Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: May 17, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Alabama governor signs nation’s most restrictive abortion ban

On May 15, Republican Governor Kay Ivey officially signed an Alabama bill that prohibits abortion at every stage of pregnancy and makes performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison. What’s more, the measure includes an extremely narrow exception for cases when the mother’s life is at serious risk but intentionally omits any concessions for cases of rape and incest. That’s because this law was explicitly designed as a vehicle for the conservative Supreme Court to rewrite landmark precedent set 46 years ago in Roe v. Wade. In an attempt to justify this outrageous policy, the Alabama bill also employs appalling language directly comparing abortion to the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity. It is disgusting and offensive to use these atrocities to make a political point; we will not tolerate this inflammatory rhetoric or the devastating impact of this illegal measure. Feeling disheartened and disgusted? We urge you to fight back, take action, and speak out against the surge of anti-abortion restrictions sweeping our nation.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act reintroduced

On May 14, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) — reintroduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 2694). The legislation, closely modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, is designed to prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. The law would also protect pregnant workers from retaliation, coercion, intimidation, threats, or interference if they request such accommodations. NCJW supports this bill to protect maternal health and shield pregnant individuals from workplace discrimination.

House committee addresses racial disparities in maternal health

On May 16, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to discuss “overcoming racial disparities and social determinants in the maternal mortality crisis.” Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix — who suffered severe preeclampsia and underwent an emergency Caesarean section — joined doctors, academics, and medical experts in describing the causes of disproportionately high rates of pregnancy-related deaths among African American women. Watch the complete hearing here. Just last week, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act (HR 2602/S 1343) to address this increasingly critical issue. The bill would expand Medicaid coverage for pregnant women to a full year postpartum and increase access to midwives, community-based doulas, holistic birth workers, and other women’s health providers. NCJW supports this bill, alongside the MOMMA’s Act (HR 1897/S 916), consistent with our commitment to work for comprehensive, accessible, and affordable maternal and reproductive health services.

Federal Courts

Senate confirms three more unfit nominees

On May 14, Michael Truncale was confirmed to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by a 49-46 vote (Senator Mitt Romeny (R-UT) was the only senator to stray from party line, citing Truncale’s “disparaging” comments about President Obama.) On May 15, Kenneth Lee of California was confirmed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by a 52-45 vote. On May 16, Wendy Vitter was confirmed to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by a 52-45, with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) voting with the Democratic caucus due to Vitter’s extremely anti-choice views. NCJW opposed all three of these nominations and is deeply disappointed by the Senate’s confirmation of these unfit individuals who will now serve lifetime appointments on the federal bench.

Civil Rights

Equality Act set to pass House

The Equality Act (HR 5) is expected to pass the House of Representatives on the morning of May 17. This landmark bill would ensure that people nationwide understand that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people violates federal law by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of identities protected under the Civil Rights Act. The bill would also expand protections for women in public accommodations and federal funding, two areas not currently covered by existing federal civil rights law. NCJW sent a letter to all Representatives urging them to pass the Equality Act.

Appropriations for Justice, Commerce Departments

On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee released its Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill. The bill increases funding for some immigration court-related programs, such as legal orientation for immigrants and a grant program to provide legal representation at the border. The bill also includes language that would prohibit adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The appropriations bill will be marked up in committee on May 17.


White House immigration “plan” introduced

On May 16, President Trump introduced a plan that would prioritize merit-based immigration, cut family-based immigration, and increase immigrant detention and deportation. The plan was met with skepticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, particularly because it leaves out a permanent solution for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children. NCJW opposes this plan and its disregard for family unity.

Sign On Letters

  • On May 13, NCJW joined a letter organized by Detention Watch Network opposing supplemental funding for Fiscal Year 2019 for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice with regards to immigration detention and deportation.
  • On May 15, the Declaration for American Democracy coalition, of which NCJW is a member, sent letters to all 2020 presidential candidates calling on them to release a comprehensive democracy reform plan and make its enactment their top priority.
  • On May 15, NCJW joined 14 Jewish organizations on a letter to members of Congress supporting the Equality Act.
  • On May 16, NCJW submitted a comment to the Department of Labor (DOL) opposing a proposed rule to expand the pool of workers receiving overtime because it comes after a much more expansive rule on overtime was rescinded by the DOL and replaced by this narrow and weaker proposal.
  • On May 16, NCJW sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to vote yes on the Equality Act.

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