Legislative Update: War-related, Other Individual Rights Issues on Agenda
Although much of the country's attention is focused on the war with Iraq, the 108th Congress has moved forward on numerous other Administration priorities with individual rights-related issues since it convened in January 2003 with a Republican majority in the Senate and House. Measures concerning late-term abortion and cloning have already passed in the Senate and House, respectively, and also under consideration are critical issues such as the use of military tribunals and changes to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities.
On Mar. 13, the Senate passed by a 64-33 vote S 3, to prohibit a late-term abortion procedure. The House is expected to approve it later this spring. Abortion rights supporters have said that, if the bill is signed into law, they will challenge it measure in court as unconstitutional. (In 1992, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy opposing state or federal legislation which restricts the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy (i) before fetal viability; or (ii) thereafter, if such termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.)
On Feb. 27, the House passed HR 534, "The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003," to prohibit all forms of human cloning. The bill would make it illegal for any person or entity to participate in any way in an attempt to perform human cloning or to ship or receive an embryo produced by human cloning. The bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on Mar. 3. (In 2002, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy opposing legislation that would oppose Governmental prohibitions on scientific research conducted in accordance with accepted safeguards for therapeutic purposes, including cell nuclear transfer research not intended for human cloning.)
On Mar. 13, Rep. Schiff (D-CA) introduced HR 1290, authorizing the President to establish military tribunals to prosecute the terrorists responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on the Judiciary. (In February 2002, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy urging that military commissions established under the military order issued by the President on November 13, 2001, be structured and implemented in a manner that meets the requirements of fundamental fairness as generally recognized both in the United States and among our principal allies in the fight against terrorism.)
On Apr. 2, Rep. Deal (R-GA) introduced HR 1567, to deny citizenship at birth to children born in the U. S. of parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Jan. 16, Sen. Daschle (D-SD) introduced S Res 23, supporting a decision of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies. The resolution was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (In August 1995, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy supporting affirmative action measures, and in February 2003, the ABA filed a Section-sponsored amicus curiae brief in the U. S. Supreme Court case, Grutter v. Bollinger.)
On Jan. 27, Rep. Davis (D-IL) introduced H Res 32, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the ongoing need to provide every qualified American with equal access to opportunity in education, business, and employment, and the essential need for affirmative action programs to secure such equal access. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Education and the Workforce and the Judiciary.
On Mar. 11, Rep. Slaughter (D-NY) introduced H Res 137, expressing the sense of the House that changes to Title IX proposed by the U. S. Secretary of Education's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics contradict the spirit of athletic equality and gender parity, and that Title IX provisions should remain unchanged. The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
On Jan. 9, Sen. Feingold (D-WI) introduced S 132, to place a moratorium on executions by the federal government and urge the states to do the same while a national blue ribbon commission reviews the fairness of the administration of the death penalty. It was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (In 1997, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy calling for a moratorium in capital jurisdictions nationwide.)
On Apr. 2, the House International Relations Committee approved HR 1298, "The U. S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003," to provide assistance to foreign countries to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
On Jan. 28, Rep. Conyers (D-MI) introduced HR 394, to restore the federal civil remedy for crimes of violence motivated by gender. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Jan. 27, Rep. Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 374, to require the U. S. Attorney General to acquire data about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on gender. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Mar. 20, Rep. Demint (R-SC) introduced HR 1373, which would expand school choices for students and parents under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
On Mar. 25, Rep. Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 1430, to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which would permit leave to care for a domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent if the domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent has a serious health condition. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Education and the Workforce, Government Reform, and House Administration.
On Mar. 6, Sen. Collins (R-ME) introduced S 557, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude from gross income amounts received as a result of certain unlawful discrimination claims and to allow income averaging for backpay and frontpay awards received as a result of such claims. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) introduced a companion bill (H.R. 1155) in the House. (In February 2003, the ABA adopted a resolution co-sponsored by the Section urging Congress to enact such legislation.)
On Jan. 7, Rep. Towns (D-NY) introduced HR 214, to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of affectional or sexual orientation. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Education and the Workforce and the Judiciary.
On Mar. 25, Rep. Rangel (D-NY) introduced HR 1433, to restore the federal voting rights of certain qualified offenders following their incarceration. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Jan. 8, Rep. Conyers (D-MI) introduced HR 259, to secure the federal voting rights of persons who have been released from incarceration. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Jan. 7, Rep. Emerson (R-MO) introduced HJ Res 7, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that nothing in the Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions, that no person shall be required by the U. S. or by any state to participate in prayer, and that neither the U. S. nor any state shall prescribe the content of any such prayer. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. (In 1995, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy opposing a Constitutional amendment or federal legislation that would allow for officially sanctioned prayer in public schools.)