A report issued this week by Ireland's Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse on abuse within at least 216 Catholic orphanages and state institutions has resulted in a global outcry against the continued abuse of children by the Catholic church. The report investigated alleged incidents of abuse dating back to 1914 and included evidence from more than 1,700 people relating to abuse they experienced as children in state institutions, according to the Irish Times. More than half of those surveyed reported sexual abuse.
The report stated that
"In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine….Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body….A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," reported the Guardian UK. Most of the schools were run by the Catholic-affiliated Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy. The report also found that the Catholic Church protected known pedophiles working in the institutions.
Through a statement, the Christian brothers said: "We acknowledge and regret that our responses to physical and sexual abuse failed to consider the long-term psychological effects on children.....We appreciate that no healing is possible without an acknowledgement of our responsibilities as a congregation for what has happened," reported ABC.
Media Resources: Irish Times 5/21/09; The Guardian UK 5/20/09; ABC 5/22/09
DC Defense of Marriage Act Introduced in Congress
A bill was introduced yesterday in the US House of Representatives that would institute a Defense of Marriage Act for the District of Columbia defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Dan Boren (D-OK), neither of whom represent the District of Columbia, according to Politico. District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), has long supported gay, lesbian, and transgender rights.
This bill's introduction is in response to the passage of legislation earlier this month by the DC City Council that will enable the District to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. Since Congress has jurisdiction over DC, Congress could block this legislation by passing a joint resolution against it and having this resolution approved by the president, according to the Washington Times. If Congress does not take action, the measure will become law.
Washington, DC Councilmember David Catania (I) has said he will introduce a same sex marriage bill this year. Democratic committees in three wards in Washington, DC have voted in favor of a same sex marriage resolution and a committee on a fourth ward has voted in opposition, according to the Washington Post.
Media Resources: Washington Post 5/21/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/6/09; Politico 5/21/09; Statement of Eleanor Holmes Norton 5/5/09
Louisiana House Passes Health Care "Conscience" Bill
Legislation that would allow health care providers to withhold certain services and medications, including abortion and emergency contraception, on the basis of religious or moral objections was approved by the Louisiana state House this week in a 65 to 33 vote. The bill (see PDF) also includes conscience clauses on stem cell research, cloning of human embryos, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia and now moves to the state Senate, reported the Associated Press.
A previous version of the bill said that it would protect health care providers "from liability, discrimination and employment action for refusing to provide certain health care services," but did not specify which "certain health care services" the law would include, according to the News Star.
The current Louisiana bill is similar to a Bush-era regulation released in December 2008 that established new protections for health care providers who refuse to provide certain services based on moral or religious bases. The provisions of the regulation placed the burden on women to seek out individual providers who will provide certain kinds of treatment, including birth control, abortion and sterilization. The regulations drew widespread protest. During a month-long public commenting period, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received tens of thousands of comments against the regulations, including letters opposing it from at least thirteen state attorney generals and six medical groups. The Obama Administration moved to rescind these HHS regulations in March.
Media Resources: Associated Press 5/20/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/9/09; News Star 5/20/09
California Assembly Passes Fair Pay Legislation
The California state Assembly passed a state-level version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Monday on a 49 to 28 vote. The measure codifies at the state level a broader version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. According to the bill, the statute of limitations on pay discrimination claims runs from the receipt of each discriminatory payment.
Assemblymember Dave Jones (D), who co-authored the legislation, said in a press release: "The Court's ruling encourages employers to hide information and will likely lead to more unlawful discrimination. President Obama and the Congress have acted to amend federal law and now we should act to ensure that our state law is not weakened by this court decision. This legislation will ensure that the Supreme Court's flawed decision does not apply to state laws that affect a worker’s right to equal pay."
The federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, signed by President Obama in January, corrected the Roberts Supreme Court decision (see PDF) that gutted the ability of women workers to sue for wage discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a wage discrimination complaint had to be filed within 180 days of the initial salary decision even if the victim is unaware of the discrimination until much later. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 requires that a complaint be filed within 180 days of receiving a discriminatory paycheck.
Media Resources: California NOW Press Release 5/18/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/8/09