Archive for November 17th, 2008

Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez vetoed a law decriminalizing abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, arguing it violated the right to life, the office of the presidency said on Saturday.

A doctor and center-left leader, Vazquez had repeatedly vowed to veto the easing of abortion restrictions. Congress passed the measure earlier in the week, in a rare move in predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America.

In a statement explaining the veto, Vazquez said it was more important to help women with unwanted pregnancies than to facilitate abortions for them.

“Our laws cannot ignore the reality of the existence of human life in the gestation period, as scientific evidence clearly shows,” the president said.

“It’s more appropriate to look for a solution based on solidarity, giving a woman the freedom to make other choices and thereby save both her and her baby,” Vazquez said.

Support for the law allowing early abortions was not seen as strong enough to override the presidential veto.

Abortion is largely banned in Latin America, home to about half the world’s Roman Catholics. In the region, Cuba has the most permissive laws, and Mexico City allows abortions on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy.

A congressional committee in Brazil defeated a measure to legalize the procedure earlier this year.


Uruguay’s Senate voted last week to depenalize abortion during the first trimester — a rare step in a Latin American nation. President Tabare Vasquez has said he will veto the measure.

Sen. Monica Javier of the governing Socialist Party said 17 of the 30 senators present voted for the bill, which earlier passed the lower house of Congress on a 49-48 vote.

The country’s Roman Catholic Church has crusaded against the measure, which would make Uruguay only the second country in South America, along with English-speaking Guyana, to allow abortion without restriction in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The nation’s bishops issued a statement on Saturday saying that any lawmakers voting for the measure would be automatically excommunicated.

Socialist President Vasquez, himself a physician, said last year that he doesn’t agree with legalized abortion — “neither philosophically nor biologically” — and would veto any bill to remove penalties.

Abortion is now banned altogether in Uruguay, a nation of 3.3 million people, though researches estimate that about 33,000 are performed each year at a cost of up to $800. Three Uruguayan doctors were sentenced to prison earlier this year for performing abortions.

Most countries in Latin America allow abortion only in cases of rape, when the mother’s life is in danger or if the fetus has severe deformities. Only Cuba and Guyana allow abortions without restrictions in the first trimester.

Nicaragua banned abortion in all cases in 2006 and efforts to overturn full bans on abortion have repeatedly failed in other countries.

Mexico City last year approved abortion without limitation in the first trimester, but that is banned elsewhere in the country.

The first Abortion Legislation Forum opened last week at the University of the West Indies (UWI) with calls for clarification of what constitutes a lawful abortion.

“The legislation as it exists indicates when abortions are unlawful. The assumption is that lawful situations may exist; and if so they should be indicated. If there are no lawful situations, then revise the legislation and omit the word unlawful,” Dr Olivia McDonald, executive director of the National Family Planning Board and one of the panellists at the forum, said.

“Section 72 of the current legislation, the Offences Against the Person Act, criminalises a woman for the intention to procure a miscarriage whether the woman be or be not with child.”

Noting that safe abortions are an essential health service for women, in the same way that sexual and reproductive health are key, Dr McDonald said every time a woman undergoes a clandestine abortion, it threatens her right to life survival.

“The right to health actually requires government to take appropriate measures to ensure that women are not exposed to risk and stigma and discrimination associated with unsafe abortions,” she said. “Denying women access to abortion is a form of gender discrimination, because only women need and have abortions, only women can be exposed to the risk of unsafe abortions. Further to ratifying Article 12 of the Convention for the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Jamaican Government agreed that neglecting health services that only women need is discriminatory an a deficit that must be remedied.”

Similarly, attorney-at-law Susan Folks Goldson of the Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn, said she agreed that the laws should be revised, however, some of the recommendations from the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group were cause for concern.

“We have recommendations as to why we should change the law, but the approach being taken gives me cause for concern,” she said. “Abortion can be done up to 22 weeks on demand and over 22 weeks may be terminated for a variety of reasons. That is too vague for my liking,” she said, adding that she is also concerned about the recommendations as it relates to terminating a pregnancy when the child is physically or mentally abnormal. “What is physically handicapped, is that Down’s Syndrome? What about the rights of the child? Jamaica would be better served by emphasising the sanctity and the preservation of life. If we are going to err let us err on the side of the preservation of life.”

Meanwhile, Dr Wayne West, a member of the Coalition for the Defence of Life, questioned whether the motive behind the review of the abortion legislations was valid. Former health minister, John Junor, sanctioned the review with the aim of reducing the rate of maternal mortality in Jamaica, however, Dr West contends that he is yet to find any data to support this position.

“From the period 2001 to 2007 there were three maternal deaths as a result of abortion out of more than 300 maternal deaths,” he said. “Where is the evidence? I am still asking that question.”

Reverend Dr Collin Cowan, from the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, said a woman should have the right to have an abortion in cases of rape, incest or where “the potential life has severe disability and dysfunction”.

“The decision to terminate a pregnancy under such circumstances should neither be regarded illegal nor immoral,” he said.

But when the floor was opened up for questions, a woman who said she was born without legs took Reverend Dr Cowan to task, pointing out that despite her disability she has led a meaningful life.

“Who says I am not living a good quality of life?” she asked. “We really need to think seriously about this thing.”

Another person from the audience, Marcia Weeks, a youth worker in Barbados, pointed out that even though abortion was legalised in Barbados more than 20 years ago, women have reported not receiving any form of counselling before or after the procedure is done. Counselling is considered an integral part of the process because it helps the women to cope after terminating a pregnancy.

“They said they did not get enough information or counselling. They were only given a form to fill out and the abortion was done,” she said. “We deal with a lot of cases where the women require psychiatric help. The abortions are done on demand without proper counselling and so we need to take stock of what we are saying.”

Similarly, another female member of the audience pointed out too, that like Barbados, counselling prior to and post abortions is not done in other countries where abortion is legal.

At the same time, Beryl Weir, executive director of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, said a woman should have the right to have an abortion “just as how we have the choice to vote”. She, however, said it must be done in facilities where the procedure can be done in a safe environment. Counselling, she added, must be included in the process.

“Women who wish to terminate a pregnancy will find the will or means to do so whether it is illegal or not,” she said.

See also:
* Abortion debate rolls on in Jamaica
* Leave abortion up to individual conscience, doctor warns
Graphic abortion video rattles Jamaican parliamentarians
* And earlier stories on this blog at

While legalising abortion may lead to a drop in the number of unsafe abortions, a gynaecologist / obstetrican from Barbados yesterday said facilities also have to be provided to make the service available for poor women.

Dr James Boyce said even with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1983) in Barbados, women still have to pay for pregnancy termination. “Women who probably need pregnancy termination most are the women least able to afford it, and when you put abortion in the province of greedy medical practitioners what is that going to do to those poor women who want to have pregnancies terminated but cannot afford it?” Boyce asked.

He was speaking at the Family Planning Association Health Forum “Saving Women’s Lives: Our Rights and Responsibilities” at Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain.

Providing an overview of the legislation, Boyce said under 12 weeks termination is legal if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the mother or result in the birth of a seriously handicapped child.

He suggested that a legal framework was necessary to “permit” the acceptance of abortion in society. “Beyond that we need to make sure there is provision of facilities and personnel to make the procedure available to all who need it not only those who can afford it.”

Before the law, Boyce said a significant number of abortions were being done by hospital orderlies, pharmacists and other untrained persons.

The techniques used and the places where they were done were not controlled.

Boyce said it was common for women to lose their lives because of haemorrhage, sepsis, and “sometimes renal failure due to the insertion of chemical agents like Lysol, Dettol and Savlon which some of the untrained persons used to inject into the woman’s womb.”

Polish women seeking to escape restrictive abortion laws in the predominately Roman Catholic nation come to Ukraine to terminate pregnancies. Abortion tourism is a covert phenomenon between doctors in western Ukraine and pregnant women in eastern Poland.

Apart from Black Sea beaches and the Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine is a destination for unconventional kinds of tourism – political, sex and also abortion.

The first two are known by many. Perpetual elections in the country breed herds of demonstrators from the regions who tour political institutions with party flags for some $20 a day.

Sex tourism for its part is easy to spot in any restaurant on Kreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main street, where foreign men are usually courting scantily dressed Ukrainian women.

Abortion tourism, however, is a covert phenomenon between doctors in western Ukraine and pregnant women in eastern Poland.

Fleeing strict laws at home in the predominately Roman Catholic nation, they come to Ukraine to have an abortion.

“It’s an entire industry,” said Petro Gusak from the Lviv Institute of Family and Married Life. “There are special tourist buses that take Polish women in reproductive age across the border to see doctors.”

