11 December 2012

Will Congress Be Naughty or Nice?

As the New Year approaches, we are anxiously waiting to see if lawmakers will be naughty or nice when it comes to passing key legislation affecting women’s health, safety and economic well-being. Decisions regarding the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Shaheen Amendment and the “fiscal cliff” are among key issues that should be resolved before the end of this congressional session.

VAWA has previously been reauthorized, with bipartisan support. Unbelievably, some lawmakers are now opposed to its renewal, in part because the 2012 version would extend protections to same-sex couples, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans.
Take Action! Tell your congressmen to be nice and pass the reauthorization of  the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Obstructing protections for victims of domestic violence is an easy way to get on the naughty list, and Rep. Eric Cantor is on his way to making it to the top of that list. Cantor has been adamant about prohibiting protections for Native-American women, a community that suffers from disproportionately high rates of sexual assault, rape and violence. An alarming one in three Native-American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. This paints a clear picture as to why no woman should be excluded from protection from violence.

Also on the naughty list are members of Congress who oppose the Shaheen amendment, which would provide military women with the same access to abortion coverage as other women with federal health care policies. No woman who serves her country should have to pay out of pocket to end a pregnancy resulting from sexual assault. While progress has been made -- with Senate approval of the National Defense Authorization Act that includes the Shaheen amendment as part of the bill -- whether the House of Representatives will allow the amendment to remain intact is still up in the air. Not providing servicewomen with the same reproductive rights and abortion coverage as the women they fight to protect is not just naughty; it’s downright despicable.

Lastly, decisions regarding the ‘fiscal cliff’ are among the most complicated and pressing issues that will have huge implications for low-income women and their families. With disproportionate numbers of women living in poverty, cuts to public education, child care assistance, health care, public housing and nutrition programs for low-income women and children could prove disastrous. The burden of government spending reductions should not be placed on those who turn to vital social programs to survive. We’re advocating a compromise that puts legislators safely on this season’s nice list.

As we work to ensure that women have equal economic opportunity, access to health care and are protected from violence, the Ms. Foundation continues to pressure lawmakers to do what’s best for women and their families in 2013 and beyond.

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