Violence Against Women Act Passes Senate Judiciary Committee With Amendment
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a mark-up of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization today. The bill, which expires on September 30, passed out of committee, but an amendment was added that could prevent or delay its passage by the full Senate.
The amendment, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), on behalf of Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), would create a national registry of DNA taken from any person who has been detained by the police, even if the person is not arrested or convicted. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tried to include a secondary amendment to link the DNA index only to violent felonies, but it was defeated on a straight party-line vote.
Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), the primary sponsor of VAWA in the Senate, said that he feared the DNA amendment could cause a firestorm on the Senate floor that would delay passage of VAWA. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that he feared it was a poison pill. Senator Leahy said that he is worried that whole classes of people, such as Latinos or Muslims, will be rounded up and their DNA will be recorded in the registry. Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) pledged to try to work out a compromise on the amendment before the bill reaches the floor, which is expected before the end of the month.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, and Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, attended the mark-up, as did many women, to show their support for passage of VAWA. Legal Momentum, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Sheila Wellstone Institute have also been working extremely hard to pass the bill.
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. . . .