Entries in Women (32)


Activists Sending Knitted Vaginas to Congressmen

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid the stacks of constituent letters, national newspapers and co-sponsor requests, some members of Congress are about find a plush, pink, hand-knitted uterus tucked into their daily mail deliveries.

For a growing group of women's rights activists, the days of merely sending letters or emails to their elected officials are gone. Instead, members of the group Government Free VJJ are breaking out their knitting needles, crochet hooks, sewing kits and any other crafty tool available to make male Congressmen their own uterus.

"The message is hands off my uterus. If you want one to control, here's one of your own," said the group's co-founder Donna Drunchunas.

Recent state and federal efforts to regulate women's health issues, such as contraception being covered under insurance, and the heated rhetoric from men towards women's activists, such as conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh recently calling a Georgetown student a "slut" and a "prostitute," were so "ridiculous" she said that it was time to take action.

"It's not about being pro-choice or pro-life now, the government is trying to get involved in all kinds of women's health care issues," Drunchunas said. "When I was younger I thought this was all over and we had kind of arrived at some sort of equality between men and women and apparently that is not true."

But for Drunchunas, writing a letter was not enough.

"Writing a letter doesn't feel like it makes an impact," Druchunas said. "An intern looks at all the letters and adds up those that are pro and against. You just become a checkmark."

But sending a hand-knitted uterus, a carefully crocheted vagina or specially sewn cervix "makes a splash," she said.

"This is funny and sarcastic and different," she said, adding that she hopes to eventually send "thousands" of the fuzzy items to Congressmen.

As of Tuesday, the crafty renditions of female anatomy have been sent to at least 90 elected officials including senators, representatives and governors, according to a tally kept by Government Free VJJ.

Five knitted lady parts were sent to presidential candidate Rick Santorum and seven were sent to Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, more than any other politician, according to the tallies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ann Romney "Loves It" That Women Are Upset

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images(MOLINE, Ill.) — Both Mitt and Ann Romney turned their attention to the concerns of women voters at a pancake breakfast in western Illinois Sunday morning, focusing on issues such as spending and high gas prices.

“Is there anyone in here that is going to vote for Obama next time? Is there anybody? I mean, we’re really upset,” said Ann Romney, who took the stage at the American Legion Post 246, where her husband Mitt had doled out pancakes to a crowd of about 200 before making remarks.

“And I love it that women are upset, too, that women are talking about the economy, I love that,” she said. “Women are talking about jobs, women are talking about deficit spending. Thank you, women. We need you. We all need you in November, too. We have to remember why we’re upset and what we’ve got to do to fix things.”

Ann Romney had made a similar appeal to women voters earlier this month at her husband’s Super Tuesday event, where she remarked: “Women care about the economy, they care about their children, and they care about the debt. And they’re angry, they’re furious about the entitlement debt that we’re leaving our children.”

Mitt Romney, seemingly following his wife’s lead, mentioned mothers who have to fill their gas tanks to drive their kids to school during his criticism of President Obama being “out of touch with the American people” and the struggles they face, particularly at the gas pump.

“You’ve got a lot of — you’ve got moms that are driving their kids to school and practice after school and other appointments and wonder how they can afford putting gasoline in the car, at the same time putting food on the table night after night,” he said. “The American people are struggling. This president doesn’t understand the economy. He’s an economic lightweight and he’s made decisions that have hurt the American people. It’s time to put in place an economic heavyweight, and I am, and I’ll get that job done.”

Romney also went after his chief GOP rival, Sen. Rick Santorum, saying the former Pennsylvania senator was also an “economic lightweight,” like Obama.

“There are some other good fellows in this campaign. And you know Senator Santorum, Speaker Gingrich, and Congressman Paul,” said Romney. “Senator Santorum I think has the same characteristic as the president in terms of his background, spent his life in government. Nothing wrong with that, but right now we need someone who understands the economy fundamentally.

“Senator Santorum has the same economic lightweight background that the president has,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mikulski to Become Longest Serving Female Member of Congress

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- She’s already won the title as the longest serving female in the U.S. Senate. Now, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., this weekend will become the longest serving female member in all of Congress.

On Saturday, the 75-year-old Mikulski will log 12,858 days of service, which will unseat Republican Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts who previously held the title after serving in Congress from 1925-1960.

Mikulski first came to Congress in 1976, representing Maryland’s 3rd district in the House of Representatives for 10 years. In 1986, she ran for senate and won, the first female Democratic Senator elected without succeeding her husband or father. She’s been serving in the senate ever since.

There are currently 17 female Senators and 76 female members of the House of Representatives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Birth-Control Hearing Was ‘Like Stepping Into a Time Machine’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Showing an enlarged photograph of the all-male panel at Rep. Darrell Issa’s committee hearing Thursday,  a group of Democratic women senators took to the Senate floor Friday to protest the “assault on women,” for excluding a women’s perspective during the session on contraceptives.

“Reading the news this morning was like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. “It’s a picture that says a thousand words, and it’s one that most women thought was left behind when pictures only came in black and white.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the contraceptive coverage rule called an all-male panel with no women representatives, prompting some women members of Congress to walk out of the hearing in protest. Issa, a Republican from California, is the committee chairman.

Democratic women senators Friday came to back them up in protest of the hearing.

“I’m disappointed. I know it’s a disappointment that’s shared by millions of women across this country,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said. “I’m saddened that here we are in 2012 and a House committee would hold a hearing on women’s health and deny women the ability to share their perspective.”

Senator Murray said that while the recent “attacks” on women’s health care seem “swift and sudden,” she believes they are not.

“There is nothing new about these Republican attacks on our family planning decisions. In fact, from the moment they came into power, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war on women’s health.”

As for the hearing, Issa Thursday said Democrats could not add their witness because she was not a member of the clergy, but a student at Georgetown. He also faulted Democrats for not submitting the name of the witness, Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke, in time.

Issa’s staff sent a letter to the Democrats, saying, “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”

But Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., promised that Democratic women senators will continue to stand up.

“If our Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on, we will stand here as often as is necessary and draw a line in the sand that the Senate, the women of the Senate specifically, will continue to oppose these attacks on women’s rights and women’s health care.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said her 16-year-old grandson saw the photo and instantaneously knew something was off. “It’s all dudes,” Boxer said, quoting her grandson.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum ‘Completely Misunderstands’ Modern Warfare, Gingrich Says

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(TULARE, Calif.) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that Rick Santorum has a “complete misunderstanding” of modern warfare.

Gingrich was responding to comments Santorum made Thursday on CNN when Santorum was asked about the Pentagon’s plan to allow more women to fill combat roles in the military.

While Santorum said he did want women to be able to serve, he said he did “have concerns about women in front-line combat.

“I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. I think that probably -- it already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat. And I think that’s not in the best interests of men, women or the mission,” Santorum said.

Santorum later told ABC News he was talking about the emotions of men, but also added women had “physical limitations.”

Gingrich said Tuesday that people in uniform in Iraq or Afghanistan were in combat, no matter the official assignment.

“Whether you’re a truck driver or you’re working with logistics, or you’re a military person, you’re in combat. And I think that we have to understand that from Day One,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich, who often mentions on the trail that he is an "Army brat," spent his childhood traveling around the country and overseas with his “career infantryman” father. Gingrich did not serve in the military.

“We should be very proud of the men and women who put on the American uniform and risk their lives in order to protect this country. And I just think that Rick completely misunderstands the nature of modern warfare by his comments,” Gingrich said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rick Santorum's Comments on Women in Combat Arouse Public

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth, U.S. Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Santorum’s comments that “the front line of combat” is not the best place for women appear to put the Republican presidential candidate on the other side of public and expert opinion.

Santorum raised some eyebrows by saying women should not be in combat because of the “the types of emotions involved.” Now, Santorum says, he is also concerned about “physical strength and capability” of women in combat situations.

First, on those “emotions,” Santorum says he was not talking about the emotions of women.

“I was talking about men’s emotional issues; not women,” Santorum told ABC News. “I mean, there’s a lot of issues. That’s just one of them.”

What emotional issues? Santorum says he believes that the men serving with women would put the protection of women in their unit above the overall the mission.

“So my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position,” Santorum said.

A number of recent studies have concluded that the U.S. military should stop excluding women from ground-combat units, which some believe denies them a chance to climb the ranks as quickly as their male counterparts.

Three-quarters of Americans believe that women should be allowed to engage in direct combat, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll released in March, a sharp rise from the early 1990s when only 45 percent supported such a move. Politically, Democrats and independents are more in favor of lifting these requirements, but even a majority of Republicans, 62 percent, thought this should be the case and the poll found that in no political group was a majority opposed.

The Pentagon announced on Thursday that it will end a decades-old rule and allow women to serve in battalions closer to the front lines. The changes would open up 14,000 support jobs to women in ground-combat units.

The new rule still bars women from serving directly in combat roles. Still, given the technology and the landscape today, many observers say those lines are blurred. Women already serve in dangerous support roles in war zones such as Afghanistan, as pilots flying combat aircrafts or on combat ships. In recent years, two women have been given the prestigious Silver Star for valor in a combat zone.

A study by the Rand Corporation in 2007 found that support units, where women were serving with direct combat units based on proximity and those returning from the battlefield in Iraq, believed that the military’s current policy, if implemented strictly, was “a backward step in the successful execution of the mission” and that it “could even prevent women from participating in Army operations in Iraq, which would preclude the Army from completing its mission.”

A review by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission last year concluded that restrictions on combat roles “seems obsolete” in today’s age.

“The nature of the current battlefield makes it impossible to apply strictly the existing rules for excluding women from combat without serious reduction in combat capabilities, degrading the professional development and thus status of women, and producing a potentially serious reduction in overall readiness,” another study in 2008 by the Strategic Studies Institute stated.

Adm. Eric T. Olson, the top commander of U.S. special operations and a Navy SEAL himself, told ABC News in July that he’s ready to see female SEALs in combat roles.

Still, some experts say the recent studies focus on diversity, but don’t take into account the realities on the ground.

Elaine Donnelly, who served as a member of the 1992 presidential commission on the assignment of women in the armed forces, says it’s a cultural issue and that Santorum’s concerns are legitimate. The commission voted against sending women in close combat because “that would [be] endorsement of violence against women,” she said.

“It’s not an equal opportunity or diversity issue. It’s a matter of effectiveness,” Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told ABC News. If a soldier is injured and his support soldier is a woman, “that man dies because she’s not going to be able to meet the physical requirements and it doesn’t matter how brave and courageous she is. ...We respect women in the military, but when you’re talking about direct ground combat, if you start making diversity the most important factor then you put lives at risk.”

Women were barred from partaking even in non-combat positions until 1994, when President Bill Clinton’s defense secretary, Les Aspin, lifted that rule.

The number of women in the military has jumped since the 1970s, when the United States ended the draft. Since 1973, the number of women who have joined the military has risen rapidly. The share of women among the enlisted ranks has increased from two percent to 14 percent, and the share among commissioned officers has jumped four percent to 16 percent, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

The Pentagon wouldn’t comment directly on Santorum’s comments, but spokesman George Little said there’s “a broad consensus” in the military that they should maintain the goal of opening more positions to women.

“I believe that men and women can serve ably on the battlefield men and women of the U.S. military are focused on the mission and in protecting our nation’s interest. And I think that’s a value that we have regardless of gender,” Little said Friday. “The presumption is that going forward that we’re going to find as many opportunities for women as possible.”

As of Sept. 30, women comprised roughly 15 percent of the U.S. armed forces, with their numbers reaching 205,000. Of the 2.4 million ever deployed in support of Iraq and Afghanistan, 280,000 have been women and 144 of them have been killed in those two countries while 865 have been wounded.

A number of U.S. partners in the battlefield allow women to serve in combat roles, including Canada, Israel, France and Germany.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


On Women in Combat, Rick Santorum Meant to Say 'Men's Emotional Issues'

Whitney Curtis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Santorum raised some eyebrows by saying women should not be in combat because of the “the types of emotions involved.” Now, Santorum says, he is also concerned about “physical strength and capability” of women in combat situations.

First, on those “emotions,” Santorum says he was not talking about the emotions of women.

“I was talking about men’s emotional issues; not women,” Santorum told ABC News. “I mean, there’s a lot of issues. That’s just one of them.”

What emotional issues? Santorum says he believes that the men serving with women would put the protection of women in their unit above the overall the mission.

“So my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position,” Santorum said.

But Santorum says he is concerned about more than just the “emotional issues.”

“You throw on top of that just simply physical strength and capability and you may be out there on a mission where it’s you and a woman and if you’re injured, the ability to transport that person back. And you know, there’s just, there are physical limitations,” Santorum said.

Santorum acknowledged that women already serve in harm’s way.

“Women have served and do serve and do wonderful things within the military and … they do have opportunities to serve in very dangerous positions,” Santorum said. “I mean they serve in very dangerous positions. And I certainly understand that and respect that and admire women for doing so, but I think on the front line of combat is not the best place and its not maximizing what they can bring to the table.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama on Gender Equality: 'We’ve Got a Lot More Work to Do'

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama lauded the progress being made toward gender equality at a National Women’s Law Center event Wednesday night, honoring the achievements of the women Freedom Riders, and urged supporters to help him continue in the effort to bring positive changes for women.

“We’ve come a long way towards making this country more open and more free for our daughters,” Obama said, citing the many women holding political office, his support for Planned Parenthood and his creation of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

But, he conceded that the fight is far from over.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said.

“Change doesn’t always happen quickly or easily,” Obama said, stating that, especially with the weak state of the economy and job market, making strides toward greater gender parity would be a challenging task.  “It’s laborious, sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s real.”

The president drew a sharp contrast between his vision for women’s rights and that of his opposition, criticizing Republican members of Congress for impeding his attempts to secure more opportunities for women through his jobs plan.

“Lifting women up lifts up our economy and lifts up our country…Unfortunately, not everybody in Washington seems to feel the same way,” he said.  “In recent weeks, Republicans in the Senate have come together three times to block jobs bills that independent economists say would boost our economy and put millions back to work -- including women.”

The president encouraged his audience to contact their members of Congress to spur them to action.

“I need your help,” he said.  “I need you to tell Congress to do their jobs by worrying about the jobs of the millions of Americans they were elected to serve.”

In return, he promised to continue his efforts at expanding opportunities for American women and ensuring a “world where every door is open.”

“We’ve got to make sure that…somebody is standing up for [women], somebody is fighting for them, somebody is looking out for them,” Obama said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Abortion Fight Heats Up in Defense Budget Debate

Jupiterimages/Comstock(WASHINGTON) -- Abortion rights supporters are hoping to capitalize on the ongoing defense budget debate to build momentum for a provision that would allow servicemembers who are victims of rape and incest to get an abortion at military hospitals.

Under current law, only servicemembers whose lives are endangered can get an abortion at military hospitals.  Victims of rape and incest aren't entitled to federal funds for abortion services, even though other beneficiaries of government health care, like prisoners and Medicaid recipients, are.

A number of Senate Democrats, led by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, will officially introduce the MARCH (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health) Act on Thursday, following on the heels of a similar House bill that was announced last week.

The bills are likely to trigger another political fight on an issue that has become the battleground for conservatives in the current Congress.  Last month, an effort by Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., to interject a similar amendment into the 2012 Defense Authorization Act did not even make it past the Republican-controlled House Rules Committee.

The new standalone bills being introduced this month would allow rape and incest victims to receive an abortion under the military health system, and let women get abortions on military bases with private funds.

"This is really a question of fairness," said Vania Leveille, senior legislative council at the American Civil Liberties Union, which is leading the efforts along with a number of other abortion rights groups.

Citing the recent passage in the House of Representatives of the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" -- which bans all federal funding for abortions at federal facilities except in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the victim -- proponents of the MARCH Act argue that military women are being unfairly marginalized.

"If other populations who rely on the government for their health care -- like federal employees, like women on Medicaid, like women in prison... [have] the option of terminating the pregnancy" in cases of rape and incest, then "why not military women, and why are military women treated as second class citizens? Why are they treated differently than the civilian women?" Leveille said. "I don't see how that's excusable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Wave Yields More Racially Diverse Congress, No Gains for Women

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Come January, the halls of Congress will be filled with dozens of new Republican members, many of whom will help make the chamber more diverse than it was before. By numbers alone, the Congress that will meet in 2011 will be slightly more racially and ethnically mixed than the current one, according to an ABC News analysis of the election results. But the vast majority of representatives in Washington will continue to be white, straight men.

Several African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American candidates succeeded in their bids for House and Senate seats, while women candidates faced mixed results, leaving their overall representation in Congress flat or declining based on the outcome of several undecided races.

A record eight Latino Republicans were elected to Congress Tuesday, bringing total Latino representation on Capitol Hill to a near-record 27, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

The number of Asian-American members of Congress will remain at 13, while the number of African-Americans will be 41, one less than the current makeup. Overall, the number of African-Americans in Congress will remain steady. But for the first time in five years, the U.S. Senate will not have an African-American member in 2011.

Meanwhile, despite record numbers of women filing to run for the U.S. House and Senate during the primaries, women failed to increase their number in Congress and could cede ground to men next year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Seventeen women currently serve in the Senate, and 11 were not up for re-election this year. In the House, where 73 women now serve, at least 70 women will be seated in 2011. But three women candidates are in races too close to call. If any one of them lose, there will be a decline in the total number of women in Congress for the first time in 30 years. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio