The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is unconstitutional. The case was brought by plaintiff Christy Brzonkala, who filed a federal lawsuit against the two former Virginia Tech students who are charged with raping her.
Passed in 1994, the VAWA gave victims of sex-based crimes like rape and domestic violence the right to sue their attackers for violating their civil rights as women. The Act also ordered the allocation of funds for battered women's programs and for centralized offices to help enforce protective orders.
As a result of Friday's ruling, women living in states where the Court has jurisdiction -- Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and the Carolinas -- will no longer be eligible to sue their attackers under VAWA. These women now must sue only under their state's tort laws, which have shorter statutes of limitations and lower caps on damages.
Legal experts predict that Brzonkala will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Brzonkala's attorney, Eileen N. Wagner, agreed. "The Supreme Court was our original goal and I have a hard time envisioning we would pass up the test. Her (Brzonkala's) idea was, 'I'll make sure this doesn't happen to someone else.'"
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .