Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: March 22, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Senate HELP Democrats call for hearing on Trump’s gag rule

On March 19, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee sent a letter to chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) calling for a hearing on the Trump Administration’s domestic gag rule. Noting that the effects of the unnecessary changes to the Title X program “would be devastating nationwide and in our home states,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and their Democratic colleagues urged committee leadership “to scrutinize the policy with the due diligence it deserves.” Read the full letter here. Unless a federal court blocks its implementation, the new rule will go into effect on May 3, 2019. NCJW strongly opposes attempts to block low-income women, women of color, young women, and LGBTQ individuals from accessing safe and legal abortion and family planning services and submitted comments opposing the proposed gag rule in July 2018.

Happy 9th birthday ACA!

On March 23, 2010, former President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as the ACA) into law. Over the past nine years, the ACA has affected monumental changes in health care access and affordability, representing the most significant legislative advancement for women’s health in decades. With the enactment of the ACA, 9.5 million uninsured women gained affordable, comprehensive coverage. Between 2013 and 2015, the first two full years of ACA implementation, the proportion of uninsured women of reproductive age (15-44) declined by 36%. Here are just some of the reasons NCJW is celebrating the ACA’s 9th birthday:

    • The ACA is the first federal to prohibit gender discrimination (including gender identity discrimination) in health care. The law specifically bars discriminatory gender-rating, the practice of routinely charging women significantly higher premiums than men (costing American women $1 billion annually prior to the ACA’s implementation).
  • Essential health benefits are particularly important for women as plans must cover preventive services such as birth control, well woman visits, mammograms, lactation counseling and supplies, and screenings for gestational diabetes and cervical cancer at no cost to the patient.
  • Without financial assistance, many marginalized groups (including low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, young women, and LGBTQ individuals) faced the impossible choice of going without health insurance or straining their resources to pay for services out-of-pocket. By introducing provisions to help low- and moderate-income women and families buy health insurance, over 9 million women who would have gone without affordable coverage became eligible for ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions as of 2014.
  • The ACA provided states with the option to expand Medicaid, resulting in 3.3 million more women holding Medicaid coverage in 2014 compared to the previous year. Augmented Medicaid coverage promotes women’s economic security because those covered by this program are less likely to disregard other bills or to borrow money to pay medical expenses than individuals without health insurance.
  • Finally, the ACA empowers women to pursue new employment or educational opportunities without risk of losing affordable health coverage. As access to birth control has also been linked to increased wages and lifetime earnings for women, the ACA’s reproductive health requirements are particularly critical to maximizing women’s economic potential and security.

Federal Courts

#CourtsMatter to Immigration

On March 19, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the rights of immigrants in Nielsen v. Preap, one of the cases NCJW is watching this term. Specifically, the majority held that federal authorities may detain immigrants who commit crimes, no matter how minor or how long ago, indefinitely without a hearing or possibility of bond. During oral arguments in October of last year, Justice Kavanaugh took a hard line against due process rights for immigrants, insisting there should be no time limits on such detention. NCJW supports due process for immigrants and is outraged by this overreaching decision.

#CourtsMatter to Voting Rights

On March 18, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, another case that NCJW is watching this term. In 2014, a group of voters charged that Virginia’s House of Delegate districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The case made its way to the Supreme Court where, in 2017, one district was upheld. The other eleven were sent back to the lower courts and were ultimately struck down as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering and out of compliance with voting rights laws. The outcome of this case will affect how districts are drawn after the decennial census in 2020. NCJW supports election laws, policies, and practices that ensure easy and equitable access and eliminate obstacles to the electoral process so that every vote counts and can be verified.

LGBTQ victory in lower court stands

This week the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the owner of a Hawaii B&B who refused to rent a room to a lesbian couple, in defiance of the state’s anti-discrimination law. The owner claimed her refusal was protected by her constitutional right to free exercise of religion. By declining to hear the case, the state court’s ruling that the owner had violated the law stands. NCJW supports state anti-discrimination laws and applauds this outcome.

Economic Justice

Equal pay bill up for vote

Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act (HR 7/S 270). The bill would deter wage discrimination by updating and strengthening the Equal Pay Act, bar retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages to co-workers, and prohibit employers from seeking a job applicant’s salary history so that pay discrimination will no longer follow women and people of color from job to job. NCJW encourages representatives to pass this landmark bill.  



Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

VAWA vote in April

In the first week of April, the House of Representatives plans to vote on a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA, HR 1585). The bill builds on the 2013 reauthorization and provides expanded protection, justice, and services to all survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

Sign On Letters

  • On March 15, the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs published a statement opposing a proposed rule that would make it more difficult for people to receive supplemental nutrition assistance.

Related Resources