Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sends Disabilities Treaty to Floor
Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tried to make abortion the primary issue in the Committee's hearing today on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite their attempts, the treaty was voted out of Committee on a vote of 13-6 with three Republican Senators voting with the 10 Democrats on the Committee.
Although Republican Senators Richard Lugar (IN), Johnny Isakson (GA) and John Barrasso (WY) voted with the Democratic majority to send the treaty to the floor, all three joined with their fellow Republicans in a failed attempt to pass an anti-abortion amendment offered by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Democrats argued that the politics of abortion have no place in the discussion of the treaty which is about the rights of persons with disabilities. Senator Barbara Boxer suggested to the Republican Senators that if they want to have a debate on abortion, they should do so on the floor of the Senate, not in the discussion about a treaty on the rights of the disabled.
Committee Chair Senator John Kerry's Secondary Amendment to Rubio's anti-abortion amendment passed on a party line vote with all 10 Democrats voting yes and all 9 Republicans voting no. The Kerry Amendment stated that the treaty is a "non-discrimination instrument" that it does not address particular health programs or procedures, but "Rather, the Convention requires that health programs and procedures are provided to individuals with disabilities on a non- discriminatory basis."
The treaty, which has strong support from the disabilities community will now go to the Senate floor where ratification requires a two-thirds vote.
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. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .