In this issue:
PWN-USA Policy Fellowship
Attacks on Healthcare
Attacks on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
Threats to Democracy
State Policy Roundup
Introducing: #HIVResists Policy Update
PWN-USA is excited to launch our monthly policy update newsletter. The new Administration has engaged in a “shock and awe” strategy to throw us off our game with challenges to healthcare, reproductive rights, freedom of movement, migration rights, family status, civil rights, and basic bodily autonomy since the first week. There is so much happening every day that it can be overwhelming to try to keep track. But we will not be distracted. Starting this month, you will receive our new #HIVResists policy update to recap policy challenges and opportunities for progress related to PWN’s mission and policy priorities. We hope these monthly updates will help you distill accurate and timely information about our most critical policy battles so that you have the tools to fight back! Knowledge is our weapon.
PWN-USA Policy Fellowship application open until February 15th!
PWN is launching a Policy Fellowship for Women Living with HIV (WLHIV). The yearlong training program will prepare and involve WLHIV in all levels of policy and decision-making by increasing participants’ ability to engage effectively in the federal policy and advocacy arena. In the current political environment marred by threats to sexual and reproductive rights, basic health care access, the social safety net, and civil and human rights, it is critical that WLHIV are equipped with a wide array of tools to support vibrant, visionary and strategic advocacy on behalf of their communities!
The fellowship is open to all women living with HIV, including women of trans experience. We especially encourage young women, women of color, immigrant women, folks who are trans, LGBQ and gender non-conforming, who live in the South and who possess a strong desire to effect meaningful change in the lives of other WLHIV to apply.
Federal Policy Updates
Attacks on Health Care
ACA repeal attempt underway
In early January, the Republican-controlled Congress initiated the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.” Congress voted to begin repealing the ACA through an expedited process by using a procedure called “budget reconciliation,” which allows Congress to make changes to the law with only a majority vote, rather than the 60 votes they would normally need to pass a new law.
Learn more about how repealing the ACA will impact women, as well as why the ACA is important for people with disabilities and older adults. There are only certain parts of the current law that Congress is allowed to repeal through the budget reconciliation process. However, even partial repeal of the ACA will have disastrous consequences for insurance coverage and access to care for millions of Americans; learn more here.
ACA “replacement” proposals
While Congress attempts to repeal the ACA using the budget reconciliation process, there have been a number of proposals to replace the ACA, all of which would leave many Americans uninsured and greatly reduce access to care compared to the current law. One plan introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) says it will provide states with more “choice” by allowing states to choose from a few options, including keeping portions of the ACA but with reduced federal funding and fewer consumer protections. However, any of the proposed options would still cause significant reductions in coverage that would leave millions without affordable care and would deepen the drastic health disparities that already exist within and across states. Read more about the proposed Cassidy-Collins plan here or here.
The efforts to stop Congress from repealing the ACA or to find an acceptable replacement continue – Be sure to check out our action alerts and sign our #HIVResists Pledge to take action on voicing your concerns to your elected representatives!
Trump orders agencies to undermine the ACA
Just days after taking the oath of office, Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to use their discretion to exploit various loopholes to avoid implementing or expanding important aspects of the ACA. While Trump cannot use his executive power to repeal the ACA himself, his order directs federal agencies to undermine key provisions of the ACA which are meant to protect individuals and expand access to care. Read more about the order and its implications for advocates here.
Medicaid block grant proposals
Members of congress and the Trump administration have also indicated that they would like to shift funding for Medicaid to a “block grant” program, which would result in at least 70 million people losing access to care and services. Basically, a block grant program would give each state a capped amount of federal funding for Medicaid services and allow each state to decide how to use that funding. This would allow states to write their own rules about who is and is not eligible for coverage, which services are available, and would result in less coverage overall, since federal funding would be capped. Protecting Medicaid is vital for women living with HIV – read why here and check out this Q & A page for more information about how block grant funding would have a devastating impact on healthcare provided under the Medicaid program.
For a detailed summary of the recent ACA and Medicaid developments, including specific suggestions for advocates, check out this Health Care in Motion Update!
New White House website reveals new administration’s priorities
Donald Trump was sworn in as the new president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Just moments after his inauguration, a completely overhauled Whitehouse.gov website was launched. While the information on the new website does not provide a complete outline of steps the new administration will be taking, it does provide insight into the administration’s policy priorities. The shift in priorities from the Obama administration is stark – under Trump, the website no longer maintains any pages for civil rights, disability rights, or climate change. Instead, the new website unabashedly displays the Administration’s aggressive foreign policy priorities and is filled with inaccurate and inflammatory language in line with divisive and hateful rhetoric Trump used during his presidential campaign.
As part of his presidential transition, Trump has nominated a slew of new cabinet members who have sparked outrage among health, reproductive justice, HIV, civil rights, LGBTQ, education, disability rights, and environmental advocates. So far 5have been confirmed, while many more await either committee hearings or full Senate confirmation. Of particular concern to HIV activists is the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, who has been connected to HIV denialism. Price is leading efforts to slash the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid, and has been openly hostile to reproductive healthcare access and LGBTQ rights, as well as having strong financial conflicts of interest. If confirmed to head HHS, Price would be responsible for leading the Health Resources Services Administration/Bureau of HIV/AIDS (HRSA/HAB), which is home to the Ryan White CARE Act, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal health-related agencies. Find out more about the grave consequences Price’s confirmation could have for women living with HIV and ways to take action in this recent statement from PWN.
Another cabinet nomination of grave concern to human rights advocates is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. The US Attorney General is our chief law enforcement officer for the nation, responsible for enforcing our civil rights and non-discrimination laws. Sessions is an unacceptable choice for this position. He has a documented record of racism and hostility to immigrants, and has spent his career opposing LGBTQ rights. Additionally, Sessions does not take sexual assault or climate change seriously, and has repeatedly opposed banning inhumane treatment of detainees, voter-approved legalization of marijuana, education rights for children with disabilities, and the Violence Against Women Act. Information on Sessions’ voting record can be found here.
For information on ongoing and completed cabinet nominations, as well as resources for taking action by calling your Senator, check out this helpful resource. And be sure to check out our weekly action alerts for timely ways you can respond!
Amidst local and national outcry, Trump visited Philadelphia last week to speak with congressional Republicans who gathered there to plan out the details of their policy assault on the American public. Those attending made it made it clear that repealing the ACA and an overhaul of the tax code are high priorities for the group and should be expected to come down the pipeline soon. The visit was not without protest, though, as several hundred activists gathered to protest the event and show that the decision-makers visiting did not represent their city or the values of the country.
Attacks on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood
Anti-abortion legislators and the new administration continue to disregard reproductive rights and push to “defund” Planned Parenthood, one of the country’s largest providers of sexual and reproductive health care for women across country. Although the government already prohibits federal funding from being used for abortion care, defunding Planned Parenthood would also deprive millions of people access to contraceptive services, STI testing and treatment, and breast and cervical cancer screenings, which Planned Parenthood provides. A recent report explains the essential role of Planned Parenthood health centers in delivering high-quality reproductive health care and the enormous gap that would be created in communities throughout the country if Planned Parenthood were deprived of funding.
Congress introduces H.R. 7, attempting to cut off insurance coverage for abortion care
House Republicans recently passed H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act,” which would restrict health insurance coverage of abortion for nearly all abortion procedures performed in the U.S., and would have an especially harmful impact on low-income women and families. The federal government currently prohibits any federal funding for abortion procedures, unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or the pregnant person’s life or health is in jeopardy – although, in practice, the procedure is rarely covered even under these circumstances. These restrictions apply to all federal funding sources, including Medicaid, Medicare, insurance for federal employees, Peace Corps Volunteers, and residents of Washington, D.C., as well as services for people in federal prisons and for Native American people who use the Indian Health Service. The proposed law would make these restrictions on federal funding for abortion permanent and would go even further by creating regulations that would make it possible that even private insurers will stop providing coverage for abortion services, effectively abortion care unaffordable and inaccessible to almost everyone. Learn more about this deceptive and dangerous bill here.
Good News! Congresswomen Introduce the EACH Woman Act, Calling for Access to Safe and Affordable Abortion Care for All
On January 31, Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), alongside Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and 100 other members of Congress introduced the EACH Woman Act, which would respect the rights of all people seeking abortion by covering all pregnancy-related care, including abortion, for those who receive care or insurance through the federal government. The Act also prevents federal, state, and local legislators from interfering with private insurance companies’ coverage of abortion care. This important bill would fight back against the attacks on reproductive care and bodily autonomy that are being waged against women through efforts like H.R. 7. Learn more about the EACH Woman ACT and how you can support it!
“Global Gag Rule” – Trump Eliminates Funding for organizations supporting women’s health globally
On January 23, Trump reinstated the “global gag rule,” which prohibits international organizations from receiving any U.S. funding for family planning if they provide, counsel, refer or lobby for abortion services. The rule bars organizations from receiving US funds even if they provide abortion-related services using their own independent funding, and even if abortion is legal in their own country. This policy represents a terrifying attempt to constrain what organizations in other countries are doing independently and legally to ensure women’s health. It is an affront to women’s bodily autonomy and reproductive rights across the globe, and will result in serious harm to women’s reproductive health in other countries by significantly reducing access to safe abortion care, as well as maternal and child healthcare, HIV testing and counseling, and access to contraception. This inhumane rule is opposed by many individuals and organizations in the U.S. and abroad, including PWN (read the coalition statement against the rule which we have signed onto).
Fetal personhood bill
House Republicans recently introduced a bill that would seek to eliminate the right to abortion by providing “that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization.” The bill (H.R. 586), introduced by Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, would also jeopardize access to certain forms of birth control and emergency contraception, such as Plan B. Perhaps even more disturbingly, laws like the one proposed, which give “personhood” and rights to fetuses, have been used in the past to override the rights of pregnant people, justifying incidents like forced medical procedures or blocking access to needed healthcare. This is not the first time a bill like this has been introduced in Congress, and reproductive justice advocates are hopeful that the proposal will once again fail. Nonetheless, advocates must stay vigilant and fight against this and similar attacks on women’s human rights and bodily autonomy. Read more here.
Plans to cut programs combatting violence against women
A blueprint of Trump’s forthcoming budget proposal indicates that he plans to make massive cuts to government spending, including the elimination of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) programs aimed to end violence against women. Currently, the DOJ administers 25 grant programs that provide funding to organizations working to end sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and other forms of violence against women, including programs that provide outreach services to children who have experienced violence, women with disabilities, and people in rural and underserved communities. Read more here.
Check out PWN’s ongoing Action Alerts for more information on how to respond to these attacks on women’s safety.
Threats to Democracy
The days since the inauguration of the Donald Trump have been marked with a constant show of resistance to the bigotry and divisiveness that the new administration’s campaign voiced and has now begun to enact in the form of xenophobic, fearmongering immigration policies. Millions of people participated in the Women’s March on Washington and other cities around the country, and the insidious executive order banning the entry of citizens from 7 Muslim-majority countries has sparked fervent protests in cities and airports throughout the country. Yet, as vocal dissent for the harmful trajectory of the administration persists and swells, Republican lawmakers are introducing legislation that would undermine the first amendment right to freedom of assembly through increased fines and/or prison terms for protesters—even a North Dakota bill that would make it legal to run over and kill a protester in the street. Read more about the emergence of anti-protest legislation here and here.
The first full week of the Trump Administration saw a barrage of assaultive executive orders waging war against immigrants. The administration ordered the construction of a Mexican border wall and an order targeting “sanctuary cities,” which generally do not use local law enforcement resources to detain individuals who have been arrested on charges unrelated to their immigration status for federal immigration officials. The entanglement of law enforcement and federal immigration makes immigrants vulnerable to violence and exploitation. While cities who refuse to comply with the law stand to lose millions of dollars in federal grants that support public programs, legal scholars and advocates have cited that the order is sloppy and unconstitutional, and mayors of major cities like Chicago and New York have vowed to protect immigrants and defy the order.
Is your city a sanctuary city? Tell your mayor to stand with immigrants.
On Friday Jan. 27 Trump signed an executive order that bans travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — from entering the US for 90 days, suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, and suspended all other refugee resettlement for 120 days. These executive orders, in addition to being discriminatory and divisive, are being challenged by the ACLU and others as unconstitutional. Even lawful permanent residents (green card holders) from the 7 countries in question have been detained upon reentry into the U.S. over the weekend. Here is more information about the travel ban and where things stand right now, as well as some of the action that has been happening since the executive order! Resources on protecting immigrant and Muslim communities can be found here and here.
Want to discuss these issues 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 PT. Get up to date information on what is happening national policy and hear what women in other regions are doing about it. Get training on effective advocacy to make real change! The PWN-USA Policy Workgroup is for women living with HIV only. To be added to the Policy Workgroup listserv, please check that box in the “Join PWN-USA” form here.
State Policy Round-Up – What’s happening where you live?
We want to hear from you! Please share what is going on in your region, state, or local area so that we can keep the PWN community informed! Send your state and local updates to Cammie at Cammie.firstname.lastname@example.org or join our monthly Policy Workgroup call to report back.