The National Organization for Women condemns today’s passage of H.R. 4970, the House Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill. Sponsored by Representative Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), H.R. 4970 not only strips important provisions that were passed by a bipartisan Senate vote of 68-31, but also changes and weakens many initiatives and preventive provisions that have been included in VAWA by both Republicans and Democrats over the past 18 years.
Extremists in the House may resent being called out for their War on Women, but their atrocious bill is part and parcel of it — and women are not fooled by the attempts of H.R. 4970’s supporters to characterize serious policy differences as mere election year politicking. Proponents of the Adams bill seemed more interested in railing against Washington bureaucrats and claiming (without evidence) rampant fraud by immigrant women who have been battered and raped, than they were about the plight of victims in desperate need of services and legal protections.
Their bill most assuredly is not about victims. The bill fundamentally undermines VAWA’s 18-year history of victim-centered legislation by shielding perpetrators from accountability for their violent crimes, raising new hurdles to women escaping violent relationships, removing important college campus and housing improvements, rolling back provisions for culturally specific services currently in VAWA and turning its back on immigrant women, and Native American and LGBT communities. Small wonder its proponents were not able to produce experts or professionals who support this bad bill.
Because the Adams bill undercuts previous VAWA provisions and stays silent on serving underserved communities, survivors and advocates understandably sense that House extremists are intent on abandoning victims because of their racial and legal status. And we are not afraid to state that this second-class treatment of victims of color smacks of willful ignorance of the problem and hostility toward the victims. Constituents no doubt will be reluctant to vote for representatives who claimed to support ending violence against women while voting for an exclusionary bill that ignores the biases and disrespect that certain victims face when seeking help from the criminal justice system and access to lifesaving services.
NOW has “scored” this vote, meaning the organization considers a vote for H.R. 4970 a vote against VAWA. The 222 representatives in the House who voted for this bill abandoned victims of violence and enabled abusers, and they will be judged in the public arena and at the polls in November.