Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: May 3, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Trump administration finalizes rule authorizing discrimination

On May 2, the Department of Health and Human Services released its final rule permitting any individual or entity involved in a patient’s care to use their moral or religious beliefs to dictate that person’s access to health services. This means that a hospital’s board of directors, an insurance company, or even the receptionist that schedules procedures can refuse to provide an abortion for a woman in an acute medical crisis, fire an employee for having a same-sex partner, or override patient preferences for transition-related care. Granting entire institutions the rights of conscience that should be left to individuals is an affront to the Jewish traditions of pursuing justice for all and safeguarding individual religious liberty. NCJW believes that every single person especially the LGBTQ patients, patients of color, and low-income patients who already face barriers to care and are more likely to experience discrimination in accessing health services deserves fair treatment, dignity, and the basic human right to make their own medical decisions and submitted comments vehemently opposing this regulation.

Labor-HHS appropriators advance 2020 spending bill

On April 30, the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee approved Democrats’ 2020 budget proposal along party lines. The bill — which funds the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) — includes $50 million for gun violence research and imposes new protections for the treatment of migrant children in HHS facilities. Significantly, lawmakers also added strong language blocking the Trump administration’s Title X gag rule from taking effect and allocated $400 million for the program, a historic $113.5 million increase from fiscal year 2019. While NCJW supports these and other positive provisions, we are deeply disappointed that, despite the House’s pro-choice majority, the Hyde Amendment remains in the spending bill. We will continue the fight to end coverage bans once and for all, protecting those most impacted by this discriminatory measure: people of color, young people, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and people struggling to make ends meet.

Historic Medicare for All hearing

On April 30, the House Rules Committee held the first hearing examining single-payer health care in a decade, allowing Democrats to present a strong case for Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-WA) Medicare for All bill (HR 1384). As the committee has little jurisdiction over health care, the hearing was meant to bolster support for the bill and lawmakers primarily asked questions about how the proposal would work and how much it would cost. Notably, the bill — which includes free coverage of abortion care — continues to move forward as Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has promised to hold a hearing on the proposal soon. Watch this complete Rules Committee hearing here. Health care for all is a reproductive justice issue and NCJW works to ensure all patients have access to comprehensive, affordable, confidential, and equitable family planning, reproductive, sexual health, and maternal health services.

Federal Courts

Judicial confirmations under President Trump surpass 100

On May 1 and 2, the Senate confirmed five district court nominees, bringing the total number of lifetime judicial confirmations under the Trump Administration to 102. Among those confirmed this week were J. Campbell Barker, whom NCJW opposed. The fast pace of these confirmations is due to Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s (R-KY) recent triggering of the nuclear option to speed up confirmations. NCJW continues to condemn the use of the “nuclear option” to quickly pack the courts with conservative ideologues.

Voting rights victories in Michigan and Texas

On April 25, federal judges in Michigan ruled its 2011 redistricting plan as unconstitutional, and ordered new maps by the 2020 election. If the Republican-controlled state legislature and Democratic governor cannot agree on a plan in time, the court will draw its own.

In Texas, officials settled with civil rights groups who filed suit after the state’s disastrous and discriminatory attempt to purge its voter rolls in January. The state agreed to withdraw the flawed voter purge list and create a new process to maintain its voter rolls.

Multiple nationwide injunctions block implementation of Title X gag rule

Two district court judges have issued nationwide injunctions against the Trump administration’s Title X gag rule, preventing the dangerous policy from taking effect on May 3. The first injunction was issued by Judge Stanley Bastian of the Eastern District of Washington on April 25 immediately after hearing cases brought by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association and the state’s Attorney General. On April 29, Judge Michael McShane of the District of Oregon granted the second nationwide injunction to a coalition of more than 20 states, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Medical Association. Judge McShane wrote that the regulation “prevents doctors from behaving like informed professionals,” “prevents low-income women from making an informed and independent medical decision,” and makes the “arrogant assumption that government is better suited to direct the health care of women than their medical providers.”

Meanwhile, in a suit brought by the California Attorney General and the state’s Title X administrator, Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California issued a limited injunction applicable only to the state of California. Related cases continue in Maine and Maryland. NCJW strongly opposes this illegal policy threatening the health of 4 million patients.

  • Take Action! Urge your representative to support the Title X protections in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Civil Rights

Equality Act passes committee

On May 1, the Equality Act (HR 5/S 788) passed the House Judiciary Committee along a party line vote (22-10). Harmful amendments were rejected by the committee, including a proposal to remove the bill’s religious freedom carve-out. The bill will now advance to a vote before the full House of Representatives.  

Gun Violence Prevention

Wear orange for gun violence prevention

June 7 will mark Gun Violence Awareness Day, with Wear Orange Weekend on June 8-9. 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 second inaugural parade in 2013. Since then orange has been the defining color of the gun violence prevention movement.


Family separation update

In March, Judge Dana Sabraw of the US District Court of the Southern District of California ordered the reunification of families separated anytime after July 1, 2017. At a status conference on this process on April 25, Judge Sabraw ordered the government to identify all separated families within six months; the federal government had requested two years. Emails obtained by the media this week prove that even while government officials were promising to reunite families, they in fact had no system in place to track separations.

Trump proposal would punish asylum seekers

On April 29, the White House released a memo asking the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to tighten asylum rules. The order calls for new regulations within 90 days that would (1) place people in asylum-only proceedings, rendering them ineligible for other forms of relief they could be eligible for in removal proceedings; (2) adjudicate asylum claims within 180 days, which poses serious due process concerns; (3) add a fee for asylum applications and work authorization; (4) make asylum-seekers who cross between ports of entry ineligible for work authorization before they are granted relief; and (5) allow border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to conduct credible and reasonable fear interviews. NCJW opposes this latest attack on asylum seekers.

Draft rule would increase deportation

This week, the press reported that the Department of Homeland Security was once again considering a proposal to expand the usage of expedited removal. Currently, immigrants who have been in the US less than two weeks who are apprehended within 100 miles of the border are candidates for expedited removal – that is, deportation without seeing an immigration judge. The draft rule would apply expedited removal nationwide, and to anyone in the US less than two years. NCJW will join partners in opposing this draft rule if it is formally proposed.

Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act

On April 30, Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Adam Smith (D-WA), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act (HR 2415/S 1243). The bill would mandate that all detainees have access to a bond hearing and shift the burden to the government to prove that asylum seekers and other immigrants should be detained because they pose a risk to the community or are a flight risk. The bill would radically reimagine our current immigrant detention system, and NCJW endorses the legislation.

Billions more for the DHS

While Congress hammers out the budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 20), President Trump asked Congress for $4.5 billion in supplemental funding for FY 19 for the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Justice (DOJ). The request includes more money for detention and deportation, including nearly 10,000 more detention beds. The funding is ostensibly to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, but the supplemental request ignores both the role of the administration in creating the current situation, as well as how the funding for these departments as it relates to immigration is already being spent. NCJW opposes additional funding for deportation, border militarization, and detention.

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

Workplace sexual harassment bill introduced

On April 9, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (Be HEARD) in the Workplace Act (HR 2148/S 1082), comprehensive legislation that would address and prevent workplace sexual harassment. Among many provisions, the measure would authorize grants for low-income workers to help them seek legal recourse if they are harassed and eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, as reliance on tips makes working people more vulnerable to harassment and discrimination by both clients and supervisors.

Sign On Letters

  • On April 30, 31 organizations including NCJW joined a letter spearheaded by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition calling for Congress to invest in human needs programs, rather than immigrant detention and deportation.

Amicus Briefs

NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in California v. Trump, a case before the Northern District of California aiming to halt President Trump’s re-allocation of funds to build a wall on the southern border on the basis of religious liberty.

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