Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: October 11, 2019

Federal Courts 

SCOTUS to hear first abortion case of Kavanaugh era 

On October 4, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging an onerous Louisiana law forcing abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. Not only is June Medical Services v. Gee the first abortion case of the Kavanaugh era, but the very decision to take the case signals the Justices’ readiness to overturn more than 46 years of abortion precedent. The Court has already decided this matter, declaring an identical Texas law unconstitutional only three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Watch our Lead! Abortion& the Supreme Court webinar to learn more. If the Justices refuse to uphold settled abortion law and bind lower courts to do the same, this case could mark the beginning of the end for safe and legal abortion. NCJW will be watching this case closely and will continue to oppose all measures that restrict access to safe abortion, shutter licensed clinics, and prevent patients from receiving care. 

Landmark LGBTQ case in front of SCOTUS 

On October 8, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments for three cases (Altitude Express v. ZardaBostock v. Clayton CountyHarris Funeral Homes v. EEOC) that will determine whether the prohibition in employment discrimination based on sex includes sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocates rallied outside the court while the case was heard. NCJW believes that all people have the right to work free from discrimination, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This case is one that NCJW is watching closely this term. 

  • Take Action! In May, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a bill that would affirm non-discrimination provisions for LGBTQ individuals. Tell the Senate to do the same! 

Administration petitions SCOTUS to review birth control rule 

On October 7, the Trump administration asked the US Supreme Court to review a lower court decision blocking implementation of its rule decimating the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control benefit. In October 2017, the administration issued an interim final rule dramatically expanding which employers can be exempted from covering free contraception as part of health insurance without providing opportunity for public notice and comment. This move was swiftly blocked by the courts. However, after receiving over 100,000 public comments, the administration issued another nearly identical rule in November 2018. Once again, multiple federal courts blocked implementation of this rule, a decision that was upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2019. Now, the administration is asking the Supreme Court to allow the rule permitting almost any employer to claim religious or moral opposition to offering contraception coverage as required by the ACA to take effect. NCJW has worked to improve access to birth control for decades and will remain vigilant to preserve the gains made by the ACA. 

Three defeats for administration’s anti-immigrant policies 

Indefinite child detention blocked 

In August 2019, the administration released a final version of a rule that would gut the Flores agreement, which governs how long and under what conditions migrant children can be held in federal detention. The rule, scheduled to go into effect on October 22, would have allowed for indefinite detention of children as opposed to the current maximum of 20 days. However, on September 27, the judge in charge of the Flores agreement blocked the new rule, stating that only Congress could alter the detention standards for children. NCJW opposes all attempts to weaken the Flores agreement and applauds the court’s decision. 

Expedited removal halted by courts 

In July 2019, the administration announced it would expand expedited removal. Previously, expedited removal — bypassing immigration courts when deporting an individual — was only used for those detained within 100 miles of the US border and who lived in the US for less than two weeks. The new policy widened that pool to immigrants anywhere in the US who have been the in country less than two years. The ACLU filed suit, and on September 27, a judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction on the new policy while the case is heard. NCJW opposes the expansion of expedited removal. 

Secure Communities program blocked 

On September 28, a judge in the Central District of California ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could no longer issue arrest requests (called detainers) solely based on information in its Secure Communities database. According to ICE, 70% of all ICE arrests stem from the error-ridden database; according to the ACLU, more than 2 million people have been unconstitutionally arrested since Secure Communities began in 2008. The ruling is a civil liberties victory. 

Federal court blocks Georgia’s sixweek abortion ban 

On October 1, the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking implementation of the state’s six-week abortion ban and personhood law. In June 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit, SisterSong v. Kemparguing that the law blocking virtually all abortions in the state is unconstitutional. NCJW applauds this decision and opposes all abortion bans and restrictions, especially those that violate the First Amendment by enshrining one religious view of “life” into law. 

Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian Americans 

A federal judge ruled on October 1 that Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian Americans in undergraduate admissions. The judge’s ruling follows longstanding Supreme Court precedent that has repeatedly affirmed the ability of colleges and universities to consider race as one of many factors in their admissions programs. In her ruling, Judge Burroughs noted that Asian-American applicants were accepted to Harvard at the same rate as other applicants and now made up more than 20 percent of the admitted class, even though Asian-Americans made up about 6 percent of the United States population. NCJW supports affirmative action and applauds this decision. 

Economic Justice 

Administration finalizes unemployment compensation rule 

On October 4, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule that permits states to subject more people to drug tests before receiving their unemployment compensation. Advocates argue that this rule is unconstitutional and discriminatory. NCJW submitted a comment opposing thrule and addressed the possible abuse of DOL’s authority and the rule’s inherent futility. NCJW believes that a democratic society must provide for the needs of those unable to provide for themselves and condemns this rule. 

Human Needs 

Administration issues third proposed rule to gut SNAP 

On October 3, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its third proposed rule in the past year to reduce Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits to those most in need. SNAP is our nation’s largest nutrition assistance program; in FY 2017, at least 54 million Americans received SNAP benefits for at least one month. The new proposed rule — a five-year cut totaling $4.5 billion due to changes in how SNAP would account for households’ utility expenses  would decrease benefits for nearly one-fifth of SNAP households by $30 per month. More than 75,000 comments (70 from mayors and 17 from governors) were submitted last month to the USDA in opposition to the second proposed rule to limit SNAP eligibility. December 2 is the deadline for the public comments on this latest rule. NCJW opposes efforts to reduce or gut SNAP, and we’ll submit an organizational comment and provide the NCJW network with a template comment in the coming weeks. 


Administration issues yet another immigrant wealth test 

On October 4, the Trump administration issued a proclamation that will deny visas to immigrants who are unable to pay for their health insurance. Once effective, the proclamation requires immigrants to prove their ability to afford “approved health insurance” within 30 days of entering the US in order to receive their visa. The impending policymaking process is unclear and the president has not responded to requests for a public comment opportunity. A new analysis from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates that this new proclamation could block two-thirds of future immigrants to the US. NCJW strongly opposes this proclamation and all administration policies that make it harder for immigrants to access health care while paradoxically predicating successful immigration on obtaining insurance coverage. 

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence 

Urge Senate action on VAWA this month 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and the 25th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Enacted in 1994, VAWA was the first federal law responding to our nation’s crisis of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. HR 1585, a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), is based on extensive outreach to survivors, direct service providers, and other stakeholders and would make modest yet vital improvements. 


  • On September 20, NCJW joined 106 national organizations on a letter to members of Congress in support of the Working Families Tax Relief Act (HR 3157) which would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). 
  • On September 20, NCJW joined 104 national organizations on a letter to those senators cosponsoring HR 3157 (see above) asking their support for a tax extenders package that would improve the EITC and CTC this year. 
  • On September 25, more than 100 organizations sign on to a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the Bahamas in light of Hurricane Dorian.  
  • On October 1, NCJW joined 22 national organizations on a letter to CA Governor Newsom urging his signature on 3 workplace harassment and discrimination-related bills. 

Amicus Briefs 

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Comcast v. National Association of African American-Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc., a racial justice case before the US Supreme Court.  
  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Freyd v. University of Oregon, a case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on equal pay. 
  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, a case challenging President Trump’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (known as DACA) before the US Supreme Court.  

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