Los Angeles City Council Approves Funds to Process Rape Kits
The Los Angeles City Council voted Monday to approve funds to test the city's enormous backlog of untested rape kits. Once the mayor approves the budget that authorizes these funds, up to 26 additional employees could be hired to process the kits and some testing could be outsourced to private labs, according to Human Rights Watch.
A Human Rights Watch report (see PDF) released in March found that there are at least 12,669 untested rape kits in Los Angeles County, the largest known backlog of its kind in the US. Of these, 499 kits are past the statute of limitations in California rape law and at least 1,218 are from unsolved cases where the attacker was a stranger. It is estimated that thousands more kits have been destroyed in LA County untested. A September 2008 LA city controller's audit showed a backlog of approximately 7,000 kits.
Sarah Tofte, who authored the Human Rights Watch report responded to the vote: "The thousands of rape victims who went through the ordeal of providing the evidence, and then found out it was sitting in a freezer, will finally have a chance to see justice.... While the new money is a critical step toward eliminating the backlog of rape kits, it is certainly not the last step. We urge the City Council to use its oversight function to ensure that these funds translate into results, and monitor the speedy elimination of this problem."
Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 4/1/09; Human Rights Watch Press Release 5/19/09
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. . . .