[Much of this information comes straight from Senator Biden's website, but we've tried to throw in a lot of other links that confirm the details and/or provide more info on the issues.]
~The one accomplishment related to women that people do often bringing up in talking about Senator Biden is the fact that he wrote the landmark Violence Against Women Act. The act was passed in 1994, and Biden has guided it through each of its reauthorizations, adding new elements each time.
We could fill up a whole entry just talking about VAWA (and we will in the near future), but here's just a quick list of some of the things that VAWA has done and tried to do over the years: provided grants for things like law enforcement programs that teach police how to respond to domestic violence and treat it seriously, provided funding for domestic violence shelters, created the National Domestic Violence Hotline, supported capital improvement programs to make public places like parks and public transportation safer, developed youth education programs, supported research into a variety of issues related to violence against women, set up confidentiality guidelines to protect domestic violence victims, counselors, and shelters, and programs to reach specific groups of women, like immigrants, women living in rural areas, and homeless women and girls.
Here's what Senator Biden has to say about VAWA:
"I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I’ve crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate. Indeed, the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 was the beginning of a historic commitment to women and children victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. Our nation has been rewarded for this commitment. Since the Act’s passage in 1994, domestic violence has dropped by almost 50%, incidents of rape are down by 60%, and the number of women killed by an abusive husband or boyfriend is down by 22%. Today, more than half of all rape victims are stepping forward to report the crime. And since we passed the Act in 1994 over a million women have found justice in our courtrooms and obtained domestic violence protective orders."
For more information about the ongoing efforts to combat violence against women, start with the site for the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women.
~In the fall of 2007, Senator Biden (along with Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana) introduced the International Violence Against Women Act. I-VAWA was created with input from more than 100 organizations, including Amnesty International, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Legal Momentum.
This groundbreaking legislation (S. 2279) would ensure that our foreign assistance programs include efforts to end gender-based violence...Specifically, the International Violence Against Women Act will:
"Violence against women and girls violates their basic human rights. It impedes women's full and active participation in their communities and societies," said Sen. Biden. "Stopping gender-based violence isn't just the moral thing to do; it's also smart diplomacy since violence contributes to the poverty, inequality and instability that threaten our security."
- Create one central Office for Women's Global Initiatives to coordinate the United States' policies, programs and resources that deal with women's issues. Never before has there been one person who reports directly to the Secretary of State on issues related to gender-based violence.
- Mandate a 5-year comprehensive strategy to fight violence against women in 10 to 20 selected countries and provides a new, dedicated funding stream of $175 million a year to support programs dealing with violence against women in five areas: the criminal and civil justice system, healthcare, girls' access to education and school safety, women's economic empowerment, and public awareness campaigns.
- Require training, reporting mechanisms and a system for dealing with women and girls afflicted by violence during humanitarian, conflict and post-conflict operations. As the recent reports from the Congo make tragically clear, in situations of humanitarian crises, conflict and post-conflict operations, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to violence. Reports of refugee women being raped while collecting firewood, soldiers sexually abusing girls in exchange for token food items, or women subjected to unimaginable brutality and torture as a tactic of war are shocking in number and inhumanity. There is a dire need for increased training and reporting requirements for refugee workers to help crack down on these brutal acts of violence. In addition, the bill crafts a new designation of "critical outbreaks" and requires emergency measures when rape is used as a weapon of war or in conflicts where violence against women is sharply escalating with impunity.
~In 2007, the Senator introduced the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act, an innovative initiative that would recruit volunteer lawyers and match them with domestic violence victims. The program would use the resources of the American Bar Association and the National Domestic Violence Hotline to set up an online network that would match up volunteer lawyers with domestic violence victims in need of legal help, and would provide the lawyers with extra training and mentoring in domestic violence issues.
“Thousands of victims of domestic violence go without legal representation every day in this country. We can't allow this to continue,” said Sen. Biden. “When victims can obtain effective protection orders, initiate separation proceedings and can rely on safe child custody hearings, they are more likely to come out of the shadows.”
A variety of organizations joined together to support this legislation, including Battered Women’s Justice Project, National Association of Women Lawyers, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, National District Attorney’s Association, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, National Network to End Domestic Violence, and Womenslaw.org.
~Senator Biden joined with Susan Collins (R-ME) to introduce a resolution designating January as National Stalking Awareness Month (S.Res.414).
This is the fifth consecutive year the Senate has considered the resolution, which applauds the efforts of policymakers, law enforcement officers, victim service providers, and other groups that currently promote stalking awareness.
"Stalking is not a one-time occurrence; this is a crime that leaves its victim fearful 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No place - not even home - is safe if a stalker knows where the victim lives. Victims spend their days and nights looking over their shoulder, often changing jobs, relocating their homes, and even changing their appearance to escape the stalker," said Sen. Biden, author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. In many instances, victims usually know their stalkers and 81 percent of women victims are also physically assaulted by their stalker. "January is National Stalking Awareness Month - the perfect opportunity for parents, lawmakers and community leaders to carefully review state and local laws on stalking and insist that laws keep pace with technology and protect victims."
Stalking is a serious and scary thing, especially because it can be difficult to take legal action against a stalker - laws vary (and are non-existent in some areas), it can be difficult to prove that you are being stalked or to get law enforcement to take you seriously or to take action unless something even worse happens to you, and some of the laws that do exist haven't been updated to account for all of the new technology out there that makes stalking so much more "convenient" these days. So it's an issue where raising awareness and increasing understanding is really important.
For more information, start with the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime (a project supported by a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women).
~Along with Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Biden announced the week of February 4 - 8, 2008 as "National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week". (S. Res. 388 passed the full Senate in December.) This marks the third year that the United States Senate has declared the first full week in February a time to encourage local, state and national organizations, governments and private industry to call attention to the tragedy and pervasiveness of teen dating violence in our communities. The crime of teen dating violence, including physical, emotional and sexual assault, and harassment via texting, email or Instant Messaging is a reality for many American teenagers. Like drug abuse, it's a reality of which many parents are unaware.
"Over the past decade we've made tremendous progress on transforming society's understanding that domestic violence is a crime; more women are stepping forward to report abuse and get the services they need. Today's young people need to hear those same messages and access age-appropriate services in our schools, courtrooms and community centers. It is critical that we guide our teenagers towards respectful relationships, and learn to expect nothing less than violence-free lives," said Biden.
The Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Initiative was started by teens through the American Bar Association in 2004. In 2006, the first national "week" was declared by Congress and was declared in 2007 as well. Both years, a number of governors declared proclamations, and today, the Initiative includes over 45 national, state and local agencies and organizations as partners. For help, you can call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474 or 866-331-8453 TTY. And for information, visit www.loveisrespect.org.
~Senator Biden supports the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that protects a woman’s right to choose. Believing family planning could help prevent many unwanted pregnancies, Senator Biden has consistently supported Title X – the nations’ family planning program - that provides information, services, support, and research for family planning.
Much has been made of the Senator's statements that he personally believes that life begins at conception, but he has repeatedly said that he supports choice because he does not believe that he has the right to impose his view on others. He does oppose public funding for abortions, because he believes that would fall under "imposing a view". He also supports the partial-birth abortion ban, but he did criticize the decision handed down by the Supreme Court in upholding the ban: "You had an intellectually dishonest rationale for an honest justification for upholding the ban. I know this is going to sound arcane--they blurred the distinction between the government's role in being involved in the first day and the ninth month. They became paternalistic, talking about the court could consider the impact on the mother and keeping her from making a mistake. This is all code for saying, "Here we come to undo Roe v. Wade." What they did is not so much the decision, the actual outcome of the decision, it's what attended the decision that portends for a real hard move on the court to undo the right of privacy. That's what I'm criticizing about the court's decision."
Senator Biden has also voted no on parental notification and voted against the ban on abortions on military bases. He supports stem cell research. He supports comprehensive sex education. He voted to fund legislation that would "require equitable prescription coverage for contraceptives under health plans and create and expand teen pregnancy prevention programs and education programs concerning emergency contraceptives". And he cosponsored a bill that seeks to reduce unintended pregnancies by increasing funding and access to family planning services, including contraception. The bill points out that use of contraceptives actually saves public health dollars in the long run, and also that "contraception is basic health care". What a concept.
Family & Kids
~Senator Biden recently received a "Best of Congress" award for his family-friendly work policies.
U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) has been honored by Working Mother Media and Corporate Voices for Working Families with the Best of Congress award, for improving the American quality of life through family-friendly work policies. The award spotlights Senator Biden’s congressional leadership in supporting working families through legislation and for employing family-friendly policies in his own office. A profile of Sen. Biden is featured in the August/September 2008 issue of Working Mother magazine, which hits newsstands today, and at www.workingmother.com.
“As a parent and grandparent, I understand the challenges facing American families,” said Sen. Biden. “We need to focus on lifting up – not wearing down – American families.”
For this inaugural award, Sen. Biden was judged on his voting record, sponsored and co-sponsored legislation and his efforts to promote legislation that supports working families. Sen. Biden has long supported initiatives like paid family leave to give Americans the flexibility they need to both take care of their families and remain working. He continues to fight for a higher minimum wage and to end pay inequality. An “A-Plus Education Advocate,” Sen. Biden has supported proposals to help states provide full-day prekindergarten, championed legislation to reduce class sizes, particularly in the early grades, and offered an innovative pilot program to make college more affordable. Sen. Biden’s work in the 110th Congress also includes fighting for children’s health insurance, leveling the playing field between workers and employers and promoting women’s healthcare.
“Not only did we judge Senator Biden on his voting records for supporting working families, we also examined the benefits that his own employees receive like paid leave and flextime,” said Carol Evans, CEO, Working Mother Media. “Senator Biden is stepping up voluntarily because he believes in progressive policies and acts on his beliefs in the real world managing his staff.”
“Senator Biden has shown what can be accomplished through legislation and a personal commitment to policies that benefit working families,” said Donna Klein, president and founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families. “As our nation wrestles with a host of economic and other issues involving working families, Senator Biden deserves to be congratulated and recognized nationally for his leadership and support.”
~As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Biden helped steer two major child support initiatives into law – one makes it a federal crime to cross state lines to avoid paying child support; the other ensures state courts honor the child support order of other states.
~A series of laws Senator Biden authored in the last two decades help America’s parents protect their kids from sexual predators. In 1994, he required every state to establish a registry for convicted sexual offenders; in 1996, he helped create the national registry of sexual predators, so these criminals could not move from state to state to avoid being tracked. In 2003, he authored the Victims of Child Abuse Act, increasing funding for Child Advocacy Centers. And in 2006, he authored the Adam Walsh Act, which establishes registration requirements to ensure convicted sex offenders can’t slip through the cracks and harm our children. And the Combating Child Exploitation Act, passed by the House of Representatives in October 2007, takes a bold step forward in addressing the growing problem of child exploitation by creating a strong nationwide network of highly trained law enforcement experts to track down these offenders and put them away. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Justice to develop and implement National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. Requiring the Department to develop this strategy will ensure that we are taking a comprehensive, forward-looking approach to address this growing problem. In addition, the bill increases the number of federal agents focused on child exploitation and builds upon the critical Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program to ensure that we have at least one cyber unit in each state dedicated to these cases.
~Senator Biden supports the idea of making two years of pre-school available to all parents. He also wants to make big increases in the numbers of kids who are served by the Early Head Start and Head Start programs - from 900,000 to 2 million for Head Start and from 60,000 to almost a quarter of a million for Early Head Start. He has also advocated for more resources for the Women, Infants, and Children program that provides food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services to pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants.
~Senator Biden supports expanding SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, to allow more children to participate, and increasing outreach efforts to enroll every child eligible for SCHIP and Medicaid—so that families won’t have to rely on emergency rooms to get needed health care for their children.
~Senator Biden was one of the co-sponsors when the Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in 2007.
~Senator Biden believes in equal pay for equal work, so he supports both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Restoration Act. This is the statement that he issued on Equal Pay Day of this year:
“It is true that America has come a long way since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law. Yet, we observe Equal Pay Day in the month of April because a woman typically has to work nearly four months longer than a man just to earn what he did in one year. This is simply not fair. And with a record 70.2 million women in the workforce, this wage discrimination hurts American families across the country.
“In the coming days, the Senate has an opportunity to take a step toward correcting this injustice by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, as our colleagues in the House did earlier this year. It is time to put aside partisan politics and uphold this country’s longstanding commitment to equal rights – including the principle that equal work should yield equal pay.”
The Fair Pay Restoration Act and its companion bill in the House were introduced after the Supreme Court's (stupid and unfair) decision in Lily Ledbetter's discrimination case, where the court ruled that Lily was not entitled to compensation even though she had been paid less than her male coworkers doing the same job for decades because she didn't file her claim within 180 days of her first unequal paycheck. They determined that only the first paycheck counts - each new check doesn't count as a new act of discrimination...except that, of course, it is. So if, as in Ledbetter's case, you don't find out about the discrimination until years later, you have no recourse and no way of fighting to get the money that you deserve. That's why this bill is so important and it's hard to imagine why any Senator would oppose it. (Maybe Senator McCain can explain it to us.)
~Senator Biden supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit job discrimination of any kind. While workplace discrimination is not as obvious as when the Senator Biden’s ancestors faced “No Irish Need Apply,” signs, today minorities, women, and gays hear excuses like, “she won’t fit in,” or “he’s too qualified,” as employers pass on them. It may be subtle, but it’s hate in the heart, nevertheless.
~Senator Biden believes legal recognition should not be denied to same-sex couples. He advocates for re-examining federal laws, including the tax code, to ensure our national laws are not unfair to same-sex couples, and that committed adults who are adopting are not discriminated against because of sexual orientation. He supports letting states determine how to recognize civil unions and define marriage. In a statement on the selection of Biden for VP, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said:
“In selecting Senator Joe Biden as his running mate, Senator Obama has chosen a proven and effective advocate for fairness and equality that our entire community can be proud of,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Senator Biden’s record in the United States Senate is one of support and understanding that has been unwavering throughout his career.”
Recently, Senator Biden, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, played an instrumental role in securing the passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), legislation which included Senator John Kerry and Senator Gordon Smith’s provision repealing the discriminatory HIV travel and immigration ban. His working across the aisle guaranteed that the Kerry-Smith provision was adopted. Furthermore, when opponents of the provision attempted to garner support to strip the provision from the bill, Senator Biden fought to keep the provision in the bill and helped secure the votes for PEPFAR'S final passage.
“We only need to look back to the recent passage of the repeal of the HIV travel and immigration ban to see the type of leadership we can expect from Senator Biden on the issues important to our community,” continued Solmonese. “It was because of his determination and tenacity that we were able to see this relic of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS torn down.”
“If the support Senator Biden has proven on our issues is any indication of the type of Vice President he will be than our community can be assured that Senator Obama has chosen a thoughtful and staunch advocate for equality as his closest adviser,” concluded Solmonese.
~Senator Biden supports ending the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy. Twenty-four of the nations serving alongside U.S. forces in Iraq permit open service, and it has no negative impact on their forces or the morale of the soldiers. Senator Biden believes turning away patriotic Americans who volunteer to serve solely because of their sexual orientation is wrong.
~Senator Biden is a strong supporter of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act to expand federal and state coordination to fight hate crimes. Every year more than 7,000 hate crimes are committed. Senator Biden believes these acts not only hurt victims, they damage the values that are America. The Act would enable the Justice Department to assist local agencies in investigating and prosecuting crimes, and would expand the definition of hate crimes to include offenses based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
~Senator Biden also supports the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act which would dedicate resources at the Department of Justice and FBI to re-open unsolved murders from the civil rights era. “These unsolved murders leave a stain on the integrity of the judicial system in America,” said Rep. John Lewis who was also an original co-sponsor of the first bill and has pushed for reintroduction in this Congress. “The credibility of the government is in question here. These lingering unsolved cases lead African Americans and other citizens to wonder whether this nation is truly committed to justice or whether there are times when we find it convenient to look the other way. That is why it is so important to bring this chapter of our dark past to a close.”
HIV/AIDS & Breast Cancer
~Senator Biden was a co-sponsor of the original Ryan White CARE Act, which helps provide funding for low-income and uninsured people with HIV and AIDS, and has maintained his commitment to funding research and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., while also supporting international efforts to reduce the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Africa and developing countries around the world. And on July 16th of this year, the Biden/Lugar Global HIV/AIDS Bill passed the Senate.
Senator Biden and Lugar’s legislation (S. 2731/H.R. 5501) specifically:
Authorizes $48 billion for global HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis programs for the next five fiscal years;
Sets ambitious targets for saving millions of lives through treatment, care, and prevention and the training of health care workers;
Provides for a flexible approach to helping countries combat their local epidemics;
Strengthens efforts to address the special vulnerabilities of girls and women to HIV/AIDS, prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to children and expand access to treatment for children;
Substantially increases U.S. assistance to prevent and treat malaria through insecticide treated bednets, indoor residual spraying, access to anti-malarial drugs and other tools;
Expands efforts to combat tuberculosis including the growing problem of drug resistant strains of TB; and
Repeals the visa ban for those with HIV/AIDS.
~Senator Biden has supported a variety of breast cancer initiatives, from sponsoring legislation to expand Medicare to include coverage of mammograms down to supporting the creation of a special fundraising postage stamp for breast cancer research. He has worked on prevention and screening programs for breast and cervical cancer that attempt to make sure that low-income women and women without health insurance have access to services like mammograms. He also originated the legislation that recognizes National Mammography Day in October of each year. 2007 was the 15th consecutive year Congress has recognized Sen. Biden's National Mammography Day resolution.
"We know that women often avoid getting a mammogram because they are afraid of what they may find or afraid they cannot afford it," said Sen. Biden. "Now is the time to remind the women you love of how important early breast cancer detection can be."
Senator Biden's wife, Jill Biden, is the founder of the Biden Breast Health Initiative, a non-profit organization that seeks "to empower young women through awareness and education to assume responsibility for their overall well-being with a strong emphasis on breast health". The organization provides educational materials on breast health free of charge to schools and other organizations in the Bidens' home state of Delaware.
Senator Biden has also fought to guarantee that insurance companies do not deprive breast cancer survivors of reconstructive surgery. Maybe he could have a chat with fellow Senator John McCain about how to answer when a woman asks a question about what her insurance will and won't cover.
So do we completely agree 100% with Senator Biden on every issue and every piece of legislation he's ever been involved with? Of course not. But we admire all of his hard work on lots of issues that we strongly care about, and we really have to respect the fact that the list above is so damn long, especially since we know that many other members of Congress don't have records even approaching Senator Biden's on any of these issues. We'll take him over Governor Palin any day.
I guess we could explain it in t-shirt slogan form: