IEB Meeting with Sen. Harris staff June 2019

Meeting with Senator Kamala Harris’ staff, June 25, 2019
From Sen. Harris’ office: Daniel “Dino” Chen, Deputy State Director 

Read Indivisible East Bay’s pre-meeting memorandum

TOPICS DISCUSSED:

  • Iran & the Middle East: We thanked Senator Harris for cosponsoring the Protection Against Unconstitutional War on Iran Act and demanding the status of mobilizing troops for war from the Administration. Dino said he’d check with the DC team regarding the Senator’s position on nuclear force
  • National Defense Authorization Act: we thanked the Senator for voting no. Dino will get back to us regarding the Senator’s position on the Udall-Paul Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to prevent illegal military action in Iran. (As of publication, Sen. Harris voted for the amendment, according to Senate records)
  • Migrant Detention Centers: Advocates expressed concern regarding lack of Congressional oversight of federal detention centers, especially private ones. Dino indicated that the Senator was a leader in a rapid response network to provide legal counsel to detainees and that her “number one priority” right now is addressing the immigration crisis. He’ll get an answer for us on our request for a commitment from the Senator to vote NO on any emergency response bill that does not specifically address migrant youth. He’ll also find out if there is still Congressional oversight if migrants are transferred to Fort Sill, OK.
  • Election Security: We discussed the $600 million appropriation in the House to enhance election security that Senate leadership is unwilling to take up.
  • American Family Act: We thanked the Senator for cosponsoring
  • Impeachment: Dino indicated that the Senator would support opening impeachment proceedings. He did not commit to whether or not the Senator would ask Speaker Pelosi to start these proceedings.
  • Census: Sen. Harris agrees with us about the importance of building trust in under-represented communities and ensuring we are set up for a complete count in the 2020 census.  Dino recommended that advocates connect with their local Complete Count Committee to support these efforts.
  • Public Appearances by Senator Harris: We expressed concern about the Senator’s lack of presence in the community in her official capacity, and asked that her team consider organizing periodic town halls/forums to help her connect with constituents. Dino said they’re trying their hardest to get her to the Bay Area but it’s hard because they aren’t allowed to coordinate with the campaign, who obviously want her in key primary states.  She is, however, almost confirmed to attend the Lake Tahoe Summit.
  • Healthcare: Dino indicated that next month’s focus will be on health care, and they’ll be doing some story banking on that subject.

 

– By IEB member Zach

Make the candidates speak out

Deadline: through June 26, and even after – Do you have a favorite Presidential candidate yet? Do you know where the candidates stand on the big issues – and if you do, do you know it from their own statements?

Many of the candidates, to our dismay, haven’t taken a stand or enunciated a plan on some of the major issues facing us: climate change, endless war, women’s or LGBTQ+ rights, and more. We know: you’d probably vote for Godzilla over the Current Occupant. But we’re betting you’d rather make a more refined decision.


What you can do:

Let’s call (or email, or tweet, or your platform of choice) them on it.

Step one: Check what they say – or don’t say.

Below you’ll find a list of some of our top priorities – not meant to be exclusive! – and a list of the candidates’ websites. Do some cross-referencing. Start with your own favorite candidate, if you have one, and move on to others from there: What do the candidates say about your key issues, in how much detail, and how easy is it to find? A general rule for candidates’ sites: the easier something is to find on a site, the more important it is to the candidate.

Step two: Tell the candidates what you think.

To say what we all know: Candidates have been known to change their positions based on pressure. Are you pleased with the priority they’re giving your issues and what they’re saying? Thank them. Have they failed to address an issue? Demand that they address it, and tell them what you hope they’ll say. Have they taken a position you don’t like? Tell them. Especially tell the candidates if their position, or lack of a position, makes the difference between you supporting them, opposing them, or considering supporting someone else. After all, it’s all about getting your vote!

We’ve made it easy for you to contact the candidates. Click on their names in the list below to get to their campaign websites, which have ways you can contact them; we also list their campaigns’ facebook pages and twitter accounts.

Step three: Get your friends involved.

Got friends who don’t like the Current Occupant? Of course you do! Invite them to join you in the research. Encourage each other to speak up. You don’t even have to favor the same candidate to all support the work of pushing the candidates to take positions you want on the issues you care about.

And use your own social media. Try this cool tool from Indivisible National: you record a video telling the presidential candidates what you want to hear from the debate stage, and they’ll format and subtitle it and send you a link that you can spread by email and on your social media.

Step four: Let us know how it’s going!

We’d like to know who you’ve contacted on what issues, and if you hear back from them. Email us at info@indivisibleeb.org


Our (non-exclusive) list of priority issues, in alphabetical order:

  • Climate change
  • Cybersecurity
  • Economic justice
  • Education
  • Election security
  • Endless war
  • Healthcare
  • Immigration
  • Impeachment
  • Incarceration
  • Judiciary
  • LGBTQ+ rights
  • Reproductive rights
  • Science and technology
  • Social justice
  • Voters’ rights
  • Women’s rights


The
candidates, in alphabetical order (their names are links to their campaign websites).

 

Graphic “Debate picture” by Blok Glo

 

 

Save our healthcare, save our lives

Deadline: Do it now! – Our healthcare is under attack by the GOP, again — or to be accurate — STILL!

In December 2018, the trial court in Texas v. US, a lawsuit brought in February 2018 by several states’ conservative Attorneys General, ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid. That’s bad, but it’s just a single trial court. The case is now on appeal to the powerful Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where on March 25, 2019 the Department of Justice agreed, urging the appeals court to strike down the entire ACA. That’s scary, but it gets worse: the DOJ’s reversal of its position was apparently taken over the objections of its own Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and those of Attorney General William Barr.

This is of course just the administration’s latest try to kill the ACA (and many many of us, along with it) — but it’s a doozy. As Indivisible National says:

This is the Trump administration’s clearest attempt yet, not just to sabotage, but to completely annihilate the ACA — and in doing so, unleash chaos on our health care system and on millions of Americans lives.

We’re pissed. And we know you are too.

→ It would jeopardize Medicaid expansion in 37 states.
→ It would end protections for preexisting conditions.
→ It would end coverage for young people who’d otherwise be able to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.
→ It would end required coverage of preventive care — like cancer screenings, vaccines, birth control, blood pressure tests and more.

And so, so much more.

You’ve fought for the ACA and sane healthcare policies before. It’s time to join the battle again!

What you can do:

  • Learn more about the legal case in Indivisible’s article
  • Thank California Attorney General Xavier Becerra – he’s one of the state AGs defending the ACA in Texas v. US, and he has announced that he and other AGs will appeal the district court’s ruling striking down the ACA to the Fifth Circuit.
    • Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 952-5225 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]
  • Thank your Representative for cosponsoring Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (WA-07) Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384), and ask them to continue to speak out publicly and to do all they can to support the ACA and to reform our health care system to guarantee health care coverage for all. For more info about the Act, read Indivisible’s article
  • Thank Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris for speaking out, and ask them to continue to do all they can to support the ACA and to reform our health care system to guarantee health care coverage for all
  • Watch for a bill House Democrats unveiled on March 26, the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act, which Leader Pelosi said “lowers health care insurance premiums, stops junk plans, strengthens protections for pre-existing conditions and reverses the GOP health care sabotage.” She also commented, about the DOJ’s position in the Texas v. US lawsuit: “.. . . [T]he Department of Justice becomes the Department of Injustice when it wants to tear down health care benefits.  Because as Dr. King said, ‘people could die’ – people could die.”

Call now!

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

December 2018 meeting with Feinstein staff

On December 10, 2018, Indivisible East Bay had our first meeting with Senator Feinstein’s new interim state director Peter Muller. We met field representative Abby Ellis in the senator’s San Francisco office and Peter, who is based in Los Angeles, joined us by phone.

While climate change is always a high priority for IEB and usually makes our meeting agendas in some form, it’s rarely at the very top of our memo — mainly because that space is generally filled by a reaction to the latest crisis coming out of the White House. So it was a promising sign of the power shift in DC that we started with a discussion of the Green New Deal (GND). Peter said that while Sen. Feinstein isn’t yet familiar with the details of the Green New Deal proposal, as far as he could tell she’s generally supportive of the program and would invest more time in learning about it once it’s a bit further advanced in the House.

We brought up the plan Feinstein supports to extend certain controversial provisions in the WIIN Act, a water bill which, among other things, diverts water south of the Delta. We shared our concerns that the extension of those provisions could result in harm the Delta ecosystem, but Peter said that Sen. Feinstein’s office has examined the matter carefully and doesn’t believe the provisions have been harmful so far or will become so if extended.

We also talked about asylum seekers at the California-Mexico border and those being detained (along with other immigrants) throughout the state. Sen. Feinstein still wants to visit the detention facilities herself, but doesn’t yet have plans to do so. Meanwhile, her staff has visited every facility in California in which immigrants are detained, as well as some in Texas. But it’s been hard to perform oversight, because the facilities know they are coming and are able to prepare. Sen. Feinstein continues to work on getting legislation ready to pass at the earliest opportunity. (First we need to elect more Democrats.) We asked her to prioritize addressing the seemingly unnecessary “metering” at ports of entry that is causing a humanitarian crisis in which asylum seekers are forced to choose between waiting in overflowing shelters in Mexico — with complete uncertainty about having their claims heard — or attempting dangerous, illegal crossings and turning themselves in at understaffed remote outposts. And meanwhile we asked her to look at ways she could collaborate with the House concerning funding for immigration enforcement, particularly with respect to making sure the executive branch spends the money in the way Congress intended.

We discussed delays in funding transit projects — Sen. Feinstein does her best to advocate for projects in California but doesn’t have much influence otherwise; Attorney General nominee William Barr — she shares our concerns about his civil rights record and biases; judiciary appointments — Republicans are happy with how this is going. so we are likely to see more of the same; and homelessness — she has a bill ready and is looking for a Republican co-sponsor.

Finally, we asked what the senator’s hopes and dreams are for working with our new blue House. Peter listed:

  • Immigration
  • Gun Control – Peter said that Sen. Feinstein saw a strong opportunity for a bump stock ban (which the White House announced only days later)
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Immigration enforcement oversight
  • Appropriations – put more constraints on the administration
  • Health care
  • 2016 election investigation – help her better leverage her position on the Judiciary Committee

 

July meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s State Director

By Janna Layton and Catya de Neergaard

On July 25, 2018, a group of Indivisible East Bay members held our regular meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd. As usual, the talk ranged over a wide variety of subjects, and Sean gave detailed answers to a large number of questions.

IMMIGRATION

Family Separation, Reunification, and Detention

Sen. Feinstein’s Staffers’ Visit to the El Centro Detention Center:

  • Sean reports that two of Feinstein’s staff visited the El Centro detention center last week, where they witnessed horrible conditions:
    • One cell was over capacity by about 30 people
    • The only food item available for any meal is a bean and cheese burrito
    • Separated children did not even have mats
  • Both children and adults are held in El Centro
  • Staffers were not allowed to bring mobile phones or speak to detainees
  • Feinstein was deeply troubled by her staffers’ report, and contacted Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
  • Feinstein’s reaction to the visit was covered in this article by the San Diego Union Tribune.

Other Detention Centers:

  • Feinstein has not visited any detention centers and is not likely to. The detention centers are more likely to prepare ahead of time for a visit from Feinstein than they are for her staffers.
  • Staffers will visit all centers in CA to determine if what they saw at the El Centro facility is typical or a one-off. Feinstein wants this information before Judiciary Committee hearing.
  • Staff are going to the Yuba City detention center next week, but will have similar restrictions as in the El Centro center.
  • Several detention centers have cancelled their contracts with ICE.
    • It is important to note that detainees in those centers are not released, but transferred to different centers.

Other Issues:

  • In the 48 hours before our meeting, it was announced that hundreds of parents have been deported without their children.
    • The ACLU suspects many of these parents might not have gotten asylum hearings.
  • Senator Harris’s REUNITE Act – a Feinstein staffer wrote the bulk of this act, so Feinstein will likely eventually support it. 
    • However, Feinstein has been working on another, similar act that has the support of all Democratic senators, which she believes has a better chance of passing.
    • Sean is unsure if Senator Cruz is still talking with Feinstein re: her act, but if he is, it is only because of local resistance groups in Texas putting pressure on him.

Asylum Seekers

  • This has not been focused on as much because there are so many issues to be highlighted, and the public can only take so much.
  • The fact that Attorney General Sessions does not attend oversight hearings as he should has been has been overlooked.
  • Even some GOP moderates like Senator Rubio have disagreed on the Trump administration’s treatment of asylum-seekers from Central America

ICE

Appropriations Bill:

  • Feinstein voted against the bill in the Appropriations Committee
  • This might get brought up again in September
  • There is slim chance of a government shutdown. Senator McConnell and Congressman Ryan know how bad that would look. However, Trump might not care.

