The 112th Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, due in large part to House Republican resistance to new provisions expanding protections for LGBT persons, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans. A bill containing these provisions passed 68-31 with bipartisan support in the Senate, but the version passed by the House stripped them out, and the leadership refused to bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote.

VAWA advocates aren’t giving up, though. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence has issued a statement expressing anger at the 112th Congress for failing to act, and calling upon the 113th Congress to pass a comprehensive bill immediately. Senator Patty Murray plans to reintroduce the bill when the Senate returns from recess. In the meantime, VAWA continues in its 2005 version.

Ending violence against women is a pro-life issue. That’s why we are asking you to join us and other advocates for women on Wednesday, November 14 for a Violence Against Women Act Day of Action. Please check back on that day for information on how to contact your legislators.

The Senate passed a version of the VAWA reauthorization with bipartisan support earlier in the year, with new provisions to help Native American, LGBT, and immigrant victims of violence. The House passed a substitute bill that omits these provisions and otherwise weakens the Senate version. Advocates argue that the House bill actually creates new dangers for undocumented women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Anti-violence advocates in the U.S. have not given up hope of passing the VAWA reauthorization in the lame duck legislative session. Please join us on Wednesday in urging Congress to restore the protections of the Senate bill and pass the reauthorization.

It’s been a very busy week and I’ve mostly been working behind the scenes on the new web site, but I didn’t want to let these news items pass unremarked:

  • In Honduras, the president of the Congress declared on Wednesday that he has decided not to move forward on the bill that would have made use of the emergency contraceptive Plan B a crime subject to jail time. This bill was based on the mistaken belief that Plan B causes abortions.

  • The U. S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 4970, a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act that contains none of the updated protections for LBGT people, Native Americans, or immigrants that were contained in the bill passed by the Senate. Advocates for victims of domestic violence considered H.R. 4970 a “fake VAWA” and promise to continue to work toward a final bill that contains the updated provisions.

  • Good news: New Report: Fewer Women Dying in Pregnancy, Childbirth

    The number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth, worldwide, has decreased by almost half, over a twenty year period (from 1990 – 2010), according to a new report. It’s good news, says Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA. But there’s a lot more work to do. […]

    “We know exactly what to do to prevent maternal deaths: improve access to voluntary family planning, invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise. These interventions have proven to save lives and accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal 5,” said Dr. Osotimehin.

    Via Impatient Optimists, the blog of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I highly recommend the blog to anyone concerned about maternal and child health and family planning. You can subscribe directly to the Maternal, Newborn and Child Heath topic using this RSS feed.

  • More good news: Education, Not Abortion, Reduces Maternal Mortality, Study Suggests

    A scientific analysis of 50 years of maternal mortality data from Chile has found that the most important factor in reducing maternal mortality is the educational level of women. “Educating women enhances women’s ability to access existing health care resources, including skilled attendants for childbirth, and directly leads to a reduction in her risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth,” according to Dr Elard Koch, epidemiologist and leading author of the study. […]

    One of the most significant findings is that, contrary to widely-held assumptions, making abortion illegal in Chile did not result in an increase in maternal mortality. In fact, after abortion was made illegal in 1989, the MMR continued to decrease from 41.3 to 12.7 per 100,000 live births (69.2% reduction). “Definitively, the legal status of abortion is unrelated to overall maternal mortality rates” emphasized Koch.

    For those of us who consider abortion violence against a human being, it is always encouraging to see recognition of nonviolent ways to solve the problems that abortion is meant to solve. Educating women is the key to women’s health, their ability to care for themselves and children, their economic security, and even their countries’ development. Holding women back from education and self-care — including family planning if they desire it — is unjust and wasteful. It’s a disservice to individual women and their families, and to the entire world.

The Violence Against Women Act was originally passed in 1994 with the help of a coalition of pro-choice and pro-life advocates, including Feminists for Life. Since then, it's been relatively uncontroversial and enjoyed bipartisan support. VAWA is up for renewal again, and is now meeting with resistance from Senate Republicans who oppose new provisions aimed at improving services for Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and LGBT individuals.

If you need additional pro-life incentive to help reauthorize VAWA, take a look at the statistics on the relationship between intimate partner violence, unintended pregnancy, and abortion in our "Family Planning Freedom is Prolife" presentation (.ppt) (.pdf), or in this factsheet from the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence has all the info you need on how to help:

You did it!! We now have 60 Sponsors in the Senate!

Thanks to Senator Heller (R-NV), who signed on to sponsor VAWA this week, we now have 60 sponsors – and one full day before our goal! Thank you for all your hard work!

Now we need to secure our sponsors’ commitment to S. 1925, the real VAWA, and to get as many new Senate supporters as possible. VAWA is coming to the Senate Floor and we need to have as big an outpouring of support as we can!

This week, we want you to help us by signing petitions, engaging your friends and family and getting the word out that every Senator needs to hear from you and your loved ones about why VAWA must be passed immediately.

Things are moving quickly – so “like” our Facebook page to get up to the minute information: http://on.fb.me/NTF_Facebook_page or check out our website: www.4VAWA.org

TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Suggested actions for this week include:
1. Ask your FRIENDS AND FAMILY members to call Senators to urge co-sponsorship and votes for S. 1925, the real VAWA!
2. Ask all the men you know to sign a petition supporting VAWA

Action 1: Ask your FRIENDS and FAMILY to call both of their senators’ D.C. offices today (http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm) and ask them vote YES on S. 1925 the real VAWA:

I urge Senator _____ to support the Violence Against Women Act and vote YES on S. 1925 AS IS. Don’t use VAWA as a political tool – pass it now so that all survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking can get the support they need!

Action 2: Ask all the men you know to sign a petition supporting VAWA
VAWA is everyone’s issue. Help us engage more men by asking the men you know and love to sign the 10,000 Men for VAWA petition
:

http://www.change.org/petitions/us-congress-10-000-men-supporting-the-violence-against-women-act

Check our website for fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates: www.4vawa.org

Check out and “like” our Facebook page where you can find a toolkit and other action and information items: http://on.fb.me/NTF_Facebook_page

Don’t forget to tweet about VAWA using the hashtags #ReauthorizeVAWA and #VAWA.

If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to Sean Black, sblack@icasa.org.