If you live and vote in Colorado, Illinois, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, or Washington, then read on.
Name of Ballot Initiative: Definition of Person and Child (Amendment 67) Summary: Despite three failed attempts at passing a “personhood” amendment (voters rejected the amendment in 2008 and 2010, and the initiative failed to qualify for the ballot in 2012), Colorado voters will once again see this proposal on their 2014 ballot. Amendment 67 would expand the definitions of “person” and “child” in the Colorado Criminal Code and Colorado Wrongful Death Act to include unborn human beings. If Amendment 67, also known as the Brady Amendment, passes, prosecutors could file charges against anyone who commits violence against a fetus. Although the language in Amendment 67 differs from previous versions of the personhood amendment, it could still threaten access to abortion and certain forms of contraception and infertility treatments.
AAUW position: Vote No. AAUW’s 2013–15 Public Policy Program states that AAUW “believes in the right to privacy, freedom from violence, and choice in the determination of one’s reproductive life.” AAUW members have made the protection of reproductive rights a policy principle since 1977. By elevating the legal status of a person or child to include unborn human beings under state law, Amendment 67 would undermine a woman’s right to choose as set forth in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. The effects of Amendment 67 would reach far into women’s lives and affect personal health care decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.
Name of Ballot Initiative: Birth Control in Prescription Drug Coverage Question Summary: This ballot initiative is an advisory question used to assess public opinion at the state level. The initiative asks, “Shall any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage?” If passed, this ballot initiative would be a symbolic gesture of support for current state law, which requires health insurance plans in Illinois that provide prescription drug coverage to also cover prescription birth control.
AAUW position: Vote Yes. The 2013–15 Public Policy Program states that AAUW supports “increased access to quality, affordable health care and family planning services.” Moreover, support for access to contraception has been part of the AAUW Public Policy Program since 1935. Requiring health insurance plans to cover prescription birth control reduces one of the biggest barriers to contraceptive access: cost. The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement has already helped millions of American women obtain contraceptive services without out-of-pocket costs — but the recent Hobby Lobbydecision provides cover to “closely held” employers that want to cite religious beliefs in denying contraceptive coverage to their employees. Voting yes for the Illinois Birth Control in Prescription Drug Coverage Question signals to elected officials that all employees should have access to basic preventive health care services — including contraception — no matter where they work.
Name of Ballot Initiative: Measure 1 Summary: Measure 1 states that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” If approved, North Dakota would be the first state to recognize and protect a “right to life” beginning at conception.
AAUW position: Vote No. AAUW’s 2013–15 Public Policy Program states that AAUW “believes in the right to privacy, freedom from violence, and choice in the determination of one’s reproductive life.” AAUW members have made the protection of reproductive rights a policy principle since 1977. By elevating the legal status of a person to include a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus under state law, this measure would undermine a woman’s right to choose as set forth in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. The effects of Measure 1 would reach far into women’s lives and affect personal health care decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.
Name of Ballot Initiative: Equal Rights for Women Initiative Summary: Under the Oregon Constitution, laws granting privileges or immunities must apply equally to all persons. However, the Oregon Supreme Court has held that laws may treat people differently based on sex if justified by specific biological differences. The proposed Equal Rights for Women amendment would guarantee that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.” The language of the amendment closely mirrors the language of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
AAUW position: Vote Yes. AAUW’s 2013–15 Public Policy Program states that AAUW “opposes all forms of discrimination,” “supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals,” and “affirms our commitment to passage and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.” Oregon’s Equal Rights for Women amendment would reaffirm a commitment to equal rights regardless of gender and represent a step forward in the national fight for ERA ratification.
Name of Ballot Initiative: Tennessee Legislative Powers Regarding Abortion (Amendment 1) Summary: The proposed Amendment 1 inserts state constitutional language empowering the legislature to “enact, amend, or repeal state statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.” Some anti-choice members of the legislature claim Amendment 1 is necessary to regulate and restrict access to abortion in Tennessee. However, the legislature has already passed several laws placing restrictions on abortion in Tennessee without the proposed amendment. Previously passed restrictions and regulations include requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortion, requiring physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and requiring facilities to post signs saying a woman cannot be coerced into having an abortion.
AAUW position: Vote No. AAUW’s 2013–15 Public Policy Program states that AAUW “believes in the right to privacy, freedom from violence, and choice in the determination of one’s reproductive life.” Amendment 1, if passed, could embolden state legislators to attempt to repeal existing state statutes that protect reproductive choice, especially in the circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest and/or when necessary to save the life of the mother. AAUW does not support this maneuver to further decrease reproductive health care access.
Name of Ballot Initiative: Initiative 1351 (I-1351) Summary: This measure incrementally increases state investment in school infrastructure and personnel to reduce K–12 class sizes by 2018. I-1351 provides funding for additional classroom space, teachers, school counselors, librarians, nurses, teaching assistants and other student support staff. Schools serving high-poverty areas will receive additional investment which will help close the achievement gap.
AAUW position: Vote Yes. AAUW’s 2013–15 Public Policy Program states that AAUW supports “responsible funding for all levels of education” and promotes “equitable efforts to close the persistent achievement gap that disproportionately affects low-income children and students from minority communities.” AAUW recognizes that small class size helps foster an improved educational environment. This initiative would bring the state into closer compliance with the Washington State Supreme Court’s 2012 McLeary decision ordering full funding of K–12 basic education. In fact, I-1351 reflects the K–12 class-size recommendations of the state legislature’s own bipartisan panel charged with investigating how the state can meet the court decision’s requirements.
After three months of hard work, negotiators agreed by consensus to a proposed rule to implement the VAWA amendments to the Clery Act (also known as Campus SaVE). This is a victory for improving campus safety – it takes these regulations to implement the new provisions in VAWA. The six sessions haven’t been without disagreement. If you’ve been following the liveblog you know that divisions were deep at times and that consensus seemed potentially out of reach. You can read about some of the compromises made by the group during the final sessions in the transcript below.
AAUW is gratified negotiators moved this rule forward – it will guide colleges and universities to provide prevention programming, clear policies, transparent disciplinary proceedings, and more comprehensive crime statistics. Students gain much from the implementation of the new law and these regulations – an advisor of their choice at disciplinary proceedings and more detail about how their school handles certain crimes, from reporting, to investigation, to disciplinary proceeding. In addition, the programming and awareness activities this law will spur have the potential to stem the tide of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on campus.
There will still be a public comment period on the rule and AAUW will be weighing in. We hope you will too!
Analysis: Today we kicked off the final two days of the negotiated rulemaking for the VAWA Amendments to the Clery Act, also called Campus SaVE, and are watching closely to see what rules colleges and universities will have to follow to implement the law. Overall, the tone was cordial and consensus seemed (possibly) attainable. But that doesn’t mean the day wasn’t without fireworks over draft language on reporting, compliance, and definitions.
Most negotiators seemed to want to find compromise. No one played the “I can’t agree to consensus with this in there” card… yet.
The group has found agreement around a definition of stalking that I think works for everyone. In the first sessions the negotiators talked about stalking a lot, so the agreement indicates good work by the committee. But we haven’t gotten to the section about counting stalking reports – which might raise some issues.
Although negotiators failed to avoid the same conversation from the February session around dating violence – again highlighting that most negotiators do not agree on what is a dating relationship – there was actually loose agreement around a definition of the term this time.
There is a clear divide on some topics between a compliance-focused approach and a transparency-focused approach (doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive). Case in point: schools will be disclosing information about the sanctions they levy and the protective measures they use following disciplinary proceedings around dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Under the draft language, schools should list all sanctions and protective measures they use. Negotiators representing schools worried whether schools would be firmly held to that list and even, somewhat unbelievably, worried whether they would be punished for adding a sanction or protection not on the original list. The moment of levity on this came from the Department of Education, which pointed out that going above and beyond is not a problem. The Department said the goals here are to help students know what options they have and to find the schools who are bad actors. The compliance focus really has the group struggling to see the forest for the trees.
Still waiting on:
Tomorrow negotiators will finish conversation around the term “advisor of their choice” and that the accuser and accused can bring one to proceedings. In addition, they’ll need to finish disciplinary proceedings, get to counting crimes, and approve all of the language changes proposed today. Ultimately, negotiators will be asked if they have achieved consensus on the draft language. You can learn more about what that means and where we go next, here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/hea08/neg-reg-faq.html. As always, follow along with our live blog tomorrow.