Monday, September 29, 2014

NOW Leaders React to Rape Victims Being Charged for Medical Examinations


Shocked and outraged was the reaction of Charlotte Klasson, President of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), when she learned that victims of rape were being charged exorbitant bills for forensic medical examinations.

 "This is a sort of political extortion to discourage the pursuit of prosecution of crimes of sexual assault," said Klasson.

 The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) reported on Sunday, September 28, that hospitals are now billing rape victims who undergo forensic examinations, sometimes in excess of $2,000, for the exams and related treatment. It was explained that at Interim LSU, the costs of these exams had historically been absorbed by the hospital, but it began billing the victims after the state turned control of the hospital over to a private entity, Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, last year. And, while victims may apply for some reimbursement from the Crime Victims’ Reparations Fund, they are required to report the attack to law enforcement. Because of the nature of a sexual assault, many victims are hesitant to initiate involvement in the criminal justice system where many aspects of the prosecution become public record.

According to Klasson, the Department of Health and Hospital failed to respond proactively by addressing this issue when it initially became a problem last year before the 2014 Legislative Session, but allegedly promised to work on legislative solutions in the future. However, the State Legislature won’t convene again until April, 2015. In the meantime, unless DHH takes some administrative action, this problem for rape victims will persist.

"The State knew or should have known that this was a major policy change when it was adopted over a year ago, and took no action to address the interests of rape victims, most of whom are women. If DHH had wanted to deliberately develop a system to punish women crime victims, they couldn't have thought of a more effective way. This is yet another assault on women’s access to health services, typical of this Administration, in the war on women," Klasson said.

"And shame on NOPD and the District Attorney’s Office, those public offices with primary responsibility for the prosecution of crimes, for not taking action to correct this abusive treatment of crime victims," Klasson added.

Fortunately, Klasson noted, we have two elected officials who are sensitive to and supportive of the safety and health needs of women. Sen. J.P. Morrell and Rep. Helena Moreno have committed to seek legislative solutions.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Religious Freedom to Discriminate?

Yesterday, Senate Bill 164, which would have updated existing non-discrimination laws to include sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, was defeated in the Senate Judiciary A Committee on a 4-to-1 vote.

The sole committee vote to pass the bill was the bill's sponsor, Louisiana State Senator Ed Murray of New Orleans.

Senator Martiny (R) of Metairie asserted that it is the fault of the victim if she is denied service because of her sexual orientation or gender identity, while Senator Claitor (R) of Baton Rouge expressed his concern that the bill would violate the "religious freedom" of business owners to discriminate.

We thank Sen. Murray for his leadership in advocating for passage, but we are disappointed that partisan politics and willful ignorance defeated an effort to protect Louisiana's citizens from discrimination.

We are called to protect all people who are targets of discrimination, and our elected leaders need to recognize the important economic and social contributions of all our residents, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We are grateful for the efforts of Senator Ed Murray who pushed for the bill to be approved. Please click here to send him a thank you note for his efforts.

We believe that all citizens are entitled to equal rights and should be treated fairly and equally under the laws of our state. We will continue fighting for those rights at the State Capitol and in local city and parish governments across Louisiana.

Louisiana Senate Judiciary A Committee Broadcast Archive:

Part 1 of the hearing

Senate Bill 164 comes up at minute 12.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

LA NOW President's Testimony Before Senate Judiciary A Committee 5/20/2014

My name is Charlotte Klasson, state coordinator for the Louisiana National Organization for Women and I wish to thank you for the brief opportunity to testify in favor of this bill from the perspective of how anti-discrimination laws have benefited the lives of all of the women in your life.
Everyone from your sister, your wife, your daughter or your niece along with countless friends and neighbors are benefactors of anti-discrimination laws. The world has become a more fulfilling place for the women you love now that our laws have opened the doors that allowed them to realize their full potential as members of a society, of this country, that champions fairness and equality for all of our citizens.
Think of the improved health and self-confidence of your daughters and granddaughters who get to participate in sports, of your wives and sisters who work in an environment that respects their contributions and allows them to better their lives because we demand work conditions that we all agree should be free of harassment. This will not happen without strong anti-discrimination laws.
Think of the improved educational opportunities that opened the door to careers and adventures, once only available to men, that your grandmothers sadly could barely dream about. Those are wonderful realities that improved the lives of half of our population and all of you on this committee also have tremendously better lives because of it. This did not happen without strong, well-defined anti-discrimination laws.
Anti-discrimination laws have allowed women the security to become mothers and care-givers while continuing to provide for their families because they are supported both legally and ethically. In addition, the work lives of women and families were improved when we allowed aspects of gender and age discrimination to be challenged and that is the hallmark of country that is trying to quickly right the complicated wrongs that once held women back during our past century.
All citizens want the same opportunities to live fulfilling lives with rewarding work, to be valued as contributors to the success of their families and to live free of fear that who they are, male or female, young or old, will be used against them as they work towards bettering their lives.
Allowing sex discrimination against our citizens diminishes us as humans who have a duty and the capacity to fairness to all of our daughters and granddaughters who will soon be our leaders and soon-to-be legislators. It could not happen without anti-discrimination laws.
Please improve the lives of Louisiana citizens by acknowledging that discrimination by gender, age or other quality is unacceptable. Our success as a state depends upon it. What is that old adage? A rising tide lifts all boats? Help all of our citizens to live better and more equitable lives and everyone in our state is rewarded. To do otherwise is no longer an option. Thank you for your time and attention.