This week, Congress decided to celebrate National Women’s Health Week by undermining Latinas’ rights to safe, legal abortion in immigration detention and in the District of Columbia, and by striping advances made in the Violence Against Women Act to prosecute intimate partner violence and other crimes. Muchas gracias por nada, Congress!
Here is a run-down of what has been going down on the Hill:
DHS Appropriations Abortion Rider
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning decided to strip the right to abortion care for Latinas’ and all women in immigration detention when they added an amendment (the “Aderholt” amendment) to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment, which passed in a party-line vote of 28-21, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion care for women under immigration detention custody. The original amendment only allowed exceptions for life and rape, but not incest. The incest exception was added later. However, as our Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas noted in NLIRH’s press statement, “Passage of the Aderholt amendment shows remarkable contempt for some of the most vulnerable women in our community.”
This amendment was completely unnecessary, as the dangerous and restrictive Hyde Amendment already applies to women in detention. Additionally, DHS has the Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), which are comprehensive stake-holder reviewed standards for health care in detention centers. This amendment would only open the door to interpretation to restrict access to services around abortion care, like transportation, follow-up care, and counseling, in instances where detained women pay for an abortion themselves.
With high levels of rape and sexual assault in immigration detention centers, and the fact that detainees may be U.S. citizens and those whose only crime was their presence in this country, attacking access to reproductive health care in detention is a dangerous and unjust move by House Appropriations leadership.
VAWA: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act
Just a few hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970, a bill which calls itself the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In reality, this bill rolls back protections for immigrant victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and other crimes and excludes new protections for LGBTQ and Native American survivors approved in a bill passed by the Senate to reauthorize VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1994 with strong bipartisan support, has been reauthorized several times over the past decades with a history of cooperation across party lines. However, yesterday’s move by the House of Representatives broke that strong tradition. In doing so, they advanced a bill that actually rolls back protections for immigrant women, by allowing abusers to insert themselves into an IPV survivor’s immigration proceedings, and undermines the U-visa system, which is an important tool for abused immigrant women whose immigration status is used as a form of control. This House bill also notably excludes strong provisions for LGBTQ and Native American victims that which were approved by the Senate in their bill to reauthorize this vital tool to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and other crimes.
To add insult to injury, the powerful House Rules Committee, which establishes rules for debating legislation, prohibited any amendments to be added to H.R. 4970 before the vote. This meant that opponents of the bill, like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th), herself a survivor of sexual violence who faced challenges prosecuting her abuser, was unsuccessful in her many attempts to remove dangerous provisions for immigrant victims and include protections for LGBTQ and Native Americans.
D.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban
And today, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution is hoping to advance legislation to deny the right to abortion care to the residents of the District of Columbia.
Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ-2), author of the racial profiling anti-abortion bill, the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act,” now has his sights on imposing a dangerous abortion restrictions for the women of the District of Columbia. H.R. 3803, or the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” relies on the medically-debated concept of “fetal pain” to strip a Latinas’ and all women’s rights to essential and potentially health- and life-saving abortion care.
The bill, in addition to imposing an unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban, contains a number of dangerous provisions that endangers women’s health and makes women vulnerable to numerous lawsuits. While the bill contains an exception in cases where women’s lives are in danger or when they face “substantial and irreversible” harm to a “major bodily organ,” this essentially means that women have to be on the brink of death or permanent disability in order to receive the abortion care she needs to preserve her health.
The bill allows the “father” of the fetus, or “maternal grandparents” in cases where a minor seeks abortion care, to file a civil lawsuit against an abortion care provider who violates this bill, showing a complete disregard and distrust of women to make the best health care decision for themselves. The bill also opens up the door to any party – spouses, parents, siblings, health care providers, guardians, even the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia- to file a lawsuit against abortion providers who provide abortion care at or after 20 weeks of gestation. What legislators, and even the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to realize is that many post 20-week abortion are absolutely essential to preserve the health and life of a woman seeking abortion care. No woman should die or become ill as a result of a pregnancy.
Again, to add insult to injury, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Rep. Franks and author of the 20-week abortion ban, has prohibited Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from testifying.
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