A pro-life activist from the Ukrainian Catholic University, he quickly searched “aborcja Lwow,” or “abortion Lviv” in Polish on the Internet to show a host of references on the subject. Together with sightseeing tours, travel agencies advertise so-called “gynecological-induced period” services in Lviv.

Poland adopted strict anti-abortion laws in the early ‘90s when the Catholic Church was at the height of its influence.

A termination of pregnancy is permitted in only three cases: when the life or health of a mother is at risk, when a growing baby is severely and irreversibly damaged or incurably ill, or when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act.

It has made a big change for Poland.During Communist times, there were up to 200,000 abortions a year. That figure has fallen to 340, states the governmental report for 2006.

It has also forced women to cross the border into Ukraine to terminate pregnancies. One of them, in an anonymous online posting, explained: “This is my body and I want an abortion. Sooner or later, abortions will be legal in Poland.” She said she had an appointment for an abortion in Lviv. “So, what can you do to me?”

Head of the Federation for Women in Warsaw, Wanda Nowicka, does not believe the official figures mean that fewer Polish women are getting abortions.

“They think that if they introduce restrictive legislation, women will have children. But it is not the case,” said Nowicka, slamming government policies. “We expect that the number of underground abortions is in the tens of thousands.” She later said the figure could be as high as 200,000.

She said that women with higher incomes travel to European Union countries. Those with little money to spare go to Ukraine and Belarus. Others buy special pills on the web to abort a pregnancy at home.

Nowicka, however, cannot produce any documented proof for Ukraine because “it’s all done under the table.”

Dr. Iryna Mykychak from the Lviv Regional Health Administration denies any backstreet abortions in her district. “We have not had a single foreign woman seeking this service recently,” she said.

Pro-life activist Gusak hit the same brick wall asking Lviv gynecologists if they have Polish clients. “They all said no,” said Gusak. “But I simply don’t believe that they won’t take extra money when they are not even breaking the Ukrainian law (which allows a termination of pregnancy up to 22 weeks).”

He said that, traditionally, women look for doctors through the grapevine. A manicurist in the nearest beauty parlor was only too happy to help. “It’s private, it’s safe, they take Polish women,” she said. “I did it myself when I was on the seventh week; it went well.”

She confidentially shared a contact number for a gynecologist from the Lviv state clinic.

This doctor took a phone call only late in the evening. He was cautious.

“I used to do it before, but not now. It’s a criminal act, you understand? Does she speak Ukrainian?” he was hesitating.

“Call me again tomorrow; I will try to help.”

Nowicka from the Women’s Federation said that women were risking their health seeking anonymous help abroad.

Under Polish law, doctors may refuse a woman an abortion for moral reasons. In this case, however, they are obliged to indicate a place where one could be done but there is no guarantee that the doctor there will give an approval. As a result, women are often subjected to successive examinations until the deadline for abortion (12 weeks) expires, and they are required to have a baby.

“This is a sign of discrimination. It shows that our society does not treat women as equal humans who can take responsibility for their life,” Nowicka said.

The problem gets worse with widespread hypocrisy towards abortion. Nowicka explained that even women who came for help to her center said that they were actually anti-abortion but needed a termination anyway.

“Anti-choice propaganda developed an internalized sense of guilt,” she said.

Pro-life activists from the Catholic University in Lviv suggested that Ukraine should follow the Polish example to reverse the population’s decline. Due to high mortality, low birth rates, and emigration there are 46 million people in Ukraine today – down from 52 million a decade ago. Gusak said that some 30 million people could have been born if it wasn’t for the liberalization of abortions in the ’50s.

Imposing the Anti-Abortion Act, Polish officials also expected the population to grow. Instead, the number of newborns has fallen by some 140,000 per year since the introduction of the ban in 1993, the state report shows.

Yet despite alarming statistics, the Polish parliament tried to outlaw abortions altogether last year. The vote failed only by a small margin.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian doctors do not deny anyone their services, performing at least 200,000 abortions for Ukrainian women and possibly another few thousand for the Polish “tourists.”

A state of mind

“Mental cruelty is a state of mind. The feeling of deep anguish, disappointment, frustration in one spouse caused by the conduct of the other for a long time may lead to mental cruelty. A sustained course of abusive and humiliating treatment calculated to torture, discommode or render life miserable for the spouse,” said a Bench consisting of Justices C.K. Thakker and D.K. Jain.

“Treatment must be grave”

Writing the judgment, Justice Thakker said: “The treatment complained of and the resultant danger or apprehension must be very grave, substantial and weighty. Sustained reprehensible conduct, studied neglect, indifference or total departure from the normal standard of conjugal kindness, causing injury to mental health or deriving sadistic pleasure, can also amount to mental cruelty.”

The conduct must be much more than jealousy, selfishness, possessiveness, which caused unhappiness and dissatisfaction and emotional upset but might not be a reason for grant of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty.

Absence of intention

The Bench said: “To establish legal cruelty, it is not necessary that physical violence should be used. Continuous cessation of marital intercourse or total indifference on the part of the husband towards marital obligations would lead to legal cruelty. In such cases, the cruelty will be established if the conduct itself is proved or admitted. The absence of intention should not make any difference in the case, if by ordinary sense in human affairs the act complained of could otherwise be regarded as cruelty. Mens rea is not a necessary element in cruelty. The relief to the party cannot be denied on the ground that there has been no deliberate or wilful ill treatment.”

The court said: “Mere coldness or lack of affection cannot amount to cruelty; frequent rudeness of language, petulance of manner, indifference and neglect may reach such a degree that it makes the married life for the other spouse absolutely intolerable.”

Dissatisfied with divorce

In the instant case, Suman Kapur was aggrieved at the decree of divorce granted against her by a trial court and confirmed by the Delhi High Court. Both courts gave a finding that her three abortions without the knowledge and consent of her husband, Sudhir Kapur, was a valid ground for divorce.

Disposing of the appeal, the Bench noted that Sudhir Kapur got remarried on March 5, 2007 before the expiry of the period of 90 days for filing appeal before this court and a child was born from the second marriage.

Ends of justice

“Since, we are confirming the decree of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty as held by both courts, i.e. the trial court as well as the High Court, no relief can be granted so far as the reversal of decree of the courts below is concerned. At the same time, however, in our opinion, the respondent-husband should not have remarried before the expiry of period stipulated for filing appeal. Ends of justice would be met if we direct the respondent to pay Rs. 5 lakh to the appellant.”

We have heard a lot about abortion recently. At federal level Senator Barnett is trying to have a Medicare item removed to reduce funding for abortion; and in Victoria, the parliament recently had a conscience vote on reforming their abortion laws. During this debate, many members of the Victorian Parliament asked: what is being done to prevent unplanned pregnancy?

The answer? Not enough.

The estimated national abortion rate of 19.7 per 1,000 females of reproductive age (15-44 years) is indeed high compared with other industrialised countries such as Germany (7.7) or the Netherlands (8.7).

But it gets worse.

The rate of births to teenagers in Australia is also high at 18.4 per 1,000 females of reproductive age, compared with Korea (2.9) or Switzerland (5.5), although lower than the UK (29.7) and the USA (51.1). Teenage motherhood is associated with a range of poor social, economic and health outcomes.

In Australia over the last decade, rates of chlamydia have increased more than four-fold and rates of gonorrhoea have almost doubled. We have also seen an increase in the number of new cases of HIV in recent years.

In addition, young people who identify as gay or lesbian, or are unsure of their sexuality, experience high levels of distress and depression.

Among sexually active secondary school students surveyed in 2002, 23 per cent of males and 28 per cent of females had experienced unwanted sex. Pressure from partners, drugs and alcohol were all factors. In addition, among women over the age of 15 years, almost 20 per cent have experienced sexual violence, with younger women experiencing the highest rates.

Over a quarter of females and around 5 per cent of males in Australia were sexually abused as children.

Health outcomes like this in a country like Australia are unacceptable.

Sexual and reproductive health issues cover the whole lifespan for all genders and sexualities. Sexuality should be a positive, healthy part of life, not an issue only considered in the context of abortion or disease. Conservative social attitudes often inhibit discussion of this in public life. The recent removal of abortion from the Crimes Act by the Victorian Parliament was a courageous and positive move which has brought these issues to the fore. It is an opportunity to do more and we must not let it pass us by.

In the 1980s in the early stages of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, the Australian Government worked with all levels of government, stakeholders, researchers and affected communities and showed strong leadership in not allowing local or parochial views to undermine the first National HIV-AIDS strategy. This partnership, preventive and human rights approach was recognised as best practice at the time, and is needed again now.

Australia has never had a comprehensive national sexual and reproductive health strategy, despite the (then) Department of Health and Aged Care recommending one in 2000.

Current strategies are disease focused and lack connection with inter-dependent factors such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence and the social determinants of health which make some populations within the community particularly vulnerable to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

In particular, while the prevention of sexual transmissible infections gets some attention and government spending, there are no national, uniform, minimum standards for sexuality and sexual health education in our schools. Most education Ministers in the States and Territories have no idea what, if any, sexuality and relationships education is taught in each school.

Access to a full range of contraception is not available in many parts of Australia and community awareness of contraceptive methods, particularly emergency contraception (the “morning-after pill”) is low.

Compare this with the Netherlands where young people receive comprehensive sexuality education throughout their schooling and can easily access contraception at little or no cost. These initiatives, according to the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, have produced the best sexual and reproductive health outcomes in the world.

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) in conjunction with Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia (SH&FPA) and the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance (ARHA) earlier this year released a Background Paper and Call to Action for a National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy.

It outlines a clear, evidence based, prevention focused approach which aims to improve knowledge; access to quality health services across the lifespan; and a range of health outcomes.

This Call to Action has been sent to the Australian Government and to all members of the Victorian Parliament during the recent debate on abortion law reform. The time for leadership on this issue is now.

Poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes cannot be solved overnight, but there is much that can be done. The potential for positive change is huge. Reducing the number of women facing the stress of an unplanned pregnancy – therefore reducing the abortion rate is just one outcome we would all like to see.

Watching the presidential candidates speak about their views on abortion at the final debate, I wondered how many Americans understand who the typical woman getting an abortion is.

I had long assumed it was someone like Juno — the title character of the recent popular movie — a teenager in high school who finds herself pregnant and is not ready to raise a child.

This is wrong. The typical American woman having an abortion is a parent of one or more children (60 percent); in her 20s (57 percent); has never married (67 percent); is economically disadvantaged (57 percent); lives in a metropolitan area (88 percent); considers herself a Christian (70 percent); and has graduated from high school (87 percent) and attended at least some college (57 percent).

This according to two studies, one released in September and one in 2002, by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit, politically nonpartisan research center that supports abortion rights but whose work is often quoted by both sides of the abortion debate. The Guttmacher studies surveyed 10,000 women who had undergone abortions and included data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Guttmacher attracted considerable attention earlier this year, when it reported that the number of women having abortions dropped to 1.2 million in 2005 from 1.3 million in 2000, the fewest since the Supreme Court legalized it 35 years ago. This was widely welcomed as good news, although explanations varied, depending on which side of the issue people were on: One side attributed the decline to comprehensive sex education programs in states where most abortions occur, along with the availability of the morning-after pill; the other credited the demonizing of abortion and the emphasis on adoption as an alternative.

While the media have recently shown us teenagers who decide to keep their babies or put them up for adoption — like Juno, Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol, and Jamie Lynn Spears — I don’t think we know the parent in her 20s having the abortion.

After numerous inquiries, I found a clinic here that performs abortions and was willing to help me, the Cherry Hill Women’s Center. It took many more weeks to find three statistically typical women willing to be interviewed. Not one would allow her name to be used; each had told three or four people at most.

Beyond their shared demographics, the women had several things in common. All three are balancing demanding work schedules while raising children. All three are economically lower middle class, but upwardly striving. All three described their children as the most important thing in their lives and said their decision had been influenced by the need to give the children they already had the necessary support. And all three were deeply conflicted about the decision, but grateful for the option.

The head bank teller: 28; three children, ages 12, 8 and 3; “engaged to be married”; two years of college; Catholic (the two oldest children go to Catholic school and the family attends Mass twice a month).

Why: “My 3-year-old son was not speaking, and going back and forth to doctors, we discovered his speech was severely delayed. I just knew, with all I was going through with him, I didn’t want to have to go through having to care for another baby at the same time. It was too much.”

The decision: “Very hard, very emotional for me. I thought about it for five weeks. You’re ending a life, you’re cutting life short. Who knows what would have been.”

Adoption: “No. I don’t want to be found 20 years from now.”

Her Catholic faith: “It’s my decision, my body, something I have to answer for when the day comes, when I’m gone and I’m standing there before him. And I’m prepared.”

The beautician: 25; one daughter, 4; has a boyfriend of three years; works two jobs (at a beauty salon and for a beauty supply company); Baptist; has a community college degree in business.

Why: “To be honest, I kind of felt it was not the right time to have another child. I just graduated and started working in my career. I want to make a good living for my daughter. It’s hard being a single parent, and I’m trying to get to a level in a career where I’m more established. I didn’t want to be one of those barefoot-and-pregnants.”

The decision: “It was very hard emotionally. I was scared to death of everything. Scared of having another child. Me and my boyfriend are together three years, but how would our relationship change with a baby in the picture? Would he stay? It was scary thinking about having and scary thinking about not having it.”

Adoption: “I thought if I went through the pregnancy, I wouldn’t be able to go through with it, I’d wind up keeping the baby.”

Her daughter: “She’s my motivation, she makes me get up every day and do what I have to do. You do everything for them.”

Future children: “Definitely. I can’t wait to get to the point where I have more security.”

The exotic dancer: 25; 1-year-old son; “not really with his father”; works four nights a week dancing; Catholic; attends Camden Community College two nights a week.

Why: “I knew his father couldn’t help me — he didn’t help when I was pregnant with my son. He’s a scrub — even his family says — he’s relapsed on heroin again. Last time, I danced until I was five months’ and waitressed the rest of the pregnancy. I can’t do that again, working, going to school — it’s too much. I need to take care of my son.”

The decision: “Morally I thought it’s wrong and taking the easy way out. I felt horrible. It was a lose-lose situation. I was a screw-up for a lot of years. Very self-destructive. A lot of drugs. I weaned myself off it, two years now and I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Adoption: “I didn’t think I’d be able to be pregnant, dance and take care of my son.”

Her son: “Whether I would have stayed clean without him I don’t know. It isn’t about me anymore; it’s about him. My life is done, my life is getting prepared so he can live.”

Future children: “No. Not unless I find the right man, and I don’t think I ever will.”


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After Obama’s Victory: What’s Next for Women?

Even as jubilation among Democratic voters was still erupting after Sen. Barack Obama’s historic presidential victory, women’s groups began looking ahead to what comes next and how to get there.

From fixing the domestic health-care system and the economy, to making child care more accessible to working mothers, to rescinding the so-called global gag rule that cuts off foreign aid to groups that provide abortion or counseling, or even lobby for changes in abortion laws, women’s groups started exercising the type of grassroots activism that political analysts say helped bring the Democrats to power on Tuesday.

Obama’s sweeping win was hailed by pro-choice political action committee EMILY’s List and other organizations as a women’s triumph because their votes clinched the victory for Democrats.

In places like New Hampshire, where former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, handily beat Republican incumbent Sen. John Sununu, women made the difference, said analysts from Washington-based EMILY’s List in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

New Hampshire also elected three new women to its state Senate. Thirteen of 24 seats are now held by women, making it the first legislative chamber in the nation to have a female majority.

“How did Obama win New Hampshire? He won it with women. Sixty-one percent of women supported Barack Obama, 38 percent McCain,” said Maren Hesla, who directed an EMILY’s List initiative to get women to the polls. Given that men in the state were divided evenly between Obama and McCain, with 49 percent each, “the complete margin of victory in New Hampshire … came from women.”

Article continues at’s_victory:_what’s_next_for_women/

Women’s groups may have ousted Summers

Intense backlash from women’s groups may have pushed former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers off the short-list to lead Treasury for President-elect Barack Obama, according to widespread reports circulating in Democratic circles.

Protest against reversal of gay marriage law

Thousands of supporters of same-sex marriages held rallies this weekend across the United States and abroad in a coordinated protest at California’s vote this month to ban same-sex marriage.

Demonstrations were organised for Saturday afternoon in the United States and elsewhere, including Canada, Europe and Australia, coordinated by a campaign on the internet(*).

In Manhattan Sean Petersen, 21, a musician from Brooklyn, called the vote “mean-spirited and divisive”.

In Chicago, Andy Thayer, a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, exhorted a crowd that had listened to a gay men’s choir sing a version of the hymn Down by the Riverside to follow through on the spirit of the protest.

“We can’t just let this be a blowing-off-steam rally, as satisfying as that might be,” he said. “We’re here to win equal marriage rights in Illinois.”

Los Angeles police estimated 8,000 people attended a protest filling the central plaza in San Francisco. Gatherings in other cities were estimated to be made up of hundreds of protesters.

On November 4 California voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, which triggered the protests, defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

It reversed the right of gay people to marry – a right that had been granted by the state’s supreme court this year.

(*) Join the Impact