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By allowing virtually any employer or university to opt-out of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that contraception be covered by insurance plans without out-of-pocket costs, the Court is leaving millions of women out in the cold—and endangering their health.

More than 61 million women currently have ACA coverage of birth control, many of them low-wage workers, people of color, LGBTQIA+ workers, and others who cannot afford to absorb higher costs.  Access to birth control is integral to the health and livelihood of many, and its coverage is especially critical as we navigate the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unintended pregnancy can be deadly—it’s closely correlated with infant mortality, maternal mortality, and increased risk of domestic violence homicide. By giving the green light to the Trump Administration’s expansion of the so-called “conscience” exemptions to the ACA, the Court’s decision iscreating a health-care disaster,putting the reproductive health of millions at risk.

This decision reaffirms the commitment of NOW activists to take back the Senate and elect more feminists to office. We will be watching this case as it goes back to lower courts, and will be reminding voters this November that the makeup of the Supreme Court has everything to do with their reproductive rights.  Today’s decision is by no means the end of this story.

“We the undersigned groups unite to ask that the Democratic Party reaffirm key proposals included in the 2016 platform — including ending the Hyde Amendment — and use this year’s platform drafting process as an opportunity to build upon those policies. We ask that the party outline a bold and inclusive vision for the future of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice in this country. Access to reproductive health care services, including abortion, is central to justice and economic advancement and should not be contingent on a person’s income, insurance coverage, citizenship, or where they live. Further, sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice intersect with other issues that the party is invested in, including gender equity, racial justice, and economic justice, making our mission-critical and urgent. We seek to not only undo the harm caused by the previous administration but strive for a more just future for all.”

For more details about the policy proposals and principles that these leading organizations wish to see implemented, visit the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

“Given the Trump Administration’s attacks on coverage and the Hyde amendment remaining in the FY21 Appropriations bills, the 2020 platform must make a commitment to ending all coverage bans, including the Hyde Amendment. Additionally, the pandemic highlights the need for accessible telemedicine, including abortion care. We hope to see a commitment to expanding medication abortion care in the platform. And, as the nation rises up against police violence and white supremacy, this year’s platform must center Black, Indigenous, and people of color as the most impacted by restrictions on abortion access, the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, state violence, and racism in health care. We are reimagining the post-pandemic world where each of us can get the care we need, including abortion care; make a living wage; and live free from violence.” – Destiny Lopez, co-director of the All* Above All Action Fund

“Reproductive freedom is fundamental — and yet our rights to make our own personal decisions about what is best for our lives and our futures continue to face unprecedented attacks from anti-choice extremists at the behest of the Radical Right. It’s clear that those hostile to our freedom will do whatever it takes to advance their agenda of power and control, no matter the cost, including exploiting a pandemic to ban abortion. That’s why Democrats must be unequivocal in standing up for reproductive freedom by fighting to expand access to abortion including through telemedicine, securing nondiscrimination policies in health care, and ending anti-choice policies like the Helms Amendment and the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which perpetuate barriers that communities of color and those with low incomes disproportionately face in accessing time-sensitive and needed care. Reproductive freedom is for every body, full stop, and the Democratic platform must reflect this critical truth and do all it can to make it a reality.”  – Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America 

“The 2020 Democratic Party platform must commit to comprehensive improvements that provide access to a full range of reproductive health care. This includes expansion of telemedicine for abortion care, medication abortion, contraceptive coverage, and expansion of critical services such as prenatal care. They must commit to explicitly opposing all kinds of coverage bans (including the Hyde Amendment), ending forced sterilization, and prioritizing maternal health in the Black community. As our coalition partners have articulated, the party platform must address the need for racial equity and make a significant effort to center the lives of Black and Indigenous women and LGBTQIA+ populations, who are most impacted by political attempts to restrict abortion and reproductive care. Moving forward, the Democratic Party must make a commitment to proactively seek justice for these communities, whose support has been taken for granted for far too long.” – Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW)   

“For almost four long years, the Trump administration has mounted an offensive against our bodily autonomy and freedom, and against the fundamental right of women and girls to live, learn, and work with safety, dignity, and equality. Our country is at a tipping point, reckoning with generations-old systems of oppression that have created the moment we are in today: battling racial injustice at every level of society, and clearing the rubble from a devastating global pandemic. If the Democratic Party wants to lead the American people from relief to recovery to prosperity – to truly create a brighter future for this country – its platform must center the right to abortion, access to equitable health care, and the needs of people of color and LGBTQ+ communities. Now is the time to create a more just world that ensures people have access to the reproductive health care they need when they need it, and without discrimination, barriers, or stigma.” – Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center Action Fund

“Since day one, the Trump administration has undermined access to sexual and reproductive health and undercut our health safety net, with a devastating impact on Black and brown people, women, immigrants, and families with low incomes. The Democratic Party has an opportunity to present a better, bolder, and more inclusive vision to the American people when it comes to health care access and reproductive justice, and recommit ourselves to the values that guide us. Planned Parenthood Action Fund and our partners stand together in the belief that health care is a right, not a privilege, and the Democratic Party must fight for equitable access to affordable, quality sexual and reproductive health care — for every individual’s control over their economic futures, and bodily autonomy.”- Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund

“As the Trump administration continues to display its utter contempt for the lives and well-being of people around the world, it’s more vital than ever for the Democratic Party to stand up for the rights of women and families. For too long, harmful restrictions on reproductive health care like the global gag rule and the Helms Amendment have denied people around the world full access to the services they need. The Democratic Party should stand proudly for health, empowerment, and rights for people everywhere and call for repeal of these dangerous restrictions.” – Brian Dixon, senior vice president, Population Connection Action Fund

“Women, especially Black and brown women, are the bedrock of the Democratic Party. The needs of our communities need to be central to the party’s platform and vision. And that includes the full spectrum of basic health care needs. Access to abortion, including medication abortion and abortion later in pregnancy, needs to be protected and expanded. Birth control and gender-affirming procedures need to be available to all who need it. Restrictions and coverage bans, like the Hyde Amendment, must be repealed. The Trump administration has wreaked havoc on our basic right to bodily sovereignty and respect, pushing its extremist anti-woman white supremacist agenda. The brunt of these attacks, by intention, falls on the backs of Black, brown, Indigenous, and low-income people. That is unacceptable. There is a fierce urgency now as our communities weather a devastating pandemic, horrific state violence, maternal mortality, and fight against the weight of centuries of economic and political oppression. Now is the time for the Democratic Party to walk alongside our communities in advancing reproductive health for all.” – Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director, UltraViolet Action

July 8, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia has eliminated a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits, becoming only the seventh state in the country to do so, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said Wednesday.

Herring said the project to test rape kits — some decades old — began in 2015. Since then, 2,665 rape kits have been tested, 851 new DNA profiles have been uploaded into a national DNA database and 354 “hits” have been sent to law enforcement agencies for further investigation.

Rape kits are used to collect DNA and other physical evidence from rape victims.

“Eliminating this backlog means that a wrong has been righted, that justice is closer for more survivors and that Virginia is a safer place,” Herring said during a news conference.

In November, Herring announced that a Spotsylvania man has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor after being identified through the initiative to test untested rape kits. Herring said the man was charged after the DNA profile from a 2012 rape kit was uploaded to the national database and identified him as the source.

Herring said when he first took office six years ago, he was shocked to learn the state had a backlog of nearly 3,000 untested rape kits.

Along with eliminating the backlog, the state Department of Forensic Science developed an electronic tracking system so victims and law enforcement agencies are able to check the status and location of rape kits.

Debbie Smith, a Williamsburg woman who was raped by a masked intruder in 1989, said that after her perpetrator’s trial, she was shown a storage area filled with untested rape kits. She said she was heartbroken when she looked at all the kits because she knew “that each one of those women were feeling the same feelings I felt before my assailant was identified.”

“These kits can contain powerful DNA evidence that can identify unknown perpetrators, long unsolved cases, prevent rapists from claiming future victims, and it can even exonerate the innocent,” said Smith, the founder of Hope Exists after Rape Trauma, Inc., a nonprofit foundation, to help victims of sexual assault.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Smith has been a longtime public advocate for rape victims.

The state used two grants totaling $3.4 million to eliminate the backlog. The first grant of $1.4 million was used to test nearly 1,800 kits that had been collected before 2014. The second grant of $2 million was used to test about 900 kits collected been 2014 and 2016.

On Saturday, July 18, Virginia NOW will hold our bi-annual state conference via ZOOM to  elect state officers  and to  move our feminist justice and equality agenda forward . The conference will be held from 1 to 3pm. To register, contact president@vanow.org 

Agenda

A Legislative Look-Ahead
Eileen Filler-Corn , Speaker of the VA House 

Addressing Racial Justice in VA: Policing Reform and Beyond
Charniele Herring , Majority Leader of the VA House
Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, 31st District
Lynda Garcia, Policing Campaign Director, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Election of Virginia NOW State Officers (nominations due July 15, also can be made from the floor -details below) 

Looking to the Elections of 2020
Fresh Faces for the US Congress- A Preview
Qasim Rashid , JD – Candidate, 1 st  Congressional District 
Cameron Webb , MD- Candidate, 5 th  Congressional District 

Access for Every Voter: Fighting Voter Suppression
Temi Amoye  – Virginia State Director, NextGen America 
Brianna Carmen  -Director of Organizing and Partnerships, Voto Latino

Election Update - Winning The Senate and the White House 
Pat Reuss, Virginia NOW Executive Vice President and PAC Coordinator

Open Mike- Chapter Actions
Charlottesville
Loudoun County
Montgomery County

Other Reports and audience questions/suggestions

 

NOMINATIONS FOR OFFICE ARE DUE JULY 15.  Nominations will also be accepted from the floor at the meeting. Please direct questions about membership to  president@vanow.org 

All elected offices are open: president, executive vp, legislative vp, membership vp, communications vp. Descriptions of officer positions are at  https://vanow.org/about-us/governance . Nominees must be NOW members for at least a year. To nominate a person for office or to self-nominate, submit a paragraph describing skills and qualifications to  nominations@vanow.org . Members will be appointed by the state president to serve in unfilled offices.

 All members in good standing at least 30 days prior to the election date may vote. A member in good standing has paid dues/renewed their membership in that period of time.

 If there are no contested offices, we will vote by acclimation at the meeting. If any offices are contested, we will hold a candidates forum at this meeting. Ballots will be sent and received via email. Members without email can download a ballot from  www.vanow.org  and send it via USPS surface mail to 7439 Patterson Road, Falls Church, VA 22043-1332.

  

  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOW andover 50 women’s rights and civil rights organizations filed a joint amicus curiaebrief(with the assistance of Winston & Strawn LLP) urging the enshrinement of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the Constitution The brief was submitted in support of a lawsuit brought by the Attorneys General of Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada – all three states having recently passed ratification measures. Their lawsuit argues that the Archivist of the United States must now certify the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the U.S. Constitution.

The Trump Administration is doing all that it can to stop the adoption of the ERAIn early January, the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, issued a finding that because an extended deadline in 1982 has long since passed, it is too late for more states to ratify and that Congress must start over.  In May, the Department of Justice then asked the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the three A.G.s in support of the Amendment.

Our ERA brief filed today offers this response, “As a matter of constitutional law, the plain language of Article V dictates when the ERA becomes valid to all intent and purposes — namely, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states.” Congress cannot change the Article V process on its ownwithout asking the states to ratify the change. A time limit imposed unilaterally by Congress cannot stand in the way of the will of the people in thirty-eight states that ratified the ERA as provided in the Constitution.

The ERA satisfied all constitutional requirements for ratification in January 2020 when Virginia became the thirty-eighth state to ratify.The brief refutes the many baseless arguments of those who do not want to see the inclusion of the ERA. It argues that the Constitution reflects the norms of its time, intentionally excluding women, among other marginalized groups, from basic rights under the law.

The briefalso recountthe long, determined — and sometimes painful — effort — to achieve full equality for women, beginning more than 200 years agoA history of entrenched discrimination and denial of first-class citizenship and its attendant rights for women is told, but the story of women striving and succeeding in many areas despite these barriers is noted.

Our movement towards equality has been ongoing, but in the wake of the #MeToo movement, there is a greater understanding of the gender-based violence and inequality women faceWe know that women today face these issues in nearly every sphere, through domestic and sexual violence, in economic and employment-related scenarios, and much more

As the largest grassroots feminist organization in the country, NOW has worked tirelessly for decades, deploying tens of thousands of our activists to educate, lobby, and urge ratification of the ERA.  We are proud to stand with our coalition partners and advocates because we believe that there is no time limit on equality and that the protection of women’s rights must finally be enshrined in the Constitution.