More than a year after Wendy Davis took to the floor of the Texas State Senate for her famous filibuster in defense of abortion rights, the debate in Texas over a woman’s right to access abortion care is still not settled. On Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether to uphold a district court ruling to strike down a provision of the infamous Texas bill that would require all clinics to become licensed as surgical centers or to close their doors to women seeking care. Representing a federal district court in Austin, Judge Lee Yeakel, who sought to strike down another of the bill’s provisions last fall, ruled the restrictions pose an undue, and thus, an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to choose. Read more…
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby almost three weeks ago, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578/H.R. 5051).
This bill was crafted in the aftermath of Hobby Lobby to ensure that all people will continue to access all kinds of medical needs and services whether their employer might have a religious objection or not. Additionally, it maintains the contraception mandate’s accommodation and exemption for religious non-profits and for houses of worship.
By Kristen Walling
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This scripture from Luke 12:34 reminds us that the places we allocate our money reveal what is truly important to us. Our federal budget—the decisions about how we will spend our money—reflects what we choose to value. The federal budget plan crafted by Representative Paul Ryan unfortunately presents a dishearteningly bleak future for women in this country. Low-income women, women of color, and elderly women would be particularly hard-hit if Congress were to accept Ryan’s budget proposal as is.
The Ryan budget proposes balancing the budget by drastically reducing spending on programs that help low-income Americans, particularly women. Women who are heads-of-households and elderly women are especially reliant on programs for low-income people such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Pell Grants which help low-income people attend college, child care subsidies, and school lunch programs. Here are only some of the cuts the Ryan budget proposes to such programs:
- $137 billion from SNAP cuts alone: in FY 2011 women were 62% of non-elderly recipients and 66% of elderly adult recipients
- Up to $125 billion in Pell Grants: in the 2007-2008 academic year, two-thirds of Pell Grant recipients were women.
- At least $150 billion to unspecified mandatory programs serving low-income Americans, which would likely include programs such as Supplemental Security Income; a majority of SSI adult and elderly beneficiaries in 2012 were women
Slashing spending to these programs would have an especially harmful impact on women and their families. Instead, the budget must maintain programs women rely on and add initiatives that proactively work to support women living at the margin.
The Ryan budget also does not sufficiently take into account wages for low-income workers, a majority of whom are women. Although women comprise 47% of the overall workforce, they represent over 76% of workers in the ten largest low-wage jobs. These occupations include childcare workers, cashiers, home health aides, waiters and waitresses, and food preparers. Our current federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) does not provide economic security for women and their families. Unlike other budget proposals, Paul Ryan does not assume an increase in the minimum wage. While the budget itself would not necessarily raise the minimum wage, it is incredibly problematic that Representative Ryan’s fiscal policies are built on assumptions of stagnant wages for the millions of American women struggling to provide for their families. Women need a federal budget that works in conjunction with, rather than against, other legislative policies that support low-wage workers.
One of the most striking components of the Ryan proposal is that it would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been absolutely instrumental in securing access to basic health care for millions of American women. Women face particular challenges in finding affordable health insurance that covers the range of health benefits they need, and are more likely than men to struggle to pay medical bills. However, the ACA greatly expanded basic primary and preventive health care options for women, including services such as cancer screenings, pap smears, maternal health, pelvic exams, and HIV/STI screenings. Repealing the ACA would cause millions of women who have acquired coverage under the new law to lose their health insurance and access to these services. A more responsible budget would continue to ensure sufficient funding and access for quality health care programs for women.
It was likely not Paul Ryan’s plan to specifically target women. However, when a majority of the beneficiaries of many of the programs he would slash are women, it is hard to see his proposals as anything short of an attack on women. As people of faith we are called to lift up those living at the margins and struggling to make ends meet. Supporting the Ryan budget is certainly not in line with these values, and Congress must seek policies that would better support women’s economic security, health, education, and ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Kristen Walling is a Policy Advocate at the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries. You can read more by Kristen on the UCC website, http://www.ucc.org
Focusing, as we do, on federal policy, it is heartening that the major anti-choice legislation before Congress right now, The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S.1670 (a 20-week ban) and The Parental Notification and Intervention Act of 2013, H.R. 3601 (requiring minors to notify and get consent from their parents with few exceptions), are not currently in the forefront of peoples’ minds. That is, it is heartening that these bills are not in the forefront of national discussion. Reproductive rights and attempts to limit them consistently inspire reflection and debate.
Today marks the 10 years since the RAC’s participation in the March for Women’s Lives. I remember that morning well! On that day, more than 1,300 of the nation’s leading women’s civil rights, health and faith organizations mobilized for the March. Over a million people – including thousands upon thousands of Reform Jews – descended on the National Mall in Washington, DC to give a needed wake-up call to government leaders and the nation about the urgency of women’s health care and demand that all women worldwide gain access to critical health services, birth control (including emergency contraception), and safe abortions. It was, for sure, an event that represented my own voice, concerns and deeply held convictions. Read more…
In my 13 years at the RAC, I’ve had more than a few memorable days (and nights) at work. I’ve been to bill signings at the White House, gone to a Mexican border town with the Commission on Social Action to see our national immigration challenges up close, and rocked out to some late night concerts at URJ Biennials.
But when people ask me what my best day has been, the answer is easy: April 25, 2004, the day of the March for Women’s Lives. That was the day I literally carried the banner for the URJ – marching with our delegation of nearly 3,000 women and men, congregants and rabbis, WRJ members and NFTYites, and about 300 L’Taken teen social justice seminar participants the RAC happened to be hosting that weekend. Read more…
Reproductive rights news from the states is not often optimistic, but supporters of a woman’s right to choose have reason to rejoice today. Federal Judge Daniel Hovland struck down a North Dakota law that banned abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat,which can be as early as six weeks of gestation, often before a woman discovers she is pregnant. This law would come completely limit a woman’s ability to access an abortion, depriving her of choice.
This blog post is adapted from an Advocacy Update sent by Women of Reform Judaism on March 27, 2014. For more information about the background of these cases, check out this blog post.
Following oral argument on Tuesday morning in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, eyes are now turning to the end of June when the Supreme Court is likely to issue its ruling. Although much of the deliberating and deciding goes on behind closed doors, oral argument is an important opportunity to gauge what the justices are considering when looking at the case.