The Department of Justice announced yesterday that it is launching an investigation into the handling of sexual assault reports at the University of Montana in Missoula. The investigation was prompted by the large number of sexual assaults; there have been 80 reported cases of rape at the university in the past three years. There have been 11 sexual assault reports involving students at the University of Montana in the past eighteen months. The Justice Department will probe complaints that the local police department failed to fully investigate and prosecute reports of sexual assault and discriminated on the basis of gender.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said "there are a lot of women in the community who have strong concerns about the manner in which sexual assaults have been handled." He said the investigation will look into whether local law enforcement and university officials "acted promptly, fairly, and adequately to protect the interests of women" and said "our primary focus is not the number of reported allegations of sexual assault; rather, our focus is on the response."
University officials said they will cooperate with the investigation. Missoula County's chief prosecutor, Fred Van Valkenburg, blasted the investigation and defended his office. He called the investigation an "overreach by the federal government."
Media Resources: CNN 5/2/12; Reuters 5/1/12; NPR 5/1/12; Bloomberg 5/1/12; Huffington Post 5/1/12
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. . . .