The House has approved the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the US legislation funding program to prevent and prosecute violence against women.
The VAWA first became law in 1994 and has been reauthorized by Congress roughly every five years since.
When it initially passed it was the first comprehensive national law to tackle violence directed at women, including domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Every time VAWA is reauthorized lawmakers seek to strengthen the law and close potential loopholes that older versions may have had.
In this update they expand several tenets including providing additional financial aid for women who’ve experienced domestic violence to stay in their homes, increasing punishment for cybercrimes and banning all intimate partners who’ve been convicted with abuse and stalking from purchasing a firearm – which caused severe opposition from the NRA.
Democrats have resolutely stood behind this expansion and argued that closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” is vital to ensure that the law effectively protects women.
Since its inception VAWA has provided more than $7 billion to programs that do everything from helping fund rape crisis centers to strengthening law enforcement resources aimed at prosecuting crimes against women.
Georgia lawmakers have a approved a bill that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected in an embryo, which is around six weeks into a pregnancy.
Currently women in Georgia can seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks.
If Governor Brian Kemp signs the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act” it will come into effect on January 1st 2020.
Sean Young, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, said it isn’t just a state issue as the bill could impact women from out-of-state, as well: “Georgia has clinics that provide health care to women across the Southeast. This law will jeopardize the health of women in Georgia and the entire Southeast region.”
The bill makes exceptions for abortions in cases that involve rape or incest, on the condition that a woman files a police report first.
It also excludes situations in which a physician has determined that a pregnancy is “medically futile” or that a “medical emergency exists” that could “prevent the death … or the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
If this bill is signed into law, the ACLU of Georgia will pursue legal action.
Young said the bill is unconstitutional, adding: “We will see the governor in court.”
The Medical Association of Georgia and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians also oppose the bill.
In Alabama 77 lawmakers have signed in support of a bill making it a Class A felony for a doctor to perform abortion.
The bill would allow abortion in cases where there is a serious health risk to the woman.
The woman undergoing the procedure would not be criminally or civilly liable.
Representative Terri Collins said the intent of her bill is to spark a challenge to the 1973 landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling: “It simply criminalizes abortion. It is meant to actually use some of the same language that is addressed in Roe vs. Wade. So, hopefully it just completely takes it all the way to the Supreme Court eventually to overturn.”
Chanel Lewis has been convicted for the murder and sexual assault of female jogger Karina Vetrano in New York in August 2016.
DNA samples found on Ms Vetrano’s body led New York Police Department to Lewis after a months-long manhunt.
Lewis faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced later in April.
Lori Lightfoot has been elected as Chicago’s first openly gay, black female mayor.
Ms Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, will replace Rahm Emanuel, who was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and has been the city’s mayor for nearly a decade.
Peter Slevin, a professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and former Chicago bureau chief for the Washington Post said: “She inspired hope, even optimism, but she’ll face pressure to deliver, or risk disappointing the people who backed her. In Lightfoot, Chicago voters placed a big bet that a political outsider can do what a long line of professional politicians could not, and that’s deliver a safer city with better schools and more investment in forgotten neighbourhoods.”