Splitting ICE:

  • Feinstein has not discussed this with Sean.
  • If done, it would likely be done by Sessions rather than legislature.
    • If Sessions does this, it might be because part of the group that wants to break off from ICE is a union that supported Trump.

Other:

  • Sean will follow up with Feinstein re: letter to Grassley

 

SOCIAL SAFETY NET

Health Care

  • Senator Feinstein spoke with Peter Lee in the Covered CA administration.  It is expected that Covered CA rates will go up sharply next year. This will give Senator Feinstein a platform for a strong message to wrap the ACA mess around the Republicans. Hurt in the pocketbook is going to wake people up to the message that Republicans broke healthcare. They need to fix it.
  • We have asked Feinstein frequently and continue to ask her to consider supporting the single payer system. Sean usually replies that such a bill, for example, the ‘Medicare for All Bill’ introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, doesn’t currently have any hope of passing, so it is a low priority.

Housing/Homelessness

  • Senator Harris introduced The Rent Relief Act in the Senate on July 19, 2018.  There is already a similar bill in the House. Senator Feinstein joined Senator Harris in the introduction and will continue to touch base with Senator Harris about this bill. This bill is a big CA issue. 
  • IEB strongly supports the Rent Relief Act’s goal of giving low-income residents more federal support to pay for housing. Indivisible can to help this bill along by getting more co-sponsors.
  • Senator Feinstein is working on a new plan for cities and counties to apply for a new federal grant program to address homelessness. There would be strict quality controls, for example, for low income housing. She is calling it her ‘first day’ bill because she plans to introduce it the first day of the new Congress (provided, of course, that she wins the election).
  • Possible housing solutions:
    • Senator Feinstein has visited or had her staff visit various ‘tiny homes’ and other solutions to homelessness.  
    • She has a binder listing the name and description of the shelters and other facilities for the homeless across the state.  She sees the scope and quality of solutions across the state.
    • There is no one size fits all solution for homelessness and the housing crisis.
  • One potential source of funding is the VA. The VA and various veterans’ assistance programs have pots of money.  Housing homeless veterans with the money could be considered a front end solution to prevent the medical catastrophes that come with homelessness.
  • The federal government and each county have surplus property that could be used to build low income housing.  There is a federal law to transfer surplus property. The feds have just transferred a big lot between 7th and 9th streets to the City of San Francisco for $1.

 

NATIONAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Helsinki/Russia

  • There was a hearing that day in the Senate Formulations Committee with Secretary of State Pompeo testifying.
    • Feinstein is not on that committee, but she is anxious to talk to colleagues about how it went.
  • Feinstein does not think Russia will be an issue that sways Republicans, but trade. Last summer, Feinstein held a forum with farmers in the Central Valley. They said if trade issues continue until Labor Day, that will hurt their businesses. They invest their money into resources at the beginning of the year, so this is a big issue for them.
  • Efforts are being made by Intelligence to get info on what was said at the Summit, but it is unlikely that transcripts will be made public. Such transcripts have not been public for previous administrations.

Iran

  • Sean noted a Washington Post article that reported anonymous White House staffers have said Trump’s tweet was a distraction from North Korea.
  • Feinstein does not give his tweet much credence.
  • The Iran Deal is important to her, as she worked on it.
  • It is unlikely the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act will go to the Senate floor or be amended to something.
  • Sean will talk with Feinstein re: Senator Merkley’s 2001 AUMF replacement

Election Security

  • Feinstein has been focusing on California’s election security with CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla, not nationally, because she is pragmatic about what she can accomplish.
  • Sean will check with her re: Wyden’s act.
  • It is important for local groups to reach out to their Board of Supervisors regarding election security.

Security Clearances

  • Feinstein thinks this is a distraction technique and not a big issue.
  • Some former officials have said they don’t need it anyway, and temporary clearances can be gained if needed.

Whistleblowers

  • Sean stated that Feinstein has always protected whistleblowers.

 

ENVIRONMENT

EPA Fuel Economy Waiver for CA

  • Feinstein is very aggressive on this, because she passed the laws that let CA do this.
  • She has lobbied extensively, including reaching out to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
  • Advocacy groups need to elevate this issue.
    • One choice would be for consumers to demand car manufacturers continue to meet high fuel efficiency standards even if standards change.

Puerto Rico

  • We talked about the disaster in Puerto Rico in the context of the growing effects of climate change all over the country and asked if Feinstein would co-sponsor the Rebuilding Resilient Energy System Act to allow Puerto Rico and other disaster-affected areas (like our own state) to be rebuilt with greener and more resilient infrastructure; Sean said he would look up the bill and convey our request to the Senator.
  • Nationwide, Indivisible can help by writing lots more letters on the situation in Puerto Rico to their MOCs. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida would be a good person to lobby because he has 10 to 20K new Puerto Rican voters in his state.
  • Senator Feinstein will continue to advocate for Puerto Rico, but the Kavanaugh  nomination is her priority.
  • We thanked the Senator for co-sponsoring the Washington DC statehood bill and asked if Feinstein would introduce a Senate version of the Puerto Rico Admissions Act; Sean said she would not, because it isn’t going to happen in 2018.

 

JUDICIARY

Judicial Nominations

Supreme Court:

  • According to Sean, Senator Feinstein does not consider the proposal to request and view documents regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a “sinking ship.”
  • The Senator’s negotiations have been focused on these documents. They are important because they get Kavanaugh on the record and give insight on his positions. Some valuable documents have been found already.
  • Half a million dollars have been given each to Senators Feinstein and Grassley from the Rules Committee to research this. Feinstein is using the money to hire staff to research and comb through documents.
  • The GOP is trying avoid the Democrats pointing out the hypocrisy of their treatment of this SCOTUS nominee versus their treatment of Obama’s nominees
    • Schumer has video of Grassley demanding all papers on Kagan.
    • This tactic won’t change McConnell’s mind, but might affect Republican senators who are on the fence.

Court of Appeals:

  • The Senator’s focus has been on Kavanaugh, and Sean does not have a statement from her on Eric Murphy, nominated to the Sixth Circuit, or Ryan Nelson, nominated to the Ninth Circuit.

 

TALK TO YOUR GOVERNMENT

Town Hall

  • We want Sen. Feinstein to commit to hold a town hall after the election; Sean said that she would think about that after the election.

Join the meetings!

  • Indivisible East Bay meets with Sen. Feinstein’s key staff every month. Be part of our team! It’s a fascinating way to find out more about the things you care about. Meetings are announced in the IEB weekly newsletter; subscribe to the newsletter for this and more!

 

Photograph by Catya de Neergaard 

Save Alta Bates: CNA Hosts Forum and You Can Take Action

The California Nurses Association (CNA) hosted a forum on February 3, 2018 on their initiative to save Alta Bates from closure by Sutter Health. State Senator Nancy Skinner, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley Fire Chief Dave Brannigan, and other East Bay officials and citizens spoke over the course of several hours to a standing room only audience at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.

As Berkeleyside reports, Sutter recently announced “plans to relocate emergency and delivery services to Oakland’s Summit campus by 2030, the state’s deadline for full-service hospitals to make seismic upgrades.” Every speaker emphasized that such a significant change would devastate the already overburdened health care services in the East Bay. Among other things, since Doctors Medical Center of San Pablo closed in 2015, Alta Bates has under state law been the only medical facility that serves the whole of the East Bay north of Oakland (including west Contra Costa County) where emergency services like paramedics can deliver patients.

Sen. Skinner and Mayor Arreguín addressed Sutter Health’s status as a non-profit entity and state and city governments’ ability to regulate it. Particularly, Skinner spoke of Senate Bill 687, a bill she authored that would have given the Attorney General oversight of hospital closures. Governor Brown vetoed S.B. 687 last year, and Skinner now plans to rework the bill. Mayor Arreguín questioned Sutter’s non-profit status, noting that Sutter had over $15 million in assets after 2016 and asking whether it was providing the requisite “community benefits” to receive that status and if Alta Bates’ closure would affect the answer to that question.

Near the end of the program, Chief Brannigan spoke to Alta Bates’ role in providing emergency medical services, working as a crucial node in the nexus for firefighters and paramedics. Alta Bates’ closure would increase transit time to doctors at locations in Oakland and add to those sites’ existing workload. Those minutes can make the difference in individual cases of life or death, and can be catastrophic in a regional emergency like an earthquake. And that’s not to mention the significant overhaul that the dispatch and response services would have to undergo, which would take years to implement at significant cost to taxpayers.

