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6/30/2014 - BREAKING: SCOTUS Decides Corporations Have Religious Liberty, Women Do Not In Choosing Birth Control

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 30, 2014 WASHINGTON -- In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. today in a major blow to reproductive rights for women across the nation.

"Today's decision not only deprives women of comprehensive healthcare, but it sets a terrifying standard in affirming the "personhood" of corporations. In siding with Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court yet again affirms the personhood of corporations, giving closely-held (i.e. limited number of stockholders) corporations so-called religious liberty and taking religious freedom away from their employees at the expense of women's health," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. "This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of religious liberty and women's rights."

A majority of Americans agree that women should have access to affordable birth control and support full coverage of birth control as a preventive service. "The Supreme Court ignored, not only public opinion, but individual rights of women to religious freedom," Smeal continued.

Hobby Lobby, a for-profit national craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood, a wood cabinet manufacturer, challenged the benefit and sought to give religious freedom to corporations rather than give women the right to truly affordable and comprehensive health care. The Supreme Court case is the first for-profit challenge to the law to make it to the highest court.

HIGHLIGHTS YOU SHOULD KNOW:


  • At least 14% of all women using a contraceptive are doing so to treat painful conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, severe cramps.

  • Studies have shown that the pill reduces the incidence of ovarian and endometrial cancers.

  • As many as 88% of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used some form of contraception.



The Feminist Majority Foundation has worked diligently for affordable contraceptive access for all women. This decision is a blow to women who work for corporations who claim to have religious views that trump the religious views of their employees. The Affordable Care Act still provides for the vast majority of women who have insurance coverage birth control access without co-pays or deductibles.

###


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2014
Contact: J.T. Johnson,jjohnson@feminist.org, 703-522-2214 (office), 703-522-2214 (cell)


6/30/2014 - BREAKING: SCOTUS Decides Corporations Have Religious Liberty, Women Do Not In Choosing Birth Control

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 30, 2014 WASHINGTON -- In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. today in a major blow to reproductive rights for women across the nation.

"Today's decision not only deprives women of comprehensive healthcare, but it sets a terrifying standard in affirming the "personhood" of corporations. In siding with Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court yet again affirms the personhood of corporations, giving closely-held (i.e. limited number of stockholders) corporations so-called religious liberty and taking religious freedom away from their employees at the expense of women's health," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. "This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of religious liberty and women's rights."

A majority of Americans agree that women should have access to affordable birth control and support full coverage of birth control as a preventive service. "The Supreme Court ignored, not only public opinion, but individual rights of women to religious freedom," Smeal continued.

Hobby Lobby, a for-profit national craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood, a wood cabinet manufacturer, challenged the benefit and sought to give religious freedom to corporations rather than give women the right to truly affordable and comprehensive health care. The Supreme Court case is the first for-profit challenge to the law to make it to the highest court.

HIGHLIGHTS YOU SHOULD KNOW:


  • At least 14% of all women using a contraceptive are doing so to treat painful conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, severe cramps.

  • Studies have shown that the pill reduces the incidence of ovarian and endometrial cancers.

  • As many as 88% of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse have used some form of contraception.


The Feminist Majority Foundation has worked diligently for affordable contraceptive access for all women. This decision is a blow to women who work for corporations who claim to have religious views that trump the religious views of their employees. The Affordable Care Act still provides for the vast majority of women who have insurance coverage birth control access without co-pays or deductibles.


###


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2014
Contact: J.T. Johnson,jjohnson@feminist.org, 703-522-2214 (office), 703-522-2214 (cell)


6/27/2014 - New York Women's Equality Act Stalled For A Second Time

For the second year in a row, the New York State legislature closed its legislative session without voting on the Women's Equality Act (WEA). Part of a 10-part legislative package introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in June of 2013, the Act focused on strengthening laws on equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.

Although the State Senate passed nine planks of the WEA as separate bills, the full act ultimately did not move forward because Senate Republicans opposed a provision that would codify Roe v. Wade in the state. The provision would ensure that a woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy and protect providers from prosecution. The State Assembly, which had voted to pass the omnibus WEA in January, then refused to vote on the separate bills unless all 10 of the Act's planks were passed. The WEA did not pass the Senate last year because of similar conflict over the abortion provision.

"Simply put, we find it shocking that such a straightforward update of our state's abortion laws - nothing more than codifying Roe - could not garner enough votes to pass in our State Senate, even though 67 percent of New York voters supported it," said President of the National Organization for Women of New York City, Sonia Ossorio, in a statement. "While it is disappointing that we were not able to secure a critical update to our abortion law, women still deserve to see progress in other areas of their lives. There is a concrete opportunity to make a difference in the lives of New York's women and girls - and it is especially critical for women facing poverty, abuse, and discrimination."

Other planks in the full package include extending protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allowing the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ending employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, and strengthening order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state.


6/27/2014 - Federal Court Strikes Down Austin CPC Ordinance

A United States District Judge struck down a city ordinance in Austin, Texas that required Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) to post signage declaring that they do not offer medical care.

Judge Lee Yeakel ruled on Monday that the ordinance, approved by the Austin City Council in 2012 to provide clarity to potential clients unfamiliar with clinics in the area, is unconstitutionally vague and violates the centers' guarantee of due process, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The CPCs now do not have to tell visitors that they do not provide actual medical care.

CPCs pose as comprehensive women's health clinics and advertise under "abortion" and "family planning" services, but do not offer abortion services, contraception, or referrals. They often provide false information about abortion, birth control, and the effectiveness of condoms for the prevention of STIs and HIV. Ultimately, their tactics delay or intimidate women from receiving comprehensive medical care.


6/27/2014 - Most Media Missed Chance to Uncover Violent Undercurrents in McCullen

In the hours following the Supreme Court's ruling on "safety buffer zones", few mainstream media outlets called attention to the violence that necessitated them; but social media was awash with stories about violence, harassment, and intimidation at clinics.

Hashtags like #ProtectTheZone, #ClinicViolenceIsReal,#NotCounseling, #SCOTUSFail, #clinicthreats, #antichoiceterrorists--all appeared in thousands of tweets from firsthand victims of clinic violence. The Rachel Maddow Show was one of the only prominent cable media voices to immediately weigh in on the reason safety buffer zones came to be. "Let this paint a picture for you," Maddow opened.

Maddow went on to review the murders of doctors in Pensacola and an escort in Pensacola, as well as the murders of two young women in Brookline, Mass. clinics. She recounted the murders of 38-year-old Lee Ann Nichols, and 25-year-old, Shannon Lowney. Both women were clinic receptionists in Brookline, Mass. John C. Salvi killed Lowney and Nichols, and was captured a day later in Norfolk, Va, where he shot up a third reproductive health clinic.

Her guest, Marty Walz (President of the Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts) said of the Supreme Court decision, "They didn't do anything about their own buffer zone law, so apparently they think they have one set of rules, and women seeking healthcare should be subjected to a different set of rules."

Walz went on to say PPFA lawyers are reviewing the Supreme Court's decision, and they will frame a new buffer zone law that complies with the ruling.


6/26/2014 - Statement: SCOTUS Decision Endangers Women And Healthcare Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) is outraged by the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a Massachusetts buffer zone law as unconstitutional.

"The lives of doctors and clinic staff are being threatened as we speak," said Feminist Majority Foundation President, Eleanor Smeal. "This decision emboldens more extreme violence, harassment, and intimidation of women and health care providers in the name of free speech."

"The Court's decision failed to acknowledge that the Massachusetts law was enacted after the murder of two clinic receptionists, Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38, by anti-abortion extremist John Salvi at two separate clinics in Brookline. Five other people were wounded in the attacks."

"The Court wants to believe that these anti-abortion protestors are merely 'sidewalk counselors', but let us not forget that initially Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller, acted as a 'sidewalk counselor' to gain information about vulnerabilities of the clinic; Paul Hill, who killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort, James Barrett, outside a Pensacola clinic was a 'sidewalk counselor' first. Hill was mistakenly thought to be handing them a leaflet. Instead he delivered lethal bullets."

"Even with today's outcome, we shudder to think that this decision could've been worse. Four Justices would have gone even further. Three Justices--Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy--would overturn the Colorado buffer zone established by Colorado v. Hill. That ruling establishes an even narrower, 8-foot, floating buffer zone around individual patients."

"Thankfully, a majority of the Court did not overturn Hill. Citing Madsen v. Women's Health Clinic, the Court also stated a preference for court-ordered injunctions around individual clinics."

"But the problem with injunctions is that women and health workers must first endure harassment and intimidation. Why must harassment, intimidation and terror have to be endured before women's constitutional rights are protected?

The Feminist Majority Foundation took Madsen to the Supreme Court. This Florida case establishing a buffer zone through an injunction was upheld by the Court in 1994 and in today's decision.

###


The Feminist Majority Foundation conducts the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP). To date, FMF has trained over 60,000 volunteers how to keep clinics open. NCAP is the largest project in the nation defending clinics against violence. NCAP provides legal support to reproductive health clinics across the country, and provides security assessments and equipment to targeted providers.Click here to support NCAP today.




Contact: J.T. Johnson
jjohnson@feminist.org
703-522-2214


6/26/2014 - SCOTUS Decision Endangers Women And Healthcare Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2014
Contact: J.T. Johnson,jjohnson@feminist.org,703-522-2214


Today, the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) is outraged by the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a Massachusetts buffer zone law as unconstitutional. The following is a statement by our Founder and President, Eleanor Smeal.




The lives of doctors and clinic staff are being threatened as we speak. This decision emboldens more extreme violence, harassment, and intimidation of women and health care providers in the name of free speech.

The Court's decision failed to acknowledge that the Massachusetts law was enacted after the murder of two clinic receptionists, Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38, by anti-abortion extremist John Salvi at two separate clinics in Brookline. Five other people were wounded in the attacks.

The Court wants to believe that these anti-abortion protestors are merely "sidewalk counselors", but let us not forget that initially Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller, acted as a "sidewalk counselor" to gain information about vulnerabilities of the clinic; Paul Hill, who killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort, James Barrett, outside a Pensacola clinic was a "sidewalk counselor" first. Hill was mistakenly thought to be handing them a leaflet. Instead he delivered lethal bullets.

Even with today's outcome, we shudder to think that this decision could've been worse. Four Justices would have gone even further. Three Justices--Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy--would overturn the Colorado buffer zone established by Colorado v. Hill. That ruling establishes an even narrower, 8-foot, floating buffer zone around individual patients.

Thankfully, a majority of the Court did not overturn Hill. Citing Madsen v. Women's Health Clinic, the Court also stated a preference for court-ordered injunctions around individual clinics.

But the problem with injunctions is that women and health workers must first endure harassment and intimidation. Why must harassment, intimidation and terror have to be endured before women's constitutional rights are protected?

The Feminist Majority Foundation took Madsen to the Supreme Court. This Florida case establishing a buffer zone through an injunction was upheld by the Court in 1994 and in today's decision.

###


The Feminist Majority Foundation conducts the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP). To date, FMF has trained over 60,000 volunteers how to keep clinics open. NCAP is the largest project in the nation defending clinics against violence. NCAP provides legal support to reproductive health clinics across the country, and provides security assessments and equipment to targeted providers. Click here to support NCAP today.


6/25/2014 - House Committee Approves Extending Abortion Coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers

The House Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2015 State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill yesterday with an amendment to remove a provision banning the Peace Corps from funding abortions for its volunteers, even in cases of rape or incest.

Unlike other employees with federal health care plans - including Peace Corps employees - Peace Corps volunteers currently do not have access to abortion coverage even in cases of rape, incest, or endangered health or life. The Republican-controlled committee had blocked previous efforts to repeal this restriction, but yesterday the amendment passed by a voice vote with bipartisan support. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve an identical amendment last week. The full House and Senate must now vote on the FY 2015 appropriations legislation for the repeal to go into effect.

"With today's vote, no longer will women in the Peace Corps be denied coverage for abortion care after they've been raped or when they face life-threatening pregnancy complications," said Nancy Northop, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "And no longer will they have to face the indignity of being forced to pay for essential medical care with their own limited resources." Peace Corps volunteers, more than 60 percent of whom are women, receive only a small stipend of $250-$300 per month.

Although the Peace Corps amendment was a victory for reproductive health and rights, the House Appropriations Committee failed to pass three other amendments that would have improved US funding for reproductive health programs. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced an amendment to strike the Global Gag Rule from the appropriations bill. The Global Gag Rule prohibits foreign organizations who received US funds from counseling, advocating, or making referrals on abortion. That amendment failed by 19-25 vote.

"Year after year, Republicans attempt to reinstate the Global Gag Rule. This policy endangers the lives of low-income women around the world by denying funds for critical health services," said Lee in a statement. "I remain committed to the fight to prevent this dangerous policy from being reinstated."

Amendments offered by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to remove restrictions on US funding for UNFPA, and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) to strike language that caps overall funding for international family planning and reproductive health at no more than $461 million - a 25 percent cut from the 2014 level of $610 million - were also defeated.

If passed, these amendments to the appropriations bill would have improved, or even saved, the lives of thousands of women and girls around the world. Approximately 99 percent of pregnancy related deaths occur in the developing world. Each year, 529,000 women and girls die worldwide due to complications related to pregnancy, and millions more are left maimed or injured. In addition, some 70,000 women and girls die annually from unsafe, often illegal abortions.


6/25/2014 - TRAP Law Shuts Down North Alabama Clinic

Before the week is out, another Alabama clinic will shut its doors thanks to the state's TRAP bill, set to take effect July 1.

