Law Underpinning Domestic Violence Programs May Face House Fight

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April 25, 2012; Source: Christian Science Monitor

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was recently reauthorized by the Senate, but may have a more difficult path to passage in the House. Since the comprehensive domestic violence law’s initial passage in 1994 (coinciding with the notorious O.J. Simpson case), the law has been reauthorized two times with bipartisan support. The law is the bedrock of funding for most nonprofit domestic violence organizations in the country, and has gradually become more representative of the diverse populations that are impacted by domestic and intimate partner abuse, including elderly people, immigrants, and youth. Without reauthorization, the law will expire in September.

In the House, Republican women said they would introduce a different version of the act, which the New York Times reports is expected to be “stripped of three provisions that have incensed some conservatives.” Those provisions would assist gays and lesbians, battered women in the country illegally, and Native American women (by placing non-Indian suspects of abuse before tribal courts when crimes were alleged to have been committed on reservations).

Linda Feldmann of the Christian Science Monitor comments that the political pendulum is likely to swing in favor of VAWA reauthorization. After months of national roiling over contraception, abortion rights, Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen, squashing VAWA would further stoke the claim that Republicans have been engaged in a “war on women.” Both the left and the right have traditionally embraced this law, which has also included provisions funding collaborative engagement with law enforcement and social service providers.
For the sake of those nonprofit social service providers and, more importantly, the women that they serve, one must hope that the House will preserve the integrity of VAWA. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “There’s no reason to have a fight over something that no one wants to fight over.” –Paula Smith Arrigoni