News roundup for March 2002

Pill, Schmill

Independent Report on new-type pill
BBC Report on pill court case

A new version of the contraceptive pill, being trailed in America, could enable women to have three periods a year. The pill would actually lengthen the menstrual cycle, stretching out the process over three or four months rather than one. The pill is called “Seasonale” and could go on sale early next year.

Meanwhile, a test case involving over 100 women went to the High Court. The claim is that the ‘third generation’ contraceptive pill caused long-term damage and that they were not warned of the potential side-effects and risks. They claim the pill caused them to develop blood clots which led to long-term damage to their health, and even in some cases proved fatal. The companies intend to vigorously defend the claims.

“Shocking” pay gaps

BBC Report

The Public and Commercial Services union has analysed government figures on pay in the civil service and discovered that on average, female civil servant’s pay is 28% lower than mens, and paid 19% less in the private sector. Women were also twice as likely to be “low earners” – earning less than £15,000 a year. The UK’s second biggest union, Amicus, complained that most companies refused to review their wage rates. 99% of companies Amicus wrote to refused to review their pay rates, or didn’t respond at all.

Irish abortion referendum

BBC Report

Voters in Ireland rejected a proposal to make the country’s abortion rules even stricter. 7,000 women go to Britain from Ireland each year for abortions. This is the fifth time in almost 20 years that the Irish have voted on the issue. If the amendment had been passed, it would have mean that the possibility of a woman committing suicide would no longer be acceptable grounds for her having an abortion.

Breastfeeding in the Commons… sort of

BBC Report

The Speaker of the House of Commons has allowed MPs to breastfeed babies – but not in the Commons chamber itself. He’s so generously allowed a breastfeeding room to be built next to the nappy changing rooms in the Lady Member’s Room, but the National Childbirth Trust has stated that this is a disappointment – the speaker could have used the opportunity to allow women to breastfeed in the chamber and to set an example for other organisations in th UK.

Women’s Archive of Wales

A new Women’s Archive of Wales is to be set up, celebrating and preserving Welsh women’s past. “The history of women in Wales is in urgent need of rescue. Without historical sources we cannot reconstruct our past. We need to know the past to understand the present and to build for our future. Women in England and Scotland and in many other countries already have their own archives. Women in Wales need action now to ensure the unique experience of our foremothers is saved.” For more info, to donate records or to give support, contact Ursula Masson, School of Humanities, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd CF37 IDL