Rape Kit Backlog Bill Introduced in House of Representatives
Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced a bill today in the House to address the national crisis of untested rape kit backlogs. The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 is the House version of a Senate bill introduced earlier this month.
According to Human Rights Watch, there are approximately 200,000 reported rapes each year and, in most cases, DNA evidence is collected and stored in a "rape kit." In 2004, Congress passed the Debbie Smith Act, which authorized the use of federal funds to test DNA kits. However, the law did not specify that the DNA kits be rape kits. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch discovered that Los Angeles had a backlog of over 12,500 untested rape kits in spite of having received about $8 million Debbie Smith Act funds. Other cities, such as Detroit, have a backlog of 10,000 untested rape kits or more. There are no current national statistics regarding the number of untested rape kits, because no state or federal laws mandate law enforcement agencies collect this information. Some estimates suggest the total number of untested kits is over 180,000.
Congresswoman Maloney said in a press release, "Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted somewhere in the United States. DNA evidence doesn't forget and it cannot be intimidated...By processing this evidence, we can prevent rapists from attacking more innocent victims and ensure that the survivors and their families receive justice."
If passed, financial incentives would be introduced to process rape kit backlogs quickly, require that jurisdictions receiving Debbie Smith funds use them for rape kit testing, and would mandate that these jurisdictions have a plan to reduce their rape kit backlog by 50 percent in two years. The bill also creates a mechanism for collecting national data on rape kit backlogs and addresses the lack of trained medical professionals to process the kits. The bill would eliminate the common practice of rape survivors paying for the costs of processing the rape kits.
Media Resources: Representative Carolyn B. Maloney Press Release 11/19/09; HR 4114; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/9/09; Human Rights Watch News 11/5/09
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. . . .