U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has taken some heat by Democrats for her opposition to the U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that originally became law in 1994. VAWA is a funding package that supports that supports organizations doing the necessary work to protect and serve women who have been victims of violent crime.

H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, passed in the House in April by a 263 to 158 vote. Iowa’s Democratic U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer, and Dave Loebsack voted in favor of the bill. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, voted against the bill.

Ernst last week during a speech on the Senate floor criticized the House’s version of the bill.

“The House bill is a non-starter and is chalk full of partisan political talking points that take us further away from, rather than closer to, a bill we can get over the finish line,” she said.

Ernst accused Senate Democrats of pulling away from a bipartisan version of the bill that could pass the Senate.

“Election year politics are in full swing. And the grim reality is Democrats cannot afford to be seen giving Republicans a win.  The far left agenda of the House has hijacked the process,” she stated.

Ernst announced she planned to offer a “good faith” proposal that would support survivors and hold offenders accountable.

Ernst is right to oppose the House version of the bill. There are two poison pills in the bill that I would like to highlight.

The first poison pill is language that could endanger the very women the bill is designed to protect.

Catering to the transgender agenda, the bill allows the placement of biological men who identify as women in women’s prisons and vice versa. The bill reads:

in deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex prisoner to a facility for male or female prisoners, and in making other housing and programming assignments, consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the prisoner’s health and safety, including serious consideration of the prisoner’s own views with respect to their safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems; and consider any other factor that the office determines to be appropriate.

So the prisoner’s “own views with respect to their safety” is supposed to be seriously considered, but not the safety and privacy of that prisoner’s fellow inmates. Also, allowing biological women who identify as a man is all sorts of stupid and would put that prisoner in immediate danger.

Adding “gender identity” to an existing legal framework designed to serve women traps VAWA-funded care providers in a legal mess and one that abusers are sure to exploit.

The second poison pill is language that would strip those who are convicted or plead guilty to a misdemeanor office against a woman such as stalking and those subject to a court order (a restraining order) from possessing a firearm.

I certainly understand the intent behind this language, but there are obvious due process issues and examples of abuse of the process in states that have such laws on the books (like a study of red flag laws in Indiana). Also, if states believe the misdemeanors some offenders are charged with are serious enough for them to lose their right to possess a firearm then they should go through the legislative process to make that crime a felony.

Also, if a person is willing to violate a restraining order what makes us think a law prohibiting them from possessing a firearm while under that court order will somehow dissuade them?

It wouldn’t.

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