Senate Committee Approves Bill to Test More Rape Kits
In an effort to address the growing backlog nationwide of DNA evidence for sexual assault cases, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2002 earlier this month. Introduced in May by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), the bill — which requires local law enforcement agencies to assess their DNA backlog — provides at least $335 million for laboratory processing of rape kits. In addition, the Act boosts federal grants to expand DNA testing, establishes grant programs for evidence collection and handling training and stipulates upgrades for the FBI’s DNA computer system. “The Department of Justice estimates there are 600,000 offender samples waiting to be tested and uploaded into the database. This situation is unacceptable,” Biden told the committee.
Biden’s bill was preceded by two companion bills in the House and the Senate. The Debbie Smith Act introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), requires that health officials test rape kits within 10 days of receiving them. On both sides of the Capitol, this bill has yet to be heard in committee. The Rape Kit DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2002, introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), also has yet to make it out of committee.
Prompt testing is particularly critical since the perpetrators are able to roam free in the meantime - which not only adds anxiety to the victim, but also leaves all women at risk, given that the average rapist commits eight to 12 sexual assaults. Adding considerable legal punch, the Biden bill authorizes John Doe/DNA indictments whereby DNA evidence may extend the five-year statute of limitations on a federal sexual offense.
Media Resources: Senator Joseph Biden press release 7/18/02; RAINN news Jul-Aug/2002; Feminist News 5/6/02
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
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. . . .