Women in the U.S. are heading into 2020 with a mission for equal rights. From paid parental leave for federal workers to more protections for survivors of sexual abuse, many state and federal laws went into effect at the start of the new year that could have a big impact on women. In the fight for women’s rights, there have been several wins over the in the last year alone — like Vermont’s guaranteed abortion rights, and greater nation-wide protections for domestic abuse survivors.
But there’s still an alarming trend in state legislation to chip away at Roe v. Wade by placing stricter restrictions on abortion rights and access to reproductive healthcare. Needless to say, progress comes in increments, and with Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the long-awaited ERA at the start of 2020, we’re closer than ever to finally getting the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution.
As we head into the February presidential caucuses that will determine which candidate will try to beat Trump in the 2020 race, women’s rights are at the forefront. Below, we’ve rounded up we all of the laws to watch out for and those that definitely deserve attention (and maybe a little celebration) this year.
Mandatory Paid Parental Leave
Federal workers are set to get 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
For the first time in U.S. history, all federal workers can receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave for a new child. Congress passed the historical bill in December, which President Trump also signed, and the policy will come into effect in October 2020. Up until this point, the U.S. was the only industrialized nation to not have a paid parental leave policy for federal workers (employees were guaranteed time off, but not guaranteed pay). This new law does not, however, extend to the rest of America’s workforce in the private-sectors.
Equal Rights Amendment
The Equal Rights Amendment was officially ratified in Virginia.
In a historic vote, Virginia ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, making it the 38th state needed to add the amendment to the Constitution. First introduced to Congress in 1923, the ERA demands equal rights regardless of sex. The amendment also requires the approval of three-fourths of U.S. states. Conservatives, however, are already preparing to challenge the validity of the ERA, arguing the deadline to ratify the bill has passed.
Hair Discrimination Ban
California law bans discrimination based on hairstyles.
In California, the new law went into effect on Jan 1st, 2020 (sponsored state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles) and legally protects employees and public school students from racial discrimination based on their hair. California is the first state in the U.S. to outlaw discrimination based on hairstyle, including cornrows, braids, twists, and dreadlocks. The CROWN Act has since inspired other states (like New York and New Jersey) to adopt a similar legislation.
Jury Duty Exemption For Breastfeeding
Postponement of jury duty for nursing mothers.
Nursing mothers in Illinois can be now be excused from jury duty. According to House Bill 5745, nursing mothers can opt out of jury service. Similarly, New York also passed the same legislation in October 2019, hoping to set a precedent for other states that could enact the same limitations for nursing mothers called in as jurors.
Roe V. Wade
Legal efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2020, state-by-state.
At the top of the new year, 200 members of Congress urged the Supreme Court to reconsider (and overturn) the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. The predominately-Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives signed a brief by anti-abortion group Americans For Life that challenges an abortion access law in Louisiana. That case will be tried in March, though the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade, even in state-by-state cases, is a very bleak reality going in 2020.
D.N.A. Bill Of Rights
Crime labs will test rape kits within 120 days of submission.
In Senate Bill 22, California law now dictates that all sexual assault foresnsic evidence (or rape kits) must be submitted to crime labs within 20 days after it’s booked into evidence. This is a major effort to ensure that a rapid turnaround D.N.A. program is in place to submit forensic evidence. Authorities must also process the evidence no later than 120 days after receiving it, including evidence received on or after Jan 1, 2016. This “Sexual Assault Victims’ DNA Bill of Rights” was prompted by reports of thousands of untested and ignored sexual assault evidence kits.
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)
Regulations and restrictions on abortion procedures.
In states like Alabama and Utah, Republican lawmakers are seeking to further regulate abortion procedures, “sometimes beyond what is medically possible,” according to medical experts. In a new set of restrictions, lawmakers are hoping to target specifically new judges, appointed by President Trump, for leniency in an effort to pass bills like the so-called “abortion reversal.” So far, in 2019, eight states passed abortion regulations on gestational limits. This includes the heartbeat bill, which can ban an abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson blocked Alabama’s near total ban on abortion, citing that the state’s law “violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” This will be an ongoing effort in 2020.
Childhood Sexual Assault Statute Of Limitations
Recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault.
On October 13, California changed the timeline of when and how survivors of sexual abuse, specifically minors, could report their cases. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse allegations has been extended for 14 additional years. This allows some women to file claims up to age 40, which is unprecedented (you can read the full bill here). Californians can also take civil action against those who distribute fake sex videos or photos with their likeness. The new statute of limitations also hopes to trail-blaze similar bills in other states across the U.S.
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