Violence Against Women
The AMA has long advocated against the culture of violence in America and was a catalyst, along with other members of the medical community, for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) when it was first enacted in 1994. While violence against adult women has decreased 60 percent since VAWA was first passed, it remains a critical problem in the United States and much more work remains to be done. AMA supports S. 47, the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013,” which was introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Crapo (R-ID) and which would strengthen and improve existing programs that assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
On February 28, 2013, The House passed S. 47 to reauthorize VAWA, by a bipartisan vote of 286-138. The bill, which was previously approved by the Senate on February 12, seeks to protect all victims including students, racial minorities, tribal members, immigrants and members of the LGBT community. Additionally, it includes: (1) campus safety provisions; (2) an all-state minimum funding formula for key grant programs to ensure small, rural states have access to victim services grants authorized under VAWA; and (3) the SAFER Act, which provides for audits of sexual evidence backlogs, and gives law enforcement the tools they need to help reduce the rape kit evidence backlogs across the country.
Due to AMA advocacy, Senate bill sponsors included an important modification to the quality measure development section. This technical change will ensure that the development of quality measures pertaining to domestic violence issues moves through the current quality measure development and review structure embodied by the national Quality Forum process. From the physician community perspective it was important to ensure that new measures developed by this legislation would work within the existing measure development processes to further align quality improvement across the continuum of health care services and avoid duplication of effort and resources. S. 47 will provide a five year reauthorization for the VAWA programs and reduce authorized funding levels by more than $135 billion, or 17%, from the law’s 2005 reauthorization. The law was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with large bipartisan support and it expired in September 2011.
S. 47 was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013.
Gun violence in America has reached epidemic proportions and the horrific school shootings in Newtown, CT, has increased the sense of urgency to find workable solutions to reduce the epidemic of gun violence and the culture of violence in America. In a January 8, 2013 letter to the President and Congressional leaders, the AMA along with 51 other national specialty societies and state medical societies urged the nation to strengthen its commitment and resources to improve comprehensive access to mental health services including screening, prevention and treatment. The letter acknowledges that while the vast majority of patients with mental illness are not violent, physicians and other health professionals must be trained to respond to those who have a mental illness that might make them more prone to commit violence. Based on long-time AMA-HOD policy, the letter also calls for renewing and strengthening the assault weapons ban, including banning high-capacity magazines. AMA supports S. 150, the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013,” which was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).