Last April, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed the Women's Health and Safety Act. The TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law requires reproductive health clinics to create wider hallways to accommodate gurneys, and state-of-the-art fire suppression systems. Clinics have to begin making changes within 180 days of the law's effective date. The new zoning regulations are the same for ambulatory surgical centers, but the cost of such renovations leaves smaller reproductive health clinics crunched for time and money.

"It will be a sad day for us to close our doors, because it means women of North Alabama will no longer have access to the multiple health care services we provide, not just abortions," Dalton Johnson told WAFF-TV. Johnson is the clinic administrator for the Alabama Women's Center in Huntsville, Ala. The clinic is the first in the state to choose to surrender its license, according to The Huntsville Times. The decision came after state inspectors declaredthe clinic would need "moderate to significant alterations" to stay in compliance with the new law. Once the Alabama Women's Center shuts its doors, the closest clinic in Alabama for women in Huntsville is a Planned Parenthood nearly two hours south in Birmingham, with only a handful of clinics remaining statewide.

According to The Huntsville Times, Johnson told the state health department the clinic wanted to relocate to a medical office building in downtown Huntsville. State health officials said those blueprints are still under review. If the new site is approved, however, the clinic would need to reapply for a provider license.


6/24/2014 - Strong Support For IVAWA and CEDAW in Senate Hearing

In an iconic display of support, eight women Senators testified today at a Senate subcommittee hearing in support of the need to take action against violence against women globally. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues, made clear that to fully address violence against women the Senate must pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Testifying at the hearing today were Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

"You can't see it, but there's a line outside," said Sen. Heitkamp before beginning her testimony.

The committee room was standing room only, packed with women leaders and activists, and a long line of supporters - who were never able to enter the room - gathered at the door to hear testimony from the women Senators, US Ambassador for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell, USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Susan Markham, Promundo International Director Gary Barker, Institute for Inclusive Security Director Jacqueline O'Neill, and Nigerian human rights attorney Hauwa Ibrahim, an expert on sharia law who spoke about the still-missing Chibok girls abducted by terrorist group Boko Haram in April.

The hearing, entitled Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action," focused on the epidemic of violence against women around the world, and called on the Senate to take action on two tools to help reduce violence and advance the status of women: IVAWA and CEDAW.

"The United States ratification of the CEDAW treaty would not only enhance its status, but also make it a more effective tool in combating violence against women," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "The women of the world are looking to the US for leadership on this issue. We can no longer remain silent."

That point was continuously emphasized in the hearing, especially by Nigerian attorney Hauwa Ibrahim, who departed from her prepared statements to put the United States' role in this worldwide fight in perspective: "You are indeed a beacon of hope, and a city on a hill. The passing of IVAWA and CEDAW would lighten our load."

Ambassador Russell stated unequivocally that the Obama Administration supports ratification of CEDAW. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also stated his support, as well as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Both are co-sponsors of IVAWA, introduced in the Senate by Senator Boxer, and in the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

The Feminist Majority joins 74 organizations in thanking Sen. Boxer for holding these important hearings and taking a significant step toward moving the United States to action on this human rights crisis.

See the Feminist Majority's full release on today's hearing here.


6/24/2014 - President Obama Highlights Women's Economic Agenda at White House Summit

President Obama addressed a packed audience Monday at the White House Summit on Working Families to support policies aimed at helping women workers and their families achieve greater economic stability.

Declaring that when women succeed, America succeeds, the President highlighted several items on the Women's Economic Agenda - an agenda promoted by major women's leadership organizations such as the National Women's Law Center, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Organization for Women, and the Feminist Majority, and championed by the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT), the ranking member of the US House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

"It was thrilling to see the White House focusing national attention on desperately needed public policies for employed women and men of paid family leave, paid sick days, raising the minimum wage, and accessible, affordable child care," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "Of course these policies disproportionately affect employed women who still provide the lion's share of care giving in our nation."

"We've been working to gain these programs for 40 years. It's long overdue," continued Smeal. "Women are half of our nation's paid workforce, and we can't pretend any longer that these programs are a luxury. Every day without action means that millions of women, their families, and their loved ones suffer needlessly."

President Obama specifically called on Congress to pass legislation providing paid family leave. "There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us," said the President. "And that is not the list you want to be on by your lonesome. It's time to change that, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for their families."

The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Leave Act(FAMILY Act), introduced by Congresswoman DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would permit employees to earn up to 12 weeks of paid family leave each year through the creation of a national insurance fund.

The President also focused on raising the federal minimum wage, the importance of fair labor practices for pregnant women "because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job," and on accessible child care. "Many women can't even get a paid day off to give birth," he said, "now that's a pretty low bar." President Obama also announced at the Summit that he would sign a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to expand flexible workplace policies.

