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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .