Reproductive Health & Rights
HHS Moral and Religious Discrimination Comments Delivered
In January 2018, The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule that would allow health care providers to opt-out of providing a variety of medical services based on their personal ‘religious’ or ‘moral’ opposition to the care being requested and required of them. In order to implement this rule, the HHS Office of Civil Rights opened a new division of “Conscience and Religious Freedom” to enforce religious or moral discrimination. Refusals will impact services related to abortion, contraception, end-of-life care, global health care assistance, vaccination, and much more. The proposed regulations and steps to enforce them have the potential to undermine existing legal and ethical protections for patients’ access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, and other critical care. HHS is currently taking public comment on this rule. With your help, NCJW submitted over 1,000 comments to HHS opposing this discriminatory rule.
On March 27, a federal district court judge ordered Florida to come up with a new process to decide when and how formerly incarcerated individuals can have their voting rights restored. Currently, Florida bars all people convicted of felonies from voting unless otherwise granted an exception by a clemency board run by the governor. The process was found unconstitutional and arbitrary by the same judge last month. In November, Florida voters will vote on a ballot initiative to automatically restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people, a campaign in which NCJW sections in Florida are deeply involved.
On March 28, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Benisek v. Lamone, the second of two cases this term that will determine the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering – the process of drawing political districts that favor one political party over another. (The Supreme Court heard Gill v. Whitford, another gerrymandering case, back in October.) In Benisek, plaintiffs argue that Democratic election officials in Maryland gerrymandered the state’s 6th congressional district in 2011 in retaliation for the plaintiffs’ support for Republican candidates. The justices’ decisions on these two cases will impact how districts are drawn after the next decennial census in 2020.
In January, President Trump nominated Wendy Vitter to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Vitter has a long record of extreme hostility to reproductive freedom, including opposing women’s access to contraception and abortion care. In addition, Vitter has substantial omissions, including her anti-abortion work, in her response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire for judicial nominees. A hearing for Vitter in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been scheduled for April 11. For these reasons, NCJW is strongly opposing the nomination of Wendy Vitter.
On March 26, Commerce Secretary Ross announced that the 2020 Census would include a citizenship question, granting a request originally made by the Department of Justice. Civil rights organizations, including NCJW, fear this could lead to a chilling effect for non-citizen immigrants and their families, ultimately leading to undercounting these already vulnerable populations. The decennial census determines everything from Congressional representation to federal allocations, so an accurate count is of paramount importance. California Attorney General Becerra sued the Trump administration after the announcement, arguing that adding citizenship is unconstitutional. At least 12 other states have also announced their intent to sue. Sens. Menendez (D-NJ), Booker (D-NJ), and Hirono (D-HI) had previously introduced a bill banning a citizenship question, the NCJW-endorsed Every Person Counts Act (S 2580); Reps. Maloney (D-NY) and Norton (D-DC) introduced a similar bill (HR 4906) in the House. NCJW has repeatedly opposed adding a citizenship question to the census.
Administration Bars Transgender Troops from Serving in Military
Last week, the Trump administration formalized President Trump’s July 2017 tweet in which he barred transgender troops from serving in the military. The implementation of the transgender military ban, released by the Department of Defense, states that anyone who has undergone or intends to go through gender transition cannot serve, nor can individuals who have received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Further, transgender soldiers already serving may be forced to serve according to their gender at birth. On March 28, a judge declined to lift the current injunction on the ban, instead giving the parties involved until April 6 to file new briefs that reflect the implementation plan. NCJW opposes this disgraceful ban on transgender troops.
Administration Ends Protections for Liberians
On March 27, President Trump announced that Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program for Liberian immigrants would expire on March 31, 2019. Many Liberians were initially granted Temporary Protected STatus (TPS) when they fled civil war in the late 1990s and early 2000s. President George W. Bush ended TPS for Liberian immigrants in 2007, but allowed recipients to remain the country legally via the DED program, which has been continually renewed ever since. Trump’s decision means that thousands of Liberians face deportation to a country many have not seen in two decades or more. NCJW opposes this cruel decision.
Sign On Letters
- On March 29, NCJW submitted a comment to the Department of Labor in response to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on a regulation that would expand work requirements for those receiving nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP).