The GOP's war on women, continued
January 4, 2013By Dick Polman
Republicans routinely insist that they are not waging a war on women. But their behavior this week was further proof that indeed they are.
Most of us can probably agree that violence against women is a bad thing, and that addressing the scourge is a good thing. That's why Congress, back in 1994, passed the Violence Against Women Act, and that's why President Clinton signed it. VAWA has helped finance training programs for cops, judges, and prosecuitors; it has funded a national domestic violence hotline, and numerous shelters; it has helped provide legal services to battered women, and funded prevention programs aimed at teens and young adults, to stop violence against women before it begins. The law was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, both times with bipartisan support. Clinton signed the '00 extension, and George W. Bush signed the '05 extension.
When the law expired again in 2011, everyone assumed that another reauthorization was in the offing. Last April the Senate said Yes, 68-31, with 15 Republicans (nine of whom hail from red states) joining the VAWA majority. Piece of cake to enact it anew, yes?
Uh, nope. VAWA died this week in the Republican sinkhole known more formally as the U.S. House of Representatives. The latest casualty of the party's war on women.
The House GOP's refusal to reauthorize wasn't about the money. Circa 2011, VAWA spent roughly $420 million on all its national programs, a sum that's chump change in the scheme of things. No, what bugged Republicans was that the law's bipartisan supporters were seeking to extend protection to 30 million more women - gays, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans. Republicans in the lower chamber refused to accept the basic principle that all victims of domestic violence should be protected - a principle that had swayed the aforementioned 15 Senate Republicans.
The House GOP was impervious to the new information garnered by law enforcement and domestic violence experts - for instance, Native American women are reportedly twice as likely to be victims of violent crime as the general population; and roughly 400,000 undocumented female migrant farm workers are routinely subjected to sexual assault or abuse (a Human Rights Watch report says that this abuse is "an unavoidable condition of agricultural work"). Rather than tweak the law and keep it going, the House GOP refused to move it. And so it died when the old Congress expired this week.
Which is tragic, because the Department of Justice has tracked real statistical progress in the fight against domestic violence since VAWA was furst enacted. Half a million law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors were trained each year, thanks to VAWA's modest sums. But now the law's supporters have no choice but to start from scratch in the legislative sphere. The new Senate will have to reauthorize all over again, and the new Republican House will have to be persuaded that all female victims of violence are created equal in the real world of 2013. Good luck with that.
Last April 26, on the Senate floor, a member said: "For nearly 18 years, the Violence Against Women Act has been the centerpiece of our nation's commitment to end domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual violence....The act has been called by the American Bar Association 'the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in our country.' There is significant evidence that these programs are working....The U.S. Department of Justice reported that the number of women killed by an intimate partner decreased by 35 percent between 1993 and 2008....We must continue the life-changing work this legislation helps us accomplish."
So said Mike Crapo, the Republican senator and co-sponsor, who represents the flaming lefty state of...Idaho.
Yup, the law is good enough for a guy from Idaho - but apparently not good enough for the dysfunctional House, where right-wing ideological politicking continues to trump the real concerns of real women. The GOP was scorched by women voters in 2012 (no surprise there), and if the party wants to keep committing political suicide, perpetuating its war on women will surely do the trick.
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