While it is of the utmost importance that these stories be told, it is easy to lose sight of the successes that are being made – especially when they seem to be so few, hard won and far between. All the more reason to remind ourselves to share these small victories when we have them – our outrage and our efforts are not in vain.
1/2/2014 - Appeals Court Upholds Decision Blocking Wisconsin Admitting Privileges Law
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld a lower court's decision to block a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
1/2/2014 - President Obama Signs Defense Bill Expanding Efforts to Prevent Military Sexual Assault
President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA), which expands efforts to prevent sexual assault and strengthens protections for victims.
1/3/2014 - Rhode Island Now Third State with Paid Family Leave Program
Rhode Island became the third U.S. state to offer a paid family leave program, which will make most of the state workforce eligible to take paid time off to care for a new child or a sick loved one.
1/10/2014 - Lawmakers In Three States Introduce Pro-Woman Legislation
State lawmakers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania legislatures have introduced pro-woman bills since the new year started, a positive change from the increasing attacks on women's rights and access to abortion around the United States.
1/10/2014 - California Bill Would Change Reporting Requirements for Rapes on College Campuses
California Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced a state bill that would change the rules for reporting rapes on college campuses in an effort to hold universities more accountable. AB 1433 would amend California's Education Code to require hate crimes and violent crimes, such as homicide, rape, or robbery, that are received by a university's campus law enforcement agency to be immediately reported to the police.
1/13/2014 - Shriver Report: Close Wage Gap, Provide Paid Leave to Improve Women's Financial Security
Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress released a joint report detailing the status of American women living in poverty, suggesting policies that would help millions of women become financially secure, and calling on the United States to "modernize its relationship with women in order not only to strengthen our economy, but also to make it work better for everyone."
1/13/2014 - Supreme Court Declines Review of Decision Blocking Abortion Ban
The Supreme Court rejected a case that would have been a direct assault on Roe v. Wade.
Horne v. Isaacson is a legal challenge to an Arizona law that bans abortions 20 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that the law was unconstitutional and permanently blocked its enforcement. The law would have interfered with a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy before viability, in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade. The law also included only very narrow exceptions, permitting an abortion only if the woman faced a life-threatening medical emergency or serious physical impairment.
1/21/2014- Federal Court Strikes Down North Carolina Ultrasound Law
A federal district court permanently blocked a 2011 North Carolina law that required abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient, even if the woman objected. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled that the "speech-and-display" provision of the law violated the First Amendment. State lawmakers had acknowledged that the ultrasound law was designed to persuade women not to obtain abortions. "Requiring a physician or other health care provider to deliver the state's content-based, non-medical message in his or her own voice as if the message was his or her own constitutes compelled ideological speech and warrants the highest degree of First Amendment protection," wrote Judge Eagles.
1/22/2014 - White House Launches Task Force to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault
President Barack Obama announced the creation of a task force to combat campus sexual assault and released a report that declares "no one in America is more at risk of being raped or assaulted than college women."
The task force and report mark the first time the White House has taken such public and aggressive steps to address campus violence. According to the report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted in college but only 12 percent of student victims report the assault. To combat these startling statistics, President Obama is giving the task force of administration officials 90 days to recommend measures for colleges to prevent sexual violence, raise public awareness of campus policies and hold schools accountable if they do not address sexual violence problems.
1/22/2014 - Federal Appeals Court Reinstates CPC Regulation in New York City
A federal appeals court reinstated a portion of a 2011 New York City law that regulates Crisis Pregnancy Centers, known as CPCs or fake clinics. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means that CPCs operating in New York City must now disclose whether or not a licensed medical professional works on-site at the facility.
To comply with the law, CPCs must post the disclosure in English and Spanish at their entrances and in their waiting rooms. Disclosures must also appear on advertisements and be made orally, either in-person to potential clients or during telephone conversations with potential clients.
"A pregnant woman deserves and has the right to know whether the person posing as her medical provider is actually just an anti-choice activist," said NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller. "We look forward to the City moving forward to implement this important protection."
1/27/2014 - Hospital Removes Brain-Dead Pregnant Texas Woman From Life Support
Marlise Munoz, the brain-dead pregnant Texas woman who was kept on life support against her and her family's wishes, was disconnected from life support.
After her fetus was found to be significantly deformed and non-viable, the 96th District Court of Tarrant County, Texas ordered the hospital to take Munoz off of life support, and it obeyed.
1/30/2014- New York State Assembly Passes Omnibus Women's Equality Act
The New York State Assembly passed the Women's Equality Act, an omnibus bill designed to strengthen women's rights in 10 different areas.
The Women's Equality Act codifies Roe v. Wade, ensuring that a woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy, and protects providers from prosecution. It also closes loopholes in equal pay laws, extends protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allows the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ends employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, stops housing discrimination toward victims of domestic violence, and strengthens order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state.
1/30/2014 - House and Senate Democrats File Amicus Briefs in Support of Affordable Care Act Contraception Benefit
91 House Democrats, 19 Senate Democrats, and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) filed separate amicus briefs Tuesday in support of the contraceptive coverage benefit in the Affordable Care Act. NWLC's brief was joined by 68 other organizations.
1/31/2014 - Senate Democratic Women Speak Out In Support of Raising the Minimum Wage
In a press conference yesterday, 12 Democrat women senators came together to urge Republican lawmakers to join them in efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 an hour, to $10.10 an hour. Their comments echoed President Obama's State of the Union remarks about income inequality, in which he committed to issuing an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10.
2/3/2014 - Minnesota Lawmakers Introduce Women's Economic Security Act
Minnesota lawmakers introduced an expansive legislative package -- dubbed the Women's Economic Security Act of 2014" -- to address a wide range of issues affecting women working outside of the home, including mandated paid sick leave, increased minimum wage and expanded access to childcare.
2/3/2014- US Abortion Rate Decreases to Lowest Level Since 1973
A Guttmacher Institute study reveals that the abortion rate in the United States is at its lowest rate since 1973, when the Supreme Court recognized a woman's right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade.
"Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011" by Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman, asserts that there were only 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2011, and a 13 percent decrease in the rate of abortions in the United States between 2008 and 2011. The highest abortion rate occurred in 1981, at 29.3 per 1,000 women.
Although the authors did not examine causes of the recent decline in abortion, they detailed some possible links. "The decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates," said lead author Rachel Jones. "Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing."
The authors ruled out a negative effect by the high number of abortion restrictions making their way through state legislatures, because many of the restrictions were not introduced or implemented until their study ended in 2011, and the decline occurred in all but six states.
2/4/2014 - Louisiana Scraps Abortion Restrictions After Pro-Choice Protests
Pro-choice activists in Louisiana are celebrating after health officials announced Monday night they are "rescinding" restrictive abortion provisions that would have closed all five of the state's clinics.
The regulations, passed in November 2013 without any input from pro-choice organizers, would have mandated extensive expansions and renovations to existing clinics. Officials from all five of Louisiana's clinics said they would have been unable to meet the requirements and would have closed down. The Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) announced its decision just hours before it was set to hear testimony on the regulations.
2/4/2014 - Local Pregnancy Discrimination Laws Go Into Effect While PWFA Remains Stalled in Congress
In New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia, legislation protecting pregnant workers has now now been enacted. Across the nation, however, pregnant workers remain vulnerable to discrimination.
An amendment including pregnant workers in the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination all protect pregnant workers from discrimination and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. These accommodations include allowing employees to sit on a stool rather than stand during work hours, giving them permission to carry water bottles and food on the job, re-assigning pregnant employees temporarily to light-duty work, and refraining from allowing pregnant workers to do heavy lifting.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, currently stalled in both chambers of Congress, would require every employer in the nation to provide these accommodations to their employees.
2/10/2014 - Thousands March in North Carolina Against Restrictive GOP Policies
Around 80,000 to 100,000 people from 32 states marched in Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday to protest the state's GOP-led legislature's extremist attacks on human and voting rights and vital public assistance programs.
The "Moral March on Raleigh," organized by Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, was the "largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act," said Ari Berman, a writer for The Nation who attended the march.
Protesters marched from Shaw University to the state Capitol holding signs that called out state lawmakers for enacting restrictive policies regarding abortion, voting rights, labor, and education, among others. In particular, since taking over the state government for the first time in a century, North Carolina Republicans passed extreme anti-choice and voter suppression laws, diverted millions from public education to voucher schools, and cut taxes for the top 5 percent while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent, among other changes.
2/13/2014 - Virginia Senate Passes Bill To Repeal Ultrasound Law
The Virginia Senate voted to pass a bill yesterday that would repeal a law mandating medically unnecessary ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion.
SB 617 tied with a 20-20 vote based on party lines. The new Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam broke the tie to vote in favor of the bill.
"Women--and men--from across Virginia have been clear: they're done with politically motivated bills that attack women's health," said Cianti Stewart-Reid, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. "Those Senators who stood with women today and voted to repeal the medically unnecessary ultrasound requirement have shown they understand the will of Virginia voters." The bill will now be considered by the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates.
Pro-choice Democrats, including Northam, Governor Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, and several Senators swept the November state elections, winning with the support of women, especially young, unmarried, minority women..
2/14/2014 - President Obama Increases Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
President Obama signed an Executive Order Wednesday increasing the minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.
"It's the right thing to do," President Obama said in an email announcement. "But what's more, companies have found that when their employees earn more, they're more motivated, they work harder, and they stick around longer. You should expect the same of your federal government." The increase will apply to new contractors.
Obama announced in his State of the Union speech in January that he will push Congress to pass the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which would raise the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 in three phases for all US workers. The bill is still awaiting action, but if it passes, 28 million workers would benefit, many of whom will be lifted out of poverty.
2/20/2014- 25-Foot Buffer Zone Bill Passes New Hampshire Senate
The New Hampshire Senate voted 15-9 Wednesday to pass a bill that would create a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, with 4 Republicans joining all 11 Democrats in the chamber to vote in its favor.
Buffer zones are critical in protecting patients from verbal and physical harassment, violence, and anti-abortion protesters who may block their path into a clinic. Since the beginning of 2013, clinic patients in New Hampshire have filed over 60 complaints that detail harassment and intimidation.
2/24/2014 - Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case to Limit Access to Women's Healthcare Centers
The United States Supreme Court announced today that it will not review a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals protecting the right of Arizona Medicaid recipients to visit healthcare providers who also perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood sued to prevent Arizona House Bill 2800 from taking effect. The law would have prevented doctors and clinics that perform abortions from being Medicaid-eligible providers. According to reports, the law would have stopped Medicaid reimbursements to more than 80 Arizona hospitals and clinics that provide a wide range of women's healthcare services, including birth control, cancer screenings, and STD treatment, and would have impacted thousands of low-income women in the state.
2/25/2014 - Court Rules Against Notre Dame's Contraception Mandate Appeal
In a 2-1 ruling ,the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals for Chicago denied the University of Notre Dame's request for immediate relief from complying with the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, upholding a lower court's ruling.
The Roman Catholic university filed a lawsuit in May 2012 against the Department of Health and Human Services, claiming that complying with the ACA's contraception mandate would violate its religious beliefs. The government actually exempts religious employers from having to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees; they must only fill out a simple certification that such coverage would violate their religious principles, and a third party administrator will cover the contraceptives instead.
2/26/2014 - Massachusetts Governor Issues Emergency Regulations Banning Shackling of Pregnant Inmates
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed emergency regulations last week banning the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women.
The regulations will "immediately prohibit the state corrections department from shackling pregnant inmates at the ankle and waist during their second or third trimesters, during labor and childbirth, and immediately postpartum," according to RH Reality Check. They will expire after 90 days.
3/4/2014 - FDA Broadens Access to Emergency Contraception Over-the-Counter
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that generic versions of Plan B One Step will now be available over-the-counter to women of all ages.
The FDA removed age and point-of-sale restrictions on Teva Pharmaceutical's Plan B One Step in June 2013, but the agency also gave Teva a three-year protection from generic competition, meaning that generic versions of the emergency contraception (EC) could only be obtained behind the pharmacy counter and only be obtained without a prescription by women over 17 years old. By retaining these restrictions, the FDA effectively limited access for low-income women and girls.
3/5/2014 - Wisconsin City Council Passes 160-Foot Buffer Zone Ordinance
The Madison, Wisconsin city council unanimously passed a buffer zone ordinance last week to protect people entering or exiting healthcare clinics, including women's reproductive healthcare clinics, in the city. The new ordinance will require a 160-foot buffer zone around all healthcare clinics and a floating 8-foot buffer zone around people entering the clinics, with fines up to $750 for those who violate the boundaries.
"No one attempting to access any type of health care should be greeted with physical confrontation, protesters in their face, or forcing leaflets into their hands," said Janet Dye, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. "Madison's newly passed buffer zone will protect patient privacy and dignity while accessing health care."
3/5/2014- USDA Expands Access to Healthy Food for Low-Income Women And Children
Two million women and seven million children will now have greater access to a variety of nutritious food options, thanks to the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) expansion of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The revision of the program - which provides supplemental food vouchers to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, and infants and children through the age of five - began in 2007 when fruit and vegetable allowances were introduced, and was finalized. Previously, women using the program vouchers could only buy limited basics such as milk, infant formula, eggs, bread and tuna fish, among other items. The comprehensive expansion will allow women to use food vouchers to purchase more whole grain items, yogurt as a partial milk substitute, and fresh produce instead of jarred infant food for older children. It will also boost each child's fruit and vegetable purchase allowance by 30 percent, or $2 per month, and it will give states and local WIC agencies more flexibility to decide what to offer.
This is the first comprehensive revision of WIC since 1980, and it coincides with the program's 40th anniversary. The changes are based on more modern nutrition science and recommendations from the National Academies' Institute of Medicine and the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They will be implemented in phases through April 2015.
3/10/2014- Report Finds Record Number of Women Winning Political Seats Worldwide
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) - an international organization of parliamentarians - released its annual review of Women in Parliament last week at the United Nations, showing a record number of women winning Parliamentary seats around the world.
Overall, there was a 1.5 percentage increase last year in the number of women holding seats in government worldwide. Rwanda has the most, with women now comprising over 60 percent of its Parliament. Latin America recorded the highest electoral gains, with Ecuador, Grenada, and Argentina now among the 39 countries in the "above-30 percent club," meaning women comprise over 30 percent of their government.
Unfortunately, almost no progress was reported in Asia and Pacific, and the United States and Canada are way behind. The US ranks 83rd out of the 189 countries surveyed, with women filling only 18.5 percent of seats in Congress .
3/11/2014 - Senate Passes Limited Military Sexual Assault Reform Bill
Only a few days after the Senate blocked the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), it unanimously approved a bill that proposes several different reforms to combat sexual assault in the military.
"This debate has been about one thing - getting the policy right to best protect and empower victims, and boost prosecutions of predators," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said in a statement. "I believe we're on the cusp of achieving that goal."
3/12/2014 - New York Legislators Introduce Bill Banning Employer Discrimination Against Women For Reproductive Health Decisions
New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) introduced a bill that would ban employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions.
"Employers should not have the right to make healthcare decisions for their employees," said Assemblymember Jaffee in a statement. "Denying millions of women access to affordable birth control is denying them fair and equal access to basic preventive health care. This legislation is a step in the right direction: It will guarantee New York women, not their employers, the freedom and fundamental right to make their own personal healthcare decisions about what is best for them and their families."
3/13/2014 - Majority of Americans Approve of Obamacare Contraception Mandate
A poll conducted earlier this month by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that a majority of Americans agree with the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate. The mandate requires employers to provide coverage for FDA-approved contraceptives, including the pill and IUDs, without co-pays or deductibles, helping millions of women afford vital health care.
53 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed by telephone said that they believe employers should be required to include contraception coverage in workers' health plans even if the employers oppose its use [PDF]. The numbers were greatest among certain groups: 65 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 49, 61 percent of voters in the Northeast, and 72 percent of voters identifying as Democrats agreed with the mandate. 41 percent disagreed, saying employers should have the same exemption as religious organizations, and 6 percent said they were unsure.
3/18/2014 - Federal Court Strikes Down Arkansas Early Abortion Ban
US District Judge Susan Webber Wright struck down an Arkansas law last week that would have banned abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Webber declared the measure to be unconstitutional, stating that it"impermissibly infringes a woman's Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability."
"This was one of the most extreme laws passed in 2013 by lawmakers dead-set on taking away a women's ability to make the best medical decision for herself and her family," said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "We must ensure that this personal medical decision remains where it belongs: not with politicians, but with a woman, her family, and her doctor."
3/18/2014 - Senate Votes to Reauthorize Child Care Bill
The Senate voted 96-2 to pass the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (CCDBG), a federal grant program that provides child care assistance to families and funding for child care initiatives.
The CCDBG was authored by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Richard Burr (D-NC), along with Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and reflected feedback from parents, child care providers, and childhood development experts. It aims to improve the health and safety of the 1.5 million children and families who benefit from the federal child care subsidy program, by strengthening regulations for child care providers and facilities such as requiring background checks and inspections [PDF]. It will improve families' access to child care by, among other changes, requiring states to use at least 70 percent of the grant's funding for direct services. It will also strengthen the quality of child care by requiring developmentally appropriate training for child care providers, and it will improve the coordination of early care and education.
3/20/2014 - New Bill Aims To Expand Health Care Access for Immigrant Women and Families
The Health Equity and Access Under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2014, introduced last week, would significantly improve the ability of immigrant women and families to access affordable health care.
3/31/2014 - More than 7 Million People Enrolled in Healthcare Through Affordable Care ActLadies (and gentlemen), please return to your battle stations, your blogs, your petitions, your protests, your letter writing...
More than 7 million people have enrolled in private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
The White House met its original goal of enrolling 7 million people by March 31 through new federal and state marketplaces created by the landmark legislation. Despite false advertising about the ACA, numerous Republican attempts to dismantle the law, and problems with the rollout of the Healthcare.gov site, millions of Americans will now access quality, affordable health insurance.
Continue doing whatever it is you do - it is working.