On the Hill Updates

On the Hill Updates: Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

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 have 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

Well-Qualified Nominee for the Federal Circuit

On May 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Tiffany Cunningham to serve 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 the Federal Bench 

On April 30, President Biden announced 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.  udge 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 and a committee vote on their nominations is expected on May 20. 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. 

Nondiscrimination provisions in the ACA restored

In June 2020, the Trump administration rolled back critical nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and women established by the Obama administration found in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This week, the Biden administration restored these protections against discrimination. Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will once again prohibit discrimination in the ACA based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

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.

Administration eyes regulating “ghost guns”

On May 7, the Department of Justice issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would update the definitions of “firearm” and related parts for the first time since 1968. The proposed rule would modernize the definition of “frame or receiver” and help close a regulatory loophole associated with the un-serialized privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes across the country. These unmarked firearms, known as “ghost guns,” are often assembled from kits that are sold without background checks, making them easily acquired by those who otherwise would not be permitted to possess a firearm. From 2016 to 2020, more than 23,000 un-serialized firearms were reported to have been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes — including in connection with 325 homicides or attempted homicides. The proposed rule, once implemented, would help address the proliferation of these un-serialized firearms in three ways:

  • To help keep guns from being sold to convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers, the rule would make clear that retailers must run background checks before selling kits that contain the parts necessary for someone to readily make a gun at home;
  • To help law enforcement trace guns used in a crime, the rule would require that manufacturers include a serial number on the firearm “frame or receiver” in easy-to-build firearm kits; and
  • To help reduce the number of “ghost guns” on our streets, the rule would set out requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers to have a serial number added to 3D printed guns or other un-serialized firearms they take into inventory.

Once the proposed rule is published, the public will have 90 days to submit a comment. NCJW supports the expansion and enforcement of laws, policies, and programs that regulate firearms and ammunition, ban assault and other military-style weapons and accessories, and prevent gun violence and promote gun safety, and plans to submit a comment in support of this effort.

Immigration and Refugees

Biden raises refugee cap

On May 3, President Biden raised the refugee admissions cap this fiscal year from the historically low 15,000 refugees — set by President Trump — to 62,500. He also recommitted to accepting 125,000 refugees the next fiscal year (beginning October 1, 2021). The declaration follows a back and forth over the past month as to whether he would increase the cap this year. The administration acknowledged it would struggle to actually welcome 62,500 refugees, in large part due to the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the program, as well as the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. NCJW supports raising the cap, as it sends a message to refugees around the world that they are once again welcome in the United States.

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