of sexual harassment at Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi hired Martin last year to study workplace practices at their Illinois plant, one month after the EEOC filed a lawsuit claiming more than 300 women had been sexually harassed and discriminated against by the management there. Martin, who spent 9 months with a task force reviewing policies and procedures at the plant, will give a deposition on what she learned and suggestions to to improve workplace conditions.


9/23/1997 - Abortion Debate Begins in Cambodia

The Cambodian National Assembly proposed banning midwives and lay healers from performing abortions on Monday. The new law would legalize first-trimester abortions performed by licensed practitioners only.

Because Cambodia currently has no abortion laws, untrained health workers often perform abortions for extra money and because women have nowhere else to go. The government wants to make abortions safer because complications from back-alley clinics are a big contributor to the high maternal death rate. There is no serious opposition to the bill, which would imprison unlicensed abortionists.


9/23/1997 - Abortion Debate Begins in Cambodia

The Cambodian National Assembly proposed banning midwives and lay healers from performing abortions on Monday. The new law would legalize first-trimester abortions performed by licensed practitioners only.

Because Cambodia currently has no abortion laws, untrained health workers often perform abortions for extra money and because women have nowhere else to go. The government wants to make abortions safer because complications from back-alley clinics are a big contributor to the high maternal death rate. There is no serious opposition to the bill, which would imprison unlicensed abortionists.


9/22/1997 - Taliban Ignores Poverty and Further Censors Media in Afghanistan

While widows in Kabul stand in line for food handouts and policemen beg at intersections, the Taliban extremist group in Afghanistan issued an edict banning foreign journalists from writing commentaries or analyses of the situation in Afghanistan. In addition, foreign journalists were ordered to write only reports which "conform with the rules . . . and traditions of the country." Photographs of women or animals are also forbidden. Afghanistan currently has no independent newspapers or radio stations. Afghans receive their news from the international media.

The Taliban controls the southern two-thirds of Afghanistan, where they have prohibited women from working, going to school, leaving their homes without a close male relative, or appearing in public without a burqa, a head-to-toe garment with only a mesh opening to see through.

The Taliban has said they cannot deal with the problem of widespread poverty until they have captured all of Afghanistan. Foreign aid agencies give monthly handouts of 10 pounds of oil and 26 pounds of beans to widows, who cannot support themselves because of the ban on women working.


9/22/1997 - UC May Drop Biased SATs for Admission

Facing a severe decline in Latino and African-American graduate enrollment as a result of prohibitions against affirmative action in the wake of Proposition 209, the University of California is considering dropping the SAT requirement for undergraduate admission, citing racial bias in the test.

The university task force investigating the issue stated that continued use of SATs would cause the number of Hispanic students to drop 70%. The number of non-white students plummeted this fall at graduate schools where affirmative action was recently banned, such as Texas and California. Task force member Raymund Paredes said that their study of UC Latino students found "there was very little correlation between academic success and SAT scores." Ralph Purdy, an associate dean at UC-Irvine medical school, said a diverse student body is necessary, especially in medical schools, because non-white students are more likely to work in poor, non-white communities after graduation. California state Senator Teresa Hughes suggests that instead of automatically accepting the top 12.5% students with the highest grades in the state, as is currently done, UC schools should accept the top 12.5% of students from each high school's graduating class, so that students from poorer schools have a better chance.

The SAT is also biased against women students. Two years ago, a study found that Berkeley's SAT requirements reduced the number of female freshman by over 5%. Women score lower on standardized tests than men, even though they get better grades in college than men in the same majors. Sections of the verbal SAT that women traditionally did better on, such as antonyms, have been removed, and other sections that men do better on have been expanded, in order to make the verbal section more "sex-neutral." One study found that an SAT had 42 references to men and only 3 to women. Other standardized tests, such as the ACT and AP tests, have a very small gender gap, and not the 50-point gulf that appears in SATs.

In 1989, the New York Board of Regents was sued for sex discrimination because it relied on PSAT scores for scholarships, which resulted in only 43% of the awards going to women. When they were ordered by a court to award scholarships solely on grades, female recipients increased to 51%. In 1993, the ACLU and FairTest filed a civil rights complaint with the Educational Testing Service because National Merit Scholarships rely on PSATs. In 1994, only 38% of all National Merit awards went to females.