On the Hill Updates: May 25, 2018

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Dangerous Domestic Gag Rule Announced

On May 22, the Trump-Pence Administration announced a new proposed rule currently being referred to as the ‘Domestic Gag Rule.’ This rule would deny Title X family planning funds to any health center that provides or gives referrals for abortion care. It would make it near impossible for millions of people to:

  • access birth control or preventive care from Planned Parenthood or other clinics;
  • obtain referrals for safe, legal abortion; and
  • receive full and accurate information about their medical options.

These changes could dramatically reduce access to care in communities across the country, damage the patient-provider relationship,and deepen existing inequities in the health system. NCJW strongly opposes this measure. Take action against this egregious rule here!

Health Equity and Accountability Act introduced 

This week, the leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus — comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus — introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2018 (HEAA, bill number forthcoming). While this health equity bill focuses on lessening health disparities, it also works to actively eliminate them. The measure would address the multiple factors that impact health by proposing programs to make sure the health care workforce reflects the communities it serves, and it would ensure that all Americans, regardless of immigration status, are legally protected when seeing medical care (and would have some form of health coverage). NCJW believes it is morally imperative that our nation’s health system works for everyone, regardless of race, disability, sexual orientation, gender, primary language, income, or other factors.


Federal Courts

Extremist judicial nominees move forward

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on May 24 to advance the federal judicial nominations of Wendy Vitter for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Andrew Oldham for the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Michael Truncale for the Eastern District of Texas. Two of these nominees, Vitter and Oldham, refused at their hearings to affirm that Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided. And, Truncale is a strong opponent of abortion, calling for defunding Planned Parenthood, and describing the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage policy as an “assault on the Catholic Church.” These nominees, all opposed by NCJW, are a huge blow to civil rights, abortion rights, and all of the rights we hold dear.

#CourtsMatter to worker rights

On May 21, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis (consolidated with Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris and National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.) to allow employers to force workers to forfeit certain rights afforded them by the National Labor Relations Act. In this particular case, employers will be able to force employees to arbitrate claims individually, rather than engage in their right to sue collectively. It is a significant blow to workers’ rights; everything from sexual harassment to pay discrimination may need to be addressed individually. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion while Justice Ginsberg wrote the dissent. NCJW believes forgoing the right to collective action should not be a condition of employment.

#CourtsMatter to lgbtq rights

On May 22, a federal district judge in Virginia denied a motion from the Gloucester County School Board to dismiss an ongoing case brought by Gavin Grimm, who while a student was denied access to facilities consistent with his gender identity. In the past few years, the case had moved up to the Supreme Court and back down again without a decision based on the merits of the case. This week, the judge ruled that the district had violated the law because Title IX protects Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination. The judge ordered the parties to reach settlement, but Gloucester County School Board is likely to appeal the decision.

On May 24, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Pennsylvania school district’s trans inclusive policy. The policy, which allowed transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identities, was challenged by an anti-LGBTQ organization. NCJW joined an amicus brief in support of the inclusive policy, and believes that all students and individuals should be able to access facilities consistent with their gender identities.


Sessions continues to reshape immigration courts

On May 17, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to cease administrative closures (temporarily removing cases from their dockets without issuing decisions). Judges have typically used administrative closures to close cases to allow visa and green card applications to make their way through the system (a process that can take years). NCJW finds this development troubling as it overturns decades of precedence and could lead to increased deportations.

Religious Freedom

Religious freedom bill introduced

On May 22, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Do No Harm Act (S 2918), which would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to ensure that it cannot be used to discriminate against or cause harm to third parties. If passed, the bill would prevent businesses and individuals from using religious belief to deny services, such as providing a wedding cake to a gay couple, or providing access to birth control in a company health plan. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) introduced the House version of the bill, HR 3222, in July 2017 which NCJW endorsed.


Sign On Letters

  • On May 23, NCJW joined more than 75 organizations on a letter organized by Alliance for Justice expressing concern about about President Trump’s  anti-immigrant and anti-refugee judicial nominees.
  • On May 23, more than 50 women’s organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by MomsRising urging Congress to engage in aggressive oversight and enact legislation that affirms the dignity of immigrant women and children.
  • On May 23, NCJW organizations joined 25 organizations on a letter organized by the National Women’s Law Center urging Congress to support increased funding for child care.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Barker v. Conroy, a case before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stemming from a nontheist being denied the opportunity to give an opening invocation at a legislative session.