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Why Expanding VAWA Mattered: A Survivor’s Story

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Author Carissa Daniels after speaking at a Press Conference about domestic violence with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on April 2, 2012.

My name is Carissa Daniels. I am a mother, a student, an advocate and an activist. I am Cherokee. I am also a survivor of domestic violence. Fifteen years ago this May, I was forced to take my daughter and leave my home because of domestic violence. We spent four months homeless, living underground in the system of domestic violence shelters where victims move every 28 days to stay safe from someone who has threatened and/or tried to kill them. The same someone who said they loved them.

Nowhere in my dreams of happily ever after did it ever mention mental and emotional abuse, put-downs, physical and sexual violence. But I lived through all of those and more.

People ask why victims stay. A much better question would be “Why does someone who says he loves someone hurt that person?” As to why victims stay, I can tell you that in my case, I didn’t know that what I was living with was abuse. It’s hard to recognize because it occurs in so many different forms, and happens so gradually, you don’t even know what is going on until it is nearly too late.

I was disabled in a car crash years before meeting my ex, so I had very little income. Some abusers keep victims from working at all, or they take all the money, so she has no way to get out.

This is why renewing the Violence Against Women Act was so vital and why it was so important to not compromise on which victims receive services and protection and which don’t. VAWA helps to fund programs to support domestic violence victims who want to get safe. It enables them to have a place to go, temporarily, without cost. It gives them a roof over their head, and food to eat while they work on getting things in order and contemplating their next steps.

VAWA provides a victim with a legal advocate to help with things like an order of protection, divorce and child custody and support issues. Sometimes, when the situation is most serious, and the victim qualifies, the legal advocate can even help the victim find an attorney to help them. In my case, I nearly lost custody of my daughter because he had a significant income, while I did not. He could, and, did spend a lot of money on attorneys in an effort to take my daughter from me. If it hadn’t been for the legal advocacy program, I would have been alone while enduring four years of terrifying court battles, all in an effort to take my daughter from me.

Until now, this would not have been the case, if I lived on a reservation. If I had been assaulted on Native American lands, much of the help that is available to other victims of abuse would have been far from me. Getting an order of protection on a reservation would have been much more difficult if the House version of VAWA had become law. The Republican plan would have made it harder for the courts to issue civil orders of protection on the reservation because all applications for an order of protection would have required tribal courts to get approval from a US Attorney General. This is the current procedure for prosecution. It would not have changed under the new bill. This is part of the problem. If this hasn’t worked for prosecution up till now, why did they think it would work adding civil protection orders?

I felt a cold chill when I read this portion of the House GOP proposal because it meant even more people would die. Many abusers knew that their crimes could be committed with impunity on the reservation if you were not a tribal member. Eighty-eight percent of these crimes on the reservation are committed by non-Natives. Seventy-seven percent of people on the reservation are non-Native people, exempt from prosecution under Native law. Native women are currently two and a half times more likely to be assaulted, and more than twice as likely to be stalked, than non-Natives. Indian nations, which have sovereignty over their territories and people, have been the only governments in America without jurisdiction and local control they need to address the epidemic of domestic violence. We have given power to state and local governments to deal with domestic violence but until now we had not done so for Native American territories. The House GOP version of VAWA removed some more of the few tools the tribal courts have. While federal agencies have exclusive jurisdiction over these crimes, the U.S. courts are located hundreds of miles from the reservation, so they often decline prosecution. In any other foreign nation, they have the right to prosecute someone who commits a crime on their land. Not so with non-natives on Reservation land.

I cannot help but ask, when we see how effective VAWA has been in other areas, the number of lives saved (incidents of domestic violence are down 63% since 1994). And in the first 6 years of its existence, VAWA saved $14.8 billion dollars in net averted social costs. Why would we not support a bill that protects ALL victims? The new portions of the Violence Against Women Act have been created after months (and in some cases, years) of research and consultation with constitutional lawyers and the tribal authorities. Constitutional experts and the native organizations have come together, working to find a solution that maximizes the help for victims while controlling the costs. They agree that it can be done without any negative impact on the rights of Non-natives. When a discussion is made about if a non-native can get a fair trial in a tribal court, the answer should be a resounding yes. The jury of their peers… their neighbors, their community are called to hear the case. Instead of displaying ignorance and prejudice, squabbling over “if” we should do it, we need to ask, “How we can make it happen?” We already know it is costing many lives, and money to do nothing.

Then there’s the question of immigration issues: Because of controversy over this, Senate Democrats removed the section in their bill that would have granted more visas to undocumented victims of domestic violence. They did so to try to compromise with the House. Rather than being willing to compromise, however, Republicans in the House removed sections these sections as well as those would have protected LGBT victims from discrimination in applying for services.

Lastly, the House GOP proposal left out of their bill updates that would protect college students. The Leadership conference on Civil and Human Rights said it well when they said that “Even in today’s polarized climate, we should be able to agree that when we send our daughters and sons to college, they should be protected from stalking, violence, date rape and sexual assault.”

My point: These omissions would have cost many lives! The more inclusive VAWA that passed last week has significant cost savings, without yet another huge loss of services to those who need it most. In fact, it will reach more people and have a significant impact on future generations, while saving money… The choice was clear. Congress needed to do what was best for victims, and stop grandstanding. Thankfully they did so in the end. If we are to make a significant difference in the fight to end domestic violence, we need to have the tools to do so. That is why, yesterday when I saw the House passed S. 47, I cried. For those who will live and one day make our world a better place. If all of us do what we can, we can make a difference in the lives of victims!


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In Stunning Last-Minute Move, Congress Does the Right Thing For Once

by Admin Jen

Well, the House finally found a way to vote on, and pass, the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.  It was the most convoluted, face-saving way possible, but they did it.  And as it turns out, most of our representatives don’t like domestic violence.  Pop the champagne, people.  The House has managed to sit down together and get enough of its members to agree that wife-beating is bad that they could pass something about it.  I realize this is a low bar, but we have to start somewhere and if we are really going to entertain fantasies of bi-partisanship or progress in this relentlessly, depressingly divided country, it’s a satisfying enough place to begin.

I’m not kidding.  The significance of VAWA’s passage can’t be underplayed.  It gives a glimmer of hope that we might see a more reasonable Republican party in the future.  As I’ve said elsewhere on this page, I would love to be having a spirited conversation with my conservative brethren and sistren about the role and size of government, the best way to spur economic growth, foreign policy, just about anything else than whether domestic violence should be treated as the serious crime that it is.  This really is a big damn deal.

Why do I say this?  Well, if you recall, the bill that originally sailed past the Senate last year contained expanded protections for underserved, hard-to-reach groups; namely Native Americans on reservations, illegal immigrants, and LGBT victims.  And the bills that were coming out of the House committees were conspicuously missing these expansions.  Multiple Republican House members said the expansions in the Senate bill made it “impossible” for them to vote for it, because of gay immigrant cooties or something.  America had the distinct impression that the House Republicans felt that immigrants, gays, and tribal women weren’t really women.  That they didn’t deserve the same protections as “regular” women.  By resoundingly passing the Senate’s bill, it gives the lie to all of that.  It codifies a simple recognition of the humanity of these groups.  A significant number of Republicans, in voting for this act, voted in favor of the notion that these groups are people too, and that their shared humanity matters.  It’s an encouraging thought.

Now, virtually all of the “no” votes were still Republicans… But there were lots who voted “yes”, including my own Pennsylvania congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick, a mushy moderate in a purple district who is nonetheless a Tea Party darling.  The partisan in me sometimes sits back and laughs when the rhetoric from that side of the aisle grows too sick, too sad, too hateful and misogynistic, because it clearly hurts them with women voters and, you know… decent people.  The evil voice in my head (who sounds suspiciously like Kathy Bates in “Primary Colors”) says,  “Go ahead, guys, keep giving yourself that rope, you saw how well it worked out for Richard Mourdock.”  But the truth is, I don’t want to live in that world.  I want to live in a world where the opposition is sane.  Where we really do share the same desire for the same ends, and the wrangling comes in trying to achieve them.  Where we can agree that all people are worthy of love and respect, deserving to live in a world that is as sane and safe as our loony species can manage.  (Again, a low bar, perhaps, but we can still try to raise it.)  I count a few conservatives among my friends, and they’re good people.  I promise you, they don’t sit around on their rooftops wearing hoods and taking potshots at their gay neighbors with a .22.  They aren’t Minute Men.  They really don’t deserve to be stuck with the reputation made by the louder, angrier, more reactionary cousins in their extended partisan family.  This vote brings the country one step closer to internalizing that truth.

Now, it’s not clear whether this seemingly sudden turnaround was politically motivated, motivated out of simple human decency, or some combination of the two.  It’s possible that the support for the Senate version had been there all along and the gamesmanship revolved around something else entirely.  Be assured, we’ll be researching the matter more, if only to satisfy our own curiosity as to what changed and when, and we’ll share everything we learn.  But there are two reasons to feel a glimmer of hope for the future.  One, because, after months of our own campaigning and encouraging you all to call and write your representatives, we finally have a Violence Against Women Act that reaches that many more women.

And two, because it might, just maybe, represent a tiny step in the direction of sanity for us as a people.

A girl can dream for just a minute.  Now give me the damn champers.


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Remember This – Tracking the Lawmakers and Women’s Rights

In order to maximize accountability, we are keeping track of what candidates and elected officials do and say against women’s rights. We moved this list from its original location on our Facebook page to eventually allow for shared authorship. The list was becoming too much for our admins to maintain. And sadly, the war on women’s rights does not appear to be slowing down.

We will be updating this list regularly. Please submit any entries we may have missed to our Facebook page or Twitter account. Please be aware, this list is for elected officials or candidates who have made anti-women’s rights statements and/or sponsored/voted in favor of/signed anti-women’s rights legislation. This list is not for media figures who have made sexist or provocative statements to get attention and/or ratings. We prefer not to give them what they want.

Candidate/Elected Official Federal Level – Seeking National Office

Mitt Romney (R) – Nominee for President
Mitt Romney’s Plans for Planned Parenthood

Paul Ryan (R) – Nominee for Vice President
Paul Ryan and the Republican problem with women

Candidates/Elected Officials By State

ALABAMA

Robert J. Bentley (R) – Governor
State of Alabama Harrasses and Seeks to Close Abortion Clinic, While Women Die Needlessly in Childbirth

Jefferson Sessions (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Richard Shelby (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

ALASKA

Wes Keller (R) – Alaska State Legislature
Wes Keller, Alaska GOP Lawmaker, Blocks Girl Scouts Resolution Over Alleged Planned Parenthood Ties

Lisa Murkowski (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

ARIZONA

Jan Brewer (R) – Governor
Governor Jan Brewer Signs Arizona’s Extreme New Abortion Law

Trent Franks (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Hearing for D.C. Abortion Bill Set for Next Week
GOP Happy With Attempted D.C. Abortion Ban

Jack Harper (R) – Arizona State Legislature
Arizona Woman Emails Representative Jack Harper; Harper Calls Her “Baby-Killer”

Jon Kyl (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Debbie Lesko (R) – Arizona State Legislature
Contraception bill to be revived in amended form

John McCain (R) – U.S. Senate
John McCain: ‘War on Women’ is ‘Imaginary,’ ‘Conjured by Democrats’
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Terri Proud (R) – Arizona State Legislature
Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It

ARKANSAS

John Boozman (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

CALIFORNIA

COLORADO

CONNECTICUT

DELAWARE

FLORIDA

Kathleen Passidomo (R) – Florida State Legislature
FL GOP Rep. Says 11-Year-Old Was Gang Raped ‘Because She Was Dressed Like A 21 Year-Old Prostitute’

Marco Rubio (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Allen West (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Allen West: Liberal Women Are ‘Neutering American Men’

GEORGIA

Saxby Chambliss (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Terry Engand (R) – Georgia State Legislature
Georgia Republican Compares Women to Cows, Pigs, And Chickens

Bobby Franklin (R) – George State Legislature
Georgia State Lawmaker Seeks To Redefine Rape Victims As ‘Accusers’

John Isakson (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Doug McKillip (R) – George State Legislature
Georgia “Fetal Pain” Author OK with Forcing Women into C-Sections for Unviable Pregnancies

HAWAII

IDAHO

Michael Crapo (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

James Risch (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Chuck Winder (R) – Idaho State Legislature
Chuck Winder, Idaho Lawmaker, Suggests Women Use Rape As Excuse For Abortions

ILLINOIS

INDIANA

Daniel Coats (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Mike Pence (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Mike Pence’s war on Planned Parenthood

Eric Turner (R) – Indiana State Legislature
Indiana Bill Would Force Doctors To Tell Women That Having An Abortion May Lead To Breast Cancer

IOWA

Charles Grassley (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Steve King (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Steve King Worries Free Birth Control Will Make Us A “Dying Civilization”
Rep. Steve King: “Planned Parenthood Is Invested in Promiscuity”

KANSAS

Lance Kizner (R) – Kansas State Legislature
Kansas House votes to Send anti-abortion bill to the Senate

Jerry Moran (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Pat Roberts (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

KENTUCKY

Joe Bowen (R) – Kentucky State Legislature
Anti-Abortion Bill Voted Down in House Committee

Mitch McDonnell (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Rand Paul (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
DC Budget autonomy bill pulled after Rand Paul adds amendments on guns, abortion, unions

LOUISIANA

David Vitter (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MAINE

Susan Collins (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MARYLAND

MASSACHUSETTS

Scott Brown (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MICHIGAN

Gail Haines (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Michigan Anti-Abortion Bill, ‘Most Extreme in the Country’, Barrels Through State House

Pete Hoekstra (R) – Candidate for U.S. Senate
Pete Hoekstra On Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: ‘That Thing Is A Nuisance’

Bruce Rendon (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Michigan’s Surprise Anti-Abortion Blitz

Mike Shirley (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Michigan Anti-Abortion Bill, ‘Most Extreme in the Country’, Barrels Through State House

Jim Stamas (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Lawmakers barred from speaking after “vagina” comment

MINNESOTA

MISSISSIPPI

Phil Bryant – (R) Governor
Phil Bryant, Mississippi Governor: Democrats’ ‘One Mission in Life is to Abort Children’

Thad Cochran (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Robert Wicker (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MISSOURI

Todd Akin (R) – U.S. House of Representatives, candidate for U.S. Senate
Planned Parenthood funding a final obstacle in shutdown negotiations
Todd Akin, GOP Senate candidate: ‘Legitimate rape’ rarely causes pregnancy

Roy Blunt (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MONTANA

Krayton Kearns (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
TEA Party Legislator: Birth Control is “Death Nail in Coffin of our Republic”

Denny Rehberg (R) – U.S. House of Representatives, candidate for U.S. Senate
Support Tester against Rehberg’s extremism

NEBRASKA

Mike Johanns (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act

NEVADA

Dean Heller (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Kelly Ayotte (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NEW JERSEY

Christopher Smith (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Chris Smith Redefines Rape

NEW MEXICO

NEW YORK

Ann Marie Buerkle (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Buerkle Defends Vote to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

Ruben Diaz (D) – New York State Legislature
New York Democrat Compares Pro-Choice Advocate to Hitler, “Murderers, Assassins, and Criminals”

NORTH CAROLINA

Richard Burr (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NORTH DAKOTA

Rick Berg (R) – U.S. House of Representatives, Candidate for U.S. Senate
GOP Senate Candidate Supported Life Sentences For Rape Victims Who Obtain Abortions

OHIO

Ron Amstutz (R) – Ohio State Legislature
House Republicans move to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Ohio

John Boehner (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Boehner shoots down bipartisan call to vote on Senate’s domestic violence bill

Josh Mandel (R) – State Treasurer, candidate for U.S. Senate
Candidate Questionnaire for Cincinnati Right to Life

Robert Portman (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Kristina Roegner (R) – Ohio State Legislature
House Republicans move to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Ohio

Cliff Rosenberger (R) – Ohio State Legislature
House Republicans move to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Ohio

OKLAHOMA

Thomas Coburn (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

James Inhofe (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

OREGON

PENNSYLVANIA

Bob Casey (D) – U.S. Senate
Casey votes against birth control mandate, Pennsylvania senator breaks with Obama, Democratic Party

Tom Corbett (R) – Governor
Gov. Tom Corbett on pre-abortion ultrasounds: ‘Close your eyes’

Mike Fitzpatrick (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Mike Fitzpatrick has taken every possible opportunity to vote against reproductive choice

Patrick Toomey (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

RHODE ISLAND

SOUTH CAROLINA

James DeMint (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Lindsey Graham (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Nikki Haley (R) – Governor
Haley claims women ‘don’t care about contraception’

SOUTH DAKOTA

John Thune (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

TENNESSEE

Lamar Alexander (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Bob Corker (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Matthew Hill (R) – Tennessee State Legislature
Tennessee Bill May Expose Identities Of Women Seeking Abortions

TEXAS

John Cornyn (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Rick Perry (R) – Governor
Texas Loses Entire Women’s Health Program Over Planned Parenthood Law

UTAH

Orrin Hatch (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Mike Lee (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women A
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

VERMONT

VIRGINIA

Bob McConnell (R) – Governor
Bob McDonnell, Virginia Governor: ‘War On Women’ Is ‘Political Theater’

William Howell (R) – Virginia State Legislature
VA Speaker And Ex-ALEC Chair Berates Woman — ‘I’m Not Speaking In Little Enough Words For You To Understand’

WEST VIRGINIA

WISCONSIN

Glenn Grothman (R) – Wisconsin State Legislature
Wisconsin State Senator Says Women Are Paid Less Because ‘Money Is More Important For Men’

Ron Johnson (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Don Pridemore (R) – Wisconsin State Legislature
Wisconsin GOP Legislators Go After Single Mothers

WYOMING

John Barrasso (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Michael Enzi (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Last Updated: 9/4/2012.


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The 112th Congress’ Worst Moments for Women

7 Aug 2012

By now we are all well aware that the 112th Congress left a lot to be desired in terms of actual legislating and leadership.  By last count, the 112th sent only 54 bills to the President, 14 of which were to rename post offices (the latter of which is ironic since one of the many items this Congress failed to do was come up with a plan to restructure the struggling U.S. Postal Service). They also failed to take any action on the economy (despite having the President’s proposed jobs plan in their laps since last year) and failed to come up with a federal response plan to the worst drought this nation has seen since the Dust Bowl.

So what did the 112th Congress spend their time doing?  Three things, actually: trying to block the Affordable Care Act, obsessing about birth control coverage, and trying to limit abortion rights.  And on those three items, the 112th was very busy.  How busy? Check out our list of this Congress’ 10 Worst Actions for American Woman and judge for yourself.

The all-male birth control panel at a House hearing earlier this year. (Photo Courtesy ThinkProgress.org)

  1. The All-Male Birth Control Panel. – Who can forget this? It was the picture that summarized the War on Women for many of us: the so-called panel of “experts” called in to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s hearings on the health care birth control mandate.  Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) invited only male members of clergy to testify as to the mandate’s implications (and refused a request from the Democrats to include Georgetown student Sandra Fluke) in February 2012.  Democratic female lawmakers called foul. Some even walked out of the hearings in protest. Photos of the hearing went viral, enraging women from coast to coast and sending political tongues wagging. For advocates of reproductive rights, the panel was visceral proof that Congress wanted to make laws governing the reproductive options available to women…without regard for or input from women.  For their part, Rep. Issa and his House GOP colleagues seemed surprised that anyone would see anything wrong with holding a hearing about female contraceptives and leaving out females.  Perhaps they lack the insight of Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) sixteen year old grandson, who saw the now-infamous photo of the panel and instantly sussed out the problem: “It’s all dudes.”
  1. The House strips down VAWA, leading to a Congressional stalemate on the bill. – Question: When did protecting women from domestic violence become a partisan issue? Answer: In 2012. The 112th Congress managed to take one of the few non-partisan legislative issues of the past twenty years, an Act that passed Congress overwhelmingly in 1994, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, and turn into a partisan mess that revealed a shocking lack of concern for the women facing domestic violence. In April, female Republican Senators joined with Senate Democrats to pass S. 1925, a bill which reauthorized the Act and expanded its protections to include immigrants, LGBT persons, and Native American women. No-brainers, right? Wrong.  After a highly charged debate throughout which there was much finger pointing as to just which party hated women more, the House passed a bill that reauthorized VAWA without the Senate’s expansions. In a contentious election year, wherein both parties typically don’t see past the end of the news cycle, reconciliation of the two bills was doomed and Congress set about passing more pressing legislation, namely renaming post offices.
  1. Rep. Mike Kelly compares mandatory birth control coverage to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. – In a moment of stunning short-sightedness, Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) declared that August 1, 2012, the first day that insurers were required to cover birth control for American woman, would be remembered as an “attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy,” along with December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001.  We realize that Rep. Kelly is a little past the demographic for Sesame Street but is it too much to hope that a sitting member of the U.S. Congress has grasped the concept of the “one of these things is not like the others” game?  Evidently not.  Senator (and World War II Vet) Daniel Inouye (D-HI) later scolded Kelly’s comparison as “complete nonsense.”  We could not agree more.
  1. House holds 33 symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. –  The American people have been demanding that Congress do something – anything – about the economy, about jobs, about infrastructure, about the financial services industry, about a whole lot of urgent issues facing the country today. So what did they do? Well, in the case of the GOP-led House of Representatives, they voted 33 times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act over the past year and half. Even though none of bills repealing the law would go anywhere in the Senate and would certainly be vetoed by the President. Even though the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in July 2012. Even though the Act is designed to provide coverage for 30 million uninsured Americans. Even though the Act ends certain egregious insurance industry practices such as charging higher premiums to women and refusing to cover pre-existing conditions.  Several polls have shown that public opinion has shifted on the Affordable Care Act, with the majority of Americans now supporting government role in providing access to health care coverage. Does that shift mean that these legislators will give up their mission to repeal the ACA? Not likely according to Rep. Marsha Blackmun (R-TN), who said, after the latest symbolic vote, “We’re going to keep at it until we get this legislation off the books.”
  1. The Blunt Amendment tries to mix contraception coverage with highway funding, at women’s expense. When we said that the 112th Congress obsessed about birth control, we’re not exaggerating. Republicans in the 112th found a way to voice their displeasure at mandatory contraception coverage in the unlikeliest of legislative conversations, even highway construction. In February 2012, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) added an amendment to a highway bill that would have not only allowed all employers to block contraception coverage for employees due to moral objections but would them to block coverage of any health service required by the 2010 health-care law. Pandora’s Box much, Senator?  The vote to kill the amendment ultimately succeeded but the vote was a terrifyingly close 51-48, largely along party lines, though three Democrats supported the amendment, and one Republican voted against it. It should be noted that the sole Republican who voted against the Blunt Amendment was Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who is retiring from the Senate.
  1. Senate blocks advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act. – We’ve heard it time and time again; American women earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Minority women earn even less. And despite the insistence of some that this is discrepancy is solely due to all that time women take off to raise babies, the real statistics tell a different story. The fact is gender discrimination is still a major factor in the wage gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced in 2011 in both houses of Congress would have required employers to demonstrate that salary differences between men and women doing the same work are not gender-related. it would also haves prohibited employers from retaliating against workers who compare salary information with their coworkers for comparison.  Opponents of the bill argued that the existing Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts adequately protected women from gender wage discrimination and that the Paycheck Fairness Act would only result in “unnecessary litigation.” The Paycheck Fairness Act failed to gather the necessary votes to advance. All Senate Republicans, including female Republican Senators who had supported early drafts of the bill, voted against it. That made us wonder, what would happen if American taxpayers tried to pay female lawmakers 77% of what male lawmakers make? Would they support paycheck fairness then?
  1. Senator Mike Lee adds D.C. anti-abortion amendment to cyber-security bill.  Just hours after a similar bill restricting abortions in the District of Columbia failed to pass in the House, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) resurrected the proposal and attached it to a completely unrelated cyber-security bill in the Senate. The proposal, which aimed to ban abortions in D.C. after the 20th week of pregnancy without providing exceptions for the health of the mother, is based a now-disputed study on fetal pain.  Abortion opponents won’t let go of the study, especially after having success in passing statewide bans such as one in Arizona. In fact, the House version of the bill was backed by PReNDA author Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who has vowed to bring up the bill again in the next session of Congress.  As for the cyber-security bill, like most bills branded with abortion regulations, it proved radioactive and failed to pass, adding one more item to the list of issues the 112th failed to resolve.
  1. Senator Rand Paul plays anti-abortion politics with flood relief bill. – In what is perhaps the clearest example of why Congress spends a great deal of time getting nothing done, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is apparently trying to build his career by stalling legislation. In June 2012, Paul attempted to derail flood insurance legislation that was expected to pass the Senate easily (on the eve of flood and hurricane season, no less) by demanding that the Senate vote on whether life began at conception as part of the bill’s review. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) called the request ridiculous, and postponed the vote on the bill, rather than accede to Paul’s demand.  The Senate was eventually able to negotiate a resolution to the flood insurance bill by combining it with student loan legislation but Paul is undeterred. His other obstructions include attaching anti-union clauses and gun rights provisions to foreign policy legislation and trying to force in an amendment repealing the contraception insurance coverage requirement by inserting it into federal highway legislation.   Other lawmakers are beginning to emulate these tactics, increasing the number of instances where politicians try to earn their political  bona fides by preventing Congress from getting anything done.
  1. Denny Rehberg vs. Women’s Healthcare. – In a Congress where flip-flopping and shifting allegiances can be the rule and not the exception, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) stands out as remarkably consistent. Unfortunately for us, he’s consistent on blocking women’s access to affordable health services. For two years in a row, in his role as Chair of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Rehberg submitted a budget that eliminates funding to Planned Parenthood and to the Title X family planning programs that provide health care access to nearly five million low-income women every year. Do we have to say yet again that federal law already prevents taxpayer funds from funding abortion services?  So in cutting funds to these programs, Rehberg is really advocating eliminating badly needed preventative health care, such as cancer screenings, to low-income women? In the 2013 budget, Rehberg added provision that would let all employers block contraception coverage from employees for “moral objections” even though the birth control mandate already allows this exemption for religious organizations. Basically, this is Rehberg doing a mulligan on the failed Blunt Amendment (see Item 5 on this list).
  1. Rep. Trent Franks pushes unenforceable PReNDA. – In May 2012, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), one of the House’s most prominent anti-abortion legislators, introduced the Prenatal Discrimination Act, to ban “sex-selective abortions” – the practice wherein women choose to terminate pregnancies because they are carrying female fetuses.  Call us cynical but we could not help but be perplexed when Franks and his House GOP colleagues touted this bill as civil rights legislation, given the party’s typical insistence that not only are existing civil rights laws more than adequate, but that liberals should not be so quick to assume that gender discrimination is widespread. Indeed, they argued that gender discrimination in U.S. abortions was widespread, a claim not backed up by fact.  Put simply, PReNDA was designed to put more legal obstacles between women and abortion services. Under the law medical professionals would be required to report “suspected” discriminatory abortions or face possible criminal charges. The legislation would also allow a woman’s partner or parents to sue an abortion provider if they suspect she got an abortion because of the fetus’ gender. The vagueness of the law would have resulted in any woman terminating the pregnancy where the fetus turned out to be female to be suspect. The chilling effect of the law on women’s health service providers would have been immeasurable. Women’s rights groups including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights joined with  medical associations and civil rights groups in opposing this bill, which failed to get the required two-thirds majority to pass.  It only fell short by 30 votes, though, something voters who support reproductive rights need to remember when they go to the polls this November.


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We Are People

Originally posted
4 May 2012

While feminists are repeatedly accused of being man-haters, one-issue voters, and the wagers of false wars, we continue to support legislation that proves the exact opposite. Our support of the LGBT-protection provisions in the Violence Against Women Act is proof that we stand with our brothers AND with our sisters. We all have a right to equal protection under the law. Gender and sexual orientation are, in this case, absolutely irrelevant. We. Are. People.
Michelle Garcia at Advocate.com, citing Sharon Stapel of the Anti-Violence Project, states that “25%-35% of same-sex relationships are marred by domestic violence and abuse, which is about the same rate as other relationships.” I guess rage is an equal-opportunity emotion.
Garcia continues citing Stapel, stating that “LGBT domestic violence victims have few support services, and they often face discrimination when seeking help.” Not only do they face discrimination, they face authority figures (medical professionals, police officers) who are glad that they were victimized, who think they deserve what they got, who sometimes want to make the trauma even worse.
Does anyone remember the pathetic, broken young man in the film Boys Don’t Cry, who was forced by police to admit that his sometime-roommates raped him in his vagina? Does anyone remember that Boys Don’t Cry was based on a true story, and that after being gang-raped, the young man really WAS forced to admit to having a vagina, and to being vaginally raped by his supposed friends? Apparently, the police didn’t find rape to be enough punishment for a life of struggling with gender identity; apparently, the police needed to further humiliate this young person. Oh, and let’s don’t forget that the rapists tracked him down and murdered him not long after. It’s not just a movie….
RIP.
And does anyone remember the child – naked, drugged, injured, and terrified – who ran from Jeffery Dahmer, begged for help, and was RETURNED to Dahmer by laughing police officers? Golly, they figured it was just a gay-boy sex game gone wrong. That was the last time that child ever ran – to a cop or to anyone else.
RIP.
Those two examples received national and international attention. What of the examples that take place every minute of every day, in our neighborhoods, in the homes of our co-workers and even our friends?
This one is a paraphrase of what a lesbian told me over the phone: “I thought he was my best friend. When I came out to him, he freaked. He held me down. Yeah, he raped me. Don’t tell anyone it was me that happened to, OK?”  [No worries. I won’t.]
This is a paraphrase of what a transgendered teen said while sobbing in my living room: “Why do they do this to me? They push me against a wall and stick their hands up my shirt and start feeling me and laughing. I want to DIE, right now, I want to DIE.” [This child left home and started a new life nearly 2000 miles away after high school graduation.]
This one haunted my family for years, no paraphrase, just what happened: One of my daughter’s handful of close friends came out to us the night before his 16th birthday and said he was coming out to his parents the next day. He asked if he could move in with us if the coming-out at home didn‘t go well. We said yes. The next day, he disappeared. His parents told us never to phone their house again. His guidance counselor had no idea where he was. And the police didn‘t care. Years later, this young man found us and told us what had happened to him – his father had beaten him, taken him to Los Angeles, and left him on a beach near the Santa Monica Pier.
Domestic violence takes place between spouses, roommates, lovers, friends, and family members. It includes – but is not limited to – hitting, kicking, pushing, punching, raping, and the sort of emotional abuse that causes a victim to be hyper-vigilant, to live in constant fear. It leaves victims with PTSD. Those victims are young, old, male, female, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual; some of them aren’t sure what the hell they believe about their own gender and/or sexuality. And they all deserve equal protection under the law.
Again, I say: We. Are. People. Support the LGBT provisions in the Violence Against Women Act.
~by Erin