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SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES SHAHEEN PROVISIONS PROTECTING WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE, LGBT CIVIL RIGHTS

Shaheen provisions permanently repealing Global Gag Rule, implementing Peace Corps Health Equity, and ending LGBT jury discrimination included in Appropriations bills

July 25, 2013

(Washington, DC) –The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced two bills this afternoon that include key provisions promoting and protecting women’s health and LGBT equality sponsored by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).  The State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill specifically include Shaheen provisions permanently repealing the Global Gag Rule - also referred to as the “Mexico City Policy” - and also providing reproductive health care coverage for Peace Corps members. The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill included a measure to end jury discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

“Today we moved forward on two important bills that will help promote the health and safety for women around the world and end discriminatory practices in jury selections,” Shaheen said.

The SFOPS appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2014 includes language correcting an inequity in Peace Corps reproductive health care coverage that prevents the Peace Corps from providing abortion coverage for volunteers in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is endangered. The provision mirrors standalone legislation that the late Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced earlier this year with Shaheen as an original cosponsor.  In December, Congress overwhelmingly supported the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the Shaheen Amendment to allow the military to provide this same basic health care benefit to military servicewomen.

“Our Peace Corps volunteers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health and safety when serving overseas,” Shaheen said. “Senator Lautenberg was a great champion for women in the Peace Corps, and I’m so thankful that today we were able to honor his legacy and efforts by advancing our bill to bring the Corps’ reproductive health care policies in line with most other government-sponsored programs.”

The SFOPS appropriations bill also includes an amendment Shaheen offered to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule –also referred to as the “Mexico City Policy,” which denies U.S. financial aid for contraception and family planning services to any organization that uses its own funding to perform or even advise women about legal abortion.  Shaheen’s amendment passed on a bipartisan vote of 19-11 and will help guarantee access to family planning services for women around the world.

 

“When it was in place the global gag rule blocked funding for basic family-planning services, contraception and preventative care for women around the world,” Shaheen said.  “The policy needs to be permanently repealed so that this funding isn’t jeopardized in the future and women have access to the reproductive care they need.”

Additional Shaheen priorities included in the SFOPS and FSGG Appropriations bills include:  

-         The Jury ACCESS Act: The Financial Services FY2014 Appropriations bill passed with the inclusion of language from the bipartisan Jury ACCESS (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) Act, which would amend the federal statute to prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Shaheen reintroduced the bipartisan Jury ACCESS Act as standalone legislation earlier this year with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and the endorsement of a large coalition of civil rights advocacy groups and key leaders in the LGBT community.

 

-         Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR): The SFOPS Appropriations bill allocates $49.65 million in funding to SIGAR, which provides independent oversight of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan to ensure that money being spent by the United States is being used efficiently and effectively.

 

-         Visas for Interpreters:  FSOPS adopts language to support a provision included in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform package and the FY14 NDAA to extend the special immigrant visa programs for Iraqis and Afghans who have risked their lives by serving as interpreters for the U.S. military. Senator Shaheen introduced a similar plan as a standalone piece of legislation in May.  The Wall Street Journal emphatically backed the proposal in an editorial published in June.

 

-         Export Initiatives: Shaheen, who has long been a strong and active proponent of streamlining the outdated U.S. export control system and of efforts to bolster trade opportunities for small businesses, won the inclusion of export-related support language and funding in the two appropriations bills. The SFOPS legislation includes language supporting the Administration’s Export Control Reform Initiative to help modernize and reform our nation’s export control system.  The FSGG Appropriations bill authorized $20 million in funding for the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant program, which Shaheen helped create.

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