California Legislature Considers Bill to Reduce Abortion Costs

The California state legislature is considering a bill to reduce or eliminate the cost of abortion care in the state. The bill would eliminate co-pays and payments towards deductibles for abortions and abortion counseling. 

The bill, SB 245, was approved by the Senate and will next be voted on in the Assembly. 

“It’s tough to know your reproductive rights may be in question again after it’s been decided for 40 years,” said state Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), author of the bill. “We’re taking a stance, not just to make abortions available but to make them free and equitable.”

Most other state legislatures have proposed anti-abortion legislation this year. According to Guttmacher Institute, 47 legislatures have introduced a total of 559 abortion restriction bills, and 82 have been enacted already. 

California is one of six states to require health insurance plans to cover abortion care, and is one of the sixteen states to direct Medicaid funding to abortions.

If passed, this bill would not apply to individuals who have federally-regulated health insurance plans. According to a California Health Benefits Review Program analysis, the bill would impact nearly 10,000 people per year. 

The passage of this bill could significantly help low-income individuals who are faced with the difficult choice of either paying for their abortion or paying for other essentials like groceries and rent. 

California is among the several states that expanded abortion access in 2021. Hawaii passed a law expanding the category of medical professionals who can provide abortions, Washington is now requiring student health insurance plans that cover maternity care to cover abortions, Virginia repealed a ban on state marketplace insurance palns covering abortions, and New Mexico repealed its law to ban abortion if Roe were ever overturned.

Sources: LA Times 6/7/21; California Legislative Information; Guttmacher Institute 6/1/21; Guttmacher Institute 6/1/21

Senate Confirms Kristen Clarke to Lead Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Kristen Clarke as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Justice Department. Clarke is the first woman and the first Black woman to lead the division.

The Senate voted 51-48, with Sen. Susan Collins as the only Republican to vote in favor of her nomination. 

Clarke was previously the head of the Civil Rights Bureau of the attorney general’s office of New York. She served as head of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed over 250 lawsuits on education, hate crimes and housing, voting rights, and other important issues during her time leading the organization.

Vice President Kamala Harris swore Clarke in, and her spokesperson Symone Sanders referred to Clarke as “a tireless champion of equal justice” in her statement before the ceremony.

“This is a historic moment because for the first time since its creation, following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the confirmed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights will be a woman, and will be a black woman, and that is Kristen Clarke,” Sanders said.

Clarke is a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from Jamaica. She attended Harvard University and Columbia University School of Law.

Clarke stated, “Our nation is a healthier place when we respect the rights of all communities. In every role I’ve held, I have worked for and with people of all backgrounds — regardless of race, national origin, religion and disability status,” Clarke wrote. “I’ve listened deeply to all sides of debates, regardless of political affiliation. There is no substitute to listening and learning in this work, and I pledge to you that I will bring that to the role.”

Sources: CNN 5/25/21; NBC News 5/25/21

HHS Announces Grant for Domestic Violence Survivors Through American Rescue Plan

On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $200 million to support the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Program grantees, funded through the American Rescue Plan. The Department’s funding is through the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families.

These programs provide crisis intervention and safety planning resources available to domestic violence survivors across the country. The programs also work to reduce domestic violence in geographically isolated Alaskan Native villages and dedicate resources towards healing and resilience for children exposed to domestic violence. 

This award will include 296 supplemental grants to reach states, territories, and tribes,a s well as national and state resource centers and coalitions, Specialized Services for Abused Parents and Children, and national hotlines.

Every year, FVPSA-funded programs serve more than 1.3 million victims and their dependents and respond to 2.7 million crisis calls. These supplemental funds will allow FVPSA to continue and expand support.

JooYeun Chang, ACF Acting Assistant Secretary, stated, “The rise in domestic violence incidents during the COVID-19 public health emergency is a crisis within the pandemic, that’s why President Biden is investing in the network that supports survivors and families. The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Program is the only dedicated federal funding stream for shelters and supportive services for victims of domestic violence and their children…Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we are providing critical support to supplement existing programs that provide shelter and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence and their children.”

Sources: Administration for Children and Families Press Release

Tennessee Passes Bill Targeting Transgender People

On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law a bill to require government facilities and businesses to post signage letting the public know if they allow transgender people to use bathrooms associated with their gender identity. The law is the first of its kind, and will go into effect on July 1.

A few days prior, Governor Lee signed a bill that puts public schools and school districts at legal risk if they allow transgender students and employees to use locker rooms and bathrooms that do not reflect their sex and birth.

Earlier this year, Governor Lee passed a proposal to keep transgender student athletes from playing sports on teams that affirm their gender identities. Another law he signed this year requires school districts to alert parents 30 days before students are taught about gender identity or sexual orientation and allows parents to opt their student out of the lesson. 

Tennessee is one of many states passing bills targeting transgender people, particualrly transgender youth. Statehouses across the country have introduced dozens of bills banning access to sports and healthcare for trans young people. 

The required signage would read: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.” However, the law does not mandate specific penalties or fines to ensure the signs are posted, so enforcement may not be straightforward.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has said the legislation is “impermissible compelled speech, in violation of the First Amendment, and raises substantial due process and equal protection concerns.”

Sources: NBC News 5/20/21; Tennessean 5/20/21; Twitter 5/21/21; Twitter 11/12/20

Supreme Court to Review Mississippi’s 15- Week Abortion Ban

On Monday, the Supreme Court said that it will review Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which aimed to repeal Roe v. Wade, in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The ban has been blocked by lower courts over the last two years since its passage, reasoning that the law is unconstitutional under Roe’s standards. After the law was passed, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sued under both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey

This will be one of the first reproductive rights cases that the Supreme Court will hear since conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed in October. With her on the bench, the court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

This case centers the question of whether all bans on abortion prior to the point of fetal viability are unconstitutional, which poses challenges to Roe

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement, “If the Constitution is respected and the courts work with integrity, this ban will be struck down. The outcome shouldn’t be in doubt. But the fact that we are terrified of the potential outcome shows how unstable the state of our courts and the right to abortion are. We will fight until everyone has access to the abortion care they need, deserve, and are legally entitled to.” 

The Supreme Court hearing this Mississippi case comes as anti-abortion legislation across the country continues to ramp up. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 536 abortion abortion restrictions in 46 states have been introduced since January. Sixty-one of those bans were enacted in 13 states. 

Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate for state issues at Guttmacher Institute, said, “This is not a drill. The decision comes at a time when conservative politicians in over a dozen states are dismantling abortion rights and access with a vengeance and could eclipse even the record of enacted restrictions set in 2011. This onslaught of new restrictions has been motivated by a much more conservative judiciary and Supreme Court that conservatives hope are willing to gut Roe v. Wade or overturn it outright.”

Sources: SCOTUSBlog 5/17/21; New York Times 5/17/21; Politico 5/17/21; National Women’s Law Center 5/17/21; Guttmacher Institute 4/30/21; Guttmacher Institute 5/17/21

Texas Legislature Debates Anti-Trans Youth Bill

On Wednesday, the Texas House heard testimony debating HB 1399, a bill which would ban gender-affirming care for transgender young people.

The bill would prohibit doctors from providing evidence-based, best practice medical care for transgender young people under 18.

Many parents of transgender children spoke on Wednesday about the danger of this bill. One parent said, “why are you bullying my kid instead of expanding access to health care?”

Another person testifying said: “It’s critical for children to receive trans-affirming care. There was a study published in 2014 in the Mental Health Review Journal that when kids received trans-affirming care, suicide rates dropped from 67% to 3%”. 

“If these bills do pass, we will have to move out of the state, along with many other families,” said another parent.

Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said, “This bill is an unconstitutional attempt to deny transgender Texans the right to exist. At a time when our state is facing numerous crises, HB 1399 would violate parents’ fundamental right to provide the best possible health care for their kids, usurp doctors’ ability to provide critical and life-saving care, and unlawfully target and discriminate against transgender kids. It also could leave taxpayers footing the bill for legislation that tramples on some of our most fundamental constitutional rights. If lawmakers insist on moving this bill forward, we will see them in court.”

Sources: Texas Legislature Online; Twitter 5/12/21; ACLU of Texas 5/11/21

Congresswoman Maloney, Congressional Maternity Care Caucus, and Black Maternal Health Caucus Co-Chairs Introduce Bill to Protect Breastfeeding Rights to Working Moms

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, with Congressional Maternity Care Caucus co-chairs Congresswomen Jaime Herrera Beutler and Lucille Roybal-Allard and co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus Alma Adams and Lauren Underwood, introduced the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act.

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act will close a coverage gap in the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act and ensure that nursing employees have the protections they need to pump during the workday.

The Act will extend protections to the 9 million employees excluded unintentionally by the Break Time law by including excluded categories of workers like nurses, teachers, and farmworkers. It also protects both salaried and hourly workers and mandates that employees must be paid during the time they pump.

“When I was pregnant with my first child, I was told there was no such thing as maternity leave at my current job, and while we’ve come a long way since then, new parents still face too many difficulties in the workplace. Those difficulties should not include breastfeeding,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “All working moms who want to breastfeed must have access to basic accommodations to pump breastmilk in clean, private spaces. 

“As a mother and grandmother, I know how important it is to break down the barriers that hold women back from the best possible health outcomes,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Every major medical authority strongly encourages breastfeeding for at least the first year of life, as it provides significant health and nutritional benefits to both the mother and infant. By closing an unintended loophole, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act provides protection and support to an additional 9 million working moms who have been forced to choose between breastfeeding and earning a paycheck. Especially during a pandemic and a maternal health crisis, nursing parents should not be punished for making the best choices for their children.”

“Employers in every industry should have policies in place to accommodate the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding employees. Unfortunately, that is not currently the case for far too many sectors. Instead, too many workers are penalized, discriminated against, or left without options when they seek reasonable accommodations. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would ensure that millions of employees left unprotected by current law will have a reasonable amount of time and a private place to pump breast milk at their place of work. This critical legislation is long overdue and is essential to safeguard the health and economic security of millions of women and families across the country,” said Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union.

Source: Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act; Press Release, Congresswoman Maloney 5/11/21

Texas House Passes Anti-Abortion Bill

On Wednesday, the Texas House passed a bill banning abortion as early as six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. The Senate has already passed a similar version, and differences will be negotiated before the bill will go to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.

The bill is a “heartbeat bill,” meaning it aims to ban abortion at the point of first detection of embryonic “heartbeat,” even though the embryo is not yet a fetus and does not have a heart. Dozens of other states have passed similar bills, which mostly have been blocked by federal courts. 

What makes this bill unique is the inclusion of a provision that prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban and instead allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and seek financial damages.

Medical groups have expressed opposition to this anti-abortion bill. “Regardless of our personal beliefs about abortion, as licensed phsycians in Texas, we implore you to not weaponie the judicial branch against us to make a political point,” a group of 200 doctors wrote to Hose leadership this week. 

If it becomes law, the measure will likely be challenged by reproductive rights groups. Proponents of heartbeat bills are hoping that a legal challenge will eventually reach the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade.

“This bill is about nothing more than politics and is fueled by extremist efforts to ban abortion outright,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood will do everything it can to protect its patients. This fight does not end here.”

Sources: Washington Post 5/5/21; Texas Tribune 5/5/21

Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois Will Appeal Ruling on ERA

On Monday, Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois filed notice that they will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the states’ votes to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment were too late.

Virginia led the appeal, with the other states joining. “Throughout the years, efforts to have the Equal Rights Amendment added to the Constitution have met with many impediments, but every single time this movement has overcome those hurdles and come out the other side stronger than ever,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. 

The states argued that because the deadline placed on the ERA was put in the amendment’s preamble, not in its actual text that the states voted on, it is non-binding. In March, US District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that Virginia’s vote came after the deadline, which “is just as effective as one in the text of a proposed amendment.”

The ERA was originally proposed in 1972, and it passed in both houses with overwhelming support, and was endorsed by President Nixon. The Amendment is only one sentence: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

In March, the US House passed a resolution to remove the deadline on ratification. That resolution has bipartisan support, with sponsors Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Ben Cardin in the Senate and Representatives Jackie Speier and Tom Reed in the House. 

President Biden praised the House’s action, stating that it was “long past time that we enshrine the principle of gender equality in our Constitution.

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal and Executive Director Kathy Spillar stated, “Our message is simple: We will not give up our dream to live in a world without violence and with full equality under the law.”

Sources: NBC News 5/3/21; The Hill 5/4/21; NBC News 3/17/21; Ms. 4/6/21

Attorney General Merrick Garland Asks Congress for $1 Billion for Office of Violence Against Women

On Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland asked Congress for over $35 billion in funding for the Justice Department, including $1 billion for the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW).

The OVW assists state, local, territorial, and tribal programs in working to end gender-based violence. In addition to the $1 billion, $120 million is provided to address the nationwide problem of rape kit backlogs as well as funding new investigative training programs for law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating gender-based violence.

The OVW funding will go to supporting women at historically Black colleges and in Hispanic and tribal institutions; providing funding for domestic violence hotlines, medical services and emergency shelters; and funding services for transgender survivors of domestic abuse.

In addition, the DOJ is seeking $232 million to combat gun violence though improved background checks, comprehensive redflag laws, supporting both DOJ federal law enforcement resources, and community violence intervention programs. In his statement, AG Garland said, “gun deaths continue to occur at a staggering rate in our country. There is more we can do to make our communities safer. This is both a law enforcement issue and a public health issue.”

“We are also stepping up our work on environmental justice. Communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities often suffer the most harm from environmental crimes and pollution. Among our efforts, we are seeking increased resources for our Environment and Natural Resources Division to help these vulnerable populations.”

Sources: Department of Justice Budget Request 5/4/21; ABC News 5/4/21; New York Times 5/4/21

Montana Governor Signs Three Anti-Abortion Bills

On Monday, Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana signed three bills aimed at restricting abortion access. 

The first bill requires health care providers to offer pregnant people the opportunity to view an ultrasound before providing an abortion. The second creates restrictions for medication abortion, including outlawing the use of telemedicine for administration of the necessary pills. The third bill bans abortion after 20 weeks.

The anti-abortion lawmakers who voted to pass the bill used the guise of “public health”, arguing that these bills protect pregnant people. Activists assert that the laws violate the constitutional right to abortion, as well as conflict with the relationship between abortion patients and their providers.

This law will directly and disproportionately harm the most marginalized communities in Montana, particularly rural, low-income, and Native residents. Montana has seven abortion clinics, five of which are operated by Planned Parenthood. 

Executive director of the ACLU of Montana, Caitlin Borgmann, stated in January that these bills are an strategic step toward making abortion completely unavailable. “These bills represent the worst kind of government overreach — placing the government between patients and the medical care they deserve,” Borgmann said.

Martha Stahl, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Montana, stated that passing these bills together heightens the harm of each. “Looking at those together, I think the impact is sort of multiplied, right,” Stahl said. “Because if you’re making it harder for folks to have abortion earlier in pregnancy, and then you’re making it harder on that same group of people who maybe can’t travel, you know, who have other family obligations, et cetera, those are the folks who are really getting impacted by this legislation together.”

Sources: AP News 4/26/21; CNN 4/27/21

Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill Denouncing Anti-Asian Discrimination

On Thursday, the Senate passed with a strong bipartisan majority a bill denouncing discrimination against Asian communities in the US. The bill also creates a new position at the Department of Justice to expedite reviews of potential COVID-related hate crimes. 

The vote was 94-1, with lone opposition from Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng of New York and Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. It gained broad support after the tragedy in Atlanta of the shootings of six Asian women.

The bill will next be sent to the House, where it is expected to pass, and then to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Sen. Hirono said that the bill’s passage “sends a clear and unmistakable message of solidarity” to Asian communities.

“This long overdue bill sends two messages: to our Asian American friends, we will not tolerate bigotry against you, and to those perpetrating anti-Asian bigotry, we will pursue you to the fullest extent of the law,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in floor remarks shortly before the vote Thursday. “We cannot — we cannot allow the recent tide of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice against Asian Americans go unchecked.”

Sources: CNN 4/22/21; ABC 4/22/21

House Votes to Pass DC Statehood Bill

On Thursday, the House voted 216-208 to grant statehood to Washington, DC. This move is the first time a Congressional chamber has approved establishing DC as a state.

The legislation renames the capital as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, granting it two senators and a voting representative in the House. DC currently has over 700,000 residents, most of whom are people of color. Black residents make up 46% of the city’s population. Multiple states have lower populations than DC, including Vermont and Wyoming.

