Two female soldiers filed a lawsuit yesterday charging that the military's ban on women in combat is unconstitutional and violates their equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. Command Sergeant Major Jane Baldwin and Colonel Ellen Haring filed the suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, naming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Secretary John McHugh among the defendants.
In February, the Pentagon announced a new policy that would open up more positions to women but the policy continued to prohibit women from infantry, armor, and special-operations units. In response to the policy change, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said, "I am very disappointed the Department of Defense has not repealed its direct combat unit assignment prohibition, instead of choosing to open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program, which I believe is ridiculous, considering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a pilot in themselves."
According to the Pentagon, women comprise 14.5 percent of active-duty military personnel. There are 238,000 positions in the military that bar women, according to Vee Penrod, the deputy undersecretary of Defense for military personnel. The Pentagon has declined to comment on the lawsuit but told reporters from Bloomberg News that Secretary Panetta "is strongly committed to examining the expansion of roles for women in the US military."
Media Resources: The Hill 5/24/12; Bloomberg 5/23/12; Reuters 5/23/12
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
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. . . .