Cheers/Jeers of the Week for Women:Spain Boosts Women's Health; Afghan Girls Poisoned
Spain took two steps this week to increase women's choice regarding their reproductive health.
On Monday, Spain's government said it plans to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter in pharmacies within three months, the Associated Press reported. Spain's Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez said the pill, which prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, will be sold with no age restrictions.
The current availability of emergency contraceptives varies across Spain. In some regions a woman can get it for free at government health centers, while in other parts it's harder to obtain. Also, some areas require a prescription while others do not, the article reported. Spain's government plans to make the pill mandatory in all regions.
Steps were also taken this week in Spain to ease the abortion law and allow the procedure without restrictions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Under the new proposal, abortion would also be allowed up to 22 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors can certify that there's a serious threat to the health of the mother or fetal malformation, the Associated Press reported.
The new bill would reform a 1985 law that legalized abortion in Spain, but only allowed it in certain cases: rape up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; fetal malformation up to 22 weeks; and at any point when a pregnant woman's mental or physical health were deemed by doctors to be at risk due to the pregnancy, the article reported. The new proposal, however, still needs approval from Parliament.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been jailed in Iran, was released from prison on Monday. She had been sentenced to eight years on charges of spying for the United States. An appeals court in Iran reduced Saberi's sentence to a two-year suspended sentence and a five-year ban on reporting in Iran, Human Rights Watch reported. She is currently in Vienna, Austria, before she makes her way to the United States.
- Following Supreme Court Justice David Souter's retirement announcement earlier this month, many people are speculating on whether his replacement will be a woman. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is currently the only female justice on the Supreme Court. Most of the names frequently mentioned as potential nominees to replace Souter are women, The Wall Street Journal reported. Among them, the article reported, are: federal appellate judges Diane Pamela Wood and Sonia Sotomayor; Elena Kagan, U.S. solicitor general; and Stanford University law professors Pamela Karlan and Kathleen Sullivan.
- The "Confronting Rape and other Forms of Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones Spotlight: DRC and Sudan" joint hearing took place this week before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to highlight how rape and other forms of violence against women have been widely used as a weapon of war. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin presided over the hearing, which included testimony from two panels of experts. One of these experts was journalist Chouchou Namegabe Nabintu, who discussed what's happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is said that some 1,100 rapes are being reported each month. Nabintu first came to attention in the United States through a Women's eNews story from the Congo.
Nearly 100 young girls in Afghanistan were taken to hospital, five of which slipped briefly into comas, after a gas attack on their school on Tuesday, Reuters reported. This is apparently the third in a series of such incidents that have occurred north of Kabul in about two weeks.
No one has claimed responsibility for the poisonings, but they were likely the work of Taliban sympathizers hostile to girls' education, the head of security for Kapisa province told Reuters.
Attacks on girls schools have increased in the past year, Reuters reported, particularly in the Taliban's eastern and southern heartlands. In all three of these recent incidents, students reported a strange smell and the symptoms were the same, the Associated Press reported.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- A Gallup Poll released on May 15 showed that the majority of U.S. adults are calling themselves "pro-life" on abortion for the first time since Gallup starting asking the question in 1995, the Boston Globe reported. The survey, conducted May 7 to 10, found that 51 percent of Americans are anti-choice and 42 percent are pro-choice. Previously, the highest percentage of Americans identifying as "pro-life" was 46 percent, the article reported.
- Myanmar's opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was detained this week on charges that she broke the terms of her house arrest when an American intruder strayed into her home. She faces a trial on May 18, which is expected to last for some time, CNN reported. Suu Kyi was first detained in 1989 and the latest extension of her detention was scheduled to expire May 27. These new charges carry a maximum jail term of five years, BBC reported.
- A survey of street sex workers conducted in Dublin, Ireland, found that all of them have suffered physical and sexual assault, most have been raped and many have been abducted, the Irish Examiner reported. The survey, which was carried out among 35 drug-using sex workers (31 female and four male), calls for an urgent improvement in out-of-hours and weekend services for sex workers.