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."
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. . . .