Over 300 people packed the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, Penn., on Sept. 28 calling for the defeat of two bills, one requiring abortion clinics to become outpatient surgery clinics and one banning state-run health insurance providers from covering abortion. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal told the crowd, “This (legislation) is not about protecting women’s health. It is about controlling women’s lives.” The bills would drive the cost of an abortion from $400 to over $1,000 and would close most abortion clinics, many that provide birth control and screening for cancer and STIs, putting this out of reach for even more uninsured and poor women.
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The Amazing Meeting, an annual conference for skeptics held by the James Randi Educational Foundation based in Virginia, printed a strong policy against sexual harassment in its 2011 program and announced that over half of its talks will be by women. This is a response to “Elevatorgate,” in which prominent skeptic, Rebecca Watson, was sexually harassed in an elevator after giving a speech denouncing the sexual harassment and unwelcoming atmosphere towards women in much of the skeptical movement. Watson continues to be persistently harassed on the internet, but she, and many female commentators, stated that they now consider themselves feminists and will work for change in the skeptic movement.
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In a victory for feminist groups in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet approved new draft regulations allowing battered women’s shelters to remain independent and not come under government control. The shelters can receive money from donors without government intervention. In February, the government proposed to take over the shelters which are run by nonprofit women’s organizations. The regulations would have forced a woman seeking shelter to appear before a government panel that would decide whether to admit her, imprison her, or send her back to her abusive family.