In our AP(eye) on the Hill newsletter, we share recent events impacting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls. In this issue, we celebrate victories but also shed light on how political posturing is harming women — from the budget debate, to immigrant rights and reproductive justice.
Conservative politicians are hell-bent on keeping Americans from having affordable health care. During the last week, they held the nation’s budget hostage in order to get the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) defunded. As a result of their ideological crusade, on September 30, the budget was not passed in time and the federal government shut down on October 1. The shutdown is expected to cost taxpayers an estimated 2 billion dollars and place 800,000 federal workers on furlough.
The shutdown impacts women and children the most. The Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for women, infants and children (WIC) program has been shut down. Women make up the majority of “nonessential” government employees who will be put on furlough, and are also the majority of new Social Security applicants who will have to wait until the government is back in business to get the financial support they need. House Republicans also unsuccessfully attempted to use this fight to postpone until 2015 the requirement that employers cover birth control as part of their health insurance packages.
And now, the people responsible for this are shifting blame to the President and hoping we forget it’s their fault.
Despite the shutdown, the Affordable Care Act is still going into effect. The new health insurance marketplaces became open for enrollment on October 1, creating opportunities for uninsured women and their families to get covered. Approximately 2 million uninsured Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders will now have access to insurance coverage.
The new health plans will also cover the care women need, including birth control and pregnancy care, well-woman visits, emergency care, hospital stays, mental health and more. Financial aid is available to help women and families afford private health insurance plans, and some low-income people will be able to get free or very low-cost public insurance. You can get help applying for coverage and choosing a plan by visiting a non-profit “navigator” agency in your neighborhood, calling a help line or going on line.
For more resources on how you can enroll today visit:
On September 12, 105 women, including two NAPAWF-DC chapter leaders, were arrested for protesting the inaction of the House of Representatives on comprehensive immigration policy reform. The We Belong Together campaign, anchored by NAPAWF and the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, blocked the intersection in front of the House offices for 20 minutes, chanting and holding hands as they were arrested for civil disobedience. It was a powerful moment that left many onlookers in tears. Media like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow covered the event.
As activists and advocates continue to fight for immigration reform, over 100 cities will engage in rallies and events for immigration reform this Saturday, October 5th. To find an event near you, please visit: http://octoberimmigration.org/events
With House Republicans refusing to move on budget or immigration issues, House Democrats have been stepping up. On Tuesday, October 2, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Caucus introduced a bill almost identical to the bill that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. While NAPAWF applauds and supports bill, which provides a path to citizenship, we are concerned over the lack of sibling and adult children visas, which will significantly impact the AAPI community, as well as the restrictions on affordable health care and public benefits for aspiring citizens.
The face of immigration is growing increasingly female and Asian. AAPIs now constitute 27.7 percent of the country’s immigrant population and are the fastest growing racial group in the nation. In 2011, 51.1 percent of all foreign-born individuals residing in the United States—and 55 percent of all people obtaining a green card—were women.
While NAPAWF applauds and supports the bill, which provides a path to citizenship, we are concerned over the lack of sibling and adult children visas, which will significantly impact the AAPI community, as well as the restrictions on affordable health care and public benefits for aspiring citizens.
As Congress slowly gets its act together, over 140 actions will take place across the country this week and on Saturday, October 5 to lift up the voices of people for fair immigration policies. In Washington, D.C., thousands of people will gather on the National Mall to bring their message to Congress. To find an event near you, please click here.
September was Abortion Access Month and Tuesday, September 30th marked the 37th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal public insurance coverage of abortion. This measure, approved by Congress every year, hurts low-income women and women of color the most—including AAPI women who rely on Medicaid. 1 in 10 Asian Americans, 1 in 7 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and 1 in 5 Southeast Asians rely on Medicaid. Without the ability to access it, the right to abortion is meaningless.
NAPAWF spent the week leading up to September 30th highlighting the harm Hyde does to AAPI women. Read Executive Director Miriam Yeung’s article on how Hyde Amendment hurts women of color, coauthored by Jessica Gonzales Rojas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Eleanor Hinton Hoytt of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.
On September 17, the Obama Administration announced that homecare workers throughout the United States would finally receive the same protections as workers in almost every other field—protections like minimum wage and overtime payment. Many AAPI women are employed in homecare, and have been without these protections for far too long.
Until now, workers who provide home assistance to elderly people and people with disabilities were excluded—along with a few other groups, like farmworkers—from full protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The change will affect nearly 2 million workers, 90 percent of whom are female and 50 percent of whom are minorities, throughout the United States.
Soon after the Obama Administration granted worker protections to direct care workers, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on September 26. California is home to the nation’s largest AAPI population. The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights guarantees domestic workers basic labor protections, like overtime pay and meal breaks. California’s new law will finally provide overtime pay to an estimated 200,000 California housekeepers, child care providers and caregivers when they work more than nine hours in a day or forty-five hours a week.
The domestic workforce in the US is primarily composed of immigrant women who are usually the primary income earners for their families. There are about 200,000 domestic workers in California, and the vast majority of AAPI domestic workers are foreign-born.
CA Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the sponsor of the bill, noted that “Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past…Now, they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person.”
The issue of sex selection is not only being used to promote anti-Asian abortion bans in the U.S., it is also being exploited internationally. On September 10, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) called a hearing to consider the issue of sex selective abortion in India. Despite the veil of women’s rights language, it quickly became clear that Rep. Chris Smith’s main concern was restricting abortion and defunding the United Nations Population Fund. NAPAWF founding sister Mallika Dutt, President and CEO of Breakthrough, was the sole Democratic witness at the hearing. Breakthrough works to address violence against women domestically and internationally, and works on the ground in the Indian district most affected by son preference. While conservatives repeatedly asked Mallika outlandish questions, she was firm in her repeated statements that “you cannot protect women by taking away their rights.” Son preference, which can result in sex selection, is an issue. However, attacking women’s health is not the solution. We must address the underlying cause—gender inequity. Click here to read Mallika’s article on the hearing.
On September 25, The New York City Council passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which aims to better protect the rights of pregnant women in the workforce. Under the legislation — introduced by Council member James Vacca (D) — employers with at least four employees must provide reasonable accommodations, without penalizing the worker, for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), has introduced similar legislation at the federal level. New York State has one of the country’s largest and fastest growing AAPI populations, increasing 35 percent over the last decade — the majority of AAPI New Yorkers reside in New York City.
Due to the new state law on facilities that offer abortions, four abortion clinics in rural Texas have closed and three others will likely close soon. Texas has the third largest AAPI population in the country. Women’s health groups are suing Texas, challenging the legislation.
The law imposes regulations on abortion providers that are underhandedly designed to force them to close. One of the provisions requires that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, but many doctors have been unable to obtain the privileges. Clinic administrators say the standards require costly changes that some cannot afford. The law also bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman’s life is in danger, requires that abortions be performed at an ambulatory surgical center and mandates that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person