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The woman beaten by police for crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. along with 19 men said she sought better educational opportunities for her two children. Working odd jobs after the Mexican factory where she once worked had closed, Alicia Saltero Vasquez could not make enough money to provide for her children, who she hoped would surpass her second-grade education. Vasquez and Enrique Funes Flores were beaten on Monday (4-1) by two male sheriff’s deputies following a chase from the Mexican border. The beating was videotaped by news helicopters and broadcast throughout the United States and Mexico, bringing police brutality back into the limelight almost four years after police were acquitted of beating Rodney King.
Two of the Mexican men beaten Monday have filed claim against Riverside County, asking for more than $10 million and claiming the officers broke anti-torture laws. Saltero remains in the hospital, and it is not clear whether or not she will file a claim against the county.
4/5/1996 - Parental Consent Law Upheld in California
In a 4-3 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday (4-4) to uphold a state law requiring minors to obtain consent from a parent or judge before having an abortion, marking the first time the Court has upheld a restriction on abortion rights since the state established a constitutional right to privacy in 1972. The Court ruled that the 1987 law, which has never been enforced due to legal challenges, does not violate minors’ constitutional right to privacy. In individual dissenting opinions, Justices Ronald George, Joyce Kennard and Kathryn Werdegar denounced the decision for endangering the health of young women.
Justice Armand Arabian, who voted with the majority, has retired since the case was argued in January, and since the vote was so close, the court might make a rare move and rehear the case. Arabian’s successor will be Justice Ming Chin, a San Francisco judge who supports the right to choose. The decision will not become final for 30 days.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has produced an award-winning video, Abortion Denied: Bettering Young Women’s Lives, which documents the devastating impact parental consent laws have on young women’s health.
A newly released survey by the Feminist Majority Foundation has found that clinics reported a sharp decline in anti-abortion violence in 1995, marking the first time violence decreased in all categories. The number of clinics reporting incidents of anti-abortion violence dropped substantially from 51.9% in 1994 to 38.6% in 1995, according to the annual survey, conducted as a part of the Foundation’s National Clinic Defense Project.
"The good news is that across the board clinics are reporting less violence. The bad news is that a significant proportion of clinics -- over one-third -- are still plagued by anti-abortion violence, and this violence is dangerously targeted at physicians and clinic staff," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Smeal attributed the overall decline in violence to the intensified enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by the federal government, along with improved local and state law enforcement response to clinic violence.
The types of violence measured in the survey included: death threats, stalking, bomb threats, bombings, chemical attacks, blockades, invasions, arson, and arson threats. The survey, which covered violence committed during the first seven months of 1995, was completed by 310 clinics, including facilities in 44 states and American Somoa. Almost 95% of these clinics offer a full range of gynecological and other health services in addition to abortion.
A National Institute of Health panel concluded Wednesday that almost all of the 5,000 women who die of cervical cancer each year could be spared by routine Pap smears and safe sex. Second to breast cancer as the most common malignancy, cervical cancer claims 15,700 new cases in the U.S. each year. The panel concluded that "use of the Pap smear is effective in reducing morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer," and that the cancer could be eradicated if women got the test done yearly.
The panel also found that safe sex can decrease rates of cervical cancer, as virtually all cases are related to infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. The committee said that adolescent females who engage in sexual activity at an early age are more likely to develop cervical cancer from HPV than those who wait. Other risk factors include smoking, oral contraceptive use, and contracting other sexually transmitted diseases.
Claiming that the New York City Police Department did not treat an organization of gay law enforcement workers equally to other fraternal organizations, gay and lesbian police officers filed suit Tuesday (4-2) against the Department. The complaint, led by GOAL, the Gay Officers’ Action League says the Police Department discriminated against the group by refusing to allow use of a Department van during last year’s Gay and Lesbian Pride March. The department’s marching band was told it could not participate in the march.
GOAL also says the Police Department violated constitutional guarantees when it refused the league permission to hold a ceremony and display at headquarters to honor the contributions of gay police officers. Police officials have refused to comment on the suit which seeks an injunction against the Department and monetary damages.
