Little noticed in the unusual Saturday session, the Debbie Smith bill passed the US Senate. The Justice for All Act of 2004 (H.R. 5107), previously passed by the House, incorporates the Debbie Smith Act, the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act (H.R. 3214) and includes the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act (S. 152). The measure authorizes more than $7.55 billion in grants over a period of five years to local and state authorities to process a backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other sexual assault evidence, and DNA samples in cases where suspects have yet to be identified.
“I am thrilled that this legislation will finally become the law of the land,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who worked for more than two years for passage of the Debbie Smith Act. “With the use of DNA technology, we will ensure that rapists are thrown in jail and the innocent are not wrongly imprisoned. Debbie Smith waited six long years to learn that her rapist was already in prison. Now, other victims will not have to wait for justice.”
“We have an opportunity and an obligation to do more and to make the connection between the extraordinary advances in DNA technology and our commitment to fighting violence against women,” said Senator Joseph Biden, (D-DE) in his comments about the DNA Sexual Assault Act he sponsored that is now included as part of this Act. “This bill will help law enforcement officials take justice off the shelf and put more criminals behind bars.”
If signed into law by the President, this Act will also have a significant impact on the rights of victims of federal crimes, including reasonable protection from the accused and timely and accurate notice of any public proceeding involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused. Additional funding of $22 million over the next five years is authorized for Victim/Witness Programs to carry out the provisions of the Act, and grants will be made available to organizations that provide legal counsel and support services to crime victims.
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. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .