Bill banning female genital mutilation headed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk | Friday Morning Coffee

June 21, 2019 7:15 am

Gov. Tom Wolf in Philadelphia on Wednesday (Capital-Star photo).

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Legislation that could spare more than 19,000 women across Pennsylvania from the practice known as “female genital mutilation” is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

The state Senate gave its final, unanimous approval Wednesday to the legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Murt, R-Montgomery, banning the practice, and punish violators with a first-degree felony.

In a Jan. 16 memo seeking co-sponsors for his proposal, Murt, of Hatboro, described the practice, which  “involves the non-medical and non-necessary cutting of the female genitalia.

“FGM is a coming-of-age ritual in various parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and 15; thus meaning that the procedure is carried out on young girls with no choice. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 140 million women and children worldwide have been affected by female genital cutting or FGM,” the memo continues.

“However, according to the African Women’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, it is estimated that 228,000 women in the United States have been cut because they come from a community where this practice is common,” Murt wrote.

“Not only is this practice taking place in Pennsylvania, it is actually on this rise,” he added.

The Pennsylvania House chamber. Image via Flickr Commons

In a statement, a national advocacy group called the  EndFGMToday campaign credited Murt and Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, for their work on the issue, as well as U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, who has urged the  legislation’s passage into law.

The organization “applauds Pennsylvania lawmakers who stood up for women and girls with the passage of this important bill,” its head, Elizabeth Yore, said in a statement. “FGM is child abuse. In fact, the CDC estimates that 513,000 girls are at risk of FGM in the United States, and Pennsylvania ranks 11th for FGM risk among all states. Soon, females at risk for this brutal procedure will be free from the horror of female genital mutilation.”

Citing data by the Population Reference Bureau, “more than 19,000 women and girls in Pennsylvania are at risk for FGM, ranking it 11th in the nation, Yore noted. Furthermore, the PRB found that the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA/NJ/DE; Harrisburg-Carlisle; and Pittsburgh regions of Pennsylvania are also top metropolitan areas in the nation for FGM risk,” Yore’s group said in its statement.

When Gov. Tom Wolf signs it into law, Pennsylvania will become the 33rd state in the country to ban female genital mutilation, Yore said.

In a statement, Murt called the bill’s final passage a “major victory for the women of Pennsylvania. 

“I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and Senate for taking this strong and unified stand for the right to be safe from this kind of abuse. FGM is a crime of violence against women. With Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature the law will explicitly state that,” he said.

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And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.