Hard Ball Softens; Abortion Restrictions Up



A shaming campaign against MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews resulted in a quick apology for his sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid on Jan. 17.

Matthews' remarks against Clinton and other women were mapped out in a Dec. 18 report from watchdog group Media Matters. The next day, Matthews attributed Clinton's political success to sympathy for her as the wife of an adulterer: “Let's not forget, and I'll be brutal, the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner, is that her husband messed around.”

That was the final straw for some women's rights groups-including the National Women's Political Caucus, the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation-who protested outside NBC's Washington, D.C., bureau and sent open letters to Steve Capus, president of NBC News.

“Saying Senator Clinton got where she's got simply because her husband did what he did to her is just as callous, and I can see now, came across just as nasty-worse yet, just as dismissive,” a contrite Matthews said after 10 days of public pressure, adding that he would be more respectful toward women in the future.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • More than 12,000 anti-domestic violence centers have been opened across China since 2005, Xinhua News reported Jan. 14. Another 27,000 organizations and 400 shelters have been set up across the country to provide counseling, legal aid and other services for women. The All-China Women's Federation reports 40,000 to 50,000 complaints on domestic violence annually and says new laws and regulations against domestic violence are in the pipeline.
  • Women-only buses are now running in Mexico City as part of an initiative to halt sexual harassment on public transit, La Jornada reported Jan. 15. Buses and subways were the site of 14 percent of the city's reported sexual harassment, abuse and rape cases in 2007.
  • New York state has seized the assets of parents who owe child support payments to the tune of $1.6 billion annually, including the recent seizure of a Jules Pascin painting, which was resold at an auction for $132,000. The painting was taken from Peter Alexander Tulin, a Saratoga Springs lawyer who lost an election for the state Supreme Court last fall and owed $25,973 in back payments, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported Jan. 13.
  • Bahrain has ratified a law to combat human trafficking by criminalizing the exploitation and enslavement of immigrant workers, the Bahrain News Agency reported Jan 16. Traffickers will face minimum fines of $5,193 and jail time. In the United Arab Emirates, the penalty for sex trafficking is life imprisonment. The United Nations estimates the annual human trafficking trade at $32 billion for sales of people as well as the value of their labor.

For more information:

Media Matters:

NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Guttmacher Institute:

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The United States received an overall grade of D-Minus in a NARAL Pro-Choice America report card that graded the 50 states on access to reproductive information and services, abortion laws, state legislatures and political representatives' stances on reproductive rights.

Nearly 500 anti-choice measures were considered by states in 2007, including proposals to limit women's access to information about their options, prohibiting insurance coverage for abortion services or allowing health care providers to refuse to provide treatments they oppose.

Overall, 15 states received A grades. California and Washington were the only states to receive an A-Plus; in both, the legislatures are considered pro-choice.

Nineteen states received F grades, including Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Louisiana, which ranked last.

Currently, 28 states require parental involvement if a minor seeks an abortion and 23 states require doctors to tell women about alternatives, according to Stateline.org. Other restrictions take the form of abortion bans on specific procedures; stricter zoning or clinic regulations; or requirements to provide ultrasounds to pregnant women or inform them of abortion's link to mental health risks or cancer that have been disproved by researchers.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Saudi Arabia beheaded an Indonesian domestic worker on Jan. 12, the BBC reported. The woman was convicted of murdering her employer. Public executions in Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, increased from 37 beheadings in 2006 to a record 153 in 2007.
  • Amnesty International has reported that a 2002 moratorium on stoning has not been upheld in Iran and called on the nation to stop the execution method and remove it from its penal code. Nine of the 11 convicted criminals currently on death row are women, who are the most vulnerable in Iran's justice system. Coercive practices and high illiteracy rates mean that many women sign confessions for adultery and other capital offenses against their will or knowledge, according to Amnesty.
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced his intention to amend the constitution and ban abortion if elected president, Agence France Presse reported Jan 18. In an interview with online magazine Beliefnet, Huckabee also linked same-sex marriage to bestiality. “I think the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal,” the Republican candidate said.
  • Belair-Edison, a Baltimore neighborhood populated mostly by single black women, has seen a high number of foreclosures, stemming mainly from the subprime mortgage crisis, the New York Times reported Jan. 15. The mortgages have higher-than-normal interest rates made to borrowers with low incomes or credit scores. One in five subprime loans end in foreclosure, and women are 32 percent more likely to receive subprime loans than men. “The striking thing is that the disparity between men and women actually goes up as income rises,” said Allen J. Fishbein of the Consumer Federation of America. Baltimore's mayor announced the city will sue Wells Fargo for singling out minority neighborhoods for high-priced loans.
  • Funding for male contraception came to an abrupt halt after a study found 9 of 10 women would not trust their male partners to regularly take the injection. The contraceptive works by attacking sperm and weakening them so they cannot fertilize an egg. A team of researchers at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland, had spent eight years working on the new contraceptive method.


The U.S. abortion rate has decreased by as much as 25 percent since its peak in 1990, according to a Jan. 18 study from the New York-based Guttmacher Institute. There were 1.2 million abortions performed during 2005, down from 1.6 million in 1990, reaching the lowest point since 1974, the year after abortion was legalized.

The report did not pinpoint a specific cause for the decline; advocates on both sides of the issue also partly attribute declines to increasing restrictions imposed by states.

One in 5 U.S. pregnancies is terminated compared to 1 in 3 during the 1980s. Medical abortions have increased to 13 percent of the total since the RU-486 drug to induce them was approved in 2000.

The number of clinics that offer abortion services declined 15 percent since 2000, and the number of counties-87 percent-that have no clinic remained constant.

Shanelle Matthews is a Women's eNews intern and a recent graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Dominique Soguel is Women's eNews Arabic editor.

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