Over 500 NCJW women from all over this country, almost half of them first-time attendees, converged on Washington DC the second week in April for 2 1/2 days of intense workshops, lectures, awards ceremonies, issue briefings and networking, which culminated in 150 legislative office visits on Capitol Hill.
We were awed by the organizing skills of the teens from Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School, by the determination of the Young Dreamer to fight for her right to stay here, and by the collaborative work of 19 Israeli feminists who are changing the role of women in Israel.
We gave a standing ovation for former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and for Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney General as they each received the Woman Who Dared Award. With characteristic Texas humor, Cecile Richards, the retiring president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Action Fund, accepted our prestigious Social Action Award.
The speakers and awardees were inspiring and energizing. And with facts, figures, and personal stories from the workshops, NCJW women went to speak to their elected representatives about four domestic issues: judicial nominations, gun violence prevention, voting rights, and reproductive choice.
And our work for those four issues does not end with Washington Institute; it has to continue at home by each of you taking action by email, phone call or by organizing a visit to the local office of your representatives.
Judicial Nominations: To federal district courts and federal circuit courts. Resources and information are on the NCJW website (www.ncjw.org). Although this is an issue only for our senators—and with the Democrats in the minority, they have limited influence on the outcome—it is important that all senators argue for judges who are qualified, independent and diverse. The president is nominating mainly white men, many from conservative law firms and institutions with little or no judicial experience. The Senate is often ignoring the recommendations of the American Bar Association, traditionally an important and impartial source for evaluating candidates, and is not consulting with, or is ignoring the will of senators in whose states those candidates will become judges. The Senate has also just reduced debate time on nominations from 30 hours to 2 hours.
What you can do: Thank your senators both of whom have been voting against the worst nominations, and urge them to keep speaking out for a judiciary that is qualified, independent and diverse.
Gun Violence Prevention: Resources and information are on the NCJW website. Finally, the House has passed three bills—HR8, calling for background checks for all gun sales, with a few exceptions; HR 1112, which gives the FBI 10 days to complete a background check; and VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act), which includes boyfriends, stalkers and others involved in domestic violence in the ban on buying guns. The bill to focus on in the Senate is S42, the Background Check Expansion Act.
What you can do: Both New Jersey senators are cosponsors and should be thanked and asked to work to bring S42 to the senate floor.
Voting Rights Advancement Act: HR 4 / S 561 restores voting rights to its former strength. In 2013 the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the original act, leading to many states instituting voter suppression laws across the country. This bill prevents restrictive voting laws and promotes transparency.
What you can do: HR4..Thank Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill for cosponsoring and ask Congressman Tom Malinowski to become a sponsor. Thank both senators for cosponsoring S561. Urge all to vote for these bills.
EACH Woman Act: Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance—HR 1692 / S 758. See the website for full background information. After 40 years, this act would undo the Hyde Amendment and prevent local, state and federal political interference in the decision of private heath insurers to offer coverage for abortion.
What you can do: Urge all your representatives to become cosponsors of these bills and to work for their passage.
—Lesley Frost, Advocacy Chair
Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill
1208 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Tom Malinowski
426 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Senator Cory Booker
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Bob Menendez
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510