At the conclusion of the forum attendees filled out postcards to Sutter’s CEO, requesting that Sutter invest in retrofitting Alta Bates or sell it to someone who would retrofit rather than close it. Indivisible East Bay will continue to follow this story as it develops. In the meantime, here are some ways you can support Alta Bates:

  • Write to Sutter CEO Sarah Krevans, 2480 Natomas Park Dr #150, Sacramento, CA 95833, expressing your support for keeping Alta Bates open for the good of the community and the entire East Bay.
  • Say thank you to Sen. Nancy Skinner for her work to keep Alta Bates open and to require oversight of proposed hospital closures.
  • If you live in Berkeley or Oakland, tell your City Council member(s) you want them to support keeping Alta Bates open and to continue oversight of Sutter’s attempts to close the facility.

Do No Harm, Mostly: Federal Government Opening New Doors to Denial of Health Care for Women

In January 2018, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its decision to offer support to medical professionals who decline to provide care – primarily abortion- and transgender-related healthcare – because of their personal beliefs. These beliefs don’t have to be written down anywhere, don’t have to be part of an organized religion or group, and don’t even have to be beliefs that anyone else holds. The person just has to say, “This goes against my conscience,” and the newly-empowered HHS Office of Civil Rights will get to work on finding ways to help them defend that belief by denying care.

This opens a valley-sized doorway to denial of care. This isn’t religious freedom: it’s a taxpayer-funded tool that will allow caregivers to hurt people who might depend on them.

While this might sound like a huge change or an affront to the Hippocratic Oath, belief-motivated denial of care isn’t a new concept in American health care. In fact, since 2010, more and more women have been reporting that they were denied abortion care or tubal ligation (having your “tubes tied” to ensure sterility), even in cases of emergency, right from their hospital bed.

Tamesha Means sits in a living room with two other people, one of them a young boy. Family photos crowd two large frames on the wall above them.
Tamesha Means suffered a miscarriage at 18 weeks; the miscarriage, a painful and traumatic experience, lasted days. Rather than offer abortion care that could have saved Tamesha from untold suffering, her Catholic hospital sent her home with Tylenol three times. Image: ACLU.

The reason behind the denials is simple: these women are in Catholic hospitals that follow the Catholic Directives, a series of rules laid out by bishops that specify what Catholic hospitals can and cannot do. In 2016, one in six hospital beds in the United States was in a hospital bound to the Catholic Directives; in California, it’s almost precisely that percentage, with the Directives covering 15.9% of all beds. It gets worse when you talk about health-related emergencies: Catholic hospitals control at least 40% of all acute care beds in five states. Ten of the nation’s 25 largest health system are Catholic-owned. And the situation only grows worse every time a Directives-bound organization buys up another hospital or health system. If you weren’t aware of any of this, you’re not alone: you can blame the fragmented and opaque structure of the American health care system for the largely unnoticed proliferation of Catholic hospitals.

On the ground, this translates directly into a significant reduction in the number of reproductive care procedures women receive. There are health systems in the country where women, particularly those in rural areas, don’t have access to a hospital that will care for their reproductive needs. This impacts their lives in countless ways.

Crucially, these hospitals also refuse to train new doctors in how to perform abortion, which is a very safe and relatively straightforward procedure for someone with the right expertise to perform. In Texas, for example, there are barely any clinics or universities left that offer courses in abortion. Volunteer groups like Medical Students for Change are doing what they can to train practitioners and keep this knowledge alive, but they face incredible challenges in their work. 

We’re going to see more and more of this, too, as HHS gets more familiar with its new powers.

This situation has led to devastating consequences for women seeking care. This report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) details case after case where women were subjected to painful and traumatic miscarriages, some of them lasting days, which would have been alleviated by abortion care in any non-Catholic hospital. There are cases where women who have reached their ideal family size, or who need to avoid pregnancy for medical reasons, were denied sterility procedures. Weaving throughout the stories are statements from doctors and nurses who wanted to provide the best care for their patients, including abortion care, but who were kept from doing so by hospital administrators.

