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North Carolina has suspended its welfare program, called Work First, because of the government shutdown. The program is funded through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
On Monday, social service agencies in North Carolina stopped processing all new applications for Work First because funds are expected to run out in November. Those who are already registered will still receive assistance through October.
Until the government shutdown ends, future assistance is up in the air for the 20,709 state residents in the program, 6,948 of whom are parents of dependent children and 13,761 of whom are children living with someone other than a parent.
North Carolina is the first state to suspend its welfare program. No state has received federal funding under TANF since October 1.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Friday that will ban employment discrimination against victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault, effective January 1.
The law, SB 400, would prohibit an employer from firing or "in any manner discriminating or retaliating against an employee because of the employee's status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking." The law entitles victims to reasonable safety accommodations and procedures in the workplace, like changing a work phone number or implementing a safety plan.
The bill was introduced after teacher Carie Charlesworth was fired when her abusive husband came to her school's parking lot and the school had to go into lockdown.
Economic constraints often contribute to a victim's decision to stay in abusive relationships, so helping them keep their jobs will allow some victims to leave the relationships sooner. "I commend the Governor for signing this bill, which protects victims from job loss and discrimination at a time when they most need support and a steady paycheck," said the bill's author, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), in a statement. "Victims will no longer fear losing their livelihoods and being re-victimized in the workplace because of the actions of their abusers."
Only six other states and Puerto Rico have discrimination protections for victims, and only thirteen mandate that victims can take leave without getting fired to seek medical attention, recover from injuries, obtain legal assistance or counseling, or access other forms of assistance related to their abuse. A federal law providing these protections was introduced in March by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California).
10/15/2013 - Nationwide Immigration Reform Protests Continue
A wave of protests have swept the nation as immigration reform activists grow frustrated with the slow progress of immigration reform.
Protests have been held in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Washington, among other states. Most recently, a group of demonstrators in Tucson, Arizona locked themselves to the tires on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus taking people to Operation Streamline. Operation Streamline is a federal program that apprehends immigrants crossing the border, sentences them to jail time, then deports them, often in one day. The program has deported at least 70,000 people and has been criticized as unconstitutional by the Warren Institute at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.
During a rally last Tuesday in Washington, DC, eight members of Congress were arrested in in an act of civil disobedience. The Congress members joined thousands of activists in blocking the streets near the National Mall to send the message to lawmakers to act on immigration reform. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill in June, but Republican House leaders have not scheduled floor time for immigration bills, and have previously been unwilling to consider it.
Women are especially at risk if the current immigration reform plan dies. Among other positive changes, the reforms will, for example, double the number of U-visas--reserved for people who have been victims of crime in the U.S. and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement--from 10,000 to 20,000, and expand their scope to include victims of workplace abuse. U-visas provide a lifeline for undocumented women stuck with abusive partners, who may threaten to report them to police or withdraw their sponsorship petition. In the past three years, all 10,000 available U-visas have been used.
10/14/2013 - Shutdown Threatens to Halt Rape Kits in DC
Victims of rape in Washington, DC may soon be unable to get sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits, often called rape kits. DC's budget is under federal control, so if the federal government's shutdown continues much longer, some of the city's necessary programs--including those intended to help rape victims--may be temporarily discontinued due to lack of funding.
After an assault or rape, a victim can go to the hospital for an exam, where forensic nurses collect DNA, photographs, and other forms of evidence that may be used in court. Timeliness is important to collect all of the evidence possible. "If we don't have funds, no rape kits get done, there's no medical forensic exam," said Heather Devore, executive director of DC Forensic Nurse Examiners, one of two groups that make up the DC Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE). "It's especially important because we know that DNA degrades quickly; we only have a short time in order to obtain this evidence."
Victims also receive the services of an advocate who helps them through the exam process and with any other administrative, employment, or housing issues that may arise--crucial assistance that will not be available if funds run out.
The organizations that conduct rape kits are currently running on a contingency fund provided by the DC government, after Melissa Hook, director of the DC Office of Victims Services made the case to the city administrator that rape kits and exams should be deemed essential. The funds are expected to last only through the end of October.
Domestic violence programs all over the nation are also threatened by an extended government shutdown. Many domestic violence shelters and crisis centers rely solely on funding from the federal Office on Violence Against Women. The shutdown means that organizations that receive federal grants cannot request payment or draw funds.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could not require individuals to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport, tribal identification, or naturalization documents, in order to register to vote in federal elections. In response, Arizona joined Kansas last week to set into motion a costly plan to create a separate voter registration system, with separate ballots, for state and local elections.
The creation of two separate voter registration systems could translate into thousands of disenfranchised voters. Ninety percent of the 31,000 voter registration applications that were denied after Arizona adopted Proposition 200, the initiative requiring proof of citizenship, belonged to U.S. citizens. Nationwide, as many as 13 million Americans do not have ready access to proof of their citizenship. Many racial minorities, students, elderly, and poor individuals do not have the types of government-issued identification documents being required by Arizona. In addition, as many as 34 percent of American women, who often change their names after marriage or divorce, do not have a government issued ID that reflects their current name. These documents can be costly and difficult to obtain.
Arizona Proposition 200 passed in 2004, requiring all individuals to provide proof of citizenship when they registered to vote in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, however, that with respect to federal elections, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires states to use a uniform federal voter registration form, controls, not the Arizona law. NVRA does not require documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote. The federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) creates federal voter registration forms. States can ask the EAC to approve state-specific instructions on the form, like proof of citizenship. Arizona had requested that the EAC approve its proof-of-citizenship requirement in 2005, but the EAC took no action on the request and Arizona did not challenge the EAC in federal court. In making its ruling, the Supreme Court indicated that Arizona could reapply to the EAC to approve its proof-of-citizenship requirement.
Both Arizona and Kansas are now suing the EAC to be able to amend their voter registration forms to require proof of citizenship for both state and federal elections.
In a victory for the Falls Church Healthcare Center, a Virginia women's health clinic that provides abortions, an Arlington County judge ruled last week to allow the clinic's appeal regarding targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws to move forward in court. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is currently running for state Governor, had tried to have the appeal dismissed, but the judge ruled against him.
At issue was whether the Virginia Board of Health and Cuccinelli would be required to participate in a hearing about allegations that the Board violated an executive order by Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell's order requires state agencies to consider how regulations impact small businesses and to make alternative options available.
The TRAP regulations in question have a detrimental impact on abortion clinics, imposing high costs for unnecessary structural and operational changes, and very little time to adhere to them. Examples of changes required by the regulations include making additional parking available, replacing existing ceilings, and adding showers to all facilities for staff members. The regulations have already forced two Virginia clinics to close since they went into effect in June. It would cost the Falls Church Healthcare Center over 60,000 dollars to adhere to them, according to its Director, Rosemary Codding.
The clinic's appeal also claims that a hearing would show that Cuccinelli pressured the board to drop a "grandfather clause" exempting existing facilities from the new regulations.
About 30 supporters of the clinic attended the hearing in the courtroom, and around 75 attended a lively rally before the hearing outside the courthouse.
10/11/2013 - Unpaid Intern Not Protected From Sexual Harassment
A New York federal court ruled that a woman cannot sue the broadcasting company where she interned for sexual harassment because she was unpaid.
According to the court's memorandum and order, the former intern, Lihuan Wang, sued after an incident that occurred in January 2010 when she was a 22-year-old Master's Degree student at Syracuse University interning with Phoenix Satellite Television U.S. in New York. Wang's direct supervisor, Zhengzhu Liu, based in Washington, DC, had invited Wang and her co-workers to lunch. Liu asked Wang to stay afterwards to discuss her work performance. After getting her alone, Liu asked Wang to come with him to his hotel room so he could drop off some personal belongings. In the car ride to the hotel, Liu made sexual comments that made Wang extremely uncomfortable. When they arrived at the hotel, Wang attempted to talk more about her internship, but she alleges that Liu instead asked her to name her most beautiful feature and told her her eyes were beautiful. When he asked her to go to his hotel room, Wang went, explaining to the Court that she felt uncomfortable but compelled to go because he was her supervisor. In the hotel room, Liu removed his shirt jacket and tie, put his arms around her, held her tightly, tried to kiss her by force, and squeezed her butt. She pushed him away, saying "I don't want this," and she quickly left the room.
