FDA To Consider Over-The-Counter Morning-After Pill After AllJuly 31, 2006 15:29 The government is considering allowing over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill, but only to women 18 and older -- a surprise move Monday that revives efforts to widen access to the emergency contraceptive almost a year after it was thought doomed.

The Food and Drug Administration notified manufacturer Barr Laboratories Inc. early Monday that it wanted to meet within seven days to iron out new steps the company must take in its three-year battle to sell the pill, called Plan B, without a prescription to at least some women.

The announcement came just 24 hours before President Bush's nominee to lead the regulatory agency, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, was scheduled to appear before a Senate committee, where he was expected to face grilling on why the morning-after pill had apparently gone into bureaucratic limbo.
  Abortion Advocates Say 21 Victories Put Congress Under Pro-Abortion ControlJuly 28, 2006 16:13 A leading abortion advocacy group is saying that just 21 victories by pro-abortion candidates in November would put control of Congress in pro-abortion hands. Pro-life advocates agree and say that pro-life legislation and the ability to confirm judges who would uphold pro-life laws would be at jeopardy if that happens.
In a plea for money, NARAL sent a message to its members on Wednesday trying to encourage them to make donations given the closeness of their efforts to take over Congress.

Elizabeth Shipp, NARAL's political director says a change of just six seats in the Senate and 15 in the House would shift either chamber to the pro-abortion side.

"Changing Congress to ensure our elected officials represent our pro-choice values is only a few seats away," she told NARAL supporters.
  Gay Marriage Ban Upheld In Washington StateJuly 26, 2006 11:07 Washington state's highest court has upheld a ban on gay marriage.

In the latest defeat for supporters of same-sex marriage, the state Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers have the power to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Several lawsuits sought to make Washington only the second state after Massachusetts to grant full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Nineteen gay and lesbian couples had challenged the constitutionality of a 1998 ban.
  Senate Set To Pass Minors Abortion BillJuly 25, 2006 09:10 The Senate today is expected approve a bill that punishes anyone who helps a girl cross state lines to obtain an abortion without notifying her parents.

The House passed the measure last year.

Opponents say the bill cuts off an escape route for pregnant teens with abusive parents and punishes those who might try to help the youngsters.

  Abortion Opponents Slam AmnestyJuly 25, 2006 08:57 Famed for its human rights work, Amnesty International is under siege from religious groups outraged by a proposal that would expand Amnesty's mandate to include supporting access to abortion in cases such as sexual violence.

A small but growing band of anti-abortion campaigners and Roman Catholic clerics -- including some who have backed Amnesty's activities in the past -- claim the Nobel Prize-winning group is drifting away from its principles of unbiased advocacy.

They have threatened to pull away members and donations, and have called for a flood of protest letters to Amnesty offices -- the same strategy Amnesty uses to pressure for the release of political prisoners and others.

Amnesty officials say any decision is more than a year away, and defend their right to debate abortion and birth control within the context of women's rights.
  Female Soldiers Treated 'Lower Than Dirt'July 24, 2006 11:10 U.S. Army Specialist Suzanne Swift will spend her 22nd birthday tomorrow confined to the Fort Lewis base in Washington, where she is awaiting the outcome of an investigation into allegations that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by three sergeants in Iraq.

Swift says the sergeants propositioned her for sex shortly after arriving for her first tour of duty in February 2004. She remained in Iraq until February 2005. "When you are over there, you are lower than dirt; you are expendable as a soldier in general, and as a woman, it's worse," said Swift in a recent interview with the Guardian.

When Swift's unit redeployed to Iraq in January 2006, she refused to go and instead stayed with her mother in Eugene, Ore. She was eventually listed as AWOL, arrested at her mother's home on June 11, sent to county jail and transferred to Fort Lewis.

