FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nicole Forbes, President, Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts | email@example.com
Margaret E. Talmers, Executive Director, Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts | (617) 973-6666 | firstname.lastname@example.org
FGM Bill Passed By Mass. House of Representatives
WBA Urges Immediate Senate Vote
BOSTON, MA – July 16, 2020 – The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts would like to thank Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Robert A. DeLeo, and bill sponsors State Representatives Natalie Higgins (D-4th Worcester), Jay Livingstone (D-8th Suffolk), and Brad Jones (R-20th Middlesex, House Minority Leader) for today’s passage of bill H4606 “An Act Relative to the Penalties for the crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)” in Massachusetts. The bill was voted out favorably from the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, moved quickly through the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, and had a favorable vote today in an informal session of the House.
The FGM bill has not only bipartisan support, but also bicameral support, with over 100 Senate and House cosigners of the original bills (H3332, H1466). The bill has also been supported by almost 50 organizations, including the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, who developed the legislation and helped build widespread support, the AHA Foundation, Sahiyo, UNICEF USA, Boston Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, Office of the Child Advocate, Caucus of Women Legislators, American Academy of Pediatrics – Massachusetts Chapter, and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – Massachusetts section, to name only a few.
FGM is defined by the World Health Organization as removal of all or part of a girls’ healthy sex organs and surrounding tissue for non-medical reasons, often resulting in serious health consequences, the risk of death in childbirth, and lifelong trauma. There are no health benefits to this practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control, half a million women and girls living in the United States have been cut or are at risk of FGM. Over fourteen thousand such women and girls reside in Massachusetts, which ranks our state as 12th in the nation for at-risk populations. Last session, the Joint Judiciary Committee heard unequivocal testimony from survivors that FGM happens in the US and that girls born in Massachusetts are at risk.
Thirty-eight states have already passed laws banning FGM including during the shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, and with your immediate action by the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker, Massachusetts can become number 39. We do not want our state to be a destination for FGM. In November 2019, a U.S. District Court struck down the federal law making FGM illegal, finding that Congress exceeded its authority under the U.S. Constitution, and that FGM is a violent crime that must be regulated by the states. Top Massachusetts law enforcement officials testified last September that existing state criminal laws would not cover FGM. The Department of Children and Families considers FGM a form of child abuse. Massachusetts must act to stop this practice.
We respectfully urge all to support this legislation and take the necessary steps immediately to send it to the Senate floor for a vote before the end of the session, on July 31st. Thank you again House Speaker DeLeo and Representatives Higgins, Livingstone, and Jones for your leadership, support, and action on such an important issue of women and girl child rights.
About the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Founded in 1978 by a group of activist women lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association boasts a large membership of women lawyers, judges, policy makers, and law students across Massachusetts. The WBA is committed to the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession and in a just society. The WBA works to achieve this mission through committees and events and by developing and promoting a legislative agenda to address society’s most critical social and legal issues. Other WBA activities include networking and professional development, drafting amicus briefs, studying employment issues affecting women, encouraging women to enter the judiciary, recognizing the achievement of women in the law, and providing pro bono services to women in need through its sister organization, the Women’s Bar Foundation. For more information, visit www.womensbar.org.
WOMEN’S BAR ASSOCIATION OF MASSACHUSETTS | 105 CHAUNCY STREET | BOSTON, MA 02111 | 617.973.6666
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