Sunday, January 07, 2007

Congress is Back in Session!

It's time to start tracking relevant bills that have been introduced, whether new or continued over from the previous session. Many of these do not yet have full-text available on the Thomas site (which will include status updates), so I have provided other links where available. A summary so far:

HR32 - Denouncing the practices of female genital mutilation, domestic violence, "honor" killings, acid burning, dowry deaths, and other gender-based persecutions and expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that participation, protection, recognition, and independence of women is crucial to achieving a just, moral, and honorable society
Thomas | Full Text from GPO Access | Summary Page from GovTrack

This bill was introduced on 1/5/07 by Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). It includes the following statistics related to the topics: 200 women in Bangladesh are horribly disfigured when their spurned husbands or suitors burn them with acid each year; in North Africa, 6,000 women are genitally mutilated each day; more than 7,000 women in India will be killed by their families and in-laws in disputes over dowries each year; more than 15,000 women will be sold as sexual slaves in China this year; in the United States, a woman is raped every six minutes and a woman is battered every 15 seconds."

In addition to asking for denouncement of these practices, the bill requests that "the United States should renew consideration of and ratify its signature on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)." According to the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, the U.S. signed on to CEDAW in July 1980, but has never ratified the Convention, thus not being bound to act on the provisions - "By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including: to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women; to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises."

A potential point of controversy for U.S. ratification under the current Administration is that Article 16 (1e) states: "1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights." This is interpreted in the Introduction to the Convention as affirming women's rights to reproductive choice. Full Text of CEDAW

Jackson-Lee seemingly introduced an identical bill in the previous session [HR970], with the only action being referall to the House Committee on International Relations.

S21 - A bill to expand access to preventive health care services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, reduce abortions, and improve access to women's health care
Text Not Available | Summary Page from GovTrack
Introduces 1/4/07 by Sen. Harry Reid [D-NV]. I expect this is the continuation of the Pregnant Women Support Act from the last session. We'll see if the new Congress manages to add contraception or sex education back into the discussion.

S28 - A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require the use of generic drugs under the Medicare part D prescription drug program when available unless the brand name drug is determined to be medically necessary
Thomas | Summary Page from GovTrack

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MeSH Tags: Drugs, Generic; Legislation; Reproductive Rights; Women's Rights

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