#HIVResists Monthly Policy Update – June 2017

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Federal Updates

Health Care STILL Under Attack

Senators are preparing to vote on the disastrous “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA), which proposes to dismantle the entire health care infrastructure and our social safety net. This is the Senate version of the House “American Health Care Act” (AHCA). Specifically, in the BCRA: Medicaid, women’s health services, and care for seniors, children, people with pre-existing conditions–including HIV, pregnancy, surviving sexual assault and even asthma–are under attack! All to pay for huge tax cuts for corporations and tax breaks for the very richest. After failing to muster enough votes before to pass the bill before breaking for the July 4 recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell submitted a new version of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Friday, June 30, in efforts to drum up more support for a vote soon after Congress is back in session next week.

PWNers and other HIV advocates have been working nonstop to resist this shameful attack on our care.

You can get involved in the fight, too! Check out our Resistance Recess toolkit here for some ideas and resources.

PACHA Members Resign in Protest of Presidential Administration’s Silence on HIV

On June 16, six of the 21 members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned, including three of the five members who are living with HIV. PACHA advises the President and federal agencies on the domestic response to the HIV epidemic. Resigning members Grissel Granados, Gina Brown, Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Michelle Ogle, and  Ulysses W. Burley III expressed frustration with an administration that values neither their insight on ending the epidemic nor the very lives of people living with and vulnerable to HIV. PWN stands with and supports our resigning members, Gina Brown and Grissel Granados, and applauds them for their service, while also supporting those PACHA members who elected to stay on board in hopes of preserving the integrity of PACHA going forward. Read more about the decision to resign from PWN’s Grissel Granados here and from PWN’s Gina Brown here.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Watch

The Trump administration is currently drafting a new regulation that would significantly reduce access to reproductive health care by undermining the requirement that most employer-based health insurance plans cover contraceptives. Based on leaked information about the rule, the new rule would allow any employer or insurance plan to refuse cover birth control based on a “moral or religious objection.” Once again, the administration is attempting to make this change in secret, without any transparency or input from the community – they are not even following the requirements that the public be given notice and time to comment on the proposed change, which usually applies to this type of administrative rule-making. Read more about this appalling attack on reproductive health care and bodily autonomy, as well as some of the legal challenges that are likely to follow, here and here.

Immigrant Rights, Safety & Dignity

Supreme Court Will Review Muslim Ban, Leaves it Partially Intact – for Now

The United States Supreme Court recently announced that it will review the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s Refugee and Visa Order, otherwise known as the “Muslim ban,” which banned people from six predominantly Muslim countries from traveling into the U.S. The ban had been blocked by multiple federal courts and was already unsuccessfully revised once by the administration before making it to the Supreme Court. Before it makes its final decision in the case, however, the Court said the lower courts went too far in stopping the ban completely, and said that the ban can be enforced against people who do not have a “bona fide” connection to the U.S. It is unclear how this will apply in practice, but the Court gave examples of people who attend school in the U.S. or who have close family members who live in the U.S. as those who would not be subject to the ban. The Court will make its final decision on the travel ban when it reviews the case in the fall. Read more here and here.

HEAL Act Seeks to Break Down Barriers to Care for Immigrant Families

On June 6, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham reintroduced the “Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act.” The bill would remove the 5-year waiting period that immigrant families must currently endure before they are allowed to enroll in children’s health insurance (CHIP) or Medicaid. The HEAL Act would make access to affordable health care a reality for lawfully permanent residents (“green card” holders) and DACA recipients, which would help alleviate some of the huge health disparities faced by immigrants in the U.S., especially women.  The HEAL Act has the support of over 120 organizations, including PWN-USA. Read more here and here.

Racial Justice & Civil Rights

Trump Administration Launches Assault on Voting Rights

At the end of June, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted to defund the Election Assistance Commission, which is the federal agency that is charged with assisting with state elections and protecting against hacking of voting machines. Meanwhile, the White House commission on election integrity, led by vice chair Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach and Hans von Spakovsky of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, have asked states to start removing people from the voter rolls, while demanding that states turn over sensitive data about all registered voters, including political party affiliation, birth dates, and the last 4 digits of social security numbers. Fortunately, officials in 44 states and the District of Columbia have already refused to turn over certain pieces of the requested voter data. Kobach and von Spakovsky are notorious for spreading the myth of “voter fraud” and for enacting voter suppression policies at the state and federal levels. Read more about this extremely disturbing turn of events here.

Supreme Court – Major Decisions & Cases to Watch

Decision in Missouri Case Further Blurs Line Between Church and State

At the end of June, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Missouri violated the constitutional rights of a Missouri church when it denied the church’s application for money through a program that reimburses for the costs of resurfacing playgrounds.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the decision, along with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Although it is not yet clear what this decision will mean for other religious institutions that seeks resources from the state, it is a troubling decision for maintaining the important principle of separation of church and state. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, the ruling “weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both,” and “If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship.” Read more about the decision here.

Supreme Court Upholds Rights of LGBTQ Parents

In a victory for LGBTQ families, on June 26 the Supreme Court struck down a law in Arkansas that prevented both parents in same-gender marriages from being listed on their childrens’ birth certificates. Although three conservative judges, including newly confirmed and notoriously anti-LGBTQ Justice Neil Gorsuch, dissented and said they would have upheld the law, the rest of the Court found that the law discriminated against same-gender married couples by denying them the same benefits of marriage as other couples. Read more about the Court’s decision affirming the rights and dignity of all families here.

Supreme Court Will Review Anti-LGBTQ “Wedding Cake” Case

The Supreme Court recently announced that it will review a case that gained national attention when a bakery in Colorado refused to bake a cake for a same-gender couple’s wedding. This will be a pivotal case for determining constitutional protections for LGBTQ individuals, who increasingly face hostility from the federal government and many states, as well as from individuals seeking to discriminate in the name of religious freedom. Read more about the case, which will be reviewed in the fall, here.

State Updates

  • PWN-USA CO member Mary Jane Maestas was arrested in DC in a sit-in in Senator Cory Gardner’s office 6/28–you’ll see her around the :30 mark in this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show.
  • PWN-USA OH member Olga Irwin participated in a protest outside Sen. Portman’sOlga AHCA protest office and spoke to the media about her concerns with how Trumpcare could harm people living with HIV. 
  • PWN-USA Board Member Venita Ray from Texas organized a phone bank in Houston: 5 people made 257 calls on Monday 6/26!
  • PWN-USA Colorado members have been protesting outside Senator Cory Gardner’s office in Denver, CO, and have been trying to chase him down during the recess–and recording and posting videos addressed to him, since he is dodging his constituents.
  • PWN-USA Board Member and PWN-USA TX Senior Member Evany Turk organized a 30 young adults to phone bank target Senators while visiting her mother in Chicago.
  • PWNer Masonia Traylor from Atlanta, GA, provided powerful testimony at the People’s Filibuster in Washington, DC. (see photo at top of story)
  • PWN-USA’s Executive Director Naina Khanna also spoke at this event (see photo below).Naina DC rally
  • PWN-USA Policy Fellow Shyronn Jones organized a meeting with Senator Perdue for July 6th, by using the PWN-USA Action Alert template to request an appointment with Senator Perdue, found a form on his website to request a meeting and got a meeting with State Director and State Policy Director. She also submitted an op-ed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • PWNers Gina Brown and Grissel Granados were among the 6 members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS who resigned June 14 in protest of the administration’s lack of strategy or focus on the epidemic, highlighting the disastrous health care bills as evidence of its disregard for people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
  • PWNer Gina Brown submitted an op-ed to the Times-Picayune about her decision to leave PACHA, and was also interviewed and quoted by the Daily BeastTheBody.com, and The Hill about her decision.
  • PWNer Grissel Granados had an op-ed published in SELF Magazine about her decision to resign from the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
  • PWNer Connie Rose from Las Vegas organized a phone bank in Nevada.
  • PWN ally Bryan Jones organized a phone bank in Cleveland.
  • PWN-USA Policy Fellow Arianna Lint participated in a protest of the health care bill outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s office.

What’s happening where you live? Contact Cammie at cammie.pwnusa@gmail.com.

Policy Workgroup

Want to discuss the issues in this policy update in more detail and learn how public policies and laws affect people living with and affected by HIV? Join a PWN-USA Policy Workgroup call on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 6 PM ET/3 PM PTThe PWN-USA Policy Workgroup is for women living with HIV only. To be added to the Policy Workgroup listserv, please check the Policy Workgroup box when you fill out our membership form here.