In his remarks, however, the President made clear that these policy changes were also personal. "I was raised by strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. I saw what it was like for a single mom who was trying to go to school and work at the same time," said the President. "And most of all, I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies. And I want them to be able to have families. And I want them to be able to have careers. And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them. And I want a society that supports that."

The White House Summit on Working Families convened Monday to promote "creating a 21st century workplace" for all Americans. The Summit featured President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, Executive Director of the White House Council of Women and Girls Tina Tchen, and US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, among others.


6/23/2014 - White House Holds Summit on Working Families

The White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Labor, and the Center for American Progress are hosting a Summit on Working Families today to discuss "creating a 21st century workplace that works for all Americans." The Summit will address ways to strengthen the economic security of working families through the creation of policies that promote, among other things, equal pay, paid leave, elder care, and affordable and accessible child care.

"At a time when women make up about half of America's workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back," Obama said in his weekly address Saturday about the Summit. "But these aren't just problems for women. Men also care about who's watching their kids. They're rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays. Lots of sons help care for aging parents. And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby's first weeks in the world."

Addressing the Summit, President Obama announced that he would sign a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to expand flexible workplace policies to the maximum extent possible. The Memorandum will clarify that federal workers may request a flexible work schedule and that agencies must establish procedures to address such requests.

This latest executive action follows several other actions the President has taken this year to improve policies for working families, including issuing an executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors, signing two executive actions on equal pay, banning discrimination against LGBT employees, and planning an expansion of sick leave for same-sex couples.

Ahead of the Summit, the White House released two reports on working families. "Nine Facts about American Families at Work" and "The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave" provide updated research on the modern American family and detail the widespread need for more leave, both paid and unpaid.

You can watch the Summit live at workingfamiliessummit.org and follow The Feminist Majority tweets on the event @femmajority.


6/23/2014 - Senate Subcommittee to Tackle Violence Against Women Globally

Engaging the US in the global fight to end gender-based violence will take center stage tomorrow as part of a Senate subcommittee hearing aimed at fully combating violence and discrimination against women worldwide.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Foreign RelationsSubcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues hearingwill preside over the hearing at which several women Senators will testify, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

The Senate Subcommittee hearing will focus on how the US and the international community can work to prevent violence against women, promote women's rights, and empower women and girls globally. Senator Boxer introduced the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) in May as a step toward reducing violence against women worldwide. The international community has also used the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), also known as the Women's Treaty, as a tool to fight violence against women globally. Although 187 countries have ratified the treaty, the US has not, joining Iran, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga, and Palau in its failure to ratify CEDAW.

Gender-based violence is the most widespread human rights violation around the world. According to the World Health Organization at least 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime, although some national studies show prevalence rates as high as 70%. In conflict zones, women are more susceptible to rape, which has been systematically used as a weapon of war. Child marriage also continues to be a scourge. More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides who suffer from sexual assault and life-threatening early pregnancy. One in nine girls in the developing world are married before age 15, and 90% of pregnancies to girls under age 18 occur within child marriage according to a recent UNFPA report.

Follow @FemMajority for live tweets during tomorrow's hearing, starting at 9:45am.You can also watch the webcast.


6/20/2014 - UK Religious Groups Unite to Condemn Female Genital Mutilation

Community and religious leaders in the United Kingdom came together this week to condemn the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The Church of England and the Muslim Women's Network UK were two of 160 groups who supported the announcement denouncing FGM as a form of violence against women and a denial of women's human rights not supported by religious doctrine. The groups will sign a joint declaration condemning FGM - currently a criminal offense in the UK - during the government's Girl Summit in July.

"No girl or woman should ever be forced to choose between her safety and her religious community and tradition and it is our sacred obligation to be just agents of change against this unjust practice," said Shahin Ashraf, Muslim Chaplain and National Network Coordinator for the Muslim Women's Network UK.

Sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision, FGM is the removal or cutting of part or all of a woman or girl's genitals. The practice, which is medically unnecessary, can lead to serious health issues such as infection, illness and death. FGM still affects up to 140 million women and girls worldwide, with an estimated 20,000 girls at risk in the UK.

The practice of FGM on girls under 18 was made a crime in the United States in 1996. The law was strengthened by President Obama in 2013 to make it a crime to transport a girl outside of the US for the purpose of subjecting her to FGM.


6/20/2014 - President Plans Expansion of Sick Leave For Same Sex Couples

The White House announced plans today to draft an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act that would ensure people in same sex couples can take unpaid leave to care for a sick spouse.

The new rules would apply even in states that don't recognize same-sex unions.

President Obama said he has instructed the Department of Labor to start writing rules for the new provision. According to the Wall Street Journal, the President will also push Congress to pass legislation qualifying same-sex couples for additional benefits that aren't extended to LGBT-identified employees and their spouses.

"We will work closely with Congress to ensure that veterans and elderly and disabled Americans can obtain for themselves or their spouses the essential benefits they have earned no matter where they live," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a memo.

The Department of Labor cites the Supreme Court's 2013 decision on same-sex marriage as the guiding influence on their proposed definition of a "spouse" under FMLA.

Earlier this week, the President announced he would issue an Executive Order calling for a ban on workplace discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors.


6/20/2014 - Michigan Democrats Aim to Repeal Law Requiring Separate Insurance Coverage of Abortion

Two Michigan lawmakers introduced state legislation to repeal a Michigan law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for abortion, even in cases of rape or when a women's health is endangered.

Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, the Senate Minority Leader, and State Representative Sarah Roberts, both Democrats, introduced the legislation this week. In December, the Michigan legislature passed a bill prohibiting insurance companies in the state from offering abortion coverage in both public and private health plans, except when the woman’s life is at risk, and requires employers and individuals who want coverage to buy extra policies.

"This regressive law hurts women when they are most vulnerable and puts unreasonable barriers between them and the health care they need,” said Roberts. "Prohibiting insurance companies and employers from doing what’s best for the women they serve and care for is wrong and must be stopped immediately.”

Whitmer, who disclosed her own experience with sexual assault when fighting to garner opposition to the law, called it “one of the most misogynistic laws I’ve ever seen.” She explained, “It’s downright insulting to expect Michigan women to anticipate and financially plan for rape, incest or a miscarriage. This law should never have been enacted in the first place, and wouldn’t have if it had gone to the voters of Michigan, but the time to repeal it is now."

As intended, the law severely limits insurance coverage for comprehensive women's reproductive health care. Michigan has 42 health insurers, but only 7 offer the supplemental abortion insurance rider. The rider, however, is also only available to a subset of Michigan women: those who have employer-sponsored health plans. According to Whitmer and Roberts, women who buy insurance on their own have no access to abortion coverage.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R ) vetoed the abortion insurance ban 2012, but pro-choice opponents, led by Michigan Right to Life, circumvented the veto and collected enough petition signatures to send the measure back to the legislature, which approved the ban largely along party lines.


6/19/2014 - US Labor Secretary Speaks Out In Support of Paid Family Leave

US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in an interview Wednesday that paid family leave is one of the most critical issue facing working families today.

"So many people don't have the luxury of taking an hour away from the workplace to attend indispensable family commitments," Perez said on HuffPo Live Wednesday. "What we have to do right now, is again, bring our policies into the 21st century." The US Labor Secretary said he was allowed to skip a Cabinet meeting recently for a more important appointment: his daughter's graduation.

On Monday, the White House will convene its Summit on Working Families. The event will address equal pay, the federal minimum wage, paid leave, and a host of other challenges.

According to a United Nations survey of countries, the US is one of only four countries without paid family leave and one of only three that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave. Rep. Carolyn Maloney's (D-NY) Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act allows four weeks of paid leave after the birth or placement of a child; the FAMILY Act, introduced in December 2013 by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would grant up to 12 weeks of paid family medical leave to millions of workers. Both pieces of legislation are stalled in Congress.


6/19/2014 - American Apparel CEO Dov Charney Fired Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Following sexual misconduct allegations, American Apparel's founder and Chief Operating Officer Dov Charney has been fired.

The company's executive board voted Wednesday to remove Charney from the position. John Luttrell, American Apparel's executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer will be taking over Charney's position during the interim, according to NPR.

The sexual misconduct allegations surfaced back in 2008, according to NPR. Former employee Irene Morales was forced to perform sexual acts on Charney at his apartment shortly after she turned 18, under the threat of otherwise losing her job, reported Reuters. In the 2011 story, Reuters reported that Morales' lawyer, Eric Baum, stated that Charney was abusing his power.

"Victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace often don't take action to protect themselves," Baum said. "This does not give Dov Charney the right to sexually assault and abuse his employees."

NPR also reported on the other sexual misconduct allegations - totaling four - Charney faced. One employee alleged Charney created a hostile work environment by using sexually explicit language and walking around in his underwear.


6/19/2014 - Activist Groups Allege Child Abuse by Border Agents

Immigration activist groups have filed a complaint against the US Customs and Border Protection agents, citing 116 allegations of child abuse at the US-Mexico border in Texas and Arizona.

The complaint includes the allegation that more than 80 percent of those child immigrants did not receive enough food and water, around half were not given medical care, and nearly one in four minors were abused physically. Unfortunately, the allegations don't end there. The activist groups, which include the National Immigrant Justice Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, are also alleging unsanitary conditions and the sexual abuse of children and the complaints say all of this has been going on for years.

"After completing a perilous journey into the United States, many are subjected to various forms of abuse, harassment and other harms at the hands of the Border Patrol," part of the complaint reads. "Children consistently reported being held in unsanitary, overcrowded and freezing-cold cells."

Chris Cabrera, a leader within the National Border Patrol Council, estimates that more than 60,000 of these unaccompanied minors have crossed the Mexican border into the US just this year. Often these children are coming to escape poverty or violence in Mexico or Central America and are hoping to join a parent who is already in the country. Many unaccompanied minors end up turning themselves in to Border Patrol in hopes of being helped into the US. The allegations come just a few days after the Obama administration assigned a third US military base to these unaccompanied child immigrants for emergency housing.

"Given these longstanding problems, and in light of the rising number of unaccompanied children seeking relief from dangerous conditions in their home countries," the complaint reads, "the need for broad and lasting agency reforms is clear."


6/18/2014 - Senate Set to Approve Rape Kit Backlog Funds

The Senate today is expected to approve $41 million in funding to process hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country.

The measure is part of the $51.2 billion Justice Department budget for 2015.The House passed the budget in May leaving the funds in tact.The bill has been up for consideration in the Senate since June 12, with a final vote expected today.

"Outrageous that 10s of thousands untested sex assault kits sitting in crime labs or police lockers, "Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) tweetedon Tuesday. "Victims must know they're not forgotten."

Critics of the funding question how the Justice Department is spending the money they already have. According to the Washington Post, the DOJ's main source of rape kit analysis fundingcomes from the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, a $1.5 billion federal program authorized by Congress in 2004 to "assess the extent of the backlog in DNA analysis of rape kit samples," but last summer, the Government Accountability Office found that a little more than half of those funds were appropriated from 2008 to 2012without any explicit description of how the money was spent. Last year, Congress required that 75 percent of Debbie Smith funding be devoted to DNA testing and rape kit auditing.

"Each box holds within it vital evidence that is crucial to the safety of women everywhere," Debbie Smith herself said to Congress in 2009 during a hearing on the rape kit backlog. "Can you imagine going through an exam like what goes on in one of those things for nothing? To know that you were just traumatized again, for it to sit on a shelf, it's not fair."

According to WXYZ in Detroit, authorities found 11,000 unprocessed rape kits in an abandoned Detroit Police storage facility in 2009. Authorities were able to identify over 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists after the first 1,600 were examined. Nationally, officials estimate there may be 400,000 unprocessed sex assault kits. In 2011, the Feminist Majority Foundation andMs.magazine launched the "No More Excuses" campaign to reduce the rape kit backlog.


6/18/2014 - Young Americans Healthier Under Affordable Care Act

Young adults in the United States are now more likely to report they are in good physical and mental health following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medial Association (JAMA).

Millions of young adults have gotten health insurance under the ACA, which includes a provision that allows individuals to remain covered under their parents' health insurance plans until they're 26. The study compared those 19 to 25, who now have the opportunity to be covered by their parents' plans, with those 26 - 34 who no longer qualify. The results showed young adults are now 7.2 percent more likely to have health insurance, 6.2 percent more likely to report "excellent physical health" and 4 percent more likely to say they are in "excellent mental health."

The health insurance that people are gaining seems to be doing what it is supposed to do, Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, the lead author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times.

This is not the first study to show the number of uninsured young adults in the US, and those who pay out-of-pocket for their insurance, declined greatly after the ACA's implementation in 2010. However, it is one of the first studies to examine how the ACA has broadly impacted Americans these last four years.

The provision extending coverage for young people is one of the most popular in the ACA. Often, even politicians who oppose the ACA are supportive of the extension provision.


6/18/2014 - New York Senate Passes Three Planks of Women's Equality Act, Defying Advocates for the Comprehensive Package

The New York state Senate passed three bills on Monday that are part of the omnibus Women's Equality Act introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in June of 2013. The chamber passed bills preventing discrimination based on family status, preventing housing discrimination against domestic violence victims, and demanding equal pay regardless of gender.

The Women's Equality Act, a 10-part legislative package, failed in the Senate last year when Republicans refused to support a plank that codifies Roe v. Wade and protects abortion providers from prosecution. In response, Senate Republicans introduced nine bills that directly mirrored the WEA - but failed to reproduce the abortion provision as a piece of legislation.

The three bills will now move to the Assembly, where members are divided on which strategy they will support for moving the package through the chamber. Although Assembly members are now requesting that the package be debated and passed as 10 separate bills, Assembly leaders and a coalition of women's groups in the state have refused to take them up individually and are demanding they be passed as a comprehensive package instead. The three bills add pressure to Assembly leadership and members to forgo the package in favor of passing individual planks from the WEA instead.

Other planks in the full package include extending protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allowing the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ending employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, and strengthening order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state. Advocates who remain committed to passing the omnibus bill insist that the issues represented in the planks intersect and therefore must be passed together rather than individually, especially because the latter strategy puts the abortion plank at risk of being ultimately forgone.

A poll in June 2013 found that two-thirds of voters in New York supported the package with the abortion plank included, with support divided evenly among men and women.


6/17/2014 - Obama to Issue Executive Order Banning Discrimination Against LGBT Employees

The Obama administration announced yesterday that the President will issue an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for any contractor or subcontractor who does at least $10,000 worth of business with the federal government within one year.


The executive order is expected to cover 28 million workers in total, including an estimated one in five LGBT employees nationally, and reach into the 29 states where no protections for LGBT workers currently exist.

The White House plans to host a meeting Thursday afternoon on the executive order. According to a White House official, the order "will build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This is consistent with the president�s views that all Americans, LGBT or not, should be treated with dignity and respect.�

Although 9 out of 10 voters believe that federal law already prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees, there is no federal law that addresses LGBT workers. In November, the Senate voted 64-32 to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination due to gender identity or sexual orientation in the work place, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has refused to bring the bill to a vote on the House floor.


6/17/2014 - Pakistan Metropolis Gets First Female Police Chief

Syeda Ghazala made history this week as the first woman to become chief of police in Pakistan's largest city.

In 2011, Pakistan was rated the third-most dangerous country for women. Karachi still ranks as one of the top 10 most violent cities in the world. Now, Ghazala manages a 100-unit police force, made up of only men, in Clifton, a Karachi suburb with a population of more than 18 million people.

"My husband opposed my decision to join the police force 20 years ago," Ghazala told the Associated Press. The 44-year-old mother earned the highest score during the training promotion, besting her male colleagues. She says of the new job, "It was a big challenge. I was a little bit hesitant to accept it."

The promotion is evidence of a larger shift in thinking about women in leadership across Pakistan. Senior leadership in Ghazala's unit want to see more women joining the force in non-traditional roles. "Our society accepts only stereotype roles for women," senior police officer Abdul Khaliq Sheik said. "There is a perception that women are suitable only for particular professions like teaching."

According to the Associated Press, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, women do run police forces, but only in stations specifically designed to help female victims.


6/17/2014 - Anti-Choice Group May Challenge Law Prohibiting False Political Speech

The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) could challenge an Ohio state law prohibiting "false statements" in political campaign speech.

The Ohio law makes it a crime to offer false statements during an election campaign. Under the law, any person who posts, publishes, or distributes "a false statement" about a political candidate, either "knowing" the statement to be false "or with reckless disregard" of whether the statement was true or not could be punished with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 for the first violation. Over a dozen states have laws criminalizing false political campaign speech.

SBA, joined by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), attempted to challenge the Ohio law in federal court but both the district court and the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that the challenge could not go forward in the courts because neither group had suffered a concrete injury under the law. The Supreme Court's unanimous decision means that the case can now go forward.

SBA sought to challenge the law after the Ohio Elections Commission found probable cause that the group had made false statements about a political candidate during the 2010 election cycle. SBA issued a press release and planned to display a billboard stating that former Congressman Steve Driehaus, then running for office, had voted for "taxpayer-funded abortion" by voting for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Driehaus filed a complaint with the Commission but withdrew his complaint after he lost the November election. SBA then filed a complaint in federal court to challenge the Ohio statute on First Amendment grounds. COAST filed a separate suit, which was then consolidated with the SBA case, alleging that it wanted to publish similar materials but feared prosecution.

The Supreme Court, in allowing the case to go forward, found that neither SBA nor COAST had to wait until they were prosecuted under the law before challenging its constitutionality. It was sufficient that both groups intended to continue making statements about abortion and the ACA in future election cycles and that these statements would open them up to proceedings by the Elections Commission and possible criminal prosecution.

The Supreme Court made no finding yesterday on whether the Ohio law is constitutional or whether SBA's statements on "taxpayer-funded abortion" were in fact false. The decision only means that the case against the Ohio law can be litigated in court. This is not the first time, however, that anti-choice activists have attempted to obfuscate the ACA and abortion.