On the Hill Updates: September 25, 2020
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
President Trump to sign an anti-abortion executive order
On September 23, President Trump announced that he would sign a “born alive” executive order during a pre-recorded address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. While the text of the executive order has not yet been released, we know that anti-abortion advocates typically claim that so-called “born alive” policies outlaw infanticide. In reality, this crime is already illegal in the US and these policies are actually carefully crafted to target, intimidate, and shut down reproductive health care providers by threatening them with criminal penalties and attempting to regulate the practice of medicine. Notably, these policies capitalize on false and inflammatory rhetoric surrounding abortion later in pregnancy, perpetuating myths and lies about abortion care, the pregnant people who receive this care, and the providers caring for these patients. NCJW believes that pregnant individuals and their families in these situations deserve our compassion and support, not our judgment, and certainly not politicians telling them what to do.
The administration proposes expanded effort to restrict abortions globally
On September 14, 2020, the Trump administration proposed yet another unprecedented expansion of the Global Gag Rule to include global health contracts. Currently, the global gag rule applies only to grants, blocking US funds from foreign organizations that provide abortion services or that advocate for abortion access in their own countries. Close to 40 percent of global health funding is provided through contracts, meaning that access to abortions would be significantly obstructed by this proposed rule. The Global Gag Rule has already disrupted a wide range of health care services and partnerships around the world in regard to HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning, and reproductive health access. An attempt to expand the rule’s impact would only exasperate the global health situation. NCJW will be submitting comments opposing this attempt further to restrict global access to abortion.
- Take Action! Support the Global HER Act (HR 1055/S 368) to end the global gag rule today.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the SCOTUS Vacancy
NCJW, like so many people around the country, mourns the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A trailblazer who fundamentally shifted our nation toward equality, Justice Ginsburg deserves a successor who is chosen by the next president elected by the people. However, immediately upon her passing, President Trump indicated he would fill her vacancy on the Supreme Court — despite the fact that we are in the middle of an election with mail-in ballots and early voting. Indeed, he plans to announce his nominee on Saturday, September 26, before Justice Ginsburg has been laid to rest. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has indicated he will hold a hearing for the nominee the week of October 12, with a committee vote the following week. The Senate could then vote on the nomination before Halloween. NCJW urges the Senate to instead focus on providing relief for millions of Americans who are still suffering from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, including the families and loved ones of the nearly 200,000 people who have died, as well as the 20 million people who have lost their jobs. Responding to the urgent needs of women, children, and families requires the full attention of the Senate.
Florida citizens denied the vote
On September 11, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that people with felony convictions in Florida would have to pay all outstanding fees and fines before they could register to vote — essentially upholding a modern-day poll tax. The case grew out of a ballot initiative passed in 2018 that allowed 1.4 million people convicted of felonies to vote; prior to the initiative, they were completely disenfranchised. In response to the ballot initiative, the governor signed into law a measure requiring fines and fees to be paid in full first. The court’s decision disproportionately impacts Black potential voters in the state. The plaintiffs may appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. NCJW condemns this decision to suppress the vote.
Crushing decision for TPS holders
On September 14, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Ramos v. Wolf that more than 300,000 people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan will have their legal protections stripped and be subject to deportation as early as March 2021. It also opens the door for TPS terminations for people from Honduras and Nepal. NCJW signed on to an amicus brief in support of TPS holders in the case. TPS allows immigrants from countries facing war or natural disaster to live and work legally in the United States. Some TPS holders have lived in the US for more than two decades and have US-born children and family members. The House of Representatives passed the Dream Act (HR 6) in June 2019, which would provide a path to citizenship for TPS holders. The Senate has yet to act on either the House bill or its Senate equivalent, the Secure Act (S 879). The administration could also reverse its decision to end TPS.
- Take Action! Tell the Senate to hold a vote on the Dream Act immediately.
Voting outcomes in many states decided by courts
A number of court rulings are impacting tens of thousands of voters across the country. On September 17, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the state’s absentee ballot deadline to November 6, or three days following election day. The court also struck the Green Party off the presidential ballot and approved the use of mail-in drop boxes. On August 19, the Montana Supreme Court ruled against a Republican-led effort to qualify the Green Party in both the presidential and senatorial elections. Then, on September 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also kept the Green Party off the presidential ballot. The ruling now allows local clerks to resume mailing ballots to those who have requested them. A conservative justice, Brian Hagedorn, sided with the liberals in the 4-3 decision. NCJW supports easy and equitable access to the ballot box.
Unqualified nominee for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench
On September 8, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle was nominated to the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was the following day. Mizelle has spent a total of four years in practice and has experience in only two trial cases, neither at the senior level. Mizelle has deep ties to some of the nation’s most conservative legal voices, in addition to being a longtime member of the Federalist Society, an ultraconservative legal society. Additionally, the American Bar Association found Mizelle to be “Not Qualified” for a lifetime appointment, directly citing her lack of meaningful experience. NCJW believes Mizelle lacks the proper experience required for a lifetime appointment and strongly opposes her nomination.
Anti-abortion nominee for a lifetime appointment
On July 29, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Toby Crouse, nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Since 2018, Crouse has served as Kansas Solicitor General and proved to be a highly partisan opponent of many important rights — reproductive, voting, and workers, among others. On behalf of the state of Kansas, he urged the Supreme Court to review a case defunding Planned Parenthood, a case that the Tenth Circuit disagreed with and the Supreme Court declined to hear. Crouse also joined amicus briefs in several other anti-reproductive health care cases. In private practice, Crouse defended the infamous Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a case challenging his redistricting plan. Later, as Solicitor General, Crouse supported other restrictive voting laws. He joined amicus briefs in anti-immigration, anti-worker, anti-gun safety, and other cases challenging basic rights. The full Senate will vote on Crouse’s nomination in the coming weeks. NCJW opposes the nomination of Toby Crouse given his extreme views on issues impacting women, children, and families.
On September 17, the House of Representatives passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA, HR 2694) with massive bipartisan support, 329-73. The PWFA would help end pregnancy discrimination by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for a limitation arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer. On September 15, NCJW sent a letter to every representative urging them to vote yes on this important bill and we applaud its passage.
House passes funding bill to avert a government shutdown
On September 22, the House passed HR 8337 (359-57), averting a government shutdown and extending funding through December 11, 2020. The continuing resolution would generally extend fiscal 2020 funding levels, while including some “anomalies” that would adjust the amount available to agencies or extend authorities. The measure reflects an agreement between Democrats and Republicans over farm and food aid programs, adding nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry school children and families — though it is still not nearly enough. Several health provisions due to expire on November 30 would be extended to December 11. It’s now up to the Senate to pass the measure prior to midnight on September 30.
House poised to unveil scaled-down relief package
As of this writing, the House plans to consider yet another COVID-relief bill given the standstill in the Senate, which has yet to consider the HEROES Act passed by the House in May. Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over how much should be in the package, which also impacts the price tag. The goal is to get a package passed before the election and the House is expected to do so next week. NCJW supports a robust response to COVID that includes funding for safe and accessible elections, expanded nutrition assistance, and more.
Immigration and Refugees
Allegations of hysterectomies at ICE detention center
On September 14, a whistleblower came forward reporting grievous medical issues at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, including a pattern of immigrant women receiving hysterectomies they did not need nor consent to. While these allegations are shocking, they are not surprising, given both the longstanding issues of medical care in ICE detention centers and the United States’ long history of forcibly sterilizing women of color. NCJW has joined advocates calling for the detention center to be closed and NCJW Atlanta Section is working closely with partners on the ground.
- On September 15, NCJW sent a letter to every representative urging them to vote yes on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
- On September 16, NCJW joined 227 organizations on a letter to appropriations leaders in the House and Senate urging them to reject increased funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
- On September 24, 32 organizations including NCJW joined letters to the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees urging oversight of administrative efforts to cover up the threat that white supremacists pose to our national security.
- On September 25, NCJW led 85 other local, state, and national Jewish organizations on aletterhonoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and urging Congress to fulfill her dying wish that her seat on the US Supreme Court not be filled until the next president is sworn in