Republican War On Women Continues
The Violence Against Women Act will die if Congress doesn’t get it together soon.
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not necessarily reflect those of Loop 21.
Lame Duck Congress (n): Elected Congress members continuing in office during the period between an election defeat and their successors’ assumption of office.
Welcome to their prime season, the time between Election Day and Jan. 3, 2013, when the 113th Congress will take office. It’s a six-week period typically marked by inaction, and any pending legislation that isn’t passed before Dec. 14 will die. But while most folks are focused on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” there’s another piece of legislation that affects millions of Americans that is in danger of expiring next month.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first introduced by then-Sen. Joe Biden in 1993. Since passing the following year, the legislation has provided funding for shelters, clinics and help hotlines for domestic violence victims nationwide, and trained police officers, counselors and healthcare workers to better meet their needs. As a result, more people are speaking out after abuse, domestic violence is down by 67 percent, and all states now have strong laws against stalking and sex crimes. It also created federal rape shield laws that prevent prosecutors from using past sexual history against victims, decreased the rate of domestic violence deaths, and increased offender prosecution rates.
[ALSO READ: Domestic Violence is No Partisan Issue]
The legislation was up for reauthorization in 2011, but it expired before it could happen, left to languish through election season. An updated bipartisan version of the bill was introduced last year and passed in the Senate with 68 votes, but House Republicans are currently holding it hostage. The House Judiciary Committee removed expanded provisions that provided protections for LGBTQ, Native American and immigrant victims, then the full House passed its version in May 2012. A version that reconciles the two passed bills must be presented to President Barack Obama before the end of the term to continue to serve those in need. But the Republican-controlled House has so far refused to make it happen.
Big surprise from the party that declared war on women throughout election season. From Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to Richard “Something That God Intended to Happen” Mourdock, male Republican standard bearers couldn’t get enough of their own rhetoric when it came to violence against women.
[ALSO READ: Republicans' Obsession with Rape]
Perhaps the routing they took on Election Day (all seven of the men who made headline-grabbing comments about rape lost their election bids) will make this party see that denying protection for victims—any victims—is wrong at its core.
Or perhaps not.
In the meantime, we need to reach out to our elected reps and tell them that this is as important as any over-hyped looming financial crisis. Write your representatives and tell them that you support a version of the bill that looks out for everyone. Sign this petition. Join this Facebook and Twitter campaign to increase awareness and tell your elected officials that they can’t be lame on this issue.
Do you know someone who has benefited from VAWA? Tell us in the comments.