WASHINGTONJan. 10, 2019 — Ohio is the latest state to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM) with the signing of Senate Bill 214 by Governor Kasich. This state legislation follows a November ruling that the 1996 federal ban on FGM is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who made the ruling, also threw out the mutilation charges against all defendants in the Michigan FGM case.

Ohio is leading by example, they are the first to pass legislation after the ruling. Lawmakers there have made it clear that protecting women and girls is a priority,” said America Matters’ CEO, Lt. Col. Samantha Nerove, US Army, Ret.

In 2018, New Hampshire was the only state to take the bold step to outlaw the barbaric practice. Several other states also introduced anti-FGM legislation last year but failed to pass it due to political divisiveness or poor prioritization.

“The Judge’s decision felt like a huge blow to those who have worked tirelessly to protect and defend women and girls. Judge Friedman made it clear that individual states have the right to make the practice illegal. Lawmakers in states without FGM laws should act immediately to protect their most vulnerable citizens,” said James Middlebrook, Director of Legislative Affairs for America Matters.

Protecting little girls from physical and emotional pain isn’t a bipartisan issue and should be a priority for every lawmaker in this nation. Twenty-two states still do not have anti-FGM laws. Americans can help by contacting their state representatives to demand their state criminalize FGM; and, by signing the #StopFGM State Law Petition to stand with America Matters as we work to ensure FGM is illegal in all 50 states.

Nerove said, “Over half a million girls in America have undergone or are at risk of female genital mutilation. They deserve protection. FGM violates the core American Values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, more than ever, states must pass legislation that protects girls from this gender-based violence against women.”

Samantha Nerove is Founder/CEO of America Matters, a non-profit foundation that focuses on issues people care about not party or politics. She’s a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, paratrooper, and combat veteran.