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HEALTH POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Health Policy Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with women’s health, the Affordable Care Act, Head Start, child care and child support services, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and federal food and drug policy. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the department of Health and Human Services, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).ann@usresistnews.org.

Latest Health Posts

 

Landmark Decision in Opioid Epidemic Case

Landmark Decision in Opioid Epidemic Case

The Case
Amid cries to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the nation-wide opioid epidemic that killed 47,000 Americans in 2017 alone, an Oklahoma court has done just that. Judge Thad Balkman ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million, upon finding the company guilty in its role in fueling the state’s opioid crisis. Oklahoma originally sought $17.5 billion to be paid by the defendant over the next 30 years to repair the damages done by the crisis. The facts of the case found that the defendants, Johnson & Johnson, “engaged in false and misleading marketing of both their drugs and opioids generally, and the law makes it clear that such conduct is more than enough to serve as the act or omission necessary to establish the first element of Oklahoma’s public nuisance law,” according to the Judge. Johnson & Johnson’s defense centralized over the claim that the company could not be held liable for supplying legal products and ingredients that were highly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and state authorities. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson disputed the claim that neither the company (J&J) or its subsidiaries, participated in a misinformation campaign where healthcare professionals understated the dangers of the drugs, nor did they conduct sales calls to doctors that lead to over prescribing or the drug crisis. Nevertheless, the company was found guilty of these charges and claims.

Analysis
Oklahoma is one of dozens of states suing drug makers, with this being the first to go to trial as many companies have settled out of court . This historic case is the first to hold pharmaceuticals responsible for the opioid epidemic which started in 1999 and has reportedly taken over 6,000 lives in Oklahoma since 2000, in addition to the more than 400,000 people have died of overdoses nationwide since 1999. A federal trial, made up of nearly 2,000 cases involving cities, counties, communities and tribal lands, is set for this October, in Ohio. Attorneys for this federal case, have been watching Oklahoma’s proceedings closely, hoping to find similar success.

Johnson & Johnson has announced that they plan to appeal the ruling, which the company attorney called flawed and stated it was a misapplication of the public nuisance law that has been rejected by other, out of state judges. Should the appeal fail, Johnson and Johnson will fund millions to ease the epidemic in Oklahoma, where money will be diverted to addition treatment and prevention programs in the state. This case, as it is already proving to be, will likely be the first of many court cases holding companies and even individuals accountable. However, success in other states is still questionable due to varying state laws.

The Johnson& Johnson case is likely to be the first in a series of cases that seek to hold big pharma companies accountable to the tragic consequence of opioid misuse. With drug maker’s now being held accountable, USRN will be covering the numerous events coming soonJoin our mailing list to be the first to know when the next pharmaceutical is prosecuted

Fig 1. Oklahoma Opioid Use – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Fig 2. US Drug Overdose NCHS Data Brief No. 329 – CDC

Photo by kgrkz

Trump Administration Threatens to Make Big Changes to SNAP Benefits

Trump Administration Threatens to Make Big Changes to SNAP Benefits

Policy
The Trump Administration has proposed a change that will affect the way in which states determine who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, known as SNAP and food stamps. The proposal tightens restrictions and closes a “loophole” that allows states to continue to give benefits when a family’s gross income exceeds a certain level. Another “loophole” closure is ending the automatic eligibility of SNAP for residents who already qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This change would require families who receive TNAF to go through a secondary review of assets and income to determine future SNAP eligibility. The most devastating component of the proposal affects children’s free lunches. With this change, school children would have to apply separately to continue to receive free lunches, in comparison to the current policy which automatically qualifies children in families receiving SNAP.  There are currently 36 million people who receive monthly SNAP benefits and 265,000 school children.

Analysis
This change specifically affects lower income families that are receiving SNAP benefits that exceed poverty guidelines or $33,475 for a family of four. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture an estimated 3 million  people could lose food stamp benefits under this proposal. In addition to the lower income families that will be affected, the proposal will also negatively impact many seniors and individuals with disabilities should their assets exceed $3,500.

Supporters of the current system highlight the discretion the current policy gives to states and how it is instrumental in allowing working low-income families continue to receive benefits through their transition into a higher income bracket. Additionally, cries for protecting children, people with disabilities, and the elderly have gained support as advocates push for continued access to the benefits to our most vulnerable populations. The Trump Administration’s continuous goal is to cut cost where possible. This change is expected to save $2.5 billion a year by removing people from SNAP. This proposal has a 60-day public commenting period after it is officially introduced, before it makes it way to lawmakers. Such a proposal will only result in the worsening of hunger and food insecurity across the nation.

