Mandating Rape in Virginia

The new definition of rape, just approved by the FBI for the Uniform Crime Report is: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”  A bill passed by the Republican controlled Virginia House requires that women seeking abortions undergo examinations which include the insertion of a probe in the vagina without the consent of the patient. If there is any difference between the legal definition of rape and the procedure mandated by this bill I fail to see it. Yet, on a vote of 63-36, Virginia’s Republican controlled House of Delegates voted to require the rape of women in Virginia.

The bill, which is expected to be passed by the Republican controlled state Senate and signed by the Republican Governor, doesn’t legalize rape; it orders medical professionals to commit this despicable crime. If this bill becomes Virginia law, I hope that medical professionals will choose to violate the law, not women, and that the people of Virginia will take legal action against the legislators who mandate rape.

When Did Stopping Violence Against Women Become Political?

Last Thursday, I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting when they voted to send the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 to the Senate floor for a vote.  Every Committee Democrat voted yes and every Republican voted no.  Most of the Republicans didn’t even show up to cast their no votes, but did so by proxy. I was outraged by this vote: as a woman; as an advocate for women’s rights; and as someone who has worked directly with survivors of family violence and sexual assault.

I know that we are in a political environment when just about anything to do with women’s rights is used by the right wing to achieve some totally unrelated goal. But, how did freedom from violence become a partisan political issue?  When did politicians decide it is okay to vote against preventing family and sexual violence and assisting survivors of these crimes? This has never been a partisan issue before.

No matter what politicians think, women’s health and lives are not negotiable. First, they made everything about abortion, attaching riders to unrelated bills; then they decided to move against birth control, trying to defund family planning clinics; now beating and sexually abusing women is a partisan issue.

When does it stop?  And when do we tell them that enough is enough and we will not allow this to continue?  I think that time has come, don’t you?

Senator Ensign Report: Well Done Ethics Committee, but what about Senator Coburn?

The shocking report issued by the Senate Select Committee on Committee last week described in excruciating detail Senator John Ensign’s (R-NV) reprehensible conduct in sexually harassing a female employee and the lengths to which he went to cover up his wrong doing. The Ethics Committee investigation also revealed anti-women’s rights and so-called pro-family Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) involvement and collaboration in the cover-up of Ensign’s affair.

The Ethics Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Vice Chair Johnny Isakson (R-GA), released a report last Thursday, supported unanimously by the bipartisan committee of three Democrats and three Republicans, that former Nevada Senator John Ensign violated Senate rules, broke federal law, made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and engaged in sex discrimination. According to the report, “there is substantial credible evidence that Senator Ensign discriminated on the basis of sex and engaged in improper conduct reflecting upon the Senate by terminating the Hamptons’ [Douglas Hampton, Ensign’s Chief of Staff, and his wife Cindy] employment because of the [sexual] affair” with Cindy.

It was unusual for the report to even have been issued as Ensign had already resigned from the Senate.  However, the Ethics Committee released the report with statements on the floor of the Senate by the Committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member Johnny Isakson (R-GA).  This action underscored the seriousness of Ensign’s actions.  Senator Boxer indicated that had Ensign not resigned in early May, he might have been one of the first senators to be expelled from the Senate in 150 years.

As I watched the Boxer and Isakson statements on C-Span with my co-workers at the Feminist Majority Foundation, I was pleased that the Ethics Committee had treated this investigation with the seriousness and transparency that it warranted.

But I can’t help but feel disappointed that the complaint filed against Senator Coburn was not handled with the same level of seriousness. Coburn became deeply involved with Ensign, even talking to the lawyers for the Hamptons on behalf of Ensign.  While he has denied that he was negotiating on behalf of Ensign for payments to the Hamptons, the Ethics Committee’s report on Ensign raises questions about this that need to be answered.  There has been speculation in the press that Coburn may be one of the individuals who received immunity for testifying in the Ensign investigation.  This question needs to be answered as well.

I am urging the Senate Ethics Committee to release the Ethics Committee report concerning the Senator Ensign scandal, filed against Senator Coburn by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

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