On the Hill Updates: August 14, 2020
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
#AbortionAccess4All Digital Lobby Day
Thank you to all of the amazing advocates who joined NCJW for our #AbortionAccess4All Digital Lobby Day on August 12! Our day was a smashing success, with new petition signatories and at least two new cosponsors for the EACH Woman Act; 19 lobby visits spanning CA, CO, MD, VA, and TX; countless phone calls with offices; and over 5.3 MILLION hits on our hashtag. This incredible turnout couldn’t have happened without our fabulous partners at All* Above All and the Act for Women campaign as well as our 27 organizational cosponsors. Still looking to do more? Don’t worry — there are still plenty of ways to keep the momentum going! Here is our document with all of the relevant links you need to take action in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act and the EACH Woman Act. You can also check out the recording of the opening NCJWebinar featuring Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
Public Charge rule back in effect
On August 13, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the preliminary injunction granted in July blocking the public charge rule from going into effect is limited only to the Second Circuit — i.e. New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. This means the rule is in effect everywhere else in the nation. The public charge rule radically expands the list of programs that will be considered as the government determines whether someone is likely to become a public charge (i.e. dependent on the government) to include food assistance, housing vouchers, Medicaid, and beyond. If deemed a public charge, immigrants can be prevented from entering the US, receiving a green card, or sponsoring family members. NCJW advocates wrote hundreds of comments opposing the rule, which is especially cruel during a pandemic when all people, regardless of their immigration status, may need additional health or economic assistance.
#CourtsMatter to abortion rights and access
On August 7, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction blocking the enforcement of four Arkansas abortion restrictions passed in 2017. The shameful laws require clinics to report the names of minor abortion patients to local law enforcement, force providers to spend “reasonable time and effort” acquiring a patient’s medical records for their “entire pregnancy history,” and ban the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortions while permitting a patient’s husband to sue the provider to stop the procedure. Perhaps most alarmingly, a regulation concerning the disposal of fetal tissue would force patients pregnant as a result of rape to notify their rapists before terminating their pregnancies and effectively prohibit medication abortion.
To justify their decision, the judges cited Chief Justice John Roberts’ separate opinion in June Medical Services v. Russo, in which he explicitly disagreed with the plurality’s interpretation of the undue burden standard. While Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Court applied the standard set in 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt — which requires courts to weigh the medical benefits of an abortion restriction against its burdens — Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion overturned that test and does not allow courts to consider whether a regulation provides any benefits to patients. The Eighth Circuit’s decision confirms what many abortion rights advocates feared: that anti-abortion politicians and judges would exploit that lack of a clear majority in June Medical Services to enact and uphold a wide range of bans and restrictions. We need a federal statute with clear guidance to states and courts to ensure that people in every state have access to abortion care. NCJW supports the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA, HR 2975/S 1645) as a means to this end.
- Take Action! Urge your lawmakers to call for a vote and pass WHPA.
Judiciary Committee confirms two anti-abortion nominees
At its July 30 executive session, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations of David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn to the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by a 13-9 vote. The full Senate will vote on these nominees sometime after the August recess. During his successful campaign for an Illinois state circuit court seat, David Dugan made it clear that he believed that life began at conception and that “. . . from that moment forward, taking that child’s life is the taking of a human life.” He questioned the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and was involved in various organizations as an anti-abortion advocate. He supports biased counseling laws and restricting abortion access for young people. Stephen McGlynn was a leader in the Illinois Federation for Right to Life. He was endorsed in his campaign for the state appellate court by Illinois Citizens for Life PAC and by Family PAC, which is affiliated with the Illinois Family Institute, an organization designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. NCJW opposes David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn for lifetime seats on the federal bench.
- Take Action! Contact your senators and urge them to oppose these two troubling anti-abortion district court nominees.
Anti-abortion, anti-immigration nominee for US District Court
On July 29, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Toby Crouse, nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Since 2018, Crouse served as Kansas Solicitor General where he proved to be a highly partisan opponent of many important rights — reproductive, voting, and workers, among others. On behalf of the state of Kansas, he urged the Supreme Court to review a case defunding Planned Parenthood, a case that the Tenth Circuit disagreed with and the Supreme Court declined to hear. Crouse joined amicus briefs in several other anti-reproductive health care cases. In private practice, Crouse defended the infamous Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a case challenging his redistricting plan. Later, as Solicitor General, Crouse supported other restrictive voting laws. He joined amicus briefs in anti-immigration, anti-worker, anti-gun safety, and other cases challenging basic rights. Crouse’s biased approach to the law demonstrates that he should be kept far from the opportunity to serve a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
- Take Action! Call your senators using this script: My name is [name] and I’m calling on behalf of the National Council of Jewish Women [section] in [state] representing [x number of people]. The nomination of Toby Crouse to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas would be detrimental the abortion, immigration, voting, and so many of our rights given his demonstrated background. I urge you to oppose his nomination to a lifetime seat on our federal bench.
19th Amendment turns 100 next week
August 18 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by the final state (Tennessee). The 19th Amendment, which was certified on August 26, granted women the right to vote; however, in practical terms, only white women were enfranchised at the time. Use these talking points as you acknowledge, consider, and react to this complicated legacy.
- Take Action! Want to commemorate this anniversary by expanding access to the ballot? Register for the NCJWebinar Leadership Series on August 19, “NCJW & National Voter Registration Day: Get Out the Vote!”
On August 8, the president issued an executive order and three presidential memoranda aimed at addressing critical issues facing Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic. While it’s likely he lacks the authority and power to issue such decrees (and, as such, will face legal challenges), they also fell far short of actually impacting the serious needs of our country:
- Unemployment – This creates a new unemployment program where the federal government would provide $300 per person while the states would be expected to provide $100. This is not unemployment insurance and it would burden states that are already struggling with their budgets.
- Payroll tax deferral – This is not an actual payroll tax cut; rather, it is a short term loan for five weeks that has to be paid back starting in December. The funds would go to employers rather than directly to workers.
- Evictions – This does not extend the evictions moratorium. It simply instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary and Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “consider” whether an eviction ban is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Student loans – Defers student loan payments through December 31st.
NCJW supports the House-passed HEROES Act, a real response to the COVID-19 pandemic that directs more than $3 trillion to state and local governments, health systems, and a wide range of progressive initiatives.
- Take Action! Urge your senators to consider the HEROES Act to address the immediate public health emergency, support families and workers, ensure fair and safe elections, and prepare for a successful recovery.
Senate stalled on COVID relief
As the Senate is no closer to considering either a new COVID-relief package or the House-passed HEROES Act, Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Coronavirus Language Access Act to meet the needs of vulnerable communities, and specifically those with limited language proficiency. This measure, supported by NCJW and more than 150 national and local organizations, would ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, including older Americans and people with disabilities, have access to vital coronavirus-related information, services, and relief programs. More than 25 million people in the United States have limited English proficiency — 15 percent of whom are age 65 or older, and many LEP individuals are working on the front lines of the pandemic and may face greater risks of contracting COVID-19.