Engagement Resources

  • Children’s Defense Fund : A national children’s advocacy group committed to ensuring the protection of children and promoting their growth & development.
  • CLASP : A national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty nonprofit advancing policy solutions for low-income people.
  • Feeding America : A national organization whose goal is to provide food access to millions through food banks and food panties.

Photo by unsplash-logoHush Naidoo

The Trump Administration Defunds UNFPA for a Third Consecutive Year

The Trump Administration Defunds UNFPA for a Third Consecutive Year

Policy
For the third year in a row, the Trump administration is withholding funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The UN Population Fund is an agency that deploys into war zones and natural disaster-wrecked areas providing health services to the vulnerable. The agency focuses on ensuring that pregnant women and girls get health care, can deliver babies safely, and are protected from gender-based violence. State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo made the announcement that the United States would be withholding $32.5 million in funding from the UN agency. A State Department spokesman cited Pompeo’s decision based on his determination that the UN Agency “supports or participates in the management or a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China. The United Nations Population Fund, lawmakers, and advocates refute this claim, saying that it is not true. Such a stance threatens women’s health and safety, and is a reflection of national policy from the Trump Administration.

Analysis
The UNFPA is a key player in ensuring women and girls in poor developing countries receive reproductive healthcare and protections. With the United States being one of the largest donors to the fund, blocking these funds will directly impart the central functions and goals of addressing gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, maternal death, and threats to reproductive rights. As the Administration targets organizations that go against the conservative views of reproductive rights, UNFPA has fallen victim to defunding. With claims that the Fund supports coercive abortion and sterilization, specifically in China, the Administration has announced that such actions violate the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, first enacted in 1985, which blocks US aid to “any organization the US determines is involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization”. .

In China UNFPA works only on policy guidance, with the goal of changing Chinese practices such as sex-selective abortions, contrary to the assumption that the office is persuading or administering abortions. It is worth noting that  no member of the Trump Administration has visited or inspected the facility to see its true purpose, raising concern and confusion on the basis of Pompeo’s decision.

This regretful Trump administration decision will drastically impede UNFPA’s crucial work in protecting the lives and health of hundreds of millions of women and girls. Funding currently supports emergency humanitarian operations in current conflict zones like Syria and Venezuela. Critics and lawmakers state that the State Department’s decision, which is not based on evidence, will hurt vulnerable women and children around the globe.

Engagement Resources:

Photo by NeONBRAND

States Have a Mixed Response in Dealing with a Nation-wide Measles Outbreak

States Have a Mixed Response in Dealing with a Nation-wide Measles Outbreak

Policy
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ended religious exemptions by amending the provision in NY A02371, to combat rising anti-vaccination communities. Since January 1st of this year, there have been 1,077 cases of measles in 28 states, an increase from 372 from 2018, after the disease was declared eliminated from the US in 2000. The largest outbreaks were found in New York were found in Orthodox Jewish communities who are believed to have traveled to Israel where a current outbreak is occurring, in addition to Butte County, CA, and Portland Oregon. The majority of those infected were individuals who had yet to be vaccinated, either due to being younger than the CDC recommended vaccination age of 12 -15 months old or were not given vaccinations by the requests of their parents or guardians. New York joins Washington, Maine and California in setting limitations to those opposing vaccines, Mississippi and West Virginia do not permit religious exemptions.

The law takes effect immediately but gives unvaccinated students up to 30 days after entering a school to provide documentation of at least starting their immunization sequence. The law however, does not change in exempting children who can not have vaccines for medical reasons, nor are there any legal repercussions should a parent fail to vaccinate a child.

Analysis
While this policy change has been created in good faith, critics combat this mandate with protections of religious and moral freedoms. There are 45 other states that still having similar exemptions, allowing parents to skip vaccinations. With such allowances available in other states, anti-vaccination parents are considering leaving New York and the other four states setting limitations.

Advocates for this law stress that religious beliefs and fears about vaccines should not overshadow scientific evidence. Those who also feel as though this mandate infringes upon their rights should recall the 1905 Supreme Court ruling that provided states the right to enforce compulsory vaccinations laws. More recently, a 2018 California case upheld the law’s removal of exemptions noting “The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death”.

By strengthening mandates, vaccinations are proven to increase and therefore protect. Supporters for the law also note that while the law is a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough. There are no legal sanctions for lack of compliance with the law. Additionally, some feel the focus should be shifted from reducing exemptions to tightening the medical exemption process, ensuring the waivers that are given are medically appropriate and true.