Last year, the House passed similar legislation but it died in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to pass H.R. 51,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC’s non voting House delegate. “This country was founded on the principles of ‘no taxation without representation’ and consent of the governed, but D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot consent to the laws under which they, as American citizens, must live,” she said.

This week, the White House confirmed President Biden’s support for DC statehood. The Office of Management of Budget issued a statement declaring that granting DC statehood would “make our union stronger and more just.”

Sources: New York Times 4/22/21; US Census July 2019

Derek Chauvin Found Guilty for George Floyd’s Death as Police Kill Ma’Khia Bryant

On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges for the murder of George Floyd last year.

The prosecution argued that George Floyd died as a direct result of Chauvin’s physical actions– Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck caused low oxygen levels which led to a brain injury and arrhythmia, which caused his heart to stop. “He did what he did on purpose, and it killed George Floyd,” said prosecutor Steve Schleicher.

The testimony included both complex medical and forensic pathology evidence, as well as deep emotional stands– including from Darnella, the young woman who took the video of Chauvin killing Floyd, as well as bystander Charles McMillan.

Chauvin’s sentencing trial will be in about eight weeks. Until then, he will wait in a correctional facility in Minnesota.

In the same evening as Chauvin’s conviction, police in Columbus, Ohio killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 15-year-old Black child. Paula Bryant, her mother, said that Ma’Khia had called the police for help because people were fighting outside her house. Police shot her four times. 

Feminist Majority Foundation unequivocally supports the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which we see as an important step in ending police brutality. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding law enforcement accountability and policing practices. 

The Act would ban chokeholds, limit qualified immunity, lower the criminal intent standard to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct, and authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a practice of discrimination. The Act would also establish a national registry to compile data on police misconduct records. It has passed in the U.S. House, with all but two Democrats voting in favor and all but one Republicans voting against. It is currently pending a vote in the Senate.

Daneille Atkinson, founder and executive director of Mothering Justice, said in a statement: “Today’s verdict is a step on the path to justice. We hope that George Floyd’s family can take solace in knowing that his killer has been held to account. But we know that Black people in Minnesota and across the country continue to be persecuted and subject to brutal, deadly police violence.

Over the three weeks Chauvin stood trial alone, more than three people per day were killed at the hands of police. One trial, one verdict will not fix the criminal legal system, which is built on white supremacy. One cop held to account will not stop the legions of police and law enforcement officers across the country from continuing to persecute and kill Black people. 

“But this trial and verdict is a sign of progress because of the activism and bravery of the movement for justice. We stand with the family of George Floyd and we continue to fight for justice for all people — especially people of color — murdered by the people sworn to protect us.

“Tonight, we celebrate progress. Tomorrow, we continue our work to end white supremacy by renewing our calls to defund the police and invest in schools — not jails because Black lives truly do matter.”

Sources: CNN 4/21/21; NPR 4/20/21; WBNS 4/21/21; Mothering Justice 4/21/21; New York Times 4/21/21

Florida Passes “Anti-Riot” Bill to Criminalize Protesting

On Monday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB1 into law, referred to as an “anti-riot” bill, which puts stronger penalties on protesters who engage in “violent rallies”. This comes days before a verdict is expected in Derek Chauvin’s high profile case.

The law staunchly criminalizes “rioting”, “looting”, and “harming law enforcement officers”, as well as commandeering highways, toppling monuments, and “mob intimidation”. It also prevents local governments from defunding law enforcement agencies and makes cities liable to poor “riot control”.

Advocates are concerned about the over-reaching nature of the law. Francesca Menes, co-founder and board chair of The Black Collective, said in a statement: “This bill is a direct response to our effective organizing, locally and across the nation to reimagine public safety and value Black lives. House Bill 1 will disproportionately criminalize Blacks in Florida, undermine our free speech and punish local governments for responding to the calls to prioritize the needs of their communities. These enhanced felonies, new mandatory minimum and established crimes which are intentionally vague, increases the discretion of individual police officers to interpret any gatherings of three or more Black people in public.”

In his statement, Micah Kubick of ACLU of Florida said: “HB 1 is racist, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic, plain and simple. The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest. It was introduced as a political stunt after a year of historic protest, in which millions of Americans joined together to call for an end to the disparate killings of Black people at the hands of police. It is no coincidence that these bills were introduced by politicians who harshly criticized these calls for racial justice and police accountability.”

Sources: WPTV 4/19/21; WTXL 4/19/21; Twitter 4/19/21; ACLU of Florida 4/15/21

Biden Announces Reversal of Trump’s Domestic Gag Rule

On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced that they would be taking steps to undo the Trump-era domestic “gag” rule, which prevented clinics that referred patients for abortions from receiving federal funding.

The proposed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule would revoke the Trump restrictions eventually, but not immediately. If implemented, the rule will return the program to the way it was run up until 2019, when the Trump administration altered the rules. 

“Advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality, is a priority for OPA [the HHS Office of Population Affairs] and the Title X program,” HHS wrote in the proposal. “By focusing on advancing equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone,” the agency wrote.

Title X is a critical funder of thousands of providers offering contraception, cancer screening, and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income people of all genders throughout the country. 

In 2019, when Trump issued the domestic gag rule, about one-quarter of the nearly 4,000 providers left the program, arguing that the rule was unethical. Because of this, several states had no Title X providers. 

In California, 36% of its Title X service sites withdrew from the program, which resulted in over 700,000 patients losing access to Title X-funded care.

“As a result of the dramatic decline in Title X services provided, the 2019 Final Rule undermined the mission of the Title X program by helping fewer individuals in planning and spacing births, providing fewer preventive health services, and delivering fewer screenings” for sexually transmitted infections, HHS said in the proposal.

Biden’s reversal of Trump’s rule will particularly impact communities of color, especially Black patients. Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement that “This rule especially harmed people who already face barriers to care, including people of color, patients with a low income, and those who are uninsured. Everyone deserves quality health care, which includes receiving accurate information about abortion. That’s true now more than ever – in the midst of a public health and economic crisis, people need the important care that Title X health centers provide. We’re glad the Biden Administration is moving to restore this program and we will continue to fight for quality care alongside the Biden-Harris administration, Title X family planning providers, and their patients.”

Sources: The Hill 4/14/21; Ms. Magazine 4/14/21

Police Officer Killed 20-Year-Old Daunte Wright

On Sunday, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop. The shooting happened ten miles from where Derek Chauvin is on trial in the killing of George Floyd.

According to the Chief Tim Gannon of Brooklyn Center Police Department, the officer intended to tase Mr. Wright, but shot him instead. Medical workers pronounced Mr. Wright dead at the scene. On Monday, The medical examiner from Hennepin County reported that Mr. Wright “died of a gunshot wound of the chest and manner of death is homicide.”

Kate Wright, Mr. Wright’s mother, said that he called her as he was being pulled over. “He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror,” she said.

Ms. Wright also said that her son’s girlfriend was in the car with him when he was shot. The police said a woman in the car faced injuries from the crash that were not life-threatening.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a state of emergency on Monday and mandated a curfew from 7pm Monday to 6am Tuesday. On Monday evening, demonstrators gathered in Brooklyn Center, outside a police station. The police declared the demonstration unlawful and attempted to break up the crowd using flash-bang grenades and tear gas. About 40 people were arrested in Brooklyn Center for violating curfew and rioting.

One protester said, “a young Black man just starting his life– that you will never understand… just starting his life, with a two year old. Getting murdered, for what? He should be here today.”

The ACLU of Minnesota in their statement said in part, “The ACLU-MN has deep concerns that police here appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do all too often to target Black people. While we are waiting to learn more, we must reiterate that police violence and killings of people of color must end, as must the over-policing and racial profiling that are endemic to our white supremacist system of policing.”

Sources: New York Times 4/13/21; Washington Post 4/13/21; ACLU Minnesota 4/11/21

ACLU Files Suit On Behalf of Incarcerated Woman Seeking Abortion Care

On Friday, the ACLU of Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit seeking emergency action on behalf of an incarcerated woman who is being blocked from accessing abortion care. The woman is incarcerated at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women (NCCW).

ACLU argues in its lawsuit that the state official’s policy violates the woman’s constitutional right to access abortion. The lawsuit seeks an emergency order to allow the woman immediate access to abortion care through a local healthcare provider.

Scout Richters, Legal Policy Counsel with ACLU of Nebraska, said that the state’s action threatens the woman’s rights, digity, and health.

“State officials are barring a woman from getting an abortion and forcing her to remain pregnant against her will. It’s wrong and it’s unlawful,” Richters said. “All of us, including our client, have the right to make our own decision about whether and when to become a parent. We’re taking this to court to ensure she can get the care she needs as soon as possible and to make sure officials never again show such blatant disregard for the people in their custody and care.”

Deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project Brigitte Amiri said, “The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services’ decision to prevent our client from accessing abortion is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Every court to consider this issue has held that the right to abortion survives incarceration.  We hope the court will act quickly so that our client can get the care she needs.”

This case comes over a decade after Roe v. Crawford (2008), where the ACLU filed lawsuit and successfully allowed for an incarcerated woman to the access abortion care she sought.

Sources: ACLU Nebraska 4/9/21; ACLU 1/22/08

Gunman Opened Fire in Maryland, Severely Injuring Two People

A gunman shot and injured two people in Frederick, Maryland on Tuesday morning. The police have not identified the gunman publicly, but the US Navy reported that he was a Navy hospital corpsman. 

The gunman, a 38-year-old man, opened fire in a business at Riverside Tech Park, striking two men. The victims were in critical condition and are now receiving treatment at a hospital in Baltimore. 

As more COVID vaccines are administered and the country begins to open up, we have seen an uptick in shootings in public places. This tragedy follows the mass shootings in Boulder and Atlanta over the last few weeks. 

In an overwhelming majority of cases, men are the shooters. According to a report from Statistica, men were the shooters in 116 of the 121 mass shootings since 1982. 

The House of Representatives recently passed two bills in an attempt to curtail gun violence: HR8, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, and HR1446, sponsored by Rep. James Clyburn.

Under current law, the FBI has three days to complete background checks for gun buyers. If the FBI cannot meet that deadline, which often occurs because of high demand for guns, the seller can legally offer the buyer the gun. HR1446 extends this deadline to 10 days and allows for a 10 day grace period. 

HR8 addresses the loophole of unlicensed sellers, mandating that unlicensed and private sellers would need to conduct background checks as well.

If passed, these measures will likely have an immediate effect on gun purchasing. According to Everytown, about 10 percent of people who have bought guns on the marketplace (e.g. at gun shows, from friends), would not have passed a background check submitted by a licensed seller. According to Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group, 22 percent of all guns are sold without background checks.

Sources: New York Times 4/6/21; CNN 4/6/21; Statistica 3/23/21; Vox 3/23/21

Arkansas Governor Vetoes Anti-Trans Legislation

On Monday afternoon, Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed legislation that would have made Arkansas the first state to ban gender-affirming health care treatment for transgender youth.

The bill aimed to ban doctors from providing transgender people under the age of 18 with treatments including hormone therapies, puberty blockers, and transition-related surgeries, and from referring them for these treatments. State lawmakers in at least 17 other states have introduced similar bills aiming to ban medical treatment for trans minors.

“If (the bill) becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.

Major medical organizations, pediatricians, social workers and mental health professionals, and parents of transgender youth have been in staunch opposition to this bill, which threatened to harm an already vulnerable community. Trans youth are at a higher rate for depression, self-harm, and suicide, and blocking their ability to access health care treatment only further isolates and harms them.

“The bill is over broad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment,” he said. “In other words, the young people who are currently under a doctor’s care will be without treatment when this law goes into effect.”

Chase Stangio, deputy director for transgender justice at ACLU, has called this bill “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass though a state legislature.” Today, after the governor announced his decision, Stangio tweeted, “It will be hard to sustain but this is SO MEANINGFUL… Thank you to everyone who called, emailed, tweeted Gov. Hutchinson. This is a powerful rebuke of this nightmare legislation.”

In a hearing for the bill, Cash Ashley, a transgender man in Arkansas, said, “If this bill passes, people will die.” If he had received gender-affirming care as a teenager, “I may not have tried to take my own life.”

“The world is already a hostile place for trans people, especially trans youth,” Ashley said. “Trans people have always been here, we will always be here, and you cannot erase us. Please stop trying.”

Sources: Washington Post 4/5/21; ABC News 4/5/21; Twitter 4/5/21


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