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November 1, 2017
  • First Board Meeting Held - Board Reports and Presentations Available for Review
  • NOW, Feminist Majority Endorse VA Team for November 7 Election
  • Chapter Highlights
  • NOW Opposes HHS Plan for Fetal Rights, Inadequate Health Policies
  • NOW Foundation Joins Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop Discrimination Case
  • Huge Press Coverage for NOW Statement on Weinstein, Millions Speak Out
  • Women’s Equality Update, NOW Journal Article Published
  • New Documentary on Domestic Violence, Child Custody Available for Screenings
  • Former NOW Intern Rachel Ross Writes: Viewing Foundational Case Law through a Feminist Lens

First Board Meeting Held - Reports and Presentations Available for Review

The first in-person National NOW board meeting under the leadership of President Toni Van Pelt and Vice President Gilda Yazzi was held on Oct.13-14.The reports and presentations from the board meeting have been posted to the NOW Leaders section of the website. You may review them here.

NOW, Feminist Majority Endorse Top Team for November 7 Virginia Election

The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Feminist Majority announced their support of Ralph Northam for Governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and Mark Herring for Attorney General of Virginia. Women win with these three feminist candidates who each have proven track records of championing issues important to women.

The Virginia race is described as setting the pace for electing more Democrats in the 2018 congressional and state legislative races. Read our endorsement statement here.

Chapter Highlights

NOW-NYC (NY) and Hollywood NOW (CA) have both been taking action following the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and abuse scandal. NOW-NYC published a letter to the editor of the New York Times, condemning Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., for not prosecuting Weinstein. They have also been rallying outside Vance's office. Hollywood NOW was an early voice calling for the expulsion of Weinstein from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

SW Idaho NOW (ID) successfully persuaded Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to speak out about the urgent need to end sexual harassment and assault. Their efforts were recognized in the Idaho Statesman.

Sarasota/Manatee NOW (FL) recently hosted Civics 101: strengthening knowledge of governance and encouraging civic engagement for all. The free, public forum was held in Sarasota, and its panel included five women working locally in public service.

NOW Opposes HHS Plan for Fetal Rights, Inadequate Health Policies

The National Organization for Women submitted several sets of comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning the Draft Strategic Plan FY 2018 – 2022 on Oct. 26 and 27. The plan defines life as beginning at conception, which NOW and allies have strongly criticized. In addition, the wide-ranging draft plan proposes numerous policies and practices which do not reflect evidence-based information or best practices, and are not in accordance with accepted standards and statutes which guide the department’s work. If adopted, the Strategic Plan will seriously undermine the provision of healthcare information and services to women, LGBTQIA persons, adolescents, racial and ethnic minorities, and underserved communities. The plan also de-emphasized the importance of the Affordable Care Act in providing health insurance coverage to millions who would otherwise not have access.

NOW objected to the inclusion in the Strategic Plan of the Trump Administration Executive Order (EO) 13798, issued in early May, and entitled Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty. This EO grants an enormous religious or conscience objection to organizations, corporations, and individuals to deny service to anyone--allowing further limits on women’s access to contraceptive insurance coverage and other types of reproductive health care, and denying LGBTQIA persons comprehensive health care. The primary goal of the EO, in our view, is to dramatically limit the accessibility of contraceptives.

NOW President Toni Van Pelt submitted a comment to the acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan singling out the fetal personhood assertion of the draft plan,

“We cannot believe anything other than the inclusion of such language in the HHS Strategic Plan is a stealth initiative to advance a policy that would ultimately deny women contraception and abortion care in all instances. The objective of incorporating fetal personhood into policy and law would result in untold tragedy. All references to life beginning at conception must be deleted and all proposed policies that elevate religious beliefs over patient health care needs must be eliminated.”

Van Pelt also posted an article to Medium: “HHS Makes Discriminating Against Reproductive Rights Central to Its Mission.”

Additionally, NOW signed on to a joint statement with members and supporters of the Sex Ed Coalition, urging continued support of healthy relationship education and high quality comprehensive sexuality education that provides science-based, medically-accurate information. The unspoken fear is that the Trump administration will return to the George W. Bush era policy of supporting sex ed programs which provide incorrect and fear-based information about human sexuality.

NOW Foundation Joins Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop Discrimination Case

NOW Foundation joined in an amicus brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission; prepared by the National Women’s Law Center. This important case will be heard by the Supreme Court on Dec. 5.

The custom-cake business owned by Jack Phillips of the Denver area argues that Colorado’s public accommodations law violates the First Amendment by requiring Phillips to create custom wedding cakes for same-sex weddings, in violation of his religious beliefs.The same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who went to the Masterpiece Cakeshop for their wedding cake in 2012 were refused service. They then filed a claim of discrimination based on their sexual orientation with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The agency ruled in the couple’s favor and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission later agreed. So did the Supreme Court of Colorado.

Phillips argues that his artistic expression through his custom cake-making falls under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.The National Women’s Law Center argues that to allow a business to disregard non-discrimination protections in the name of religion and free speech will certainly have a negative impact on the civil rights of women to be free from sex discrimination. 

You can read more about the case on SCOTUSblog from Amy Howe and Mary L. Bonauto. You can learn more about other upcoming Supreme Court cases in the NOW Foundation Board Report.

Huge Press Coverage for NOW Statement on Weinstein, Millions Speak Out

On October 10, NOW President Toni Van Pelt called for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revoke the membership of serial sexual predator and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The statement hit the front page of the Hollywood Reporter and produced an almost immediate membership revocation by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). The Academy followed several days later. In a statement, Van Pelt pointed to a systematic pattern of men remaining silent when they are often aware of male colleagues’ sexually predatory behavior, prompting coverage in the LA Times.  

The New York Times and The New Yorker exposes of Weinstein’s sexual assaults of dozens of women, and his subsequent threats and manipulation to prevent them from reporting such incidents set off a firestorm of media coverage that is ongoing.   New York State NOW President Sonia Ossorio, former NOW presidents Kim Gandy and Ellis Smeal, plus a number of chapter leaders were also quoted in news articles.

Three weeks later, reports from survivors about sexual assault and sexual harassment continue to hit the news with many more prominent and powerful men named. The question is, though, will the revelations result in lasting change? And, how can feminist activists take advantage of this new environment to enact policies that will better protect women?

Women’s Equality Update, NOW Journal Article Published

The most recent issue of Frontiers, A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 38, Number 2, carries an article by former NOW Vice President, Bonnie Grabenhofer, and Jan Erickson, NOW Government Relations Director, “Is the Equal Rights Amendment Relevant in the 21st Century,” that was submitted at a 2014 conference on the ERA at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.  More than a half dozen other articles appear in the new Frontiers edition, including “In the Beginning Was the Word”: Evangelical Christian Women, the Equal Rights Amendment, and Competing Definitions of Womanhood,” by Chelsea Griffis and “Keeping Hope Alive: A Case Study of the Continuing Argument for the Ratification of the ERA,” by Lindsey Armstrong Smith and Stephen A. Smith, among many other interesting takes on women’s equality history and thinking.

You can order a copy of Frontiers from the University of Nebraska press here.

New Documentary on Domestic Violence, Child Custody Available for Screenings

Rachel Meyrick's new film, What Doesn't Kill Me looks at domestic violence and child custody when there has been abuse in the family. This film is a must see to understand how 58,000 a year are forced to live with their abusers when abuse is reported. 

With the worldwide premiere was in Los Angeles this month, the film is now available for screenings across this country via advocates and universities.  If you would like to schedule a screening, please go to Women Make Movies for details on how to order.  

We are grateful for the protective parents who shared their stories with Rachel for this incredible film.  When we share, others know they are not alone. Information about this film was shared with NOW by the California Protective Parents Association.  

Former NOW Intern Rachel Ross Writes: Viewing Foundational Case Law through a Feminist Lens

In their first year of law school, students read and discuss the foundational cases of the U.S. legal system. The problem? Many of these cases were decided based on racist and sexist reasoning. On October 20,  the Columbia Law Feminist Society held an event designed to help first year students recognize these cases and push back against problematic ideas in the classroom and beyond.  To support activities of the Columbia Law Feminist Society and former NOW Government Relations Intern Rachel Ross’s work with the group, NOW sent stickers, buttons, NOW cookbooks, and membership brochures.

Rachel reports that, “After a presentation on commonly taught cases and strategies to combat problematic statements made in classroom discussions, students were given an opportunity to ask questions and to share their experiences with classroom micro-aggressions. Students were then given stickers and buttons, generously provided by NOW, to place on their backpacks and notebooks so that they would be reminded to speak up -- and be assertive -- in the moment!"

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