Judge Upholds VAWA Provision Calling Gender-Motivated Crime a Civil Rights Violation
U.S. Judge James Jarvis, of the Eastern District of Tennessee, has upheld the constitutionality of the civil rights provision of the federal Violence Against Women Act. The provision makes gender-motivated crime, such as spousal abuse, a civil rights violation. Congress used its power under the interstate commerce clause to pass the legislation. After four months of hearings, Congress found in 1994 "that gender-based crimes and fear of gender-based crimes restrict movement, reduce employment opportunities, increase health expenditures, and reduce consumer expending, all of which affect interstate commerce and the national economy [and that about half of rape victims lost their jobs or were forced to quit after the crime]." Jarvis made the ruling in the case Laurel Knuckles Seaton v. Kenneth Marshall Seaton; Laurel Knuckles has sued her estranged husband for compensatory and punitive damages of $40 to $87 million. Knuckles claims that her husband repeatedly mentally and physically abused her and thus violated her civil rights.
In 1996, another U.S. District Judge found in Doe v. Doe that the provision satisfied the "rational basis" test required for Congress to pass the legislation under the interestate commerce clause. The Doe case also involved a woman whose husband allegedly repeatedly beat and threatened to kill her. In another case, Jane Doe v. Father Gerald Hatz, a third U.S. District Judge also upheld the provision's constitutionality. That case involved a woman who alleges that a church bishop groped and kissed her when she entered church for evening service. Only Judge Jackson Kiser, chief judge for the Western District of Virginia, has ruled that the provision is not constitutional because Congress exceeded its power. The case, Brzonkala v. Virginia Tech, involves a student who accused two football players of raping her. The decision is on appeal to the 4th Circuit. The Supreme Court is expected to hear a case challenging the provision at some point in the near future.
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. . . .