This #GivingTuesday, Fight for Women’s Rights!

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day when people around the world show their support for the organizations and causes they believe in. Today, you can help keep clinics safe, broaden girls’ access to education, end violence against women, and advance women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBT rights around the world by making a tax-deductible donation to the Feminist Majority Foundation.

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Your support helps ensure we can do the best we can keep up the fight for equality. We couldn’t do it without you. Whether it’s a one-time donation or a recurring gift, every dollar fuels progress for women and girls around the world.

It’s Not Too Late: We’re Extending Our Pink Friday Sale!

 

We extended our Pink Friday sale! You can still save 20% on your entire purchase entering the code PINKFRIDAY14 at checkout at the Feminist Store

Unfortunately, this discount does not apply to Ms. magazine subscriptions.

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal Responds to Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

The following is the statement of Eleanor Smeal, the Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation:

“The Feminist Majority Foundation is outraged at the decision not to indict Darren Wilson.

This should have been a public trial. Wilson should have been charged immediately after the shooting of Michael Brown, who was shot at least six times and left unattended to in the streets of Ferguson for at least four hours.

If Brown, who was an unarmed Black teenager, can’t get justice when the entire world is watching, how can any other Black person expect to receive justice if shot by a white police officer?

If this was an isolated case it would still be an atrocity, but it is not. There is a pattern and practice of police brutality against people of color in the United States, especially against Black women and men. Let us not forget the 13 Black women who were raped and sexually assaulted by an on-duty Oklahoma City police officer. In just the last two weeks, 2 more Black women, Tanesha Anderson and Aura Rosser, were gunned down by officers in Ohio and Michigan, respectively.

Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor in the Brown case has never indicted any police officer involved in any shooting and chose to slow walk this case. He used a secretive grand jury, instead of charging the officer and allowing this to be a public trial.

This is a grave injustice. The failure to hold a public trial disrespects the African American majority in Ferguson that peacefully demanded transparency. The Black community’s legitimate grievances have been disrespected. Instead, Ferguson and Missouri have acted with a militarized response from day one, until today when the Governor has called out both the National Guard and declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the decision.

We urge the Prosecutor to honor his word to release all evidence produced in front of the Grand Jury. Now more than ever, the Department of Justice Civil Rights investigation and action is needed as soon as possible.

Ferguson has put the nation on edge because this is not simply about Ferguson, but it is about a broader US experience of a culture of impunity surrounding members of law enforcement in dealing with African Americans and Latinos. “There is now testimony from a large coalition of American citizens representing Black constituencies from not only Ferguson, but also Chicago, Miami, Ohio, and other areas with the United Nations Committee Against Torture to classify this pattern of excessive police force as a form of torture in the United States, not only on the street, but also in prisons.”

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Federal Appeals Court Rejects Priests for Life Challenge to Birth Control Coverage Rule

In a victory for women’s health, a unanimous panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Friday rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive coverage benefit brought by Priests for Life, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington and other religiously affiliated non-profit organizations.

Judge Nina Pillard, a former law professor who was nominated to the DC Circuit by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in December, wrote the opinion for the Court, which found that the ACA birth control benefit did not substantially burden or violate non-profits’ religious freedom.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies must cover the full cost of all FDA-approved contraceptives – including the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception – without requiring co-pays or cost-sharing. Religious employers, like churches, are entirely exempt from this requirement. Religiously affiliated non-profit organizations that object to providing birth control coverage to their employees, are entitled to an accommodation. These non-profits must only inform their health insurance issuer, third party administrator, or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of its objection. At that point, these organizations are no longer required to play a role in providing or subsidizing birth control. The insurance issuer or third party administrator would be solely responsible for providing birth control benefits to affected employees.

The DC Circuit panel found that this accommodation – which the plaintiffs in Priests for Life claimed would violate their religious beliefs – put no substantial burden on religious non-profits exercise of religious freedom.

“All Plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two page form. That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations” compliance with law in the modern administrative state,” wrote Judge Pillard. “Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms.”

The fact that others may provide contraceptive coverage to these religious non-profits’ employees did not mean that the non-profits were aggrieved under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). According to the Court, there is “no RFRA right to be free from the unease” of knowing that third parties may “act in ways their religion abhors.”

The decision also pointed out that the religious accommodation provided the least restrictive means to achieve a compelling government interest – namely, ensuring women’s health and providing to women the equal benefit of the preventive care coverage guaranteed by the ACA. Judge Pillard specifically noted that “The contraceptive coverage requirement derives from the ACA’s prioritization of preventive care, and from Congress recognition that such care has often been modeled on men’s health needs and thus left women underinsured.”

Directly after the ruling, Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life indicated that the group would continue to challenge the law. “The court is wrong,” he said, “and we will not obey the mandate.”

The DC Circuit is the third federal appeals court to reject non-profits’ challenge to the accommodation. This decision is the first appeals decision since the US Supreme Court decided Burwell v. Hobby Lobby this summer. The Feminist Majority Foundation, along with 12 other national and local organizations, joined an amicus brief, submitted by the National Women’s Law Center in support of the birth control benefit rule in the DC Circuit case.

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Oklahoma City Police Officer Charged With 36 Counts of Sexual Assault Will Go to Trial

After a two-day preliminary hearing, an Oklahoma state court judge ordered that Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer, will stand trial for sexually assaulting 13 African-American women while on duty.

Holtzclaw is charged with 36 counts of sexual assault, including six counts of first-degree rape, and multiple counts of forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery, and indecent exposure.

During the hearing, all 13 women gave testimony against the police officer, who is alleged to have used his power as an officer to commit these crimes. One woman testified that she was forced to perform sexual acts: “It was either that or the county jail.” Another woman testified, “He was an officer. And I was scared. And I knew he could hurt me.”

A 17-year old girl also offered testimony that Holtzclaw, after threatening her with arrest, pulled down her shorts and forced her to have sex with him on the front porch of her mother’s home. “What am I going to do? Call the cops? He was a cop,” she testified. “I was afraid of what could happen to me if I was snitching.” Prosecutors introduced DNA evidence found inside of Holtzclaw’s pants matching that of the girl.

Another woman testified that Holtzclaw stopped her as she was walking through her neighborhood. The 52-year-old said the officer put his hands under her blouse, and when she resisted, he put his hand in her pants. After this, she said Holtzclaw told her, “OK, you don’t have anything in there. You can go.”

Police began investigating Holtzclaw after one of the survivors reported an assault in June. The other 12 women had not reported Holtzclaw until they were contacted by detectives investigating the June assault. Many of the women feared reprisal or that they would not be believed.

“Who are they going to believe?” the 17-year old told the court. “It’s my word against his. He’s a police officer.”

In their written testimony to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the Black Women’s Blueprint referenced the Holtzclaw case as symptomatic of a larger pattern of practice among law enforcement officials in the US that most often plays out in communities of color. In their report, they highlighted that despite the fact that black women and racially-mixed black women are more often the victims of rape than their white counterparts, they are much less likely to get a conviction for a sex crime.

Holtclaw has pleaded not guilty. He remains out on $609,000 bail. During the hearing on Tuesday, protesters outside of the courthouse called on the court to rescind bail.

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Tell TIME: “Feminist” Isn’t Your Word to Ban!

TIME has decided to include the word “feminist” in its annual “worst words” poll, alongside words like “bae,” “basic,” “turnt,” and “yaaasssss.” And we’re not buying it. If you’re not either, sign the petition.

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“Feminist” is an important word, not a meme. In fact, millions of women and men around the world who believe in the social, economic, and political equality of all women identify as “feminist” – including Taylor Swift, who is currently on TIME’s cover. So we don’t really care if the word makes a few people at TIME “cringe,” or if celebrities publicly coming out as feminists annoys them. Actually, we think it’s about time so many people are talking about feminism and how to achieve equality.

If TIME is annoyed with a word that represents saving women’s lives, fighting for equality, and ending violence against women, then there’s something wrong with TIME – and not with the word “feminist.” Tell TIME that “feminist” is not their word to ban.

Pentagon Launches Largest Ever Military Sexual Assault Survey

The Pentagon is conducting its largest-ever report of sexual assault in the military this year, with over half a million active-duty troops being called on to submit responses.

The report, to be conducted this year, will be issued online to all 200,000 active-duty servicewomen and 300,000 servicemen.

The Pentagon hired professional Rand Corp to create and distribute the poll in the hopes of getting more responses than ever before. “Rand’s survey methodology will allow the department to accurately compate data among all previous surveys so that we can semlessly asses progress the department is making in preventing and responding to the crime of sexual assault,” says Army Major James Brindle, a spokesperson for the Pentagon.

“Great care was taken to obtain a representative sample,” says Rand Corps spokesperson Jeffrey Hiday, who added that the survey will not exclusively be about sexual assault.

The US military faced massive criticism in 2013 in the wake of a report on sexual assault which revealed an increase of unreported sexual assaults from 19,000 in 2010 to over 26,000 in 2013. A separate report released at the same time showed an increase of 6 percent in reported sexual assault cases. The 2013 report sparked outrage on Capitol Hill, where President Obama held a conference to urge officials to take charge and assigned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “step up our game exponentially” in both preventing sexual assault in the military and charging those responsible.

The Rand report is part of a requirement made by President Obama in 2013 for a full-scale report on progress made to eradicate military sexual assault by December of this year. The President has fought to end military sexual assault throughout his term, most recently in January when he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which expanded efforts for sexual assault prevention and strengthened victim protections. Efforts to curb the military sexual assault epidemic have floundered in Congress, where legislators remain split about whether or not to remove prosecution of sexually violent crimes from the chain of command.

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Boko Haram Claims Kidnapped Chibok Girls Will Be Released Monday

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria’s military are reportedly negotiating the release of the nearly 300 young women and girls who were abducted by Boko Haram more than six months ago, ostensibly bringing an end to six months of activist efforts calling for their return.

An adviser to President Jonathan, Hassan Tukur, told Voice of America that President Jonathan and the self-described “secretary-general of Boko Haram,” Danladi Ahmadu, have been in talks in Saudi Arabia regarding the over 270 schoolgirls abducted by the extremist group in April. The President of Chad, Idriss Deby, and high-ranking Cameroonian officials have also been party to the dialogue.

Although videos released by Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau indicated that they intended to sell the girls into slavery and hold them until members of the group were released from prison, Ahmadu said the girls are “in good condition and unharmed.” A spokesperson for Boko Haram claimed the girls will be released Monday in Chad.

Initial reports of the girls’ disappearance were met with inaction by the Nigerian government, which sparked acts of resistance in Nigeria and eventually spurred the viral – and global – #BringBackOurGirls campaign. In the United States, activists staged protests and rallies calling for government support to help locate the missing girls. Ultimately, President Obama announced that he had dispatched a team of military and law enforcement agents to the region, but although the Nigerian army announced in May that they had located the girls, they remained missing months later, over 100 days after their abduction. As activist and media attention waned, advocates and the families of the abducted were frustrated and angered by the failure to rescue the girls.

“As far as our girls are concerned, they have been abandoned,” Mkeki Mutah, uncle to two missing teens, told Al Jazeera prior to the news of the neogitations. “There is a saying: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Leaders from around the world came out and said they would assist to bring the girls back, but now we hear nothing. The question I wish to raise is: ‘why?'”

Even so, optimists have pointed to Boko Haram’s release of 27 hostages last weekend as evidence the tide could turn in favor of parents and loved ones who have come to fear the worst. Last Saturday, the wife of Cameroon’s Vice-Prime Minister, Akaoua Babiana, and 10 Chinese workers were among those released. That group was taken captive during two separate raids in May and July. How or why the group was set free is unknown, but to date, of the 276 captured over 180 days ago, far fewer have been so fortunate.

Of the young women and girls abducted in April, 57 successfully fled. Late last month, a young woman kidnapped by Boko Haram in early April from her dormitory was found roaming a small village. The 20-year-old was pregnant and “in a state of extreme trauma.” 15 young Chibok women who managed to rescue themselves from Boko Haram were granted scholarships to continue their studies made possible, in part, by Nobel Prize winner and champion of girls’ education, Malala Yousafzai. This summer, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan also announced government-sponsored scholarships to support the young women’s return to school by improving infrastructure, telecommunications, and community engagement to decrease the risk of comparable attacks and create a model for school safety in conflict zones.

The freed are encouraging thousands of other girls – who’d stopped attending school for fear of Boko Haram – to bravely resume their studies.

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Paycheck Fairness Act Advances in the Senate

After Republicans filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) earlier in this session, the Senate has now voted 73-25 to allow the bill to move forward to a debate.

The public overwhelmingly supports equal pay for equal work, but for far too long Senate Republicans have refused to allow a floor vote on a modest bill that will enable women workers to discuss their pay with co-workers, provide stronger tools to fight sex discrimination in wages, and grant the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) power to collect pay data from employers by sex and race.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is long overdue. Women – now some 50 percent of the workforce – deserve better.

Today’s vote allowed the PFA to clear one hurdle. Now, the Senate must act to move the bill to an up or down vote. The House must also pass the PFA in this session, and President Obama – a strong supporter of equal pay – must sign it, for the Paycheck Fairness Act to become law.

The House Republican leadership still has not scheduled the PFA for a vote in this session.

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BREAKING: Fifth Circuit Blocks Texas TRAP Law Provision!

WASHINGTON – The Feminist Majority Foundation applauds U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel’s decision Friday striking down parts of a Texas anti-abortion law.

The court deemed unconstitutional a provision of House Bill 2 that would have required Texas abortion clinics to meet the stringent building code requirements of ambulatory surgical centers – a provision that would have caused most of the state’s remaining clinics to close.

“A woman’s constitutionally-protected right to seek out a safe and legal abortion should not hinge on the width of a doorway,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “Access to abortion and birth control is under attack across the nation. No other outpatient service has been made to adhere to these medically unnecessarily and harmful requirements. We will not rest until women’s access to constitutionally-protected reproductive services are available to all women. These TRAP laws, if allowed to go into effect, will surely cost some women their lives.”

“We are pleased Judge Yeakel once again recognized this law for what it is – an unconstitutional burden on the rights of women and abortion providers in Texas,” said duVergne Gaines, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project.

“We commend abortion Texas providers like Amy Hagstrom Miller for continuing to fight against these relentless, unconscionable and unconstitutional attacks. Women’s lives are on the political cutting board.”

Today, Judge Yeakel rightly acknowledged the “undue burden” the requirements would have placed on the shoulders of women seeking safe and legal abortion services in Texas. In just over a year, HB 2 has effectively reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state from 41 to barely more than a dozen. Across the nation, TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws like HB 2 are undermining women’s access to truly comprehensive reproductive health care.

The first stages of HB 2 went into effect in November 2013 and severely restricted women’s access to abortion. The bill currently prohibits abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, requires doctors to obtain hospital-admitting privileges and, as of September 1, would have required abortion clinics to spend millions of dollars in unnecessary renovations to meet the surgical center requirements.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 29, 2014

J.T. Johnson: (office) 703-522-2214 | (cell) 202-681-7251 | jjohnson@feminist.org

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Advocates for Youth, Feminist Majority Foundation, Planned Parenthood Generation Launch

WASHINGTON, DC — Advocates for Youth (Advocates), Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), and Planned Parenthood Generation (PPGen), a project of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, are joining forces for an exciting new national civil engagement campaign – the 2014 Youth ShowOUT!

In 2014, young voters will do more than just turn out – they will ShowOUT! Youth leaders are educating their peers, registering voters, participating in voter pledge drives, volunteering, and more. Young people are at the helm of lasting change in our country. They are taking charge and becoming part of the political process.

“The Feminist Majority Foundation is proud to join Youth ShowOUT,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Young women have much at stake in this election – access to abortion, birth control and comprehensive health insurance, pay equity, ending violence against women, comprehensive immigration reform, and equal rights. Our organizers on college campuses throughout the country will help to ensure that student votes are not suppressed and that young women and people of color, who have been traditionally targeted for suppression, are heard at the ballot box.”

“No person in our country should face barriers in accessing health care, exercising their right to vote, marrying the person they love, or pursuing other fundamental rights,” said Kelley Robinson, Assistant Director of Youth Organizing, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Planned Parenthood Generation is a movement of young people across identities and issues that advocates for their generation to change the world. We must work together and strive to develop strong leaders with the spirit and determination to move our country forward and show that we are a nation committed to fighting for and preserving equality for all.”

“Young people are an essential component of the rising electorate. Every day, nearly 12,000 young people turn 18 years old and become eligible to vote,” said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth. “At Advocates for Youth, we know firsthand the power of young people is undeniable. There are tens of thousands of youth activists and leaders who are actively reshaping their communities and changing what politics looks like in this country. We have a responsibility to work alongside these young people as they lead us to new solutions and lasting change.”

More information is available at YouthShowOut.org.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Taylor Kuether, tkuether@feminist.org, 703-522-2214

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Statement of Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal on Ferguson, Missouri

The following is a statement by our Founder and President, Eleanor Smeal, on the events in Ferguson, Missouri.


The Feminist Majority Foundation calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct a thorough, unbiased investigation into the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.

The killing of Michael Brown and the blundered, militarized response by law enforcement to the call for justice is a tragic reminder that in many African American communities across the nation, the police themselves can be a threat.

Given the distrust of the police by the local African American community, the close ties between the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and the police, and the fact that McCulloch has had no less than 5 close relatives who have worked on the local police force, the Feminist Majority Foundation calls on Governor Jay Nixon to reconsider his decision on appointing a special prosecutor to handle the criminal investigation.

Over the past 10 days, the African American community in Ferguson has demanded answers. They’ve demanded justice. There is still no arrest. One man is dead and his shooter free. People want to know why. But until recently, the protesters in Ferguson, the vast majority of whom are peaceful, have been met with tear gas, armored vehicles, rubber and wooden bullets, and rifles.

Ferguson, Missouri at night has looked like a battlefield with militarized police and national guard troops, and guns pointed at protesters. It is not surprising that this show of excessive force has failed to build trust in law enforcement and has failed to de-escalate tensions in the community. In this environment, the Governor must appoint someone independent to perform the investigation into this tragic shooting.

The Feminist Majority Foundation also supports the call from African American civil rights leaders, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, for implementation of a long-term, comprehensive police reform agenda that includes, among other things, the demilitarization of state and local law enforcement and the promotion of community policing. We also demand that the police incident report be released.

Police should reflect the communities that they serve. Increasing the number of African Americans in policing will go a long way in improving police response in communities of color. The sheer numbers tell the story in Ferguson. Although, African Americans represent 67.4 percent of the population in Ferguson, Missouri, they made up 92.7 percent of arrests in 2013 alone.

Research conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing also shows that increasing the number of women in policing reduces police brutality and the excessive use of force.

Make no mistake. Ferguson is not an isolated case. It represents a horrific pattern of discriminatory policing and excessive use of force against African Americans in this country. As feminists, as advocates for racial justice and non-violence, we cannot rest until all people – no matter who they are – can enjoy the right to life, liberty, and justice.

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Mississippi Attorney General Pushes Circuit Court to Close the State’s Last Clinic

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is asking the full US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reverse a panel decision that upheld a preliminary injunction of Mississippi’s TRAP law, allowing the state’s only abortion clinic to remain open.

Just weeks ago, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction barring implementation of HB 1390, Mississippi’s 2012 TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law that requires doctors to gain admitting privileges from an area hospital. Because HB 1390 would have effectively shut down the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), the last abortion clinic in the state, the Court ruled that the law placed an “undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right” of an individual to choose an abortion.

“Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state.” the Fifth Circuit panel said. “Such a proposal would not only place an undue burden on the exercise of the constitutional right, but would also disregard a state’s obligation under the principle of federalism – applicable to all fifty states – to accept the burden of the non-delegable duty of protecting the established federal constitutional rights of its own citizens.”

The state of Mississippi, however, argues that this rationale is misplaced in the context of abortion. Hood is formally asking the entire Fifth Circuit Court – which handles cases in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas – to reverse the panel’s decision and allow the state to enforce HB 1390, arguing that the court’s decision contradicts a ruling issued by a different panel of Fifth Circuit judges in Texas. There, a three-judge panel upheld hospital admitting privileges, noting that despite the fact that the law made abortion inaccessible to some women in the state, abortion services were not completely cut off in Texas because of the admitting privileges requirement. The opposite, however, would be true in Mississippi under HB 1390.

Mississippi filed its request on Wednesday, just as a federal district court heard closing arguments in a second challenge to Texas’s admitting privileges requirement.

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Federal Judge Fails to Block North Carolina Voter Suppression Law

A federal judge on Friday refused to grant civil rights groups and the US Department of Justice a preliminary injunction against a North Carolina voter suppression measure, signed into law by Republican Governor Pat McCrory last year. The law will now take effect for the November 2014 general election while the groups’ three consolidated lawsuits are pending.

The ruling by US District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, nominated by President George W. Bush, allows four provisions of the North Carolina voter suppression law, HB 589, to remain in effect: the shortening of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early-voting period, a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast by voters in their home county but outside their home voting precinct, and the termination of a preregistration program for 16- and 17-year-olds. The voter identification portion of the law was not specifically at issue in this ruling since it does not take effect until 2016.

“The right to vote lies at the hear of our democracy,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP. “Our movement against this voter suppression law is built on the legacy of those who have testified before us, with their feet and blood, to fight for equal rights in North Carolina and the nation. We will not falter in our efforts to mobilize until this extreme law is repealed.”

In his decision, Judge Schroeder found that the plaintiffs – which included the North Carolina NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and many others – did not meet the burden for a preliminary injunction, but that the case should not be dismissed outright, as the state of North Carolina had urged the court to do. A full trial, also dealing with the voter ID provision, is scheduled for next year.

Voter suppression laws like the one enacted in North Carolina after the US Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder, specifically target voters of color as well as low-income voters, women, and the elderly. North Carolina’s voter identification provision is particularly restrictive for college students because student identification cards (including those issued by state-run universities) and out-of-state driver’s license will not be accepted – although military and veteran identification cards will be. African-American voters, Hispanic voters, and voters over age 65 are also less likely to have a government issued photo id, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, and many women do not have a government ID that reflects their current name. The elimination of early voting, same-day registration, and counting of provisional ballots in North Carolina are also expected to disproportionately affect voters of color who used these processes at a higher rate than white voters.

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Women Just Won Big In Mississippi

Feminist Majority Foundation leaders are elated by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding a preliminary injunction against a Mississippi TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) law that would have closed the only abortion clinic in the state. FMF congratulates the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) for this important win.

“This is a major victory for the women of Mississippi and potentially for the women of the United States. The Mississippi TRAP law would have closed the only comprehensive women’s reproductive health clinic in the state and necessitated women driving hundreds of miles to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. For women who could not afford to travel out of state, this ruling literally saves lives,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, who encouraged the founder of the JWHO, Susan Hill, to establish the clinic. Hill opened JWHO to ensure that low-income women in Mississippi could access a full range of reproductive health services.

“Although we celebrate this ruling,” continued Smeal, “we cannot rest until this law and all other TRAP laws are permanently struck down.”

DuVergne Gaines, Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation National Clinic Access Project said, “As leader of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s clinic defense team, I am here in Mississippi, and we are elated by this federal appeals court decision today as well as with the local convictions yesterday of three anti-abortion extremists in Jackson City Municipal court for interfering with access to the Jackson clinic.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Mississippi state law requiring doctors at the only abortion clinic in Jackson to have admitting privileges at a local hospital was an unconstitutional burden on women’s right to choose an abortion. This decision means that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will remain open despite state legislative attempts to make Mississippi an abortion-free state.

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Supporters March for Marissa Alexander in Jacksonville

Hundreds of supporters from all over the United States marched to the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, FL yesterday to demand that all charges against Marissa Alexander be dropped. Chants heard on the way to the Courthouse also underscored growing demand for State Attorney Angela Corey’s dismissal.

Free Marissa Now and Sister Song, Inc. are leading a week-long mobilization on Alexander’s behalf. The Standing Our Ground Week of Action kicked off Friday, July 25 and will continue through August 1. Satellite participants in the week of action have shown their support for Alexander using the #StandingOurGround and #SelfiesForSelfDefense hashtags.

Alexander, an African American mother of three, fired a warning shot after being strangled and threatened to death by her estranged husband in August 2010. A restraining order was in place at the time of the incident. Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, has a well-documented history of domestic violence against Marissa and other former partners. Alexander was once hospitalized because of injuries sustained in an incident with Gray. Nevertheless, Florida’s mandatory minimum sentence for “pulling the trigger during a crime” is 20 years. Alexander could face up to 60 years in prison for allegedly endangering Gray’s life and the lives of her two stepsons.

“Today, it’s Marissa. Tomorrow, it’s you. And yesterday, it was Trayvon,” said poet Staceyann Chin with Free Marissa Now. “We see this as a human rights violation against [Marissa’s] right to parent, against her bodily autonomy,” Monica Simpson, Executive Director of Sister Song, told WTEV-TV.

Last week, a judge denied attorneys’ requests to grant Alexander a new hearing under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. In June, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law that includes warning shots under “Stand Your Ground,” but it will not retroactively apply to Marissa Alexander’s case. Free Marissa Now and Sister Song intend this week’s action to coincide with Alexander’s retrial, which was previously scheduled for this month. A Florida appeals court ordered a new trial for Alexander after finding the lower court had issued improper jury instructions on self-defense.

Alexander is now set to be retried in December.

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UConn to Pay Over $1.2 Million in Sexual Assault Settlement

The University of Connecticut (UConn) will pay $1.28 million in settlement fees for a sexual assault lawsuit brought against the university by five sexual assault survivors.

The federal lawsuit was brought by five women after four of the women had filed complaints with the Department of Education (ED) alleging that UConn had mishandled rape cases and failed to take action on reports of harassment, in violation of Title IX. As part of the settlement, the women have agreed to request suspension of their ED complaints and not to make any disparaging statements against the university. UConn has not admitted any wrongdoing, and is not obligated to make any institutional policy changes as part of the settlement. The university has, however, created a new Special Victims Unit within the campus police department as well as an assistant dean of students for victim support services since the litigation was filed.

Despite the settlement, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will continue its UConn investigation, as three other current or former students – who were not plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit – had signed onto the original ED complaint. OCR is currently investigating 66 other colleges and universities to review their handling of sexual assault cases.

This case doesn’t even come close to being the first campus sexual assault case that has gotten media attention. Earlier this year, Michigan State University, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley and Penn State all went under investigation after student sexual-assault survivors filed charges.

In response to growing concerns about the handling of sexual assault on campuses, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was formed. Its first report was filed in April of this year. The report states that one in five women is sexually assaulted during their time in college, and calls for steps to be taken to prevent sexual assault: conducting surveys to assess the problem, engaging men in the fight against sexual violence, responding effectively when a student says they were assaulted, and making enforcement efforts more transparent.

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100 Days: Vigils Held To Support Rescue of Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

100 days ago today, more than 270 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram. This week, groups around the world are holding vigils to show that they have not stopped supporting rescue efforts and still want safety for these girls.

People from all over the world are joining together to voice their support for the kidnapped girls and to demand that child labor, child marriage, child trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM), and other forms of abuse are abolished globally.

A list of vigils and Thursday’s moment of silence can be found at the Bring Back Our Girls Facebook page. The moment of silence is to show support for the rescue mission for the kidnapped girls.

“You can [observe the moment of silence] at work, at home or wherever it is suitable for you at a time of your comfort,” Bring Back Our Girls says on their event page. “You can do it yourself or with friends and family. Let’s again show the world and the girls that we care.”

At least 2 of the kidnapped girls have allegedly died, and several may be ill, the AP reports. The girls are still believed to be in the Sambisa Forest on the northeastern border of Nigeria. USAID has provided funding for counseling for the families of the abducted girls and for the girls who have managed to escape.

Eleven parents of the abducted girls have died since the kidnapping. Seven of them were killed by insurgents in attacks on a separate village. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who recently met with Chibok families, has made it clear he does not want to attack Boko Haram as a part of a rescue operation because it could be too dangerous for the kidnapped girls, and he also does not want to open up negotiations with the terrorist group.

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White House: Corporations Must Inform Employees About Refusal to Cover Contraception

The White House clarified on Thursday that closely held for-profit corporations refusing to provide contraceptive coverage will be required to inform their employees.

The clarification is a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. The decision allows closely held, for-profit corporations to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for contraception – a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – if the corporation’s owners claim that providing coverage would violate a sincerely held religious belief.

“We are making clear that if a corporation like Hobby Lobby drops coverage of contraceptive services from its health plan, it must do so in the light of day by letting its workers and their families know,” said a senior Obama administration official.

Just last week, a minority of Senators blocked a bill that would have reversed the Hobby Lobby decision and required all for-profit companies to provide contraceptive coverage as required by the ACA, regardless of owners’ religious objections. The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act failed to gain the 60 votes needed to move to a floor vote, although it received the support of 56 Senators, including every Democrat and three Republicans: Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

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