|WORLD MARCH 2000 LAUNCHED; CEDAW RATIFICATION DEMANDED||On International Women's Day, March 8th, and as part of Women's History
Month, President Clinton issued a statement hailing the many contributions
of women, but emphasized that women still face barriers on the road to
true equality. The President also called for Senate ratification
of the International Convention to
End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and noted the
importance of the upcoming June Special Session of the UN
General Assembly that will review the progress of the Platform for Action
of the United Nations Fourth World Conference
on Women in Beijing.
That same day, NOW and allied organizations held a press conference on the Capitol grounds to announce the U.S. kick-off of the World March of Women 2000. Planned for October 15, 2000, in the United States as well 145 other countries (on approximate dates), the march is intended pressure political leaders to ensure equality between women and men and to end poverty and violence against women. More than 3,400 women's organizations representing millions of members will join in these global demands.
NOW's Executive Vice President Kim Gandy who led off speakers said, "We live on a rich planet, yet most of the world's women are poor. Many are bound by rigid sex roles that limit their education, their employment, even their right to vote or receive medical care. Here in the United States, the vast majority of those living in poverty are women and children, but instead of making their lives better, lawmakers and policymakers blame them for a long list of societal ills."
Gandy said that on October 17th, women representing every participating country will meet with United Nations representatives to present these demands. The women will be delivering a signed petition to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan; that petition is on the NOW web site at http://www.worldmarch.org/postcard.html
Following the press conference, participants moved to the Dirksen Senate Office Building where they protested Sen. Jesse Helms's (R-NC) refusal to have his Foreign Relations Committee take up the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. As chair of that committee, Helms has for years stalled hearings on the U.S. ratification of the CEDAW.
The deadline set in Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) S. Res. 237 for a hearing on CEDAW by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by International Women's Day, 2000 has come and gone. A similar resolution, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and 37 House members, urging the Senate to act on CEDAW has yet to come to a vote.
The United States remains one of a handful of countries, including Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and Sudan, that have not signed the convention;165 countries have signed it. For a text of this document which was first adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979 -- and related information, see http://www.unifem.undp.org/cedaw.htm
|ACTION NEEDED:||Be sure to sign the World March petition and circulate it in your community. Postcards for activists to distribute for more signatures and to interest potential marchers are available from NOW. Groups who would like to endorse the World March may sign up by calling the NOW National Action Center at (202) 628-8669, ext. 0, where they may also request World March postcards. Other information on march organizing efforts is available on the NOW Web site.|
Now that the primary election season is in full swing, a host of bills
undermining women's reproductive rights is scheduled
for floor votes. The reason for the timing, of course, is to assure
a large voter turnout among hard core abortion rights opponents and to
potentially "scare" abortion rights members of Congress who vote against
measures limiting women's reproductive rights. Although results from
previous elections in numerous districts have demonstrated that a majority
of voters support incumbents who consistently vote to protect abortion
|"TEEN ENDANGERMENT ACT" SET FOR SENATE VOTE||Planned for a floor vote in the Senate,
the so-called Child
Custody Protection Act (S. 661/ H.R. 1218 - CCPA) could come
up at any time this week or next. This bill would make it a crime
for an adult (other than a parent) to take a minor across a state line
-- in violation of the home state's parental involvement laws -- to obtain
an abortion. The House passed
this bill (more aptly titled the "Teen Endangerment Act") last
June, 270-159. Experts have testified that the proposed legislation
is unconstitutional; most states would be affected by the limitation as
many have adopted parental involvement requirements. NOW
fears that some young women will
avoid seeking help if they must involve their parents; such situations
sometimes occur when there has been family violence or incest. Studies
show that most teens confide in parents or other responsible adults when
they are confronted with an unplanned pregnancy.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has indicated that he will seek cloture in order to prevent our supporters from amending the CCPA. Sen. Leahy may attempt to attach his amendment criminalizing only "forceful transportation" of minors across state lines and we want Senators to support that.
|ACTION NEEDED:||Nine Senators
are undecided with another 11 leaning for or against; so please make those
The main number for Congress is (202) 224-3121.
|FETAL TISSUE SALES INVESTIGATED||There is a reproductive rights issue being
advanced by abortion rights opponents which threatens to be every bit as
emotionally-charged as the Abortion Procedures
Bans (or the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Bans). This new
attack concerns fetal tissue research which our opponents are framing as
the "selling of baby parts." On March 8th, the ABC television news magazine
20/20 aired a segment about alleged violations of federal law that severely restricts
the sale of fetal tissue. The 20/20 piece claimed that some individuals
and companies are encouraging women to prolong their pregnancies before
having an abortion so that they can sell a more intact and developed fetus.
Additionally, it was reported that prices being charged were substantial
and far in excess of cost.
In 1993, Congress passed a law making it a felony to purchase or sell the tissue for a profit. Firms which collect, preserve and ship the fetuses are only allowed to collect reasonable fees to cover their costs. Additionally, to remove any incentive for a woman to seek an abortion, federal law requires a woman consent for an abortion prior to agreement for a fetal tissue donation.
Fetal tissue research shows promise of effective treatments for spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer, AIDS and a number of rare ailments. It is critical that this research continue. As indicated, there is already an extensive set of laws and regulations governing the use of human fetal tissue and experts say that new legislation is not needed.
A hearing was to be held in the House Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the day following the NBC report and it was expected that the testimony would be inflammatory. House Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-VA) condemned these alleged instances of trafficking in fetal tissue parts during the 20/20 report and said that his committee is now investigating four companies who may have been selling tissue for a profit. A specific bill about fetal tissue research has not been introduced as yet and it may be that abortion rights opponents will just continue to exploit the subject -- mainly for press attention. The resolution (H. Res. 350), sponsored by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), which passed the House in November has Congress exercise oversight and will keep this issue alive for some time.
|ACTION NEEDED:||You can help by letting your House member know that research with human fetal tissue needs to proceed and that existing federal regulation is sufficient. Any violations of federal law should be investigated and the offenders prosecuted.|
|UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE ACT RAISES LEGAL STATUS OF FETUS||The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in late February on the
Victims of Violence Act (S. 1673, H.R. 2436) and it is expected that
this bill could go to the floor at any time. "Unborn Victims" would make
it a federal crime to injure or kill a fetus as a result of harming a pregnant
woman; it passed the House last September, 259-172.
This legislation is not about protecting pregnant women; the goal of the Act is to create a new cause of action on behalf of the unborn. H.R. 2436, if passed, would elevate in federal law the status of a fetus. A fetus would be granted "personhood" and that would set a dangerous legal precedent for women's reproductive rights that could have far-reaching consequences.
Some states have accorded the unborn fetus certain legal rights and have prosecuted women for substance use that may have affected the fetus, for instance. Although, H.R. 2436 exempts the pregnant woman from prosecution for her own actions with respect to the fetus, it is not difficult to image the next steps that an anti-reproductive rights Congress might take.
|ACTION NEEDED:||The Senate vote may be very close, so we want to make sure that all Senators hear from us. Please call, fax or email your Senator to urge him or her to vote against H.R. 2436. More importantly, communicate with the President, asking him to veto such legislation as it will surely endanger reproductive rights, generally.|
|SUPREME COURT TO TAKE UP ABORTION PROCEDURE BAN; HOUSE VOTE SET||The Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of the so-called
"partial-birth" abortion ban.
In September, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the so-called "partial-birth"
abortion ban unconstitutional, striking down laws passed in Arkansas, Nebraska
and Iowa. An opposite decision was rendered by the 7th Circuit Court
of Appeals less than a month later claiming that the bans in Wisconsin
and Illinois were constitutional. This is the first case that the
Supreme Court will hear since Casey
in 1992 and, hopefully, the outcome will put an end to state legislation
abortion procedure bans. Whether
the ruling will have an impact on federal legislative initiatives is a
matter of speculation.
Back in Congress, it is expected that the so-called Partial Birth Abortion bill (H.R. 3660) will be voted on in the House before the spring recesses. Reportedly, House Majority Leader Dick Armey met with Phyllis Schlafly, and both Republican and Democratic abortion rights opponents to agree on timing. The House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired by arch-abortion rights opponent Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fl), was to hold a mark-up session the week of March 6th.
Slight revisions in the House bill have been made, but the definition of which procedures would be prohibited is still vague and does not appear to solve the constitutional defects of previous bills. The result is that the bill would criminalize safe and common abortion procedures performed before fetal viability, thereby placing an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.
Activists should remember that a ban bill (S. 1692) passed the Senate on Oct. 21st, 63-34, with not enough votes to override the President's promised veto.
|ACTION NEEDED:||Abortion rights advocates expect to lose this vote (as the House has passed an abortion procedure ban several times), but it is imperative that we try to keep as many of our supporters as possible. Some members may think that the language change has resolved problems; we have to let them know that this is not true. Please make that call or send that email even if you've done it many times before, the message remains the same.|
|CLINIC VIOLENCE AMENDMENT MAY BE DROPPED FROM BANKRUPTCY BILL||The Bankruptcy Reform Act (H.R. 833) passed the Senate on Feb. 7th (83-14) with many provisions which limit consumer rights, unfortunately. One good provision, though, is the clinic violence amendment, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which was adopted. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has vowed to delete that amendment which closes the loophole in the bankruptcy law so that clinic violence defendants like Randall Terry cannot declare bankruptcy to avoid paying damages and fines.|
|ACTION NEEDED:||Please urge your Senators to do what they can to keep the Schumer clinic violence amendment in the final version now being negotiated by the Conference Committee. Additionally, conferees need to protect provisions which prioritize payment of past due child support and to support all consumer-friendly provisions.|
|HOUSE TO VOTE ON THE WEAKENED MINIMUM WAGE||Prompted by election year concerns with the increasing divide between
the poor and the wealthy, House leadership has scheduled a vote this week
to raise the federal minimum wage. However, instead of the two year
phase-in that Democrats want, Rep.
Rick Lazio proposes a three year spread for making this very modest
$1 hike (H.R.
3081). The Republicans have very cleverly married the wage increase
to a tax cut, but President
Clinton has threatened a veto of any three year spread for the minimum
wage and for any big tax cut. Rep.
Bonior (D-MI) is leading the effort to get a two year increase, raising
it to $6.15 by 2002.
Women would benefit most by this increase as they constitute a majority of minimum wage workers. A single earner working full-time on the current minimum wage only earns $10,712 a year more than $3,000 below the current poverty level of $13,880 poverty line for a family of three. It is important to remember that the minimum wage has not been indexed for inflation and therefore much of the value of the wage has been eroded.
|ACTION NEEDED:||Remind your Representative that it is women and their families who will be most affected by the increase and that a $1 increase is still not high enough and should be increased further. Minimum wages even with two full-time workers in a household is not sufficient to sustain families. You can access your member's office phone and fax numbers with email addresses by going to http://www.house.gov or by calling (202) 224-3121.|
|VAWA STILL IN LIMBO - CONGRESS GIVEN 45,000 PETITION SIGNATURES||Re-authorization
of Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 1248, S. 51) is still pending and
advocates are pressing members of Congress to take action during this short
session. A successful lobby day event was conducted on Capitol Hill by
the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women
on March 8th. Advocates came from more than 25 states and presented
45,000 signatures that had been gathered on our "It's My Right to Live
Free from Domestic and Sexual Violence Petition." The petition was
circulated at Lilith Fair concerts last summer and appears online at http://www.vawact.org
Celebrities Michael Bolton and Erin Gray appeared at the press conference and urged Congress to re-authorize VAWA this year before it expires Oct. 1. House sponsors Reps. Connie Morella (R-MD), McDermott (D-WA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), John Baldacci (D-ME), Dennis Moore (D-KS), and Brian Baird (D-WA) spoke at the event.
Michael Bolton is an active supporter of programs to combat violence against women and went on from the press conference to visit several members of Congress. Reportedly, Bolton awed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the person who has the most to say about whether VAWA is re-authorized. The singer also appeared on the television program, Good Morning, America, the next day to promote the cause.
|ACTION NEEDED:||For all of you who helped gather signatures, thank you for your efforts. The two-foot high stack of petitions near the podium was impressive and the scores of members of Congress who received those signatures know that there is strong grassroots support for VAWA. Keep up the good work by keeping those calls and emails flowing to Congress. We must get them to act in the next few months.|
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