Republicans on Monday unanimously elected Senator Bill Frist (TN) as US Senate Majority Leader. Frist will fill the leadership position recently vacated by Senator Trent Lott (R-MS). Lott resigned from the position last week after being heavily criticized for making racist remarks at retiring Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration.
Some senior Republican Senators told the New York Times that they view Frist’s leadership position as an opportunity to create a new kind of Republican Party that would be more responsive to minority populations and the needs of the disadvantaged. Frist, a retired heart surgeon, is close to President Bush and key presidential aides, including political strategist Karl Rove.
However, Frist's record on civil rights and women's rights does little to suggest a change in Republican policies. Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund gave Frist a zero percent rating for voting against choice in eight key issues, including emergency contraception, the global gag rule, and sex education. The National Organization for Women notes that his record on civil rights is no better than Lott’s, with Frist voting against affirmative action, hate crimes legislation, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. According to the Washington Post, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gave Frist an “F” rating for voting against civil rights measures 75 percent of the time.
Professor Ron Walters of the University of Maryland, a specialist in African-American leadership, told the Post that racism is a common theme in the Republican Party, pointing to the recent remarks made by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC), deputy majority whip in the House. Ballenger said that he had “segregationist feelings” towards former Rep. Cynthia McKinney and called her a “bitch.” “The same attention is not going to be paid to him as Lott because he's not the head of the Senate,” Walters told the Post, “but these comments by Republicans have been made all along at all levels of government and haven't received the proper spotlight. I blame the media for this. It's given them a wide berth for all of this stuff.” The Feminist Majority is calling for Ballenger to follow Lott’s lead and remove himself from his current leadership post in the House.
Media Resources: New York Times 12/24/02; NOW 12/23/02; Washington Post 12/23/02; Feminist Daily News Wire
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. . . .