An amendment which would have severely restricted protections for Native American women under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was defeated yesterday evening.
The amendment, proposed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), would have removed a new provision of VAWA that would allow Native American tribal courts to try non-Native Americans for cases of violence against women that occur on tribal lands against members of the reservation. The amendment was defeated in a 59 to 31 vote.
Senator Coburn proposed the amendment and argued that the new provisions would eliminate the constitutional rights of non-Native Americans if they go before a tribal court. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) explained that Native American women experience abuse at a rate of two and a half times the national average, and argued that the new provisions extend constitutional rights to tribal courts. "This is about the life and death of women who need a better system to help prosecute those who are committing serious crimes against them," she said.
In late January, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bipartisan-supported Senate VAWA includes expanded protections for Native American women, LGBTQ individuals, students, and immigrant women. Last week, an amendment that would have removed the expanded protections was defeated in a 65 to 34 vote.
Media Resources: Associated Press 2/12/2013; Senate Roll Call Vote on Coburn Amdt No. 13 2/11/2013; Feminist 2/8/2013; 1/23/2013
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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. . . .