November 3, 2006

Friday Double Dose

Poll Shows Opponents of South Dakota Abortion Ban Leading: “The latest survey, conducted earlier this week for Sioux Falls television station KELO, showed opponents of Referred Law 6 with 50 percent and supporters of the ban with 41 percent. Nine percent said they were undecided,” reports the AP. “In the KELO poll, 57 percent of Republican respondents said they will vote to uphold the ban and 36 percent oppose it. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats planned to vote against the ban and 21 percent for it, according to the results.”

Sex Ed Not for Sale: The state of New Jersey recently rejected around $800,000 in federal money for sex education because they refuse to accede to guidelines that would force teachers to assert that “sex within marriage is the ‘expected standard of human sexual activity’” and that “sex outside of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” The new rules would also not let teachers talk about contraception.

State Health Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs said: “Monogamy is not a bad idea, but having the government of New Jersey dictate these things for families is not something we wish to do. It isn’t the function of state government to create standards [for sexual activity].”

Lancet Medical Journal Editor Speaks Out: “Sexual and reproductive health issues have fallen off the international health agenda,” Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, said during an Oct. 30 press conference, according to Reuters. “In fact, they are taboo for many governments today and sadly taboo for many public health institutions today. That exclusion from the agenda puts millions of women’s lives at peril,” Horton added.

The press conference introduced The Lancet’s series on sexual and reproductive health. The series highlights “the global burden of ill health in a variety of key areas: every year, 340 million new patients acquire gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia, or trichomonas, more than 120 million couples have an unmet need for contraception, 80 million women have unintended pregnancies, and an estimated 19 million women undergo unsafe abortions; 70000 of them die as a result.”

Horton’s full comments are also available as a podcast.

Good Catholics Use Condoms: Condoms 4 Life Campaign, sponsored by Catholics for a Free Choice, is seeking signatures on a petition asking Pope Benedict to overturn the ban on condoms.

Women Voters: An Election Cycle Story with a New Spin: “There is, unquestionably, a striking amount of testosterone in the Virginia Senate race between Senator George Allen, football-tossing Republican conservative, and Jim Webb, Democrat, Vietnam veteran and chronicler of the warrior tradition,” Robin Toner writes in The New York Times. “But the real struggle in this exceedingly tight contest, one of a handful that will determine control of the Senate, may be decided by how women vote.”

Trend Story Editors, Take Note: The Christian Science Monitor reports on two studies that should reverse the momentum of coverage about women opting out of the workforce in droves simply because home is where the heart is.

“Women are not increasingly dropping out of the labor force because of their kids,” says Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. In a study titled “Are Women Opting Out? Debunking the Myth,” she finds that although there was a drop in women’s work participation rates between 2001 and 2005, it was largely because of a weak labor market. Men’s labor rates also dropped during this time period.

“Higher job losses in the recession of the early 2000s have had the effect of making it appear that women – and especially women with children – are opting out of employment,” Ms. Boushey says. Yet mothers today are only half as likely to leave the workforce because of their children as they were in 1984, she finds.

“Most mothers do not opt out,” says Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings. “They are pushed out by workplace inflexibility, the lack of supports, and a workplace bias against mothers.” In one recent survey, 86 percent of women cited obstacles such as inflexible jobs as a key reason behind their decision to leave.

Ms. Williams is coauthor of a report released last week, ” ‘Opt Out’ or Pushed Out?: How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflicts.” The study finds that press coverage of these issues typically focuses on highly educated professional women who account for just 8 percent of American women.

Still Not Shocked: Bob Herbert, who previously articulated our frustrations over the way the media presents and reacts to violence against women, is disgusted once again over the non-response to the latest UN study on violence against women: “Not only are we not doing enough to counter this wholesale destruction of the lives of so many women and girls, we’re not even paying close attention.” You need a NYT registration to read Herbert’s column online, but the study — and taking action — is available to everyone.

Filmmaker Gets It: “More men need to join with women to stand against sexualized violence and the multibillion dollar industry that feeds it,” writes Jay Craven in the Burlington Free Press.


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