Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: November 15, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Put Patients First Act introduced

On November 12, the Put Patients First Act (HR 5036/S 2836) was introduced in the House by Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) and in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). This bill would prohibit the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services from taking any action to implement, enforce, or give effect to the religious refusals of care rule that was recently declared void by a federal court. The rule would allow any individual or entity involved in a patient’s care to refuse to deliver any part of any medical service based on religious or moral objections. NCJW supports this bill and feels strongly that provider religious or moral beliefs should never override patient preferences and lead to the denial or delay of care.

Oversight Committee examines state efforts to undermine abortion access

On November 14, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing to discuss patient, provider, and advocate perspectives on how state policies — like those in Missouri, where the state’s last abortion clinic hangs in the balance — are impacting access to comprehensive reproductive health care services. Witnesses included Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center; Marcela Howell, founder and President/CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda; and Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB/GYN serving as Chief Medical Officer of the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. Jennifer Box also shared her story detailing how difficult it was to have an abortion in Missouri after doctors discovered a fatal fetal anomaly. Watch the entire hearing here. NCJW applauds the Oversight Committee members who pushed for this hearing and their efforts to explore the federal government’s role in preserving access to reproductive health care services for patients across the US.

Federal Courts

Senate confirms Menashi to 2nd Circuit despite extremist views and troubling record

On November 14, the Senate voted 51-41 to confirm Steven Menashi to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It was a party line vote with the exception of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who opposed the nominee. Menashi has called for “ethnonationalism,” worked to help roll back protections for survivors of sexual assault, and worked in the White House as a legal advisor to advance unconscionable immigration policies like family separation. Notably, Menashi refused to answer questions related to his work in the White House during his confirmation hearing. NCJW strongly opposed Menashi’s nomination. Read our full statement here.

SCOTUS hears three big cases

This week, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases NCJW is watching. On November 12, the justices heard arguments regarding the Trump administration’s unlawful termination of DACA (NCJW was at the Court!), as well as a case about whether the family of a Mexican national murdered by US Border Patrol agent can hold that agent liable. On November 13, the Court heard a case concerning a federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in contracts; the justices will determine whether race must be the actual reason for refusal to enter into a contract — or just one motivating factor — in order to move forward with a lawsuit under federal law. Decisions in these cases are expected next year. To learn more about the cases NCJW is watching this term, read our resource “What’s at Stake in the 2019-20 Supreme Court Term.”

Judge rules blueprints for 3-D guns cannot be posted online

On November 12, a federal judge in Washington State blocked the Trump administration from allowing blueprints for making plastic guns on 3-D printers to be posted on the Internet, ruling that the move violated federal procedures. In 2018, the US State Department said that the blueprints could be posted online despite the fact that 3-D printed firearms could lead to increased gun violence and allow criminals and terrorists to skirt gun control legislation.

The ruling is likely to be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. NCJW supports laws, policies, and programs that regulate firearms and ammunition to promote gun safety and prevent gun violence.

Civil Rights

2018 saw an increase in hate violence

This week, the FBI released its 2018 hate crime statistics and the US Commission on Civil Rights released its report, “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding the Hate Crimes.” The statistics and report showed a unified picture: hate violence is on the rise and there is much the government can and should do to stem the tide of hate. Specifically, Congress should pass the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act (HR 3545/S 2043), which would tie hate crime reporting and training to federal grants, incentivizing data collection.

  • Take Action! Call your elected officials using the Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121, and tell them to support the NO HATE Act.

Gun Violence Prevention

National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence

December 14, 2019 marks the 7-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. NCJW is once again proudly sponsoring the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence in Washington, DC on December 4. Reach out to Jody Rabhan (JRabhan@ncjw.org) if you’re planning any type of gun violence prevention event, whether it’s a voter registration effort or a program to #EndGunViolence. Or, click here to join an event in your community.

Human Needs

Government shutdown ahead?

With the government set to shutdown at midnight on November 21, lawmakers have just 3 legislative days to extend the deadline. All signs point to a short-term measure to fund the government through December 20 — neither lawmakers nor the president want a government shutdown. The hope is that the extra month will allow lawmakers to agree on spending caps for Fiscal Year 2020 and address issues including funding the border wall and abortion. A vote on the stopgap measure is expected next week.


Yet another attack on asylum seekers

This week, the administration announced a proposed rule that would deny work permits to asylum seekers who enter the US outside of official ports of entry. Further, the rule would increase the standard waiting period for asylum seekers to receive a work permit from 180 to 365 days after an asylum application is received. NCJW opposes this rule, which is the latest in a series of attacks on asylum.

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

VAWA Reauthorization introduced in Senate, finally

On November 13, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA, S 2843), a measure similar to the House-passed HR 1585. NCJW supports the bill which, among other provisions, would maintain protections for all survivors; make vital investments in prevention; improve access to housing for survivors; address urgent and particular needs of native survivors; improve the health care system’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking; protect dating violence survivors from firearm homicide; and increase survivors’ access to safe housing and economic stability. Efforts to introduce a bipartisan VAWA Reauthorization bill offered by Sens. Feinstein and Joni Ernst (R-IA) stalled last week, and Sen. Ernst is expected to introduce a different and less comprehensive VAWA Reauthorization bill that doesn’t include the firearms provisions as well as the expansion of tribal jurisdiction and LGBTQ protections.

Take Action! Tell your senators to cosponsor S 2843!


  • On November 8, 45 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by the Leadership Conference to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission urging them to fully collect and analyze pay data by race, gender, and ethnicity.
  • On November 12, NCJW submitted a comment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission urging them to fully collect and analyze pay data by race, gender, and ethnicity.
  • On November 12, 10 organizations representing the interests of LGBT people, including NCJW, sent a letter organized by Lambda Legal to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging its members to oppose the nomination of Lawrence VanDyke to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • On November 14, the Leadership Conference released a report, “Vision for Democracy: Fortifying the Franchise in 2020 and Beyond,” endorsed by dozens of organizations including NCJW.

Related Resources