by Jeremy Leaming
His colleagues did not want to hear it, but the House Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) blasted the Republican’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act as wholly inadequate and a “flat-out attack on women,” as The Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett reports.
Bassett writes that Conyers’ comment sparked “audible sighs and one ‘Come on!’" from Republicans on the panel. Conyers, however, was reacting to the House version, which strays remarkably from the one the Senate passed in late April. The Senate’s reauthorization bill approved despite Republican opposition includes extensions of services to low-income victims of domestic violence, to undocumented immigrants, as well as more help for Native American women and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender victims of domestic abuse. The House version, H.R. 4970, does not include those extensions of services.
In statement from House Judiciary Committee Democrats, the measure is described as rolling back “important protections for immigrant victims – putting them in a worse position than under the current law, and excludes other vulnerable populations such as tribal women, college students experiencing abuse …. In short, this legislation seeks to fight domestic violence, but only if the sponsors agree with the race, immigration status, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the victims.”
Those extensions spurred Republican opposition in the Senate, causing the reauthorization to languish for months. VAWA was passed in 1994 with strong bipartisan support and reauthorized twice since then. But this time around, conservative lawmakers have chaffed at extending services to more people. The obstructionism caught the attention of The New York Times, which said in a February editorial that the opposition was “drive largely by an antigay, anti-immigrant agenda.”
During the Senate’s struggle to pass VAWA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told The Times that the opposition was part of an overarching effort “to cut back on the rights and services to women.”
Before Feinstein’s comments, and even earlier in the year, Norma Gattsek of the Feminist Majority Foundation explored the increasing rancor over VAWA, linking it to a rigid right-wing agenda.
“No matter what politicians think, women’s health and lives are not negotiable,” Gattsek wrote. “First, they made everything about abortion, attaching riders to unrelated bills; then they decided to move against birth control, trying to defund family planning clinics; now beating and sexually abusing women is a partisan issue.”
Congress, of course, is not the only place where lawmakers are pushing extreme policies that could or do affect women’s lives. An increasing number of state legislatures have passed or are considering measures to limit access to abortion, to mandate information women must receive and medical procedures they must undergo before receiving abortions.
[image via House Committee on Education and the Workforce]