A prominent Afghan woman leader is one of the recipients of this year's Profile in Courage Awards from the Kennedy Library Foundation, which will be presented at a ceremony in Boston, MA tonight. Dr. Sima Samar has been a leader for women’s rights and human rights in Afghanistan. A physician who defied Taliban edicts and provided Afghan women and girls with health care services and education, she is currently the chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Samar served as Minister of Women's Affairs, one of only two women cabinet members in Afghanistan's transition government. In 2003, Samar was named a "Woman of the Year" by Ms. magazine.
Despite facing strong political opposition, including death threats from fundamentalists, Samar presses forward. As the director of the Shuhada Organization, she also runs twelve clinics and four hospitals for women and children, as well as 55 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, serving 32,000 students. Her organization's programs encompass relief work and literacy education, as well as community education regarding family planning and sanitation.
The Profiles in Courage award is named for the John F. Kennedy Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name. Recipients are selected who demonstrate political courage and a commitment to public service. Along with Dr. Samar, recipients of the award this year include former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson (R) and former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge (D).
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. . . .