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Don't Judge Me Till You Walk in My Shoes

Advancing Reproductive Justice in Tennessee 

By LaQuita Martin, NCJW Tennessee State Policy Advocate

When Roe v. Wade was decided, I was still in high school. I was just learning about the Pill and sexuality — my one date at the time ended with a kiss on the cheek. I learned more about the importance of Roe when college friends and sorority sisters needed abortions to continue their academic lives. Although an unplanned pregnancy never entered my medical history, I was glad to know the option of choice was available.

Fast forward to 1998. I was happily married with a three-year-old. Wanting to grow our family, my husband and I underwent six rounds of assisted fertility before learning we were pregnant again. Everything progressed fine until my 19-week ultrasound, when we learned the fetus had three heart defects, any one of which was incompatible with life outside the womb. After consulting four physicians, two rabbis (one Reform and one Orthodox), family members, and friends, it became clear the pregnancy needed to end. In the days that followed, I found myself vacillating between anger at G-d and overwhelming grief.

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"Je suis Elsa"

by Linda Geller-Schwartz, Florida State Policy Advocacy Co-Chair

Linda Geller-SchwartzEurope and America are still reeling from last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and seeking solidarity and defiance through the declaration of “Je suis Charlie.” The brutal murders at Charlie Hebdo appeared to be a direct threat to the liberal, secularist, humanist societies we have created.  Whether the cartoons were racist or legitimate satire was beside the point when the response was cold-blooded murder.

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The National Voter Registration Act, Fundamental to Civil Rights

By Robin Leeds, NCJW, Inc. Board Director

Robin Leeds HeadshotAt NCJW, our mission is to advance social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, andfamilies. What people may not realize is that the linchpin in this equation is simple – showing up at the polls on Election Day and casting a ballot. But rather than put up roadblocks to registration and voting, as the Supreme Court is now allowing in states across the country, the US government should empower every eligible citizen to participate in elections.

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Showing Up for Racial Justice

By Michelle Erenberg, NCJW State Policy Advocacy Chair, Louisiana 

Michelle Erenberg“We who have seen the slaughter of six million of our brothers can only shudder in cognizant agony at the thought that our Negro brothers are still dying to purchase the same freedom for which we too have bled and died.”
-Rabbi Robert Marx with Dr. King at Soldier Field in 1966

Last month I attended Facing Race, a national conference organized by Race Forward to advance racial justice movement building. I learned of this conference through several social justice colleagues in New Orleans. There were so many workshops each day it was difficult to choose which to attend. But because I was there mostly to learn more about how I could better serve my New Orleans community in my capacity with NCJW, I focused on sessions that would build my understanding of the important role that faith leaders and white people could play in addressing racism in our society.

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Inequality is Unhealthy. Literally.

By Leanne Gale, NCJW Grassroots Associate

It was a chilly 8:00am when I set out to Capitol Hill for my first lobby day. Leanne Gale

As I passed by throngs of tourists and joggers, I anxiously went over the basics. The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA, HR 5294) is a comprehensive, broadly-supported bill designed to reduce ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. The Congressional Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Hispanic Caucus all champion the legislation as a crucial step forward for their communities. The bill includes important provisions for women and children, including comprehensive sex education, compassionate care for survivors of sexual assault, and easier access to contraception. I knew my talking points.

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Pregnant and Penalized

Madeline Shepherd Rally Peggy Young had been a UPS driver for seven years when she successfully underwent in vitro fertilization in 2006 and became pregnant. A few months into her pregnancy, she gave her supervisor and the UPS occupational health manager a note from her midwife recommending that she not lift over 20lbs. Because her job delivering air-mail rarely entailed heavy lifting, Young explained that she was willing to stay in her regular job or switch to light duty. At that time, UPS policy offered light duty for workers with on-the-job injuries, who had disabilities, or who had lost their driver’s license. However, Peggy Young’s manager said her pregnancy did not warrant the same consideration, and that she could not continue working in her regular job. As a result, Young was forced onto extended unpaid leave during which she lost her health insurance coverage.

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Victory in Seattle: Acting to End Bans on Abortion Coverage

By Cheryl Berenson, NCJW Washington State Policy Advocate

In all of my years advocating for progressive issues, only a few instances have produced success in such a short period of time!

Last November, I flew from my home in Seattle to Washington, DC, to represent NCJW for the launch of the All Above All campaign to eliminate the Hyde Amendment (“Hyde”). This harmful policy was first anchored to the US budget in 1976 and has been reaffirmed by politicians in Congress every year since then, continuing its destructive impact on women across America. Under Hyde, women serving in our military, those enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers, women in prison, and our American Indian communities are all blocked from accessing insurance coverage of abortion — simply because they are poor or obtain their health care through a federal program. This is discrimination. And, making abortion more difficult to obtain, this policy erodes a woman’s moral and bodily autonomy; it denies her the ability to make her own faith-informed decision about whether to end a pregnancy, become a parent, or choose adoption.

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Voting Rights for the District of Columbia: It's About Time


by Brenda Batts, NCJW Washington Office Manager 

Brenda BattsI am a native Washingtonian—a rare breed.  Born and raised in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, I have lived through and witnessed many a change in my lifetime.  More recently, population shifts have dramatically changed DC’s landscape.  Salaries have increased and average $40K for an administrative assistant, to $101K for a project manager or IT personnel (Pay Scale/Human Capital).  The number of homes with a value of less than $250,000 fell from 63,645 in 2000 to 17,640 in 2010. The median price of homes currently listed in DC is $449,900 while the median price of homes that sold is $502,796. The median rent price in Washington is $2,250 (Zillow). There is change everywhere in DC, including bike lanes, booming businesses and brisk patronage at the many new restaurants here. Also, there has been an increase in new and innovative public charter schools—DC public charter schools enrolled 160 students in 1996. Today, more than 38,000 students are enrolled at over 100 campuses. (FOCUS)

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NCJW Advocate & Breast Cancer Survivor: My ACA Story


By Christine Stone, NCJW, Inc. Assistant Treasurer

I’ll never forget October 1, 2013. That Tuesday marked the first day the health insurance marketplace (also known as the exchange) became open under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. It was also the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Christine StoneAs an NCJW member, I worked alongside other volunteers and staff partners to achieve enactment of that 2010 health care reform law. The ACA was voted on and signed while many of us were together at NCJW’s triennial policy conference, Washington Institute. I can remember during our State Policy Advocacy (SPA) training being asked to place at call to a member of Congress to make sure she/he was going to vote ‘yes.’ We weren’t taking anything for granted.  At the time, little did I know that our hard work on this law would directly benefit me.

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Notes from New Orleans: Are You Ready for Election Day?

by Michelle Erenberg, Lousiana State Policy Advocacy Chair 

Michelle's Headshot

November 4 marks the 2014 mid-term elections, and while it may not garner the enthusiasm of a Presidential election, it is still critically important to vote. Despite the TV commercials, mailers, and endless email solicitations from politicians, groups, and parties, many people don’t realize there is an important election around the corner! The rate of voter turnout in the United States is a sad comment on civic engagement. In Presidential elections, the number of registered voters that go to the polls rarely reaches 65%. In mid-term elections, that number drops by almost 20%.

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