We collectively breathed a sigh of relief after the election. Barack Obama won another term. A record number of women were elected to Congress in both houses. It still isn’t 50% of the representatives, but progress was made. Maybe we can relax and the War on Women will be a historic footnote.

You might  think the forward motion and election returns would diminish the anti-women rhetoric and some positive changes in human and reproductive rights would move forward. You might think that, but you would be incorrect. The first bill introduced to the 113th Congress was presented by Michelle Bachmann. It was a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act; even though similar bills have been voted on and defeated 33 times by the 112th Congress.  I for one, do not hold a lot of hope for forward motion in these issues this year.

The 112th Congress left unfinished business. They were too busy fighting over the Fiscal Cliff deals to consider the bills for relief funding for Hurricane Sandy victims or the Violence Against Women Act.

There have been really a lot of articles written since April about the VAWA. The bi-partisan revised act passed by the Senate in April was written to include LGBT, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans. The revision was too controversial for House Republicans. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor described the revisions as “issues that divide us,” and the House revised the bill to exclude those groups of people. And then it languished; pushed aside for other issues.

The VAWA expired on January 1, 2013 for the first time since 1994 when it was first enacted. People for the American Way simply state:

  • Now the new Congress will have to start the process of reauthorizing VAWA all over again. Until they do, women across the country will be left without the safety net that VAWA provides.

What has funding the VAWA actually done since 1994? The National Network to End Domestic Violence has a detailed breakdown on their website about what the funding has covered. It covers multiple services to victims, training for detection and prevention, prosecution, transitional housing, childcare, and workplace response training. This statement particularly caught my attention:

  • Programs are reporting significant increases in requests for help including crisis calls to hotlines, relocation assistance, counseling, shelter beds, legal services, transitional housing and childcare.  The National Census of Domestic Violence Services found that on one day in 2010, over 70,500 adults and children in America received support and services from local domestic violence programs.  Yet, on that same day, over 9,500 requests for services went unmet because of a lack of resources.  Every day, shelters and service providers must turn away victims and families in danger.  When victims take the difficult step to reach out for help, many are in life-threatening situations and must be able to find immediate safety and support.  Given the dangerous and potentially lethal nature of these crimes, we cannot afford to neglect victims.  Federal funding is now more essential than ever to ensure that programs across the country can keep the lights on, answer crisis calls, and provide essential services for victims fleeing violence.

As of today there is no official funding for those services, but some funding will continue through appropriations. There will be no funding available for improvements or the expanded coverage of LGBT, Native Americans and undocument immigrants. The 70,500 calls placed in 2010 could go unanswered in 2013.

Do we really need VAWA and those services? One article I read argued there would be coverage by other laws in existence, such as assault, murder, or kidnapping. However, since the VAWA has been enacted in 1994 (pdf) there has been a reduction of violence by 63% and an increase in reporting by 51% for women and 37% for men. The act is directly responsible for these changes.

  • VAWA has been the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in this country.”Debbie Segal, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence

One article on the history and impact of the VAWA is by Abigail Collazo published on January 3, 2013. It is thorough and she states about the refusal to vote on the act:

  • “And like the rest of society, the House of Representatives chose to not provide additional help and support to female survivors of violence for one reason – they don’t recognize it as a real problem.”

There has been no truce declared in the War on Women. If anything, the war has been expanded to include other groups.

What about the groups that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor feels are too divisive to include in the act? Doesn’t everyone deserve the right to protections from domestic violence? Who decides which person is “deserving” and which is not? Eric Cantor? Tea Party Republicans?

The Atlantic offers this idea for the failure to vote on the Senate version of the VAWA.

  • They may not realize that American Indian women are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime as the general population, but less likely to find an attorney willing to take their sexual assault case. They could be unaware that incidents of LGBT intimate partner violence increased by 18 percent in 2011, and people of color within that group were nearly four times as likely to experience physical violence.

While they did not have time to consider the VAWA, the 112th Congress was able to insert tax loopholes for favored corporations inside the Fiscal Cliff bill. One in particular caught my eye:

  • One of the more unusual tax benefits in the fiscal cliff legislation is a longstanding carve-out for racetracks used by NASCAR.
  • Supporters in Congress and industry groups have argued that the tax break is necessary to “maintain the current standard expected by our competitors and fans.” According to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the so-called NASCAR loophole will cost taxpayers $46 million this year and an additional $95 million through 2017.

How many calls and services could enactment of VAWA provide with the accelerated depreciation given to NASCAR? What about the other corporate perks placed in the Fiscal Cliff bill at the behest of lobbyists? Saving lives is not a priority with the current members of Congress.

My thoughts keep going to the thousands of unanswered calls and victims with no place to turn for help. We need to demand better from our government. I encourage you to sign petitions, call your congressional representatives and make our voices heard.


REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

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