In a victory for civil rights and women’s rights, Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) announced his decision today to step down from his position as Senate Majority Leader. However, he “will continue to serve the people of Mississippi in the United States Senate,” according to his statement published in the Washington Post. Lott’s resignation follows racist comments he made at a birthday celebration for retiring Senator Strom Thurmond, saying that the country would have been better off if Thurmond, a segregationist candidate, had become President in 1948. Calls for Lott’s resignation have run the political gamut, ranging from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) to conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan and the right-wing Family Research Council, which posted a statement commending Lott for resigning today.
Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) launched a campaign last night to oust Lott and take over his position, according to the Post. Frist, a retired heart surgeon, is close to President Bush and key presidential aides, including political strategist Karl Rove. Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund lists Frist as solidly anti-choice, voting against choice in eight key issues, including emergency contraception, the global gag rule, and sex education.
The controversy over Lott’s racially charged statements could impact upcoming Supreme Court cases challenging Michigan’s affirmative action policies. The Supreme Court asked the Bush Administration to weigh in on the cases, and Attorney General John Ashcroft had wanted the Administration to go on record opposing affirmative action in college admissions, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, administration officials are now worried about the heightened climate in matters of race, the Times reports. The Lott issue could also affect some of Bush’s hotly contested judicial nominees who have poor records on civil rights cases, such as Carolyn Kuhl, who as a Justice Department lawyer supported Bob Jones University in a 1981 suit charging that the school should not keep its tax-exempt status while prohibiting interracial dating. In addition, it was expected that Bush would re-nominate Charles Pickering, who was defeated in March. However, the Times reports that it is unlikely that he will be confirmed because of an incident in Pickering’s past, in which he argued federal prosecutors in a secret meeting to be lenient on a white man convicted of burning a cross outside of a black family’s home.
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .