Forty years ago, for the first time in the Fourteenth Amendment’s 103-year history, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its Equal Protection Clause protected women’s rights in the case of Reed v. Reed.

In honor of this anniversary and to assess where constitutional protections for women stand today, the National Women’s Law Center co-hosted a panel, entitled “Reed v. Reed at 40: Equal Protection and Women’s Rights.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the principal author of the brief (while working for the ACLU) on behalf of the plaintiff in Reed v. Reed led off, followed by this panel moderated by NPR’s legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg…

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Brooke Axtell“Isolation is an illusion. So many of us have suffered through violence against our bodies, souls and minds. I hope that by sharing my story and what I’ve learned through recovery, women will be inspired to break open their own silences. Suffering can be the seed of awakening. When we awaken, we encourage others to do the same.”

You may have heard of the name Brooke Elise Axtell through her wonderful work as an artist and activist to eradicate sexual abuse. If not, I predict you will very soon.

A survivor of sexual assault, abuse and domestic minor sex-trafficking, Brooke uses the power of her beautiful and passionate voice through her numerous talents to bring her own healing message to others.

She is not only a musician and an award-winning writer but through powerful, multi-media presentations, she has a unique way of articulating the importance of feminist leadership in changing how culture deals with sexual abuse. Brooke’s work is an inspiring example of No Excuses Power Tool #8, Employ every Medium. And she is the focus of this week’s She’s Doing It.

See Brooke in this appearance with MyFoxAustin sharing her story.

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Emily May - Hollaback!Are you afraid on your daily commute? Leering glances. Unwanted physical contact. Harassing, suggestive derogatory comments thrown at you while you are just minding your own business on the bus, train or simply walking down the street. Are you fed up in having to always be on your guard when you are just trying to live your life? Talk to most women and these experiences are ones that have caused not only fear for your own personal safety but also a sense of deep outrage.

In this week’s She’s Doing It, I couldn’t be prouder to highlight Emily May, co-founder and Executive Director of Hollaback! as someone who has taken the global problem of street harassment and embraced Power Tool #7: Create a Movement with both arms and mobile technology!

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As Egypt continues to roil with change and I receive news daily about the UN Commission on the Status of Women 55th session that will convene in New York starting February 22, my No Excuses focus on women in the U.S. is shifting to global mode. And when my fabulous feminist journalist friend Lynn Harris told me about her work with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, I immediately asked if I could share it with you. Please read her post below, let us know your thoughts, and if you’re moved to action you’ll find out how you can help.

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My guest post today is about a very important topic I intended to write about–but my colleague Linda Tarr-Whelan has already said it all better in a post she wrote for the National Council for Research on Women’s “The Real Deal” blog. It’s embarrassing as well as just plain wrong that the U.S. is one of just seven nations that never signed onto the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Want to know the six other nations? They are Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga –overall not very good company!

This week has been declared a Week of Action by a coalition of U.S. organizations working to get our country to enter 21st century and sign CEDAW. So to the U.S. Congress: Sign already!

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Folks have asked me to post this speech that I gave at the Brooklyn Museum Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art on September 13. Today, September 14, would be the 130th birthday of the founder of the American Birth Control Movement, Margaret Sanger. So here you go!

I just got back from my high school reunion in West Texas. It was a long journey from teen mom with little sense of power over or intention for my life to a movement leader and an activist for women’s human right to reproductive self-determination.

So when I tell you I’m amazed to be here with you, so near 46 Amboy Street in Brownsville, where Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic 93 years ago next month—believe it! This is hallowed ground.

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Madam Chair,

I am honored to be here today to express the renewed and deep commitment of the United States Government to the goals and aspirations of the ICPD Program of Action. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Ambassador Rice as well as the United States Congress, have already acted strongly to support women’s and young people’s health, human rights, and empowerment; global partnership; and the wider development agenda embraced by the Program of Action.

These opening lines of the U.S. government’s official statement, so calmly delivered March 31 by Margaret J. Pollack, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and Head of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, belied the sea change they represent in U.S. relationship with the United Nations in general and in particular with the global consensus reached at the ICPD in Cairo fifteen years ago that women’s human rights and health, including reproductive rights and health, are central to global economic development, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and global security.

Pollack, a career civil servant who has worked in the State Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations referred to herself in an interview with me last week as “the lantern in the cave” simply delivering the current administration’s message that the U.S. is going “back to the future”–i.e., the one when Bill Clinton was president–in our policies and leadership for women’s rights globally.

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Explanatory note: While the debate continues over at my previous post about Obama for Women, and I still wouldn’t vote for McCain under any circumstance, I’ve had to take a step back as I realized just how seriously damaging Obama’s comments about abortion and sex education could be. This situation is all the more reason he must give the sexism speech as I have suggested. He needs to do more than merely “clarify” his position on these issues; he needs to take a much bigger look at his own thinking about women’s rights and rightful place in the world. Here goes:

I was planning to attend Barack Obama’s big fundraising reception in New York Wednesday night and make the maximum contribution to his campaign, but I have torn up the invitation.

My decision isn’t about the money, though the thought of writing a check for $4600 takes my breath away. It seemed that important to do my part to prevent the 100% anti-choice John McCain’s election and a de facto third Bush term.

I supported Hillary Clinton in the primary because I believe she’s the most capable of meeting the enormous challenges the next president will face undoing the damage to women’s rights, health, and justice caused by Bush. Still, I’ve admired Obama since I met him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Later, in Washington after he was elected to the Senate, I sensed he was genuine in his commitment to women’s equality. So, despite my still-raw feelings about Hillary’s concession, I was prepared to go forward this week and commit full support to Obama.

Then the danger signals started.

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