"She's miserable and isolated," says Sara Rich, Swift's mother. "It's not good to have an idle mind while you're dealing with PTSD and sexual trauma. I want them to release her so I can get her the care she needs. I'm tired of waiting."
  Senate Wades Back Into Abortion DebateJuly 21, 2006 16:39 The Senate reopened the abortion debate Friday in advance of the midterm elections, this time over a bill that would make it a federal crime to take a teenager across state lines to end a pregnancy without a parent's knowledge.

Supporters of the bill say such incidents often occur when a girl, or the man involved, wants to evade homestate parental consent laws. Opponents say the bill would make criminals of well-meaning confidants, such as relatives and clergy members, who might help a pregnant teen whose parents are abusive.

Much of the discussion Friday concerned how to balance a parent's right to know with a woman's right to end a pregnancy as spelled out by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
  NAACP Greets Bush With Skeptical EyeJuly 21, 2006 08:47 Declaring it a tragedy that the Republican Party has alienated black voters, President Bush ended his five-year boycott of the NAACP on Thursday with a pledge to repair his relationship with the country's oldest civil rights group.

Even as Bush won a rousing ovation for his promise to sign a renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights-era law that cleared Congress shortly after his speech, he received a chillier reception from thousands gathered for the group's annual meeting as he laid out his ideas for improving the state of black America.

One of the day's most boisterous rounds of applause came for Bush's concession that "many African Americans distrust my political party." Pausing with a surprised look, Bush soldiered on.
  Mississippi Abortion Protesters Hold Memorial For Fetus At ParkJuly 21, 2006 08:46 A memorial service for an aborted fetus concluded today without the planned burial in Smith Park.

The 11 a.m. service was part of an eight-day protest led by the anti-abortion group, Operation Save America, in an effort to shut down Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's last remaining abortion clinic.

Counterprotesters showed up toward the end of the hour-long service, causing tempers to flare.

The pro-choice group walked through the recessional with an accordion player and yelled profanity-laced tirades against the anti-abortion protesters.

Sheriff's deputies escorted one of the counterprotesters out of the park.

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, said the fetus, which is being preserved in a formaldehyde-like solution, will be buried in Alabama in a few months.

Pavone said he received the fetus from an anonymous pathologist who asked him to give it a proper burial.

Pavone said the fetus was aborted at about 18 weeks. It has been used in demonstrations in New York and Columbus, Ohio, he said, and will be in several more before being buried.

He defended the group's use of the fetus.

"America will not reject abortion, until America sees abortion," Pavone said. "Before we even start talking about whether it is right or wrong we want to help people see what abortion looks like."

The Rev. Flip Benham, the leader of Operation Save America, bristled at those who might question showing a fetus to children.

"This does not traumatize our children," Benham said. "This traumatizes the adults who would hide the horrors of abortion."
  A Nasty Abortion Battle Rages In The South Dakota GOPJuly 21, 2006 08:41 A local political party resounds with calls for purges. Party enforcers insist on ideological purity. Must be those crazy, left-wing Democrats in Connecticut looking to boot pro-war pols out of their ranks, right? Actually, we're talking about the South Dakota Republicans.

State Sen. Bill Napoli is demanding that Gov. Mike Rounds kick fellow senator Stan Adelstein out of the party. And that's got Adelstein kind of upset. He's going around comparing the local GOP to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. So what's it all about?

The state's restrictive, GOP-sponsored abortion ban is dividing the once airtight party.

Because of that ban, moderate Adelstein flirted with becoming a Democrat last month after he lost his primary to a conservative. Making matters worse, he's now supporting the Democrat. And Adelstein's also angry about the party convention, where a proposal suggesting that well-meaning Republicans could disagree on the state abortion ban was spurned by the delegates. (Sorry — no disagreement allowed in the South Dakota GOP.)

  Rights Body Harshly Criticizes U.S. Human Rights RecordJuly 19, 2006 23:07 A United Nations human rights body expressed grave concerns today about the record of human rights in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union with a delegation of 10 and working with a broad coalition of other groups is in Geneva to monitor the examination of the United States the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC).

In a two-day session that concluded today, the committee members pressured the United States for answers on the following issues:

The sentencing of children to life without parole and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities;
The militarization of the border;
The failure to prevent human rights violations and respond in a non discriminatory manner to Hurricane Katrina;
The failure to end racial profiling practices, specifically the profiling of South Asian convenience store employees in Georgia;
Warrantless spying on ordinary Americans;
The abuse of women in prison; and
The indefinite detention, rendition and torture of non-citizens

“The U.S. should be ashamed of itself,” said Ann Beeson, Director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. “The review by the Human Rights Committee was a stark and all too accurate condemnation of the state of rights in America.”
  Bush Vetoes Stem Cell BillJuly 19, 2006 22:54 President Bush, swiftly defying a bipartisan majority in Congress and a strong current in public opinion, exercised the first veto of his presidency yesterday by blocking an expansion of federal support for embryonic stem cell research that he considers immoral.
Within hours of Bush's announcement, a House effort to override the veto fell 51 votes short of the required two-thirds majority, effectively killing the bill for the rest of the year. The vote was 235 for the override and 193 opposed, with 51 Republicans siding against the president.
Bush said the veto was not a setback for science but a victory of conscience, as taxpayers should not pay for research that destroys human embryos — even in the service of obtaining stem cells from those embryos to develop potential cures for disease.
"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said to a crowd of supporters in the White House East Room, including many children born of fertility-clinic embryos of the sort that would be used for research under the bill. "It crosses a moral boundary that our society needs to respect, so I vetoed it."

  Agencies Funded By Feds Say Cancer, Infertility Can Result From AbortionJuly 18, 2006 08:08 Federally funded "pregnancy resource centers" are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged Monday.

The report said 20 of 23 federally funded centers contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion.

The pregnancy resource centers, which are often affiliated with anti-abortion religious groups, have received about $30 million in federal funds since 2001, according to the report, requested by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles.

The report concluded the exaggerations "may be effective in frightening pregnant teenagers and women and discouraging abortion. But it denies the teenagers and women vital health information, prevents them from making an informed decision, and is not an accepted public health practice."

  Stem Cell Veto Would Be Bush FirstJuly 17, 2006 08:55 Will he or won't he? Supporters of a bill to allow federal financing of embryonic stem cell research are hoping something will happen to change President Bush's mind about vetoing the measure awaiting Senate approval.

It would be Bush's first veto of any legislation but - so far - the president appears to be standing firm in his determination to block the stem cell bill.

Neither the House nor Senate has demonstrated enough support for the bill to override a veto, though the House probably will try, just to give Bush a definitive victory in the showdown.

Supporters of the research hold out faint hope that Bush, presented with new data and pressured by election-year politics, might reverse course and sign the bill.
  Last Mississippi Clinic StandingJuly 14, 2006 09:04 After years of violently blockading abortion clinics, terrorizing women and doctors, and agitating for biblical rule, there is a smug sense of triumphalism coming from the pro-life organization Operation Save America/Operation Rescue.

Between July 15 and 20, OSA/OR will be staging an extended protest in Jackson, Miss., aimed at closing the state’s last abortion clinic—a move the group hopes will “send a message” to abortion providers and lawmakers throughout the country.

Operation Rescue, you may remember, was the organization responsible for the infamous “No Place to Hide” campaign during the 1990s that distributed the home addresses and travel routines of abortion providers in the period before the first killing of an abortion doctor.

  Moral Courage in the War on TerrorJuly 14, 2006 09:01 It's been a while since we've seen many statements like this... that morality is valid for morality's sake and not relative based upon the actions of others. Strange how the Bush administration claims to be so moral and religious, but to actually apply a completely relativistic approach to action and deed in the so-called "War on Terror."
  House Backs Voting Rights Act ExtensionJuly 14, 2006 08:56 The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a 25-year extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which would preserve for another generation a law that opened voting booths to minorities.

Often described as the crown jewel of the civil rights era, the Voting Rights Act outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests and other obstacles that had prevented African Americans and other minorities from exercising their right to vote.

Since then, minorities have voted in larger numbers, and more have been elected to local and national office.

Most of the act is permanent, but portions expire if not renewed periodically. The House vote was 390-33, and the Senate is expected to give the bill, backed by President George W. Bush, similar bipartisan support later this year.
  Are Docs In Abortions Murderers?July 13, 2006 09:15 Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been asked to rule whether laws passed in 2003 and 2005 could subject doctors to capital murder charges for performing late-term abortions or abortions on minors without their parents' consent.

State Affairs Chairman David Swinford, R-Amarillo, asked for the opinion, citing an analysis by a state prosecutors group that said murder prosecutions of doctors could be an "unintended consequence" of the law changes.

Swinford said he disagrees with the interpretation by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association because there is no evidence that the Legislature intended such a result from changes it made to the law governing doctors' conduct last year.

  Bush Won't Meet With DegetteJuly 11, 2006 22:25 President Bush rebuffed Rep. Diana DeGette's request for a meeting on her pending stem cell bill, one day after presidential adviser Karl Rove told The Denver Post that the president would veto the legislation if it is passed by the Senate.

“Although the president would appreciate meeting with you, we are unable to accommodate your request. Thank you for understanding,” the White House wrote in a four-sentence letter DeGette received today. The letter did not explain why Bush declined the meeting.
  Iowa Pro-Life, Abortion Advocates Will Compete In Dueling Book SaleJuly 11, 2006 15:05 Iowa Planned Parenthood has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to promote abortions through an annual book sale. Until now, state residents haven't had an alternative and the state's pro-life organization is changing that this year.
The Iowa Right to Life Committee will host a book sale this September on the same dates of Planned Parenthood's fundraiser in order to provide an alternative.

Not only will the book sale be an alternative to the one sponsored by the abortion business, proceeds will benefit alternatives as well. All of the money raised in the Right to Life book sale will benefit pregnancy centers and maternity homes that provide women with realistic alternatives to abortion and pregnancy help.

I wonder if they'll sell books that pose as objective discussions on abortion and alternatives, that really end up being Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter diatribes?

  Fetal Rights Going Too Far?July 10, 2006 12:10 In Arkansas, lawmakers are considering making it a crime for a pregnant woman to take a drag off a cigarette.
In Utah, a woman is serving 18 months' probation for child endangerment after she refused to undergo a Caesarean section to save her twins, one of whom died. In Wisconsin and South Dakota, authorities can take pregnant women into custody for abusing alcohol or drugs.

And July 1 in Alabama, Brody's Law took effect. It enables prosecutors to level two charges against anyone who attacks a pregnant woman and harms her fetus.

Common-sense measures to protect America's most helpless citizens-to-be ... or something else?
  New York, Georgia Bans On Gay Marriage UpheldJuly 06, 2006 10:09 New York's and Georgia's highest courts ruled Thursday that gay marriage is not allowed under state law.

The New York Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision rejected arguments from gay and lesbian plaintiffs throughout the state that their inability to get marriage licences in New York violated their constitutional rights.

And in Atlanta, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed a ruling by a lower court judge and upheld the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

In Albany, Judge Robert Smith said New York's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman. Any change in the law should come from the state legislature, he said.

  ACLU Fights 'Don't Ask Don't Tell"July 01, 2006 05:49 Attorneys for an Air Force flight nurse who lost her job under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy were in federal court in Tacoma Friday.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union seeks to reinstate Major Margaret Witt, a McChord reservist originally from Spokane. Her five-year relationship with another woman ended in 2003. That same year she was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.

ACLU attorney Aaron Caplan says Witt has been a role model for other service members:

Aaron Caplan: "We don't think its fair to kick someone out of the military after a long and productive career simply because of her sexual orientation. At a time of war like this when we have a shortage of trained flight nurses its crazy to let our prejudices weaken our military."