Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), one of the most outspoken advocates of military sexual assault victims in congress, introduced the amendment. Its passing will result in $65 million allocated to the cause of identifying victims who were dismissed after illegitimate psychological evaluations and further reviewing their records of discharge. Speier's amendment passed by voice vote, along with another amendment to the appropriations bill that sets aside $10 million in order to further train the military's criminal investigators. Both amendments seek to address the problems recently raised by military sexual assault victims that pertain to the conflicting interests that exist when reporting sexual assault crimes within the military chain of command.
According to a recent investigative report, victims who report sexual assaults to their commanders are often subject to biased psychological evaluations that can likely result in their discharge from the military. This focus on mental health cases is an important first step in addressing the epidemic of military sexual assault. "Mental-health diagnoses are rampantly misused to administratively discharge or retaliate against survivors of sexual assault," Rep. Speier emphasized yesterday. "These dismissals are like scarlet letters, pinned where medals should be."
Media Resources: Houston Chronicle 7/24/13; Feminist Newswire 4/17/13; Military Times 7/24/13; San Antonio Express-News 7/25/13; San Francisco Chronicle 7/24/13
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. . . .