Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: April 3, 2020

Continued attacks on abortion jeopardize access to care

On March 30, the US District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking implementation of Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order banning abortion care as “medically unnecessary” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. TROs were also issued against similar bans in Ohio and Alabama, recognizing the “irreparable harm” such restrictions would inflict on those seeking essential abortion care in these states. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours later, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the Texas ban to go back into effect, leaving abortion providers to face $1,000 fines or jail time of up to 180 days. The deciding vote in the Fifth Circuit case was cast by Judge Kyle Duncan, who NCJW strongly opposed after President Trump nominated him in 2017. Some states continue to protect abortion access in the midst of this public health emergency while others have followed Texas, Ohio, and Alabama in attacking this time-sensitive procedure; notably, abortion rights groups have also filed lawsuits in Oklahoma and Iowa to block these actions. NCJW supports the outstanding work of our advocates and sections in Ohio and Texas and will continue to reinforce that both medical practice and Jewish sources firmly position abortion as essential health care.

  • Take Action! Share our Facebook and Twitter posts to say loud and clear that abortion should be protected in this critical time and always.

Trump rejects special enrollment period

This week, a White House official informed Politico that the Trump administration has decided against opening a special enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance exchange during the coronavirus pandemic. This would have made it much easier for the uninsured, including those who have recently lost their jobs, to find health coverage. Twelve states have recently reopened enrollment in their state-based marketplaces and the federal government has previously done so during emergencies like natural disasters. NCJW joined over 200 organizations on a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services to create an Emergency, 60-Day Special Enrollment Period in both federal and state-based exchanges and is outraged by the Trump administration’s refusal to protect American health and lives by doing so.

Trump nominates anti-health care circuit judges amid global pandemic 

On March 30, President Trump announced that he would nominate Cory Wilson to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Wilson had been under consideration for a federal district court judgeship in Mississippi until the administration tapped him for this higher position on the circuit court. On April 3, President Trump announced that he would nominate Justin Walker to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Walker was sworn into the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky exactly 3 weeks ago today by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for whom he served as a law clerk. At any time, these nominees would be unacceptable, but in the middle of a national public health crisis, they are particularly abhorrent. Wilson is vocal about his disdain for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and his wish to invalidate it, which would eliminate protections for 130 million people with preexisting conditions and take away health insurance from 19 million Americans. Walker has repeatedly praised Justice Brett Kavanaugh for his criticism of the ACA and attempts to dismantle it. Both nominees also have very troubling records that would make their nominations nonstarters even in normal times. Wilson frequently takes to Twitter to repeat partisan rhetoric; he has called a US Congresswoman a “claptrap,” complained about “Crooked Hillary,” and repeatedly disparaged President Obama. He once called Roe v. Wade the “result of a liberal activist court.” As a state legislator, he voted for a severely restrictive “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood and for a bill that would allow public and private businesses to legally refuse service to LGBTQ people based on the owner’s religious belief. Wilson voted to authorize concealed carry of firearms on any public property as well as carry of firearms in places of worship. Walker was rated “Not Qualified” by the non-partisan American Bar Association (ABA) in July of 2019 after he was nominated to the district court. The ABA specifically noted that Walker lacks any significant trial experience. During the nomination process for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Walker conducted 162 press interviews defending his former boss. He wrote in one article that Kavanaugh “would be a forceful conservative justice for decades to come.” NCJW strongly opposes the nominations of Cory Wilson and Justin Walker.

·        Take Action! Click here to learn more and tell your senators to oppose Wilson and Walker!

Federal judge orders release of ICE detainees

On March 31, a federal judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ordered the immediate release of 10 detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. The judge wrote that it would be “unconscionable and possibly barbaric” to continue to keep these chronically ill detainees in three facilities in Pennsylvania’s York, Clinton, and Pike counties. Another federal judge in New York City similarly ordered the release of a group of ICE detainees but the agency has still not altered its detention practices. NCJW calls on Congress and the administration to drastically reduce the overall population of people in immigration custody, including the over 38,000 immigrants in ICE custody, with a particular focus on “high risk” detainees with underlying medical conditions.

  • Take Action! Urge Congress to include NCJW priorities — including those protecting immigrants — in the next coronavirus response package.

Important mail-in voting bill introduced

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, S 3529. The measure would ensure voters have 20 days of early voting in all states, require that all mail-in ballots submitted during the 21 days leading to an election be counted, and ensure that all voters have the option to request absentee ballots. Watch the senators discuss their bill on our NCJWebinar, Protecting and Promoting the Vote During a Pandemic, here. NCJW supports this effort to ensure states are prepared to deal with COVID-19 as they keep their elections running smoothly and securely.

 Equal Pay Day highlights how COVID-19 pandemic is a gendered crisis

This past Tuesday, March 31, was Equal Pay Day, the date that symbolizes how far into the year the average woman must work in order to earn what the average man earns in the previous year regardless of experience or job type. With women disproportionately on the frontlines as health care workers, food service workers, grocery store cashiers, and unpaid caregivers at home, Equal Pay Day demonstrates how this ongoing crisis is a gendered one. The gender pay gap is unacceptable at all times but especially when we’re in an economic crisis like this one. NCJW supports securing equal pay for women.

 And, NCJW joined important sign on letters related to the coronavirus:

  • Joined 180 organizations on the ADL’s Joint Statement of Solidarity by Jewish Communal Organizations urging kindness and unity in the midst of the pandemic.
  • Joined over 60 organizations on URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity’s letter calling for immediate action during the COVID-19 public health crisis to center and support the most marginalized and system-impacted in our country.

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