Will this war on women ever end?
For the first time in its history the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) faces partisan opposition to renewal as Republicans hold up protections for victims of domestic abuse over concerns the measure helps too many people.
Since VAWA was first enacted the reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51 percent. The legislation, introduced by then-Senator Joe Biden was aimed at improving the response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The bill for re-authorization sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)–who is not on the Judiciary Committee– would place an increased emphasis on reducing domestic homicides and sexual assault, strengthen housing protections for domestic violence victims and focus more on the high rates of violence among teens and young adults.
Despite these loft goals the legislation attracted no GOP support in committee and was passed out on a party-line vote of 10-8. According to Leahy’s office, this is the first time VAWA legislation did not receive bipartisan backing out of committee.
The Republican-led objections are starting to sound a lot like those swirling around the birth-control mandate. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is leading the charge against reauthorization over provisions that offer protections to domestic abuse victims that happen to be LGBT or undocumented immigrants.
Leahy is concerned that his colleagues are objecting because, in his words, the bill is trying to “protect too many victims.” “You cannot say that we will seek to stop domestic violence, but only for certain people,” he said. “It just boggles the mind. It goes against everything I ever knew as a prosecutor, but it also goes against everything I know as a human being.”
Grassley’s objections are telling, especially as the right moves to try and create “conscious” exclusions for birth control and any other mandate it objects too. I would not at all be surprised to see more Blunt-style amendments attached to previously-popular bills like VAWA to placate the bigots in the right. We could very well be on the verge of a true constitutional showdown between equal protection under the law and individual liberty.
Finally, it’s hard to fathom how as a country we got here. Protecting victims of domestic violence is not, nor can it be, a partisan exercise or priority. Just ask any cop on the beat who has responded to a domestic abuse call, any judge or advocate working with victims or the children who are raised in abusive homes. Republicans have taken their politicking off the lives of the vulnerable to a new low.
Photo from Helga Weber via flickr.