Dems Laud Privacy; Muslim Women Under Assault



During Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate on CNN, all seven of the candidates vigorously stated their support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, and all but one couched their support in terms of protecting a woman's “right to privacy.”

A question came from the audience member about the qualities each candidate would seek in a Supreme Court justice, while reporter Suzanne Malveux added what she called a “hook” about whether the candidates would only support abortion rights proponents for the high court.

“I would not appoint anyone who did not understand that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and the ‘Liberty Clause' of the 14th Amendment provided a right to privacy,” -Sen. Joseph Biden said. His use of the word “privacy” was echoed down the line as other candidates answered. Sen. Hillary Clinton noted that the right to free speech, freedom of worship and reproductive rights are part of “the right to be left alone,” echoing the words of a Supreme Court decision by Justice Louis Brandeis in 1928.

Earlier in the evening, Clinton, who is leading in the polls, shot down a series of questions about whether she played the “gender card” in reaction to the last Democratic debate; as front-runner, she was strongly challenged by the rest of the field.

“Here in Las Vegas, I'm trying to play the winning card,” she joked. “People are not attacking me because I'm a woman. They're attacking me because I'm ahead.” But, she added, “to aim towards the highest, hardest glass ceiling, is history-making.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • For the first time since women were allowed to become priests in the Church of England, more women than men were ordained in 2006, the BBC reported Nov. 13. Women now make up one-quarter of the clergy. Some senior members of the Anglican Church have considered appointing female bishops and over two-thirds of the governing synod's members say the idea is theologically sound.
  • Two more Womenpriests-members of a dissident Roman Catholic group that advocate for women in the clergy-were ordained in St. Louis, Mo., on Nov. 11, at a reform synagogue with a female rabbi as host. A crowd of 600 cheered as Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath took their vows.
  • A British parliamentarian offered a vigorous plan to combat rape in the United Kingdom, including stricter sentences and a higher conviction rate, more funding for rape crisis centers and a campaign to change social attitudes. “This is an example of moral collapse,” David Cameron, a Tory party leader, said in a speech to a women's group, the Guardian reported Nov. 12.
  • A Lebanese nongovernmental group partnered with Microsoft to lift gender barriers on technology, Lebanon's Daily Star reported Nov. 12. Their project, Knowledge Networks, will train women to use computers and the Internet and establish “telecenters” in rural areas. Once trained, the women will teach other women to use technology at telecenters close to their homes.
  • The Uruguay Senate passed a bill to allow abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy for women facing economic, health or family hardships, Reuters reported Nov. 6. Abortion is currently allowed only when pregnancy poses a mortal risk to the woman. The bill is expected to pass Uraguay's House of Representatives but President Tabare Vazques threatened to veto it.


In Basra, Iraq, religious extremists are waging a violent campaign against women who do not dress or behave according to their interpretation of Islam and doctors who provide medical services to women.

“They kill women, leave a piece of paper on her or dress her in indecent clothes so as to justify their horrible crimes,” said Basra police chief Maj. Gen. Abdul Jalil Khalaf. Militants murdered 42 women between July and September, the BBC reported Nov. 15.

Also, women's groups in Iraq are reporting a wave of attacks against male gynecologists, U.N. news agency IRIN reported Nov. 13. One medical group said at least 22 doctors received threatening letters and two doctors were killed last week as they left their clinics. Extremists argue that male doctors should not see women's reproductive organs.

“Doctors are scared to continue with their work and the number of women gynecologists is very low and cannot meet the demand,” said Mayada Zuhair of the Women' Rights Association.

In Iran, the government launched a new public morality campaign to crack down on un-Islamic fashion and other “social vices,” Gulf News reported Nov. 13. Women risk sanctions from police for wearing makeup, short trousers, skimpy overcoats or small headscarves. Thousands of women have been warned or arrested for their dress during the last six months.

In Damascus, Syria, religious extremists have thrown acid at women whose dress they disapprove, Al Arabiya reported Nov. 14, prompting Muslim leaders to speak out against the attacks.

In Saudi Arabia, two men who encouraged women to participate in a public protest were sentenced to six months in prison, the Financial Times reported Nov. 9. And a woman who was gang-raped was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes for illegally being in the presence of an unrelated man, the BBC reported Nov. 15.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • A voter initiative designed to challenge Roe v. Wade has cleared its first legal hurdle on its way to Colorado's 2008 election ballot, World Net Daily reported Nov. 14. The initiative would define a fertilized egg as a person and targets a reference in Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun's opinion in Roe v. Wade, where he wrote that if a fetus were granted “personhood” status the right to life would be constitutionally guaranteed. Activists have proposed a similar law for the ballot in Montana, a constitutional amendment has been proposed in Georgia and the strategy is being considered in several other states.
  • The prevalence of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States has risen for the second straight year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia has steadily risen to 348 cases per 100,000 people in 2006, and is particularly troublesome. Gonorrhea, the second most common STD, increased 5.5 percent and syphilis increased 12 percent. Health officials attributed the rise to shrinking public health funds and increased risky behavior, the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 14.
  • Even though people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses have been barred from possessing guns since 1993 under federal law, few guns have been confiscated from Washington's King County, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Nov. 14. Guns were used in 56 percent of domestic violence killings in the past decade. Despite the federal mandate that guns be removed, no funding or training for police to seize weapons was provided. Monique Vance, 37, was murdered by her husband in April with a .357 revolver; he had been ordered by a judge to surrender his gun in February but turned in an air pistol.
  • Nearly $6 million in federal funds have been given to 21 so-called pregnancy resource centers, which provide religiously influenced, medically inaccurate information to women in rural areas, the Huffington Post reported Nov. 14. One example of misleading information provided by the centers is that abortion causes cancer. Citing findings by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Huffington Post added that these funds are disproportionate to the small number of women served by such centers.

Sarah Seltzer is the editorial intern; Dominque Soguel is Arabic editor.

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