Center for Disease Control

Engagement Resources:

Photo by Ani Kolleshi

New Changes to Health Care Rights Law Threaten Transgender and Nonbinary Communities

New Changes to Health Care Rights Law Threaten Transgender and Nonbinary Communities

Policy
The Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has submitted a major change to the administrative rule interpreting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This change will remove explicit protections for the LGBTQ+ community in healthcare programs and activities. Section 1557 was proposed by the Obama Administration intended to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity. The specific Trump change of the rule removes gender identity and sexual orientation under the definition and category of sex discrimination. Under the Section 1557  change  the ACA still bans sex discrimination in the health-care industry, but defines sex “according to the plain meaning of the term” and removes any “excess” aka gender identity and sexual orientation, in accordance with a definition passed by congress in 1972. Such a change removes protections for those previously protected.

Analysis
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Trump Administration list 3 reasons for changing Section 1557. First is to alter the section so it “conforms to the law as written”, second is to reduce unnecessary spending by the OCR, and finally, OCR and the Administration found that rule exceeded the regulatory authority of the government.

Section 1557, as originally written, included gender identity and sexual orientation as a means of defining one’s sex. These attributes are not included in traditional definitions of sex. The Trump Administration argues there is no room for alterations in the meaning of sex and therefore gender identity and sexual orientation have no place, and should not be included  as a basis for protection against discrimination based on sex. The administration views that the definition of sex in Section 1557 is  more “powerful” than the  way in which the word is defined in other parts of the Affordable Care Act, and that the government exceeded its authority when it broadened the way in which the meaning of one’s sexuality is traditionally defined. The Trump Administration sees Section 1557 as creating false interpretations of the law and “unjustified cost and regulatory burdens”.

The change to Section 1557 is expected to save OCR a significant amount of money from a reduction of grievances and court fees. Because fewer people will be protected fewer people can file claims; resulting in OCR saving money. However, it is likely that the real reason behind this rule change comes from religious rights support, a key following of the Trump/Pence Administration. The religious right takes a strict traditional male/female only as options to defining one’s sexual identity; and many do not recognize the right of people to have gay lesbian, transgender, and sexual preferences or non-binary sexual identities.

Critics of this new rule highlight the likelihood of increased discrimination and a decrease of willingness to visit health care facilities by these affected communities as core reasons for rejecting proposed changes in Section 1557. The risk of trans and non-binary individuals being arbitrarily denied services or voluntarily avoiding facilities due to fear will only result in negative experiences and health complications.

The proposed rule change goes into effect after a 60-day commenting period, which will begin once it is officially submitted to the Federal Registrar.

Engagement Resources

  • American Civil Liberties Union : A national organization working to defend civil liberties across the United States.
  • Human Rights Campaign : America’s largest civil rights organization, working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality.
  • Lambda Legal : A national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of the LGBT community as well as those living with HIV/AIDS through litigation, societal education, and public policy work.
  • National Center for Transgender Equality : The nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people.

 2020 Candidate Involvement:

  • TX-D Beto O’Rourke: Advocate for same sex rights and protections against discrimination.
  • CA-D Kamala Harris: Historically refused to defend CA’s Proposition 8, which would ban same sex marriage.
  • MA-D Elizabeth Warren: Co-sponsor of the Equality Act, scores a 100% rating on Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard.
  • IN-D Pete Buttigieg: Pledged to pass federal legislation making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, strong advocate for the Equality Act.
  • NY-D Kirsten Gillibrand: Advocate for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, supporter of the Equality Act.

 

Photo By unsplash-logoDenin Lawley

Trump Administration Proposes New Faith-Based Protections for Health-care Providers

Trump Administration Proposes New Faith-Based Protections for Health-care Providers

Policy
The Trump Administration has announced an expansion of the Conscience Rule, allowing medical professionals to refuse providing or payment of services should professionals choose. The US Department of Health and Human Services has expanded upon its rule within the Protecting Statuary Conscience Rights in Health Care policy. The rule specifies that clinicians and institutions do not have to provide, participate in, pay for, cover or make referrals for procedures they object to on moral or religious grounds. Additionally, the rule provides protections involving advance directives that detail a patient’s wishes for care at the end of life. According to HHS the rule mandates that hospitals, clinics, universities and other institutions that receive federal funding  comply with such rules. While this expansion is not a creation of a new law, the rule guarantees and mandates that the law and protections will be enforced.

