The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act (HR 3214), authorizing over $1 billion to facilitating the testing and processing of DNA kits in criminal cases. Sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), HR 3214 designates $755 million over five years to the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, focused on eliminating the current backlog of 300,000 DNA rape kits nationwide. In addition, the measure supports Sen. Joseph Biden's (D-DE) DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act (S. 152), providing grant monies for training and education of law enforcement, medical, and judicial professionals involved in using DNA data for sexual assault cases. Finally, the package also extends upon the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), offering legal assistances for dating violence victims and grant funding for coalitions servicing violence victims.
Under provisions of this bill, death row inmates would be permitted to call on DNA testing to prove their innocence. Rep. Sensenbrenner was pleased with the measure's passage through the House, "Many crimes could be solved, many guilty people taken off the streets, and many victims could be spared from further crimes," the AP reported.
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. . . .