A group of women in Chicago has banded together to address a mounting backlog of untested rape kits at the Illinois State Police Crime Lab. The Women's DNA Initiative announced their plans on Sunday in the Chicago Tribune to raise as much as $1 million to have the rape evidence tested at private firms. Shortly thereafter, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich vowed to find $3 million in the state's budget to address the three-year backlog of some 1,500 rape kits, the Tribune reports.
The National Rape Evidence Project estimates that the backlog nationwide is at least 350,000 rape kits. "The reality is a woman gets raped and she goes through a second invasive process of having a rape kit done where they swab all different parts of her body," former New York City police commissioner Howard Safir told the Tribune. "She leaves thinking she went through the second invasive process because it's going to help catch a rapist. In many locations around the country, they just sit on the shelves." In 1999 Safir convinced then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to spend $12 million to analyze a backlog of more than 17,000 kits, according to the Tribune.
The US House of Representatives recently passed a bill that designates $755 million over five years to the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, focused on eliminating the current backlog of DNA rape kits nationwide. "This new law will pull rapists off the streets and throw them behind bars, case closed." said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), author of the original Debbie Smith Act, in a press statement. "This action guarantees prevention of future sexual assaults and resolution for some unsolved rapes ... Rape kits should be in the lab undergoing analysis, not stuck on the shelves of a warehouse."
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. . . .