The House Committee on Financial Services unanimously voted Wednesday to protect victims of domestic violence who have fled their abusers from being traced through a government database by approving the Safe Housing Identity Exemption for the Lives of Domestic Violence Victims (SHIELD) Act, announced the bill's sponsor, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis). Currently, all federally funded shelters and transitional housing programs are required to record clients' personal information such as name, date of birth, Social Security number and ethnicity in a database kept by Housing and Urban Development.
Because the database is accessible to certain government employees and contractors, some of whom may be abusers, the new bill would allow shelters to input non-identifying information on domestic violence victims for data collection purposes. The bipartisan bill now awaits consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives.
Other News to Cheer This Week:
A Florida appellate court overturned a lower court ruling that prevented a 17-year-old from obtaining an abortion without her parents' knowledge, the St. Petersburg Times reported on Friday, Nov. 11.
In a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal overruled an Oct. 28 decision by Polk County Circuit Judge Ellen Masters. The law requiring parents to be notified at least 48 hours before a minor undergoes an abortion. The law provides for certain exemptions and in its review, the high court found that the young woman, who was almost 18, was mature enough to make her own decision and that informing her parents would not be in her best interests.
- Rape committed within a marriage is a crime, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled unanimously on Wednesday. The ruling terminates legal battle that began in 1994 when the court's majority ruled that "an undue exercise of conjugal rights" but not rape could take place within the union, the Edmonton Journal reported. According to combined press reports, the court said that the earlier ruling was based on an interpretation of property not human rights. A United Nations' study has found that 9 out of 10 sexual assaults are not reported in Mexico and 18 percent of victims are not aware that sexual assault is a crime.
- An ordinance passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in early November requiring local grocery stores to post mercury seafood warning signs in English, Spanish and Chinese has become the nation's first law of its kind, the advocacy group GotMercury.org announced Monday. An extension of California's Proposition 65 right-to-know law that requires warnings about toxins that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, the new regulation addresses concerns that only English readers were getting information about exposure risks to the powerful neurotoxin. Mercury exposure is of particular concern to pregnant women because of its potential to cause nervous system and brain damage in developing fetuses, as well as in infants and young children. It can also cause tremors and memory loss in adults.
- Domestic-violence victims in the north London borough of Islington can protect themselves from abusive ex-partners by building "panic rooms" into their homes, the BBC reported on Sunday. The Islington borough council's domestic-violence prevention program enables women to have reinforced safe rooms, fireproof mailboxes, strengthened doors and additional phone lines installed in their homes to protect them from batterers who continually reappear. A police risk assessment must determine that a safe room is a suitable alternative to relocation to a domestic violence shelter or other housing and domestic violence agencies must also be involved before the rooms are installed. Nineteen Islington women have participated in the program so far.
Women with heart failure are less likely than men to receive life-extending medical devices according to a Mayo Clinic study released Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, United Press International reported.
The clinic reviewed the cases of 373 of its patients who underwent implantation of cardiac resynchronization therapy devices between 1999 and 2004 to determine gender-specific referrals and therapy outcome. Although researchers found that the five-year survival rate for women of 76 percent was significantly higher than the corresponding 46 percent survival rate for men, women underwent only 18 percent of the clinic's implant surgeries.
Other News to Jeer This Week:
- Legislation that would aid victims of domestic abuse has been stalled after sailing through both chambers of Congress earlier this fall. The 10-year-old Violence Against Women Act expired on Sept. 30 and is now being funded at last year's levels. But advocates are urging lawmakers to enact new legislation that would authorize funding for existing and new programs that aid victims of abuse. Activists with the National Organization for Women in Washington delivered thousands of petitions to members of Congress to prod them into passing the legislation this month. Congress is expected to adjourn soon for its Thanksgiving recess and isn't scheduled to reconvene until the first week in December.
A U.S. Air Force serviceman received a suspended prison term from a Japanese court on Thursday for molesting a 10-year-old girl on the southern island of Okinawa where he is stationed, Japan Today reported.
Staff Sgt. Armando Valdez, 28, denied having photographed the girl's naked torso with his cell phone camera when questioned by the police about the July 3 incident that took place in a parking lot, but pled guilty during a September court hearing. Although prosecutors sought an 18-month prison sentence, Valdez was sentenced to four years probation and will not serve jail time unless he violates its terms.
Despite criticism from the Australian Medical Association and pressure to lift the effective ban on the abortion pill RU-486, Australia's health minister will not change government policy that restricts access to the drug. The minister maintains that the drug could be dangerous to women in remote and rural areas who might use it improperly and should be used only with strict medical supervision, the Age reported on Tuesday.
Under Australian law, women must apply through their doctors for federal government approval before receiving the drug. The government warns that up to 8 out of every 100 women will need urgent post-abortion care and has highlighted U.S. warnings about a risk of severe infection following its use. A leading obstetrician, Caroline de Costa, a professor at James Cook University in Cairns, has called the statistics alarmist and criticized the health department.
-- Allison Stevens contributed to this report.
Karen James is a Women's eNews intern and master's candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief at Women's eNews.