VAWA Reauthorization Passed by Committee on Party Line Vote
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (VAWA) was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on a party-line vote of 10-8. All Democrats voted to move the bill to the Senate floor for a vote and all Republicans voted no. Although Republican Judiciary Committee Members voted against sending the bill to the full Senate, Republican Senators Scott Brown (MA), Michael Crapo (UT) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill.
Despite intense opposition from Ranking Republican Senator Charles Grassley (IA), the bill introduced by Democratic Committee Chair Patrick Leahy's (VT) was voted out almost intact. Grassley's substitute bill, which failed to pass, included closing the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S Department of Justice.
The Iowa Republican, however, was successful in gaining sufficient votes to amend the Leahy bill. One amendment that passed includes mandatory minimum sentences of five years for aggravated sexual assaults. This provision was opposed by sexual assault victim advocates who are concerned that it will deter victims from reporting incidents to the police.
"The fact that not a single Republican member of the Judiciary Committee voted to send VAWA to the floor is an outrage. It is clear that the war on women has no boundaries" said Norma Gattsek, Director of Government Relations for the Feminist Majority after today's vote.
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .