In this issue:
Attacks on Health Care
Sexual and Reproductive Rights Under Attack
Attacks on Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth
Immigrant Rights, Safety and Dignity
Resistance and Victories
Save the Date for our Webinar on Bodily Autonomy for #NWGHAAD!
Federal Policy Updates
Attacks on Health Care
No Acceptable ACA “Replacement” in Sight
Republicans in Congress continue to push efforts to dismantle health insurance protections by repealing the Affordable Care Act (“ACA,” also called “Obamacare”). While no specific plan to replace the ACA has been introduced, several proposals have been released indicating some of the ideas Republican legislators and the Trump administration hope to implement. To date, all of the proposed replacement plans would still leave many vulnerable individuals without health care coverage and would drastically reduce funding for Medicaid. Read more about the recently released Republican proposals here, here and here.
Trump Proposes Rule Limiting Access to Care
Under the leadership of recently confirmed Secretary, Tom Price, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a change to health care rules that will impact the individual insurance market. Although the rule is presented as a way to “stabilize” the insurance market, it will result in less time to enroll, higher costs, and barriers to coverage for people with disabilities and chronic conditions if it passes. HHS is accepting public comments about the rule until March 7. Read more about the rule in this short article or this one, which also includes advice for advocates.
More information about why Medicaid is important for women living with HIV, featuring PWN’s own Shyronn Jones, is here. You can share your own story about Medicaid or the ACA here.
Cabinet Nominations Face Unprecedented Resistance
Over fierce opposition from progressive organizations and activists across the country, many of Trump’s high-level cabinet nominees have been confirmed for their positions, including Tom Price (Department of Health and Human Services) and Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) and Betsy DeVos (Department of Education). These appointees represent tremendous threats to years of hard-fought progress on women’s rights, civil rights, health care, reproductive choice, and LGBTQ rights, among other issues.
It’s no surprise that Trump’s nominees have faced a tougher fight in their confirmation hearings than any other Presidential cabinet since 1789. Find out how your Senators voted so you understand whether they have aligned themselves with this repressive agenda. We will be following the appointees closely to see how their actions and proposals are likely to affect women living with HIV. Our weekly Action Alerts will give you updates and concrete actions you can take. If you are not already getting these in your inbox, you can sign up here.
Seema Verma for CMS Threatens Access to Treatment and Care
Senate confirmation hearings to consider the appointment of Seema Verma, Trump’s nominee for chief administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), began in mid-February. Verma worked alongside Mike Pence as a key architect of Indiana’s Medicaid expansion program, which erected barriers to low-income people maintaining coverage, such as requiring enrollees at the poverty line to pay into the program and penalizing missed contributions with lockouts or more restrictive plans lacking benefits like dental coverage. Verma’s hearing in the Senate Finance committee is scheduled for today, March 1, at 10:30 AM ET. If she makes it past that committee, her nomination will move on to the full Senate for confirmation. Read more about Verma’s approach to Medicaid, as well as the process for her getting confirmed for her position here.
Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Hostile to Women’s, Workers’ Rights
Trump has nominated federal appeals judge Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left open by conservative stalwart Justice Antonin Scalia, after Republicans in the Senate blocked confirmation hearings for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for a year. Gorsuch has a record of siding with corporations over workers and of hostility towards reproductive rights, including contraceptive access, and has been characterized as even more conservative than his predecessor. Supreme Court appointments are for a lifetime, so Gorusch’s appointment to the highest court in the nation could negatively impact generations to come. The Senate is scheduled to begin its confirmation hearings on March 20. Read more about Gorsuch’s history of ruling against access to care and the process for his confirmation here, as well as his troubling stances toward civil rights and employee protections.
Sexual and Reproductive Rights Under Attack
Republicans Continue to Target Planned Parenthood
Republicans in Congress continue to pursue their mission to “defund” Planned Parenthood, which would further limit access to abortion care and have a devastating impact on other sexual and reproductive health care, such as STI testing and prevention, cancer screenings, contraceptives, and family planning services. Read more about the impact defunding Planned Parenthood would have in “blue” states here.
Republicans Seek to Allow Discrimination in Family Planning Funding
Republican leaders have recently introduced a measure that would strike down a rule from the Obama Administration that prohibits states from discriminating against family planning providers under Title X. Title X is the federal program that provides funding for family planning. The rule, implemented last year, prohibits states from withholding funding from providers who provide abortion. Getting rid of this rule will severely limit access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, since many providers protected under that rule provide vital care, such as contraceptives, to millions of low-income people throughout the country. The measure passed the House last week and the Senate is expected to take up the measure as early as this week. Read more here and here. Take action here.
World Health Organization Launches New Guidelines on Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights of Women Living with HIV!
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently launched the Consolidated guideline on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV. These guidelines are grounded in human rights and gender equality principles with the goal that “Supporting evidence based recommendations and building an enabling environment will help advance the health and well-being of women living with HIV in all their diversity.” Read more and find the full guidance document here.
Attacks on Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth
This month the Trump administration revoked protections for transgender students which would allow them to use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity in schools. The protections were put in place under former-President Obama last May in the form of guidance for schools under Title IX, which is the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in public schools. At least 12 states currently have so-called “bathroom bills” introduced in state legislatures designed to invade privacy and assault the dignity and safety of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) folks. Read more about the Trump administrations attacks on TGNC communities here and here and demand that your state legislators oppose any bills targeting the TGNC community.
Immigrant Rights, Safety and Dignity
Under the 45th administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched raids in at least six states and have rounded up over 600 undocumented immigrants, going to homes, a hospital, and even a domestic violence court room to detain people. We are clear that communities of color are always subject to disproportionate policing, and PWN-USA opposes targeting immigrants of any status in the US for any reason, regardless of history of contact with the criminal justice system. Further, data shows that immigrants are actually less likely to commit serious crimes than those born in the US. The Administration has asserted that intensified deportation efforts are focused on “violent criminals;” however, a memo released last week from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) makes clear that detention and deportation efforts may target any undocumented immigrants regardless of previous contacts with the criminal justice system. The same memo from DHS enlists local police to serve as part of the immigration enforcement apparatus, which creates more opportunities for law enforcement to target and harass people based on race, language and appearance. Read more about the DHS memo here; learn more about the recent ICE raids and what they entail here.
Some members of Congress are already working to fight back against these discriminatory and inhumane attacks on immigrants, even as others seek to amplify them. Learn about the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill that would protect many DACA recipients, and encourage your members of Congress to support it. Learn about and oppose the RAISE Act, a bill that would crack down on legal immigration by restricting green cards, barring immigrants from reuniting with families and end a visa program. Continue to monitor sanctuary cities and fight for sanctuary policies, which are facing increasing threats and bullying from the Trump Administration. For example, Miami voted to end its sanctuary protections for immigrants last week. Finally, be sure to check out this page, an evolving online platform for updates, information and action items related to immigration and the “Muslim ban.”
State Policy Roundup
Resistance & Victories
The PWN community and the nation continue to fight back against the attacks on our civil rights, bodies, and freedom. Check out the Resistance Calendar, which lists information about ongoing resistance events throughout the country.
Missing in Action: Senator Cory Gardner
When Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) refused to organize a constituent event on health care during the Congressional recess, PWN-Colorado members took matters into their own hands, hosting and livestreaming a town hall event during the #ResistanceRecess to talk about the ACA and healthcare needs of people living with HIV. 600,000 people in Colorado stand to lose insurance coverage if ACA repeal happens. Although they invited Senator Gardner, he did not attend the town hall, like many other elected officials who avoided facing their constituents during the congressional recess. The PWN-USA Colorado “empty chair” town hall was just one of hundreds of such events held across the country last week, and wasn’t even the only one for Sen. Gardner. Read more here.
Legislators in California take leadership on HIV decriminalization
After years of organizing, a comprehensive bill to reform outdated and discriminatory HIV criminal laws has been introduced in the Golden State. SB 239 is authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), and cosponsored by a number of HIV, civil rights, and LGBTQ advocacy groups, including PWN-USA. Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR) will be holding an informational briefing for legislators in Sacramento on March 8th. Learn more about SB 239, why California’s current laws are bad for public health and how the law can help end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.
Georgia Coalition Tackles HIV Criminalization
A diverse coalition has formed in Georgia to tackle state HIV criminalization laws, and their state legislature recently introduced a resolution to create a joint study committee that would be responsible for creating recommendations for how Georgia’s HIV criminal laws should be updated. If the resolution passes, this committee will gather information from stakeholders in the community to inform decisions about if and how to change the laws. PWN advocates are calling for the passage of this resolution. Check out PWN- Georgia member Shyronn Jones discussing her advocacy to end HIV criminalization at AIDSWatch Georgia in February!
Members in Texas Fight Anti-Trans Legislation and Seek to Enact Sanctuary Policies for Immigrants
PWNers throughout Texas have been everywhere during the congressional recess, participating in town halls, Indivisible meetings, and even a State lobby day! Members are advocating to improve the lives of people living with HIV, including reforming HIV criminal laws, increasing access to and information about PrEP and STI testing among the elderly population, fighting anti-trans Senate Bill 6, and protecting immigrants with sanctuary city policies in Houston.
Baton Rouge Clinic Adds Family-Friendly Services
PWN-USA Louisiana members recently secured a victory in women-centered care in their community! By advocating with local health providers and clinic officials, they were able to ensure that children’s furniture and an inclusive space for families was included in a clinic re-opening in Baton Rouge, LA. The PWN-LA chapter is also focused on increasing their voter registration and engagement efforts.
What’s Happening Where You Live?
We want to hear from you! How are you advocating for rights of people living with HIV? Send your updates to Cammie at Cammie.firstname.lastname@example.org or join our monthly Policy Workgroup call to report back.
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. The 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.
Save the Date – PWN-USA Webinar on Bodily Autonomy for #NWGHAAD
In honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), Positive Women’s Network – USA invites you to join us in asserting and celebrating the bodily autonomy of all women and girls, including women of trans experience, living with HIV.What is “bodily autonomy,” and why talk about it now?
Bodily autonomy is the simple but radical notion that individuals have a right to control what does and doesn’t happen to their bodies. This is central to PWN-USA’s vision of a world where all women and girls living with HIV can lead long, healthy, dignified lives, free from stigma, discrimination, and violence in all forms.
Please join us for a webinar on Thursday, March 9, at 3pm EST/12pm PST explaining bodily autonomy as a crucial framework for understanding and fighting the intensifying, oppressive attacks on women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBQ and trans folks, and people living with HIV and other chronic health conditions.
It will require all of us to demand a world where the bodily autonomy of all women and girls living with HIV is respected and upheld, including the right to control our reproductive decisions, health and labor; freedom of movement and migration; and freedom from state violence.