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The Atlantic Reports On Potential Challenges To Passage Of The International Violence Against Women Act

The Atlantic looks at the challenges facing the passage of I-VAWA (S.2982, HR. 4594), or the International Violence Against Women Act, which was recently delayed in Congress.

“Given its high-profile congressional backers and Obama administration’s emphasis on foreign aid, it seems that I-VAWA may be successful in committee come November,” the publication writes, noting that the bill is unique “among foreign aid bills in its assertive approach to helping alleviate women’s suffering abroad.” These attributes include a promise “to address the issue of women’s violence along multiple fronts: health, legal, economic, social, and humanitarian” and propose creation of programs “for 5-20 countries, all using various best-practice data that the nonprofits involved in the legislation’s development have already gathered.”

Though the “bill has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, backing from more than 200 U.S. and overseas nongovernmental organizations,” and extensive public support, according to polling data by the Women Thrive and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, its passage “may not be that simple,” The Atlantic reports. “Ostensibly, violence against women isn’t a partisan issue. But part of the bill has tapped into two issues that are very much a part of partisan politics: foreign aid funding and abortion,” according to the story.

The article quotes Stephen Colecchi, director of the office of international justice and peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and David Christensen, the senior director of congressional affairs at the Family Research Council, who are both concerned that the bill’s definition of violence against women is too broad and could lead to changes in abortion laws in other countries. Its potential violation of the Helms amendment, “which states that federal funds can’t be used to fund abortion overseas as a method of family planning,” is another concern.

There are other reasons the bill might not pass. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he will not vote for it. “There is no money to pay for it,” he said. “This is simply another program that will cost over a billion dollars, and there’s nothing provided for it.” Congressional aides from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a non-profit employee who helped draft the legislation respond to the concerns. Kristen Lord, the vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, is also quoted (Weingarten, 10/7).  

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