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Help Us Win the Fight for Health Reform

Posted by Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights | Posted on: July 31, 2009 at 01:51 pm

by Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights, 
National Women's Law Center

If you think it’s bad now, you haven't seen anything yet.

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A Lesson on Prosecuting Pregnancy

Posted by Grace Lesser, Program Assistant | Posted on: July 30, 2009 at 08:32 pm

by Grace Lesser, Program Assistant, 
National Women's Law Center 

A group of law students committed to reproductive health and justice convened yesterday to discuss the reproductive rights of pregnant women, marking the final gathering in the Law Students for Reproductive Justice summer networking lunch series. The event was headlined by Jill Morrison, Senior Counsel here at NWLC, who was also recently noted as a major player in empowering law students as advocates for reproductive justice

Jill offered a presentation called “Prosecuting Pregnancy,” where she talked about state actions that criminalize the medical decision-making and drug use of pregnant women. For example, women have been criminally prosecuted with such charges as child endangerment, neglect, or fetal homicide when their newborn infants test positive for drugs at birth. Jill posed the question: Is it right to prosecute pregnant women when they (or their newborn children) test positive for illegal  drugs while we don’t prosecute anyone else for who tests positive for illegal drugs? And she answered it for us, too: No, she said, because having illegal drugs in your body is not a crime -- even for a pregnant woman. Jill explained that the Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to criminalize a person’s status, including the status of being an addict.  A person can be charged with possession of a drug, but the appearance of that drug in their system can’t be a crime.

Now, obviously, the issue is a complicated and contentious one. I think that most people are uncomfortable with the notion of pregnant women using drugs. Most of us would probably also agree that using drugs while pregnant could pose potential risks, and would hope that women engage in only the safest habits while pregnant. Here at the National Women’s Law Center, part of our support for comprehensive care in health reform includes drug treatment and prenatal care. In our Making the Grade on Women’s Health Report Card, access to prenatal care was a major status indicator, since we know that women who have prenatal care beginning in their first trimester of pregnancy tend to stay healthier and have healthier babies.

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Wishing Work Weren't So Terribly Relevant

Posted by Julia Kaye, Former Health Policy Associate | Posted on: July 30, 2009 at 12:30 pm

by Julia Kaye, Health Policy Associate, 
National Women's Law Center 

Last night, I was sitting in my dining room chatting with a friend about an obscure philosophical text he’d read for his Master’s program. My roommate, who’d been busy cooking us (a delicious) dinner in the kitchen, ran in – oven mitts on – unable to contain himself any longer. It seems he’d written his undergraduate thesis on this very concept and had had few opportunities to discuss it in the decade since.

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Helping Families with TANF Recovery Funds in Tennessee

Posted by NWLC, Intern | Posted on: July 29, 2009 at 08:00 pm

by Rachel Mehlsak, Legal Intern,
National Women's Law Center 

While D.C.’s Mayor is proposing harsher penalties on families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits who fail to meet work requirements, Tennessee is taking a different approach.

The New York Times recently reported on a program in Tennessee aimed at reducing unemployment in a particularly hard-hit area of the state by subsidizing jobs in existing businesses and state government offices. The program has helped both men and women find new jobs, including one couple who had worked together at a local factory that closed.

Tennessee’s initiative has begun to pay off. Unemployment rates in the targeted area decreased by multiple percentage points in June—a time when national unemployment numbers continued to increase. The goal is to reduce unemployment by 40 percent. 

The money for the program is coming from the TANF emergency fund that was included in the economic recovery plan enacted earlier this year. This fund is available for states that have increased their TANF spending in at least one of three areas—basic assistance, short-term benefits, or subsidized employment – to supplement their current TANF spending. The Tennessee program focuses on directly subsidizing employment—a quick and effective way to put people back to work—but other states can choose to use the stimulus funds in other ways

TANF—the federal public assistance (or welfare) program—is an increasingly important part of the economic support structure for struggling American families and particularly for women, who are more likely to be poor than men. TANF is up for reauthorization in 2010, and with the sobering unemployment statistics, ways to improve the program’s ability to reach more poor families and help them escape poverty should be front and center in the reauthorization conversation.

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BREAKING: President Obama Makes Clear That Health Care Reform Must Include Critical Insurance Market Reforms (Which are Particularly Important for Women!)

Posted by Julia Kaye, Former Health Policy Associate | Posted on: July 29, 2009 at 07:36 pm

by Julia Kaye, Health Policy Associate, 
National Women's Law Center    

At a health reform town-hall this morning in Raleigh, N.C., President Obama made clear that health care reform will mean increased security and stability of health coverage for all Americans, including those that already have health insurance.  It will achieve this, in part, by imposing critical insurance market reforms to make health insurance more fair and affordable and thus improve Americans’ health and financial security.  The President identified eight specific consumer protections that Americans can expect—and must demand—to be included in health care reform.  These consumer protections affect all of us, whether or not we’re currently insured.  And for many women in particular, these reforms mean the difference between accessing and maintaining affordable, high-quality health insurance—or going without:

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Just Released: NWLC Co-President Joins Senate Leaders at Press Conference on Sotomayor Nomination

Posted by | Posted on: July 29, 2009 at 06:00 pm

On the heels of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote to approve the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy at a press conference Wednesday to support this historic nomination and urge the Senate to quickly confirm her.

Greenberger’s statement at the press conference follows:

“Next week, the Senate will make history – the kind of history that makes our country proud. Upon confirmation, Judge Sotomayor will earn a place in our history books as the first Latina and the first woman of color to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.  And the Senate will also make history by confirming an extraordinary person who combines exceptional academic and legal qualifications with an abiding commitment to public service and an inspirational life story that reflects her truly impressive qualities. 

“The National Women’s Law Center strongly supports the nomination of this outstanding judge and urges the Senate to swiftly confirm her in a bipartisan way.

“The Center endorsed Judge Sotomayor’s nomination based on an extensive review of her legal record, particularly on a broad range of issues that are important to women, her public statements and her testimony during her confirmation hearings.  That review allows for only one conclusion. Judge Sotomayor is an impressive judge who is deeply respectful of legal precedent and who anchors her decisions in the specific facts of each case.

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Judge Sotomayor Approved by Senate Committee

Posted by Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President | Posted on: July 29, 2009 at 05:34 pm

by Marcia Greenberger, Co-President, 
National Women’s Law Center 

Yesterday, by a vote of 13 to 6, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. This outstanding nominee is one step closer to making Supreme Court history.

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