On the Hill Updates

On the Hill Updates: Friday, May 14, 2021

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

HEAL Act reintroduced

On May 12, the Health Equity and Access Under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act was reintroduced in the House by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Nanette Barragán (D-CA) and in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). This important bill would remove onerous legal barriers and restore access to affordable coverage for all immigrants who are otherwise eligible to participate in public health care programs. Under current law, immigrants with status as lawful permanent residents have been forced to wait five years before participating in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). What’s more, undocumented immigrants are also blocked from purchasing insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) exchanges and accessing premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. Without the affordable coverage offered through these programs, obtaining health care is not a reality for many immigrant families. NCJW supports the HEAL Act as it advances access to comprehensive, accessible, and equitable health care and coverage.

First Momnibus bill passes House

On May 12, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act (HR 958/S 796) — one of the twelve bills included in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus (HR 959/S 346) —  passed the House with bipartisan support. This bill would codify and strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ maternity care coordination programs and commission the first-ever comprehensive study of the scope of America’s maternal health crisis among women veterans, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes. The larger Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 addresses every aspect of the maternal health crisis by making critical investments in social determinants of health and digital tools like telehealth, providing funding to community-based organizations, growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce, and so much more. NCJW supports the swift passage of the Momnibus Act to protect mothers everywhere.

FDA reviewing medication abortion restrictions

On May 7, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will review longstanding restrictions on mifepristone, a drug approved to end an early pregnancy that can be ingested by an individual on their own time, in their own space. For over twenty years, the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for mifepristone has forced people to unnecessarily pick up the medication in person, a requirement that is not imposed on any of the other more than 20,000 FDA-approved drugs.

Indeed, there is no scientific or medical justification for this requirement as evidence has clearly demonstrated that allowing mifepristone to be dispensed using telehealth and mail delivery does not change the strong safety profile of the drug or lead to poorer outcomes for patients. But it does improve access, particularly for the people of color, people who live in rural areas, and those struggling to make ends meet who are disproportionately impacted by this medically unnecessary abortion restriction.

Permanently ending the in-person dispensing requirement will bring us closer to a world where every person is able to access comprehensive, affordable, compassionate, and equitable abortion care in whatever setting they choose and at whatever time they choose. NCJW is thrilled that the FDA is taking steps to make abortion medication more accessible and eagerly awaits their final decision about the REMS.

  • Take Action! Sign our petition urging the FDA to allow remote prescriptions and mail delivery of mifepristone.

Federal Courts

Federal judge denies Texas defense of Title IX rule

This week, a federal judge dismissed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s request to intervene in a lawsuit to defend former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ Title IX rule, which mandates how schools must respond to reports of sexual misconduct. The judge, however, will allow the state to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief within the next 20 days. The Biden administration announced in March that it is reviewing the former administration’s Title IX policy. NCJW sent a comment to the DeVos Education Department opposing the rule, which would make schools more dangerous for students, and joined amicus briefs in two lawsuits brought by National Women’s Law Center. 

Well-qualified nominee for the federal circuit

On April 30, President Biden nominated Tiffany Cunningham for a lifetime position on the United States Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit. Cunningham is a registered patent attorney before the US Patent and Trademark office with over 20 years of experience in patent and intellectual property law, in addition to holding both a BS in Chemical Engineering and a law degree. Her confirmation would bring a critical perspective as a trained engineer to a court that deals with issues of technology, science, and medicine. NCJW supports Tiffany Cunningham for the Federal Circuit as her expertise and training uniquely qualify her for a lifetime appointment to the Federal Circuit.

Public defenders bring critical perspective to federal bench 

On May 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the nominations of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Courts of Appeals for the DC Circuit and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the US Courts of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Judge Jackson has a history of supporting reproductive health care, civil rights, disability rights, and labor rights and Jackson-Akiwumi has spent the majority of her career as a public defender. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for both nominees on April 28. NCJW supports Ketanji Brown Jackson and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi who have both demonstrated a deep commitment to protecting civil rights and ensuring equal access to justice throughout their careers. 

Voting Rights

For the People Act mark-up

On May 11, the Senate Rules Committee met to mark-up S1, the For the People Act. Unusually, both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) participated in the mark-up, as this bill is a critical piece of the Democrat’s agenda. The committee is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, so very few amendments to the bill were accepted and the bill itself was not passed out of committee. Majority Leader Schumer can use different procedural tools to bring S1 to the Senate floor for a vote and is expected to do so between now and August. NCJW supports this landmark democracy bill, especially as states continue to pass laws suppressing the votes of people of color. 

  • Take action! Use NCJW’s tool to call your senators and tell them to support S1. 

Gun Violence Prevention

Wear Orange for Gun Safety

The weekend of June 4-6, 2021 is Wear Orange Weekend. NCJW is proud, once again, to cosponsor National Gun Violence Awareness Day and the Wear Orange Weekend to honor survivors of gun violence and remember those who have senselessly lost their lives due to firearms. Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor when she was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15 — just one week after performing at President Obama’s 2nd inaugural parade in 2013. After her death, they asked us to stand up, speak out, and Wear Orange to raise awareness about gun violence. Learn more about how to participate virtually in your communities here.

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