Tag Archives: Reproductive Rights
Rosie the Riveter

Not Enough: The Ongoing Fight for Women’s Liberation

As a kid, “Dayenu” was perhaps my favorite Jewish holiday song. It’s catchy, it’s upbeat, and, if you sing the full 15 verses, it goes on forever. With “Dayenu,” we express our thanks for the myriad miracles that took place at the time of the Exodus. We sing that each was so powerful that one alone would have been enough. Read more…

Human Trafficking

This Passover, Seeking Justice for Victims of Modern-Day Slavery

As we prepare to celebrate Passover in only a few weeks, we know that celebrating Passover connects us as Jews – to our families, to our communities and the broader Jewish people. Passover also unites us with humanity. Many people across our country and our world have experienced oppression and persecution. Although we were once slaves, avadim hayinu, we now are free—but too many in the world are not. Modern-day slavery is one of the most profoundly troubling plagues of our time. The innumerable people who are trafficked for sex work or domestic work all have one thing in common: their freedom has been taken from them.

This month, many in the anti-trafficking community rallied around the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178), a bill to enhance protections and increase the infrastructure around restitution for victims of human trafficking. One key feature of the bill is the establishment of a Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund to provide financial support to individuals as they rebuild their lives after having been trafficked. The bill had strong, bipartisan support, a rare instance in which members of Congress united across the ideological spectrum. The bill passed swiftly through procedural steps and seemed poised for easy passage. As a vote neared, however, it came to light that language had been added to restrict trafficking victims from accessing abortion services if they were going to use help from the victim assistance fund.

The anti-choice provision mirrored language in the Hyde Amendment, a prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortion that affects all federally-administered health-care plans like Medicaid, and would create a harmful barrier between survivors of domestic trafficking and the comprehensive health care they need. The provision in the trafficking bill sought to expand Hyde’s attack on reproductive rights by restricting money from the Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund—which is financed by penalties from convicted federal offenders and not by tax dollars—from being used to help trafficking victims cover the cost of abortion, with exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or if the woman’s health is in danger.

Many in the reproductive rights and human trafficking advocacy communities expressed their dismay that anti-choice Senators inserted this restrictive language into the bill. A number of Senators withdrew their support from the bill, leaving it without enough votes to advance in last week’s procedural vote.

In this Passover season of freedom and of redemption, when we are reminded of the plight of our ancestors and their Exodus from bondage. Our hearts cry out for those who are victims of modern-day slavery, and we must do all we can to ensure their liberation and recovery, including in health care choices. Jewish tradition teaches that all life is sacred. Although an unborn fetus is precious and to be protected, Judaism looks on the life and well-being of the woman as central. Indeed, women are required to care for their own health above all else, placing a higher value on existing life than on potential life. Grounded in these affirmations of a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions, we strongly oppose restrictions on abortion access.

As we transition to Passover in the coming days, let us keep in mind all those who do not today know freedom—reproductive freedom, freedom from trafficking and the freedom to make decisions about their lives and their future. The RAC has created a Modern-Day Slavery Haggadah and a reproductive justice reading insert to bring these critical issues to your table for Passover. Be sure to take a look and use all or a part of these resources as they fit into your seder. Let this Passover inspire us all to be more attuned to the fight for freedom from oppression that is still being waged.

Keep Abortion Legal

Pursuing Choice in the States: The Current State(s) of Reproductive Rights

It seems like every day—if not several times a day—that I get an email update from one of our coalition partners or from one of my reproductive rights news alerts telling me that another state anti-choice bill has moved forward. Just this week, Ohio state legislators introduced a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks, one of several of its kind across the country; the Montana House of Representatives and an Idaho Senate committee passed a ban on abortion telemedicine, with dangerous implications for rural women who live too far from an abortion provider to consult a physician in person; and a Florida House committee advanced mandatory waiting period legislation, which would require patients to consult a physician at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

It can certainly be difficult to keep track of the frenzy of anti-choice legislation, especially as reproductive health victories these days are few and far between. (In a single, yet important victory among the slew of advances, a New Mexico Senate committee halted bills to increase abortion restrictions after the first trimester and to ban altogether abortions after 20 weeks.) What is most important to remember, however, is that each of these laws has real consequences for women and families living in that state. Read more…

Defend Women's Reproductive Rights

From Page to Practice: Reinterpreting the Helms Amendment

Since his inauguration in 2009, advocates for reproductive rights have been urging President Obama to reinterpret the Helms Amendment, which bans American foreign aid for abortion services in all circumstances. Though certainly not the only dangerous, anti-choice policy in U.S. law, Helms stands out as the lowest hanging fruit on these issues. This is especially the case because while most of these reproductive rights-related policies take the form of legislation and apply immediately individuals across the country, the Obama Administration administers the foreign aid that would be sent to clinics around the world. Thus, it is in the power of the executive branch to reinterpret the Helms Amendment, so that entities like USAID who oversee some of the granting process, will change the rules for grantees who offer reproductive health services. Read more…

Employee denied pregnancy accommodations

Our Bodies, Our Bank Accounts: Pregnant Workers Accommodations and Economic Security

When we think of pregnant women in the workforce, the first thing that comes to mind is often maternity leave. But, maternity leave is just one piece of the complex puzzle of policies necessary to support working mothers and working families. Another critical piece of that puzzle are pregnancy accommodations—necessary to ensure that pregnant workers can keep working to support themselves and their families throughout the duration of their pregnancy. Read more…

A Woman in Prison

On Purim, Exploring the Intersections of Reproductive Justice and Criminal Justice

On Purim, we celebrate a time of transition for the Jews, from “grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day—to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor” (Megillat Esther 9). As we prepare for Purim, we look forward to a time of “feasting and merrymaking” (Megillat Esther 9:22). Indeed, Purim is a time to celebrate the fortitude and resilience of the Jewish people, focusing especially on the impressive role of women leaders that is unique in the Purim story and throughout our history. Yet, as we celebrate our triumphs over the injustices of discrimination and exclusion, we must also reflect on the injustices that persist in our world today.

A new report by the Women in Prison Project, an initiative of the Correctional Association of New York, reveals one such travesty, finding that people do not receive adequate reproductive healthcare while incarcerated. The report, titled “Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State Prisons,” is an in-depth study of reproductive health care in the New York state prison system. Over the course of five years, researchers interviewed 950 inmates, visited prisons across the state, conducted surveys and reviewed medical charts to reveal “a shockingly poor standard of care, the routine denial of basic reproductive health and hygiene items, and the continued egregious practice of shackling pregnant women during labor and childbirth despite a 2011 law prohibiting it.” Read more…

Sexuality Education

Teaching Teens the Tools for Safe and Healthy Relationships

Last week, I wrote about the importance of highlighting and promoting healthy relationships in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. Through Jewish Women International’s (JWI) Shamor L’Amour toolkit, we shared prayers for healthy relationships and for healing from abuse and sermon starters for clergy, which we hope you will consider not just during the Valentine’s season, but throughout the year to emphasize the importance of addressing abuse as a step toward a truly safe community. Read more…

Support abortion access

House of Representatives Passes Severe Anti-Abortion Bill to “Celebrate” Roe v. Wade Anniversary

On January 22, we commemorated the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that established our constitutionally protected right to decide whether or not to have an abortion. That same day, in an affront to the legacy of Roe, the House of Representatives voted to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 7), dangerous legislation that would both codify existing bans on taxpayer funding for abortion and expand restrictions to limit abortion access for women who are privately insured. Read more…