A close-up of Mindy Swank sitting in a family room.
Mindy Swank was thrilled to discover she was pregnant a second time; she was devastated when she miscarried, and sought medical help when her body couldn’t complete the process. Her Catholic hospital refused to perform an abortion despite multiple hemorrhages and undeniable proof that Mindy’s baby wouldn’t survive. They finally induced labor at 27 weeks, when Mindy was hemorrhaging severely and after she had endured weeks carrying a baby she knew couldn’t live. Her baby died a few hours after delivery. Image: The Journal-Register.

This isn’t how health care should operate. Patients have the right to determine what happens to their body, and they have a right to have that spectrum of care include procedures and medicines that are safe and readily available, without having some options foreclosed because the practitioner objects to them. The ACLU and others have struggled to prosecute cases around denial of care based on religion or morality for numerous reasons, including the complexity and narrowness of medical malpractice law.

As with all things, the best way to remedy this situation is to elect lawmakers and local officials who will stand up for their constituents’ right to access health care with no strings attached. We hope you’ll join us in 2018 as we put in the work that will lead to a future where this ridiculous, discriminatory, and potentially life-threatening rule is completely rescinded, and Catholic hospitals are required to provide a complete spectrum of care to their patients.

Congress: Renew CHIP Funding

Poor overworked GOP Congress, so busy trying to steal our health care and criminalizing 20-week abortions that it couldn’t find one little minute to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.CHIP funding mapCHIP, a federal-state partnership, provides federal funds to cover low-cost health insurance for nearly 9 million uninsured children from low to modest-income families. If Congress doesn’t act, states will have to make tough decisions about their CHIP programs.

Please call your MoCs today! What to say:

My name is _____, I’m a constituent from [zip code]. Please support a bipartisan reauthorization of the CHIP program, and pass a clean reauthorization bill without policy riders that could delay the bill’s passage.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Obamacare Enrollment Alert

Save ACANot content with putting us through the heart-stopping fear and anxiety that our health insurance will become unaffordable or nonexistent, Trump ‘n GOP have also been trying every which evil way to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, including:

  • They shortened the 2018 Obamacare enrollment period from 3 months to 6 weeks; sign up begins November 1 and ends December 15, 2017;
  • They reduced by 90% the advertising funds to let people know about the deadlines;
  • Spending on the Navigator system, in-person enrollment assistance, is set to be cut by 41% from 2016 levels.

Open enrollment is the only time people can enroll in a health plan on the individual market without qualifying for special enrollment. You need to get covered during open enrollment 2018 to get cost assistance and avoid a monthly fee in 2018. Learn more about open enrollment here.

Here’s what to do. First, don’t forget to enroll yourself and your family, and then please help get this important information about the brief enrollment period — November 1 to December 15 to everyone you know!

Healthcare

 

 

IEB at Die-In: #KillTheBill

Killthebill Indivisible East Bay joined Indivisible SF and allies on July 18th to participate in the first Indivisible National Day of Action to fight the Republicans’ relentless attempts to steal health care and insurance from millions of people.

Killthebill signs

We celebrated the previous day’s big win, the defeat of the latest horrendous incarnation of Trump’s Zombie WealthCare bill in the Senate. But until the bill has a stake through its heart, we continue to resist! 

Killthebill

We wrote cards and signed “Certificates of Appreciation” to Senators Feinstein and Harris for their tireless work in fighting the repeal of the ACA.

Killthebill postcards

We spoke the truth of our personal stories about pre-existing conditions, exorbitant medication costs, and the critical need to have adequate health insurance to cover cancer treatments.

Killthebill open mic

Those without creaky bones even performed a compelling die-in on the sidewalk.

Killthebill Die In

The Senator’s staffer Tom Paulino arrived to listen to our comments and field questions about Feinstein’s positions on a range of issues. He thanked us warmly for our phone calls, texts and faxes, and for sharing personal stories with the Senator’s office that she incorporates into her strategy to fight the administration.

Killthebill Tom Paulino

On health care, we asked Tom what the Senator would do about reining in big pharma, and whether the Democrats could seize the opportunity to push ahead offensively on health care. Several people pressed Tom about Feinstein’s stated position on single-payer (“I’m not there”). He said that hasn’t changed – and that any official statements would appear on her website.   This is Feinstein’s statement, released today, on health care. Although Tom took notes to bring back to the Senator, he unfortunately offered little concrete information.  

Indivisible SF live-streamed the event for those who couldn’t attend.

By Heidi Rand