After the incident, Wang, a Chinese citizen, alleges that Liu no longer expressed interest in hiring her permanently once she completed her Master's Degree. Liu started emphasizing that he could not sponsor her to work with them because there was a "visa quota." At the time, Liu supervised both the Washington, DC and New York City bureaus of Pheonix. He exercised complete authority over the hiring, termination, and interviewing of all employees and interns.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Wang was not protected from sexual harassment by the New York State Human Rights Law or New York City Human Rights Law because she was unpaid. The Court explained that like Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the state law required that interns receive remuneration, like compensation or benefits, to be protected.
The University of Maryland, College Park Senate voted 70-1 yesterday to approve a sexual misconduct policy that includes mandated sexual assault education for every member of the university community.
"This is a really important day for the university, and today was the first step in changing a culture that blames the victim before it blames the perpetrator," said Lauren Redding, a 2013 university graduate, former Diamondback editor-in-chief, sexual assault survivor, and current Feminist Majority Foundation online communications associate.
After Redding authored the education mandate bill last winter, a university legal team drafted the policy using recommendations from the senate's Sexual Harassment Task Force. President Wallace Loh temporarily ratified it in August while he awaited Senate approval.
The sexual misconduct training will be offered through different platforms, including fraternities and sororities, dormitories, freshman level courses, and potentially the internet. The trainings will cover sexual assault and rape culture, including bystander intervention techniques that students can use on campus to eradicate sexual violence.
While the education mandate will not take effect until the university's spring semester, the CARE to Stop Violence program will run a
President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve yesterday. If she is approved by the Senate, Yellen will be the first woman to head the United States' central bank in its 100-year history. She will also be the first Democrat to be the chair of the Federal Reserve since Paul A. Volcker stepped down in 1987.
Yellen, 67, is the current vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and she has a long history of experience with central banking. She has taught at Harvard University and the London School of Economics, and she has held several senior administrative positions in the US. She will replace Ben Bernanke, who has lead the Fed since 2006 and will step down in January.
In a press conference, Yellen signaled that if confirmed, she would focus on strengthening the economy, by focusing on jobs and controlling inflation. "The mandate of the Federal Reserve is to serve all the American people, and too many Americans still can't find a job and worry how they will pay their bills and provide for their families," Yellen stated. "The Federal Reserve can help, if it does its job effectively. We can help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to work hard and build a better life. We can ensure that inflation remains in check and doesn't undermine the benefits of a growing economy. We can and must safeguard the financial system."
Praising her nomination, Senator Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chair of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, said, "Today is a historic moment for the Federal Reserve, for women everywhere and for all of us who care about job creation." He continued, "Governor Yellen will work to prevent future bailouts, boost our housing markets, and give the Fed's mandate to maximize employment the attention it deserves. In the midst of a fragile economic recovery, it will be more important than ever to have a steady hand and consensus builder at the helm of the Fed."
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Wednesday that expands access to abortion in the state. The bill, AB 154, allows trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform abortions during the first trimester.
This expansion will help alleviate a shortage of abortion providers in the state, where over half of the counties have no abortion provider. "Timely access to reproductive health services is critical to women's health," said Assemblymember Toni Atkins, who introduced the measure. "AB 154 will ensure that no woman has to travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion. I appreciate Governor Brown's support of women's health."
By expanding abortion access, California bucks the national trend of passing legislation that restricts abortion access. The New York Times reports that according to the Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, 68 restrictions on abortion have been passed by states so far this year.
Feminist Majority will host the 2013 Women, Money, Power Summit tomorrow at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington, DC. The Summit brings together feminist leaders, advocates, and decision-makers to exchange ideas and maximize our effectiveness in making women's equality a priority.
The 2013 Summit will feature House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who will highlight the House Democrats' economic agenda for women and families, When Women Succeed, America Succeeds, and pay tribute to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a champion for equal pay for women.
Feminist Majority will honor Congresswoman DeLauro as well as Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Texas State Senator Leticia van De Putte with Fearless Trailblazer Awards. Congresswoman DeLauro is a champion of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. She has worked tirelessly to achieve full pay equity for women, to ensure that all employees have access to paid sick days, and to expand access to affordable, quality child care. Arwine is a champion of civil rights and racial justice issues and is leading the charge for voters' rights. Senator van de Putte played a critical role in the June filibuster of anti-abortion legislation in Texas and is a courageous fighter for reproductive rights, women's rights and civil rights.
The Summit will include General Assembly Sessions throughout the day that will focus on stopping the War on Women's health, improving global reproductive family planning policies, ending violence against women and implementing the Affordable Care Act. Speakers will include Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, President of Feminist Majority Eleanor Smeal, President of National Organization for Women Terry O'Neill, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation Melanie Campbell, President of Catholics for Choice Jon O'Brien, Susan Burke, a chief litigator of survivors of sexual assault, President of American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, and many more.
You can watch the Women, Money, Power Summit live tomorrow beginning at 9:30 AM.
The Nebraska Supreme Court refused on Friday to grant a 16-year-old foster child's request to get an abortion without parental consent.
A 2011 Nebraska law requires minors under 18 to obtain notarized parental consent in order to obtain an abortion. Minors may receive a judicial waiver of this requirement under three circumstances: if there is a medical emergency, if the minor is a victim of abuse or neglect, or if a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that the minor is sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion. The 2011 law replaced the state's parental notification law, which did not require notarized consent.
The girl, who is not identified in court papers, was 10 weeks pregnant when she sought a judicial waiver of the parental consent requirement. She needed a waiver because, as a ward of the state, she did not have legal parents who could give consent for her to obtain an abortion. Nebraska had earlier terminated the parental rights of her physically abusive biological parents, and although the girl and her two siblings live in a foster home, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services remains her legal guardian.
After advising the girl that "when you have the abortion, it's going to kill the child inside you," lower court judge Peter Bataillon denied her request for a waiver. Bataillon, who according to RH Reality Check, had been an attorney for extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, found that the girl was not mature and informed enough to make the decision to have an abortion. He also found that the girl should have sought consent from her foster parents, even though the girl's foster parents are not her legal guardian and the state regulations governing the Department of Health and Human Services gives minors in its custody the right to consent to abortion, without seeking permission from the Department.
During her judicial bypass hearing, the girl testified that she could not financially support a child or "be the right mom that [she] would like to be right now." She also stated that she feared that she would lose her foster placement if her foster parents, who are anti-abortion, knew of her pregnancy, and that she felt that carrying her pregnancy to term and placing the child up for adoption "would be worse for her and her family because her foster parents would have resentment toward her," according to court papers.
The state Supreme Court denied the girl's appeal, meaning that the government would force a 16-year old girl to carry a pregnancy to term. Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said the ruling was "concerning" because it eliminated "a safe and legal option for a woman in a dire circumstance."
Attorneys for Wisconsin woman Alicia Beltran filed a petition in federal court this week seeking her immediate release from state custody. The suit challenges the constitutionality of a 1997 state law that gives Wisconsin courts jurisdiction over any pregnant woman who "habitually lacks self-control" in using alcohol or drugs "to a severe degree" such that the physical health of her "unborn child" will be "seriously affected or endangered."
Beltran was arrested after she sought early prenatal care and told health care workers about her prior use of painkillers and her attempts to stop use on her own. Instead of receiving support, she was arrested in July 2013, when she was only 15 weeks pregnant. Beltran was brought to court in shackles for her initial hearing, and without a right to counsel, she had no attorney for her initial hearing--even though an attorney had been appointed to represent her fetus. Without hearing any testimony from a medical expert, the court ordered Beltran to be detained at an inpatient drug treatment program two hours from her home.
The petition argues that there have been numerous violations of constitutional rights, including the right to physical liberty, the right to due process notice, and privacy in medical decision-making, among several others. This is the first constitutional challenge to such a law. Statements from medical experts supporting the petition say the arrest and detention of Beltran actually increases risk to the pregnancy and has no medical justification.
Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-counsel for the case, said, "This kind of dangerous, authoritarian state-action, is exactly what happens when laws give police officers and other state actors the authority to treat fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as if they are already completely separate from the pregnant woman."
Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin have similar laws allowing the detention of pregnant women alleged to have used alcohol or drugs.
10/4/2013 - Wendy Davis Announces Run For Texas Governor
Wendy Davis announced yesterday that she will run for Texas governor in the November 2014 elections. Second-term Senator Davis (D-Fort Worth) became an overnight icon in June, with the help of social media, when she successfully filibustered a restrictive anti-abortion bill that bans abortion at 20 weeks and places unnecessary restrictions on medication abortion, among other things. The bill later passed, but it is being challenged by women's health centers and reproductive rights organizations across Texas.
The current Texas Governor, Republican Rick Perry, will not run for reelection, so Davis' most likely opponent will be Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. He is heavily supported by conservatives and has already amassed a large amount of campaign funds. His anti-abortion policies mean he and Davis may go head-to-head over abortion rights in the race. In a recent poll conducted for the Texas Lyceum, Abbott leads Davis 29 percent to 21 percent, but half of the voters polled said they didn't know who they would support.
In Davis' announcement, she emphasized improving education, creating jobs, and building a better, more equal Texas. On her Twitter account yesterday, Davis wrote, "Texas deserves a leader who understands that making education a priority creates good jobs for Texans and keeps Texas on top" with the hashtag #TeamWendy.
The US Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to consider the scope of a federal law that bans people who have been convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun.
In 2001, James Castleman pled guilty in Tennessee state court to misdemeanor domestic assault against the mother of his child and was sentenced to supervised probation for 11 months and 29 days. Then, in 2008, law enforcement agents found that Castleman and his wife were purchasing firearms from gun dealers and selling them on the black market. Castleman was subsequently charged in federal court with possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" and with making false statements to a federally licensed firearm dealer.
Castleman moved to dismiss the federal charges, arguing that his domestic assault conviction was not a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" as defined in the federal law because his state court conviction did not establish that Castleman had used physical force against the victim. A lower court and court of appeals agreed and threw out the indictment. The United States petitioned the Supreme Court for review.
The Supreme Court will now decide when the federal law banning gun ownership will apply to individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes. The Obama administration argues that if the Court upholds the lower court decisions, it will invalidate the federal domestic violence gun prohibition. The administration also argues that any assault that results in bodily injury includes some degree of physical force.
Oral arguments in United States v. Castleman have not yet been scheduled.
Last week over a dozen women's health care providers in Texas filed a joint lawsuit to immediately block two provisions of a law that would reduce women's access to safe and legal abortion.
Texas House Bill 2 gained national spotlight after Texas state Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) held a marathon filibuster to defeat the bill. It passed after Governor Rick Perry called a second special session after the filibuster and signed it in July, despite opposition by 80 percent of Texas voters and medical experts across the country. Planned Parenthood v. Abbott aims to block the portions of the bill with the most immediate impact before they take effect at the end of October: restrictions on the use of medication abortion, and a requirement that physicians who provide abortion must obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital--even though abortion is an extremely safe procedure, and other medical providers do not face the same requirements.
These restrictions would make "essential reproductive health care services for many Texans, especially poor and rural women, practically impossible to access," said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton filed the suit on behalf of the health care providers.
Northup added, "Today's lawsuit is a united strike back against the hostile politicians who have made clear their willingness to sacrifice the constitutional rights, health, and even lives of Texas women in support of their extremist ideological agenda."
10/2/2013 - NYC Council Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The New York City Council unanimously passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act last week. The bill extends current protections against employer discrimination to pregnant workers and expands the city's Human Rights Law to include pregnant workers.
Employers will now be required to provide reasonable accommodations for a worker's needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Those accommodations can include rest breaks, a period of recovery from childbirth, and help with manual labor. Employers must also give pregnant workers written information about their rights.
These protections for pregnant women are vitally important. Almost two-thirds of first-time mothers work while pregnant, and 90 percent of those women continue to work into their last two months of pregnancy, reports ThinkProgress. Low-income women and women of color are more likely to be affected by this kind of discrimination, because they are more likely to hold low-paying jobs with limited flexibility.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) reports, "When women face a physical conflict between work and childbearing, they will often lose their job, and their families will lose income at the very moment their financial needs increase." For example, one pregnant woman who was a Wal-Mart sales associate started experiencing urinary and bladder infections, so she started to carry a water bottle at work under her doctor's advice to stay hydrated. She was fired because of a Wal-Mart rule that only cashiers could have water bottles. She challenged her termination in court and lost.
According to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a fifth of discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are related to pregnancy. Last year alone, over 3,700 were filed. Under the new bill, if employers fail to follow the new bill's requirements, employees can bring actions in civil court or bring a complaint to the city's Human Rights Commission. Employers could be fined up to $250,000, face jail time, or be required to change their practices, provide compensation, or re-hire employees, among other remedies.
Currently only a handful of states provide protections for pregnant workers. A federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress last May.
10/2/2013 - Hundreds March at Statehouse to Protest Anti-Woman Legislation; Tell Governor, State Leaders We Won't Go Back
COLUMBUS - Angered by a string of attacks on women's health care - including legislative efforts to require doctors to give false information to women patients - hundreds of people marched on the state capital Wednesday and vowed to defeat anti-woman legislation and the politicians who support them.
"Gov. (John) Kasich ran and won by promising jobs but Ohio is third from the bottom in creating jobs," said Eleanor Smeal, who heads the Feminist Majority. "Once he got elected, he didn't talk about jobs. He talked about controlling a woman's uterus."
Other speakers echoed her comments and promised to continue fighting for the rights of women to have access to quality care and for doctors - not politicians - to decide what is best for patients.
"Women are not fooled by the hide-and-sneak tactics of John Kasich and his pals who want to push us back to the 1950s," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "Make no mistake, the politicians who keep waging this outrageous war on women will pay a price at the polls next year."
Smeal and O'Neill were among 10 speakers who addressed the 90-minute rally and urged attendees to make their opposition to the anti-woman legislation known, stand up for the rights of doctors and patients and consider changing Ohio's political climate by running for office.
Stephanie Kight, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said the laws put in place by Ohio politicians "hurt our most vulnerable women - like the gag order on rape crisis counselors. Our politicians have passed laws that are medically unnecessary and that are designed to reduce access to the care women need."
NARAL's Kellie Copeland said, "Gov. Kasich's work to close abortion clinics and family planning centers is a serious threat to women's health. Ohio women and their families deserve better and won't forget these attacks on their health care."
Sara Hutchinson, Domestic Program Director for Catholics for Choice, said Catholics won't sit idly by while women's lives are placed at risk. "There are 2 million Catholics in Ohio and only 15 are bishops," she said.
Doctors and patients also spoke, with doctors complaining that they have been pushed aside while politicians legislate how doctors must practice medicine.
The rally comes as legislators return from their summer recess and prepare to debate legislation that would set Ohio back even father. Ohio already has some of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws and pending bills would require doctors to tell women there is a link between breast cancer and abortion when none exits and prosecute doctors who refuse to lie to patients.
Buses, vans and cars brought supporters from Cleveland, Youngstown, Warren, Akron, Solon, Geauga and Lake counties, Cincinnati, Athens, Toledo, Dayton, Columbus and elsewhere.
For More Information, Contact:
Brian Rothenberg, 614-207-3237
Sandy Theis, 614-940-0131
10/1/2013 - Health Insurance Marketplaces Open Today
The government shutdown did not prevent one of the centerpieces of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from going into effect: health insurance marketplaces opened today. Individuals and families can access their states' marketplaces through Healthcare.gov. The marketplaces will allow consumers to shop for and compare healthcare plans available in their state, find out if they qualify for lower costs, and learn about coverage options. To qualify for coverage in 2014, individuals must enroll by March 31, 2014.
"At last, 50 million Americans without health insurance, most of whom are women, will have access to low-cost health insurance plans," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. "Don't be fooled by the scare tactics. If you have insurance, you won't lose it, but for the 50 million who do not, this is a great deal."
Insurance plans will be offered in four categories that reflect the level of coverage and price: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Most eligible individuals will be able to purchase a plan for $100 or less per month. The federal government will subsidize plans by offering tax credits to individuals and families within 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level- $11,490 and $45,960 for an individual and $31,322 and $94,200 for a household of four. Twenty states have also decided to expand Medicaid eligibility under the ACA. People with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level and able-bodied adults will no longer be excluded from the program as long as they meet income eligibility.
Young adults and those in need of lower-cost options will be able to choose catastrophic plans, which are designed to help cover unexpected, high medical costs, and have higher deductibles but lower monthly premiums. Adults under 26 may also remain on their parents' insurance plan.
Under the Affordable Care Act, plans offered must cover ten essential benefits, including ambulatory patient services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, and pediatric services including vision and dental care, among others. Plans must also cover the cost of preventive services without copays, coinsurance, or deductibles, including annual well-woman visits, contraceptives, HPV testing, HIV counseling and screening, domestic violence screenings, and mammograms, among others. Dental and vision coverage are included in some plans, but may also be purchased as separate stand-alone plans.
10/1/2013 - US Justice Department To Sue NC Over Voting Law
The US Justice Department sued North Carolina yesterday over the state's new restrictive voting law.
The lawsuit challenges four parts of the new law: the photo identification provision, the shortening of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early-voting period, and the prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast by voters in their home county but outside their home voting precinct.
These types of voting restrictions disproportionately affect the ability of racial minorities, students, and women to vote. As many as 25 percent of eligible African-American voters and 16 percent of Hispanics do not have government-issued photo identification that would allow them to vote in states with strict voter-ID laws. Many students who vote in their college communities do not have IDs that would allow them to vote in these states, and in one survey, 34 percent of women voters did not have an ID that reflected their current name. Restrictions on early voting have also been shown to place unnecessary burdens on the ability of these groups to vote.
"Allowing limits on voting rights that disproportionately exclude minority voters would be inconsistent with our ideals as a nation," Attorney General Eric Holder said in remarks yesterday.
The state's Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the law last month, claiming it would protect against voter fraud. However, a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, found that voter fraud is extremely rare.
The Justice Department will also ask the court to require North Carolina to get preclearance before making any more changes to its voting laws. Previously, several states and parts of states that have histories of discrimination were required under the Voting Rights Act to obtain approval before changing any voting laws. The Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder this June requires that Congress create a new formula for determining which states must obtain this preclearance.
The US government shut down today after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the Republican-controlled House of Representatives' measure that would keep the government operating for 10 weeks in exchange for a delay in implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, over 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed and a variety of government services will be put on hold.
Historically marginalized communities and the working poor are most likely to feel the negative effects of the shutdown. Around 20 out 1,600 Head Start programs will shut down right away, and more will be affected over time. The Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food if they are poor and facing "nutrition risk," could shut down for lack of funds. And there will be delays in processing new disability benefit applications, student loan and federal grant applications, home loans, and new visa and citizenship applications. More programs may lose funding or shut down if the government impasse lasts longer than a few days.
In a statement at the White house yesterday, President Obama said, "Keeping the people's government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you 'give' to the other side. It's our basic responsibility."
9/30/2013 - NJ Court Orders State to Allow Gay Marriage
A New Jersey court ruled on Friday that state officials must allow same-sex couples to marry beginning October 21, stating that the current civil union system deprives same-sex couples of equal protection under the law. A spokesman for Republican Governor Chris Christie said the state would appeal the decision, but did not say whether it would seek a stay to delay the ruling from taking effect.
Judge Mary Jacobson of the State Superior Court in Mercer County found that denying marriage equality to same-sex couples violated the New Jersey state constitution. The New Jersey Supreme Court had previously considered the issue in 2006. Although stopping short of finding that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry, the state supreme court, in Lewis v. Harris, ruled that committed same-sex couples must have the same legal rights, benefits, and privileges as heterosexual married couples. In response, the state legislature created a new civil union law.
In her ruling, Judge Jacobson found that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Windsor this June, same-sex couples in New Jersey could never access federal marital benefits. "Under these circumstances, the current inequality visited upon same-sex civil union couples offends the New Jersey Constitution, creates an incomplete set of rights that Lewis sought to prevent, and is not compatible with 'a reasonable conception of basic human dignity,'" she wrote, quoting Lewis.
If the ruling stands, this will be the first time a state has lifted a ban on gay marriage as a result of Windsor, which struck down the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, effectively conferring federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, but not to same-sex couples in civil unions. It will also make New Jersey the 14th U.S. state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will be even more affordable than planned. When the health insurance marketplaces open on October 1, millions of uninsured individuals will be able to choose healthcare plans with lower premiums than originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week revealed that 95 percent of consumers purchasing health insurance through the marketplace live in states with average premiums below CBO estimates. Some monthly premiums are now projected to be more than 16 percent lower than originally estimated, meaning that people will soon enjoy inexpensive, quality health care options that they did not have before.
Tax credits will make health insurance even more affordable. The federal government will subsidize plans by offering tax credits to families and individuals within 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, up to $45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four. These credits will be paid directly to insurance providers, so consumers will not have to front that cost. Factoring in these tax credits, about 6 in 10 uninsured individuals will be able to purchase health insurance through the marketplace for $100 or less per month.
In a speech yesterday, President Obama emphasized that once the marketplace opens, shopping for health insurance will be as easy as booking a plane ticket or hotel room online. Each state's marketplace, accessible through Healthcare.gov, will offer several plans from which to choose. Health insurance providers will display instant price quotes, and individuals will be able to see right away if they qualify for tax credits or other lower costs.
Enrollment begins on October 1, 2013 and runs through March 31, 2014.
9/27/2013 - California To Gradually Raise Minimum Wage
California enacted a law Wednesday that will gradually raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10, making Californians the highest-paid hourly workers in the U.S. The rate will increase to $9 on July 1, 2014, and to $10 on January 1, 2016.
Over 90 percent of California's minimum wage workers are over the age of 20, and women of color are disproportionately employed in industries paying minimum wage. The increase, the state's first since 2008, will boost a full-time worker's income by $4,000 to about $20,000 a year. "For millions of California's hard working minimum wage employees, a few extra dollars a week can make a huge difference to help them provide for their families," said Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg in a statement earlier this month.
California's law follows protests around the U.S. by fast food and Wal-Mart workers demanding higher wages. President Obama has also pushed for a federal minimum wage raise, from the current $7.25 to $9, with indexing for inflation.
9/26/2013 - New Trial for Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander, the African-American Florida woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for discharging a gun in self-defense, will get a new trial. Alexander fired her gun into the ceiling because she was afraid her abusive husband, Rico Gray, would kill her. Alexander claimed protection under the "Stand Your Ground" law, the same law relied upon to acquit George Zimmerman of the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Gray has a history of abusive behavior with Alexander and other women. At the time of the incident in August 2010, Alexander had a restraining order against him, and had been previously hospitalized due to injuries sustained from his abuse. On the day she fired the warning shot into the ceiling, Alexander had gone to her old home to retrieve some personal items when Gray began to threaten her. Alexander locked herself in the bathroom for safety, but Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her before she was able to break away and run to the garage. When she could not open her garage door, Alexander grabbed her gun, for which she had a concealed carry permit. When Gray saw the gun, he told her he would kill her, so she fired a shot in the air to warn him to stay away. She thought it was "the lesser of two evils."
The jury took only 12 minutes to convict Alexander, a mother of three, of three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon--even though nobody was hurt and she did not aim her gun directly at her husband.
To parallel Alexander's case with the Zimmerman trial produces disturbing questions about race, gender, and the justice system in Florida and across this nation. "The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today," said Representative Corrine Brown after Alexander's sentencing. "One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the 'Stand Your Ground Law' will not apply to them. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently."
A Florida appeals court ordered a new trial after finding the lower court had issued improper jury instructions on self-defense.