AIDS Bill Highlights Recent Congressional Action
Following up on his January State of the Union promise to increase federal funding for the international AIDS crisis, on May 27 the President signed into law HR 1298, "The U. S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003." The bill authorizes $3 billion a year for five years for international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to one third in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The law endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- which the Administration states has helped lower HIV prevalence rates in Uganda.
The package recommends that 55 percent of direct aid go to treatment programs, 20 percent to programs aimed at preventing HIV infections, 15 percent to palliative care, and 10 percent to programs assisting children who have lost one or both of their parents due to AIDS-related causes. The measure also specifically allocates one-third of the bill's HIV/AIDS prevention funding for abstinence and monogamy programs.
Other Individual Rights issues currently being debated in the House and Senate include changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); measures to prohibit various forms of discrimination; abortion; disability law; and First Amendment concerns.
On May 8, the Senate passed S 113, the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, (FISA)" to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to cover individuals, other than United States persons, who engage in international terrorism without affiliation with an international terrorist group. The bill was referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Intelligence. (In 2003, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy urging Congress to conduct regular and timely oversight of FISA and to ensure that investigations do not violate constitutional requirements.)
On May 13, Sen. Snowe (R-ME) introduced S 1053, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
On Apr. 9, Sen. Harkin (D-IA) introduced S 841, to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on account of sex, race, or national origin. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
On June 4, the House passed H Res 257, the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," to prohibit a late-term abortion procedure. The Senate passed a similar measure in March. Although differences remain between the two bills, the President has said that he would sign the final version of the bill. (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 May 9, Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) introduced HR 2062, to restore freedom of choice to women in the uniformed services serving outside the United States. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.
On Apr. 10, Sen. Ensign (R-NV) introduced S 851, to prohibit the taking of minors across state lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. On Apr. 10, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced a similar bill, HR 1755, in the House.
On May 8, Rep. Akin (R-MO) introduced HR 2028, the "Pledge Protection Act of 2003," to amend Title 28, U. S. Code, with respect to the jurisdiction of federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court over certain cases and controversies involving the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill proposes that "No court established by Act of Congress shall have jurisdiction to hear or determine any claim that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, as set forth in section 4 of title 4, violates the first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States." The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On May 8, Rep. Davis (D-IL) introduced HR 2032, to provide individuals with disabilities and older Americans with equal access to community-based attendant services and support. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. (In 1976, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy supporting legislation to ensure ready and effective access to public buildings and transportation services for all persons, including the physically handicapped.)
On May 8, Rep. Lantos (D-CA) introduced H Con Res 169, expressing the sense of Congress that the U. S. Government should support the human rights and dignity of all persons with disabilities by pledging support for the drafting and working toward the adoption of a thematic convention on the human rights and dignity of persons with disabilities by the United Nations General Assembly to augment the existing U.N. human rights system. The bill was referred to the House Committee on International Relations.
On Apr. 30, the House passed HR 1350, to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. (In 1996, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy supporting reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or enactment of similar legislation).
On May 1, Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) introduced S 966, to provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
On Apr. 11, Sen. Santorum (R-PA) introduced S 893, to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to establish provisions with respect to religious accommodation in employment. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. (In February 1990 the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy supporting federal legislation to restore Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)
On Apr. 10, Rep. Markey (D-MA) introduced HR 1709, to restore standards to protect the privacy of individually identifiable health information that are deemed to have been weakened by August 2002 modifications. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and the Workforce.