NCJW : The NCJW Insider

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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NCJW Gets Bold on Capitol Hill with All* Above All

By Joni Cohan, NCJW Inc. Board Vice President and NCJW Greater Dallas Section member

NCJW NLIRH and Lilith Fund w Rep Sheila Jackson LeeIn mid-September, I flew half way across the country, from my home in Dallas to Washington, DC, to join a coalition effort seeking an end to a policy that has harmed women for 38 years too long, known as the Hyde Amendment. This event was coordinated by the All* Above All campaign, which unites individuals and organizations to end bans like Hyde, a federal policy which has restricted Medicaid from covering abortion since it was first passed by Congress in 1976. Since then, it has seeped into other federal programs. People who are enrolled in the Medicaid program in most states, as well as federal employees, military service members, and even contractors whose insurance is provided by the federal government, cannot receive coverage for abortion care.

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#WeMatter: Workplace Policies and Women's Economic Security

When news broke that her daughter was pregnant, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked whether she couldCAP Conference potentially run for president of the United States as a grandmother. As so many other career-driven women with families have, she faced the question: can you have it all?

Although Secretary Clinton should never have been asked if she could balance her role as grandmother and her career trajectory, for countless other women the answer is simply, “no.” The demands of providing care and an income for a family are impossible to juggle, in large part because workplace policies start with the assumption that households have one full-time worker and one full-time caregiver.

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Big Wins for NCJW Advocacy in California

by Claire Lipschultz, California State Policy Advocate 

An earlier Insider NCJW blog described 2014 California Lobby Days in which over 60 NCJW members from across the state lobbied in Sacramento on behalf of bills that impacted the lives of women, families and children. However, many NCJW lobbying efforts preceded and followed this important day of advocacy. In addition to walking the halls of the Capitol, Sections’ members and the SPAs engaged in sustained advocacy efforts at the local and statewide level throughout the legislative process. Beginning with the very first committee hearing and continuing until bills sat on the Governor’s desk, lawmakers and their staff heard from NCJW members.  Section Policy Advocacy leaders and the SPAs mobilized members to send letters and emails, make phone calls and sign petitions to make our voices heard. We met with staff and legislators in Sacramento and at in-district meetings to discuss our bills of interest, and attended committee hearings to give testimony. Locally, we educated the broader community on issues to generate support for our positions, and added our voice to partner coalitions.

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Reality Check: Voting Rights are at Risk Everywhere

by Cheryl Berenson, NCJW Washington State Policy Advocate

I am the child of a “Greatest Generation” father. My dad was a World War II Navy pilot and completed his higher education with help from the GI Bill. The hard and fast rule in our house was: vote. There were no two ways about it; if you had not voted, you did not admit it to my father. I believe strongly, just like my dad, that every voter and every vote counts. He passed on his belief that voting is one of the most important civic responsibilities in our democratic society.

So, it never occurred to be that some people in our community – here, even in Washington State – might face discrimination and other obstacles that prevent them from casting a ballot.

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Throwback Thursday: How Far we've come on Immigration Reform

The still-broken US immigration system continues to affect cities, towns, and communities across the country.

Despite the absence of progress by federal lawmakers – and perhaps in spite of this absence –debate and discussion about the chances for successful reform have not waned. The broad coalitions working to advance practicable solutions have made great strides politically. And in several important ways, like expanding in-state tuition eligibility and local protest against dangerous federal policies, they have improved the experience of living as an undocumented person in the US.

But pursuing a goal like immigration reform can be exhausting. For inspiration to forge ahead, it’s worth reflecting on the last two years and how far the country has come on immigration reform.

In 2012, a presidential candidate described his position on immigration reform as “self-deportation,” a strategy that would use policies and identification systems to make it impossible for undocumented immigrants in the US to find work and therefore drive them to leave the country. Only a year later, a bipartisan group of eight senators announced their intention to unveil a comprehensive immigration package, one that NCJW supported: S 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

This senate bill would provide a path to earned citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US, as well as overhaul the visa, employment verification, and border security systems. Although not perfect, it was a good start to addressing a long-overlooked problem.

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Time to #FixHobbyLobby – Because Our Health and Rights are No Laughing Matter

 

What do an arts and crafts store, a furniture manufacturer, and a fresh produce distributor have in common? While I wish this was the opening to a good joke, the sad reality is that each one is a private business that has been allowed to assert a religious objection to withhold birth control coverage from their workers as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (Hobby Lobby). In its June 2014 decision, the Court held that certain private companies can use religion to discriminate against workers by denying them basic healthcare that is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The consequence of this ruling is no joke, either. While Hobby Lobby originated from claims over a few specific forms of birth control, the Supreme Court’s ruling applied to all forms of contraception. What’s more is that they didn’t limit birth control as the only benefit a company could refuse to cover, meaning that denying workers birth control may just be the tip of the iceberg. Other health benefits – mental health care, immunizations, and HIV/AIDS treatment, among others – could be next. All of this doesn’t even approach what could happen if the wall of separation between religion and state continues to be torn down, as this 3-minute Coalition for Liberty and Justice video shows.

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