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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On the Hill: Recent Legislative Actions for Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights

The U.S. Senate last month addressed a number of issues affecting the health and rights of women and girls, including a bill against child marriage passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to renew the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as well as a new campaign by Democratic Senators, One Million Strong for Women, in response to recent political attacks on women’s health and rights.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Child Marriage Bill
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill seeking to protect girls in developing countries by ending child marriage. Introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snow (R-ME), the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S.414) would require the U.S. government to develop a strategy toward ending the practice and authorize the President to provide assistance to reduce child marriage. In late 2012, a similar bill passed unanimously in the Senate but was blocked in the House of Representatives.

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Landmark Domestic Violence Bill
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize the U.S. Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark and historically bipartisan bill first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The bill (S.1925) seeks to improve law enforcement’s capacity to respond to reports of domestic violence and sexual assault and to improve protections for victims. In 2000 and 2005, the bill was reauthorized with bipartisan support. But this year, for first time, the bill received a party-line vote of 10-8 in committee. The legislation is now on the calendar for consideration by the full Senate.

Congressional Democrats Launch “One Million Strong for Women” Campaign
In a collective response to recent attacks on women’s health and rights, including abortion rights, contraception, and Planned Parenthood, 16 Democratic senators and representatives have launched One Million Strong for Women, a campaign that reaffirms their commitment to protecting women’s health and rights. To date, nearly 270,000 people have signed the campaign in support of the cause.

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