Analysis
Rules like this one will pave the way for discrimination for countless demographics. The expansion of this rule undermines access to care for women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The oath taken by medical professionals instils a commitment to providing safe healthcare with no discrimination.  Permitting such allowances puts the previously mentioned groups in harm’s way.  Residents of rural areas will also be affected. Many rural area medical facilities are religious hospitals which prohibit procedures deemed “intrinsically immoral”. These  procedures include abortion, preventative care for HIV or AIDS, providing naloxone, sterilization, contraception and assisted suicide, in addition to treating people of the LGBTQ+ community, all of which would fall into the category of “intrinsically immoral.”

Such a regulations ensure facilities comply by holding necessary funding ransom.  If a provider decides not to comply with the conscience regulations, they face losing federal funding. The Office for Civil Right’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will oversee complaints of violated rights

While this expansion is focused on protecting the rights of the providers, it ignores the rights of patients based on moral belief, regardless of medical necessity. A major portion of Trump’s base, religious conservatives, find the conscience rule is key in protecting their rights. It can be assumed that this rule expansion was created to directly connect with his base amid similar court cases and the 2020 election. A person’s belief should in no way determine the services a patient should receive.  By allowing this expansion of the conscience rule the Trump Administration is permitting the discrimination and harm of patients with impunity.

In addition to civil liberty organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, other opponents like San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera have all promised to fight and bring lawsuits against the expansion of the Conscience Rule,  citing that the expansion will reduce access by vulnerable groups to critical healthcare.

Engagement Resources:

  • American Civil Liberties Union : A national organization working to defend civil liberties across the United States.
  • The National Women’s Law Center : A non-profit that advocates for women’s rights through litigation and policy initiatives.
  • Planned Parenthood : Reproductive rights advocacy group that provides affordable and accessible health services to women across the US.
  • Human Rights Campaign : America’s largest civil rights organization, working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality.
  • Lambda Legal : A national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of the LGBT community as well as those living with HIV/AIDS through litigation, societal education, and public policy work.

Photo by Aaron Burden

Fetal Heartbeat Bills are Mounting Against Women’s Reproductive Rights

Fetal Heartbeat Bills are Mounting Against Women’s Reproductive Rights

Policy
Governor Brian Kemp recently made Georgia the fourth state to pass a “Heartbeat Bill”. Georgia joined Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi in passing restrictive bills banning abortions into law. Georgian legislators passed the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act” also known as a “heartbeat bill”, which criminalizes and prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as five to six weeks into pregnancy. The current gestational limit women in Georgia have to get an abortion is 20 weeks. This bill also includes an exception for rape, incest (both only with the accompaniment of a police report), situations where the mother’s health is at risk, and if a pregnancy is deemed “medically futile”). Such a law adds to other anti-abortion laws by Georgia such as women being required to wait 24 hours between requesting and obtaining an abortion, and minors being required to notify their parents before receiving an abortion. This law is set to take effect January 1st, 2020.

Analysis
This law and ones found in other state’s legislation are a direct attack on women’s reproductive rights, with opponents labeling this a “forced pregnancy” bill. The specific wording, targeting a heartbeat of a fetus, strictly prohibits women from having an abortion before many even know they are pregnant, essentially banning abortions entirely. The criminalization of abortions for women in Georgia and the mentioned states will not lower the need nor attempted abortions, but instead will create numerous health difficulties for women, resulting in additional health complications in a state with a devastatingly high maternal mortality rate.

One glaring issue with this bill has been its socially given name, a “heartbeat bill”. This is because the legislation calls for the prohibition of an abortion in the presence of a heartbeat and the associated time of six weeks. However, medical professionals will note that at six weeks what appears to be a heartbeat is not the case, instead it is simple vibration of developing tissue that is only present due to the mother. This vibration is called embryonic cardiac activity, which leads the unfamiliar reader or listener to believe that this occurrence is in fact the presence of a heartbeat. With the removal of this essential clause in restricting abortions, the viability and impact of this bill are reduced, and a later gestational week must be provided for permissible abortions. To the dismay of anti-abortion advocates, if this change was to be made, this would allow women to realize they were pregnant (at or around six weeks of pregnancy) and then legally get an abortion within the mandated time period, should they wish to. This specific clause with the faulty justification is an intentional attempt to restrict abortions to the fullest extent.

While this law will undoubtably be challenged, the ultimate goal of anti-abortion advocates is for such a case to be enforced in the state and should it be blocked by a federal judge, face appeals by the state and then make its way to the now right-leaning Supreme Court only to then be ruled valid. Should this occur, Roe v. Wade would be threatened by appeals, reducing the ruling’s legitimacy and constitutional power. The historic