Victims of rape in Washington, DC may soon be unable to get sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits, often called rape kits. DC's budget is under federal control, so if the federal government's shutdown continues much longer, some of the city's necessary programs--including those intended to help rape victims--may be temporarily discontinued due to lack of funding.
After an assault or rape, a victim can go to the hospital for an exam, where forensic nurses collect DNA, photographs, and other forms of evidence that may be used in court. Timeliness is important to collect all of the evidence possible. "If we don't have funds, no rape kits get done, there's no medical forensic exam," said Heather Devore, executive director of DC Forensic Nurse Examiners, one of two groups that make up the DC Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE). "It's especially important because we know that DNA degrades quickly; we only have a short time in order to obtain this evidence."
Victims also receive the services of an advocate who helps them through the exam process and with any other administrative, employment, or housing issues that may arise--crucial assistance that will not be available if funds run out.
The organizations that conduct rape kits are currently running on a contingency fund provided by the DC government, after Melissa Hook, director of the DC Office of Victims Services made the case to the city administrator that rape kits and exams should be deemed essential. The funds are expected to last only through the end of October.
Domestic violence programs all over the nation are also threatened by an extended government shutdown. Many domestic violence shelters and crisis centers rely solely on funding from the federal Office on Violence Against Women. The shutdown means that organizations that receive federal grants cannot request payment or draw funds.
Media Resources: Huffington Post 10/11/13; ThinkProgress 10/11/13; Slate 10/11/13
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. . . .