Sandra Antor of Miami has filed suit against South Carolina for the actions of a state trooper who dragged her from her car at gunpoint and harassed her after pursuing her in an unmarked police car. Antor claims that Lance Cpl. W.H. Beckwith was not properly trained. The patrolman was fired after his squad car’s video camera recorded his conduct toward Antor.
4/3/1996 - Teen Pregnancy Rates Rise
According to a study authored by Alison Spitz of the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, teen-age pregnancy and abortion rates rose significantly in the 1980s. Pregnancy rates among girls aged 15 to 19 had decreased to 87.7 per thousand in 1985, but then increased to 95.9 in 1990. Although the only definitive national data goes through 1990, the CDC reported that the birth rate among teenagers dropped 2 percent in 1992, and 2 percent in 1993.
4/3/1996 - Male Contraceptive Deemed Effective
A report issued Tuesday (4-2) by the World Health Organization found that weekly injections of testosterone, the male sex hormone, can reduce the sperm count to a level below that which is needed for conception. Studied over two and a half years in nine countries, the weekly injections proved effective for contraception in 98.6 percent of the couples involved. The 399 men involved in the study were all healthy, and their ages ranged from 21 to 45. Only four pregnancies occurred during the test period.
In the neighborhood of La Manuelita in Columbia, seven girls aged 11 to 15 have been kidnapped in the last year. Reports suggest the girls may have been taken to Japan and sold into prostitution with no passports or documents to escape. Five girls who escaped kidnapping attacks told similar stories that they were each photographed by a man in a car and a few days later grabbed by another man who was later arrested but released because he had not been caught in the act. The mothers interviewed by CNN said they are waging their own private war in the face of government indifference and that the wealth of a family often determines whether or not a kidnapped child will be found
4/2/1996 - FDA Application Filed for RU-486 Approval
The Population Council filed an application last month seeking to market RU-486, the Food and Drug Administration announced Monday (4-1). The review could take up to a year, the amount of time the FDA usually spends on drugs that do not affect life-threatening diseases. Last year the FDA estimated that approval could take as little as six months because of the RU-486's extensive record of safety and efficacy.
The Population Council, which was awarded RU-486 patent rights from Rossel Uclaf in May 1994, has given exclusive legal rights for coordinating the drug's manufacture and distribution to a new company called Advances in Health Technology.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has been leading the fight to bring RU-486 to the U.S. since 1989. See the Campaign for RU-486 and Contraceptive Research.
California Gov. Pete Wilson nominated Sacramento state appeals court judge Janice Rogers Brown last week to the California Supreme Court. If confirmed, Brown would join two other women on the bench and make California the fifth state with three women on its high court. Brown would also be the first black woman on the court. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, legal scholars say the stronger female presence could bring "subtle but far-reaching changes" to a traditionally male-dominated court. The Chronicle article quoted several women lawyers and judges commenting that women's presence in the judicial system leads to greater sensitivity in cases involving rape, domestic violence, and abortion.
Calling domestic violence the "number one health threat to women" who live in the District of Columbia, U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. announced yesterday the creation of a special team of 16 prosecutors to handle all domestic violence cases there. Formerly randomly assigned, all complaints of domestic violence of any degree will now go to the team whose members volunteered for the duty and have received special training. Holder said the program, which will also utilize victims' rights advocates, community volunteers, shelters and support groups, is designed to protect victims and help them escape the abuse. Last year, only a third of the 5,000 domestic violence cases reported were prosecuted.
Roman Catholic cardinals led a 500-person anti-abortion protest urging President Clinton not to veto the first abortion ban. Clinton has stated he will veto the bill which would ban a rare form of abortion used to save the life, health, and future fertility of a woman. The bill would make the procedure illegal and punishable by law unless no other procedure could save the life of the woman, but it does not take a woman's health into account.
Take Action! Urge President Clinton to Veto the First Abortion Ban
4/1/1996 - Polsby Loses Discrimination Case Against NIH
On Friday (3-29), U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow threw out two claims of sex discrimination against the National Institutes of Health. Dismissing the claims as "exaggerated," Chasanow said the two separate claims by two women lacked substance. Dr. Maureen Polsby, a neurologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes from 1983 to 1985 maintains she was denied mentoring opportunities and did not receive a third-year research appointment because she had refused a supervisor's sexual advances. Margaret Jensvold, a psychiatrist on staff at the National Institute of Mental Health from 1987 to 1989, also said she was barred from mentoring opportunities which are considered key to career advancement. Jensvold argued that the mentoring opportunities, which facilitate conducting research and publishing findings, were handed from male senior researchers to other men in a sexist atmosphere.
In 1994, a judge found the denial of mentoring in the Jensvold case a form of sex bias, and awarded her $1. After a subsequent Supreme Court ruling finding that Jensvold's case did not have the right to a jury trial, the case was given to Chasanow to re-try without a jury.
4/1/1996 - Rodham Clinton Urges Equality for All Women
While in Greece, Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed the origins of democracy and said that women must become "equal partners in society" for the system to truly succeed in the U.S. and elsewhere. Urging nations to give women what she called the "tools of opportunity"--better health care, jobs, credit legal protection and political rights -- Rodham Clinton said that too many women and children live "on the margins of society." She also said nations need to do a better job of feeding and educating the young.
4/1/1996 - Woman to Join North Carolina Administration
On April 1, Revenue Secretary Janice Faulkner will be sworn in as the first Secretary of State in North Carolina. Faulkner, who has a history in the Democratic Party and at East Carolina University, says she intends to restore morale in the department in which the outgoing Secretary is under criminal investigation for lax management and alleged use of employees for personal chores.
4/1/1996 - Judge Awards Victory to Gays and Lesbians in the Military; Rabbis Vote in Support of Same-Sex Marriages
In a blow to the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward homosexuals, a U.S. district judge ruled Friday that it is unconstitutional to dismiss homosexuals in the military who openly state their sexual preference. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ordered the National Guard Friday (3-30) to reinstate Lt. Andrew Holmes who says the battle is just beginning. Filed under both federal and state law, the case was the first ruling on the matter in California and found that dismissal on the grounds of a serviceperson's disclosure of homosexuality was a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and free speech.
On another matter, the Central Conference of American Rabbis voted by a large majority Thursday (3-28) to support the civil marriages of lesbians and gay men. The group represents 1750 rabbis of the liberal Reform movement.
A non-surgical form of abortion using the drug methotrexate is gathering support from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood of New York. During its annual meeting in San Francisco this weekend, NAF, the Washington-based group of abortion providers, planned to present instructions to doctors interested in offering methotrexate abortions. The drug has been approved by the FDA for arthritis and cancer conditions, but not yet for abortions. Using drugs for purposes other than those for which they were approved is both a legal and a common occurrence. The specific procedure NAF is encouraging doctors to explore involves an injection of methotrexate drug, which interferes with cell division of a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy, and is followed by application of the ulcer medicine misoprostol, which brings on contractions and expels the fetus, usually within a day.
Some doctors in New York have already begun using the non-surgical procedure which Planned Parenthood of New York hopes to begin offering by June, according to affiliate head Alexander Sanger. Abortion rights supporters say the use of the procedure could help decrease violence against abortion clinics because it requires no special equipment and can be performed in any doctor's office. RU 486, another form of medical abortion, will soon be before the FDA for approval. Used by over 200,000 women, RU 486 is now available in France, Great Britain, China, and Sweden as a safe,effective method of early abortion.
During a goodwill trip through Southeastern Europe, Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the need to increase opportunities for women stating, "where women prosper, countries prosper." Noting that "much remains to be done" to advance women's rights in every country, including the United States, Rodham Clinton commented that Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular Turkish republic in 1923 "was ahead of his time in believing that women were vital to the progress of society." Speaking to Turkish business leaders, Rodham Clinton said, "If we provide more opportunity for women, we unleash the potential of women and men to cooperate, to work together, to be able to be the kind of democratic citizens that our world so desperately needs."
3/29/1996 - One-Third of U.S. Businesses are Owned by Women
New data from the Census Bureau has found that women own one-third of all U.S. businesses, employing 26 percent of the nation's work force. Sales from the 7.95 million women-owned businesses jumped 236 percent since 1987, and employment in those businesses rose to 18.5 million workers from only 6.6 million in 1987. According to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, the number of women-owned companies increased 78 percent in the last nine years while growth among U.S. firms was only 47 percent. The state with the largest number of women-owned businesses was California, and Nevada had the fastest rate of growth. Although the largest share of women-owned companies was in the service sector, growth was "explosive" in nontraditional industries such as construction.
A Washington Post article earlier this month indicated that in the greater Washington, D.C. area, women-owned businesses accounted for 39 percent of businesses in the region in 1992. Specialists attribute the higher numbers to the presence of the federal government and credit affirmative action programs for the overall increasing numbers.
According to an international Gallup poll on gender and society, many people feel their countries would be better governed if more women were in political office. No country said that its government would be less effective with more women involved. Released Tuesday (3-26), the poll showed that a majority of respondents in 12 of the 22 countries believed that women still do not experience equal job opportunities, though a majority of respondents indicated they would prefer a male boss. Only six of the countries favored a "traditional" family structure where only one parent worked. The poll was conducted from August to November in Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America.
3/29/1996 - Motor Voter" Registers One Million Each Month
According to HumanSERVE, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, about 11 million people have registered to vote or have updated voting records under the "motor voter" law that went into effect on January 1,1995. The 1993 law forces states to make voter registration accessible through motor vehicle administrations, welfare and disability agencies, the US mail and military recruitment offices . An estimated 20 million people will have registered in this manner by the November 1996 elections. Currently over half of the registrations through National Voter Registration Act come through motor vehicle business such as getting a driver's license.
A number of states did not immediately implement the National Voter Registration Act , and a hearing is still pending in Michigan. The law became effective in the state of Virginia just three weeks ago, and already 6,000 new voters have registered. HumanSERVE says the 1 million a month national rate is the highest since registration practices were established in the late 19th century.
3/28/1996 - Stalker Released By Police Kills Woman, Himself
On March 10 the ex-boyfriend of Karen Mitsoff, a respected teacher in Alexandria, VA broke into Mitsoff’s condominium and threatened to kill her and himself. The stalker, Fisseha Senbet was later charged with burglarly and released on $2500 bond. On Monday (3-25), Mitsoff made good on his threat, breaking into Mitsoff’s home and fatally shooting her before killing himself. The tragedy prompted the city’s chief prosecutor to call for tougher strategies to combat domestic violence. Althought Senbet’s threats were noted in the court file, prosecutors made no attempts to ask for a longer jail stay because they said he had no known criminal record or history of mental illness. According to Virginia’s anti-stalking law, judges can set high bonds or order suspects held for counseling if there is evidence of a threat. Chief District Judge O’Flaterty chose to release Senbet on a low bond amount without mandating any form of counseling.
3/28/1996 - House Passes Abortion Ban
In a vote of 286-129, the House of Representatives voted Thursday (3-28) to approve a controversial bill that would outlaw a rare form of late-term abortion used to save the life, health, or future fertility of the woman carrying the fetus. The vote fell primarily along party lines with 72 Democrats joining 214 Republicans is supporting the measure which has enough votes in the House to override an expected presidential veto. The number of votes in the Senate is not likely to meet the two-thirds required to override the veto.
President Clinton has said he will veto the measure because the House version makes no exception to take into account neither the life nor the health of the woman; the Senate version allows for rare exceptions. The bill would lead to fines up to $250,000 and two years in prison for doctors who perform the procedure, and it provides only narrow exceptions for not applying the penalties if the procedure is "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury." Opponents to the bill say that the pregnancy itself, not generally considered a disorder, illness or injury, could also endanger the life of the woman. Opponents also say the ban is unconstitutional and would chip away at reproductive rights established in Roe v. Wade.
3/28/1996 - Domestic Assault Victims Get Help from INS
On Tuesday (3-26), the Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a new rule to allow battered spouses and children to apply for permanent residence in the USA on their own. The rule is aimed at preventing abusive husbands or wives from holding the victims of their abuse captive. According to officials, close to 400 applications from battered spouses and children are awaiting action.