Legal Momentum In Brief, February 2011

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February 1, 2011

Tell Congress and The White House To Oppose H.R. 1 and The House-Drafted Continuing Resolution

On February 19, 2011, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 1) that so endangers the basic needs of women and their families that this action has been rightfully dubbed by The New York Times "The War On Women."

With sweeping and devastating across the board cuts, H.R. 1 restricts access for low income women to basic health care, as well as to vital job training, education, housing and food programs. H.R. 1 also levies severe cuts on many more key programs, including Head Start, Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Community Health Centers.

Last week, a continuing resolution was put in place. It funds the operations of government until March 18, 2011. As soon as tomorrow, the Senate will take a vote on H.R. 1. This dangerous bill must be defeated.

We are hopeful that during the next two weeks, the White House, Senate and House will engage in a thoughtful assessment of the budget situation in order to arrive at a solution that does not imperil the most vulnerable groups (whether women, families, people with disabilities or aging individuals.

What You Can Do:

Tell them to oppose H.R. 1 and to support passage of a "clean continuing resolution" (one that continues funding of the federal government at current levels for the remainder of FY 2011).

Read Legal Momentum’s full action alert about the 2011 federal budget — including a list of programs slated for cuts.

Legal Momentum Testifies Before Congress On Behalf Of Immigrant Victims Of Violence

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) this year, Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva invited Leslye Orloff, Senior Vice President and Director of Legal Momentum’s Immigrant Women Program, to testify at a recent hearing regarding VAWA’s immigration provisions.

Legal Momentum led the effort to pass the federal Violence Against Women Act in 1994. Congress reauthorizes this vital legislation every five years and Legal Momentum works to ensure that each reauthorization increases rights and resources for victims. The Immigrant Women Program was instrumental in developing provisions for immigrant victims of violence in the 2000 and 2005 VAWA reauthorizations.

Ms. Orloff testified to VAWA and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s achievements for immigrant victims of violence and spoke to what more can be done to help ensure these victims’ safety and independence. She noted that over 40,000 immigrant victims of violence have received approved VAWA self-petitions, U-visas and T-visas – remedies that allow survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other violent crime to attain legal immigration status without relying on an abusive spouse, parent, or employer or because they are cooperating in criminal investigations or prosecutions. These protections became law because of Legal Momentum’s advocacy in 1994, 2000, 2005 and 2008.

Yet barriers to safety and security for immigrant victims remain, Ms. Orloff noted. Her testimony emphasized that the Department of Homeland Security and local police departments must recognize VAWA immigration remedies.

As Congress debates the 2011 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Legal Momentum will continue to lead National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women to see that the 2011 reauthorization increases rights and resources for victims, particularly in the areas of economic justice and immigration remedies and protections.

A Win For Advocates: House Republicans Strike "Forcible Rape-Only" Language From Bill

This month, Legal Momentum and other women’s rights advocates successfully lobbied the authors of "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act" to strike a provision from the law that would have limited federal abortion funding to victims of forcible rape. If a woman couldn’t prove she'd been raped by force, her abortion wouldn't be covered, even if she’d been drugged, raped while unconscious, or was the victim of incest. Some experts suggest that up to 70% of victims are raped by incapacitation or intoxication.

Members of Congress plan to reintroduce the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” in early March without the provision that would have limited federal abortion funds to victims of forcible rape. Unfortunately, the sponsors of the "No Taxpayer" bill are now likely to incorporate language that would limit the use of federal abortion funds to pregnant women suffering from physical health risks only. Legal Momentum will continue to advocate for women’s health and reproductive rights as the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" makes its way through Congress.

U.S. Women Need Paid Leave And Family Supports In The Workplace

A new report by Human Rights Watch, "Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the U.S.," finds that U.S. women desperately need paid leave laws, breastfeeding accommodations, and laws barring discrimination against workers with families. The lack of paid leave and protective laws for workers disproportionately affects women and their children. Many of the working women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their careers were derailed as a result of employer bias against women with family responsibilities. Many also recounted problems with postpartum depression and noted that they the lack of workplace breastfeeding accommodations forced them to give up the practice early.

"Failing its Families" demonstrates that existing legal protections do not fully protect working women and their families. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows U.S. workers with new children or severely ill family members to take unpaid, job-protected leave, but the FMLA covers only half the workforce. Only 11% of civilian workers (and 3% of the lowest-income workers) have paid family leave benefits. Roughly two-thirds of civilian workers have some paid sick leave, but only about a fifth of low-income workers do. And studies show that the number of employers voluntarily offering paid family leave is declining.

As Legal Momentum has testified, the United States has much less generous parental leave than other rich countries and far less public support for child care. Notably, countries with paid leave policies also have higher levels of economic competitiveness compared to the United States.

Legal Momentum has long advocated for a paid leave and workplace family supports. These measures are instrumental in to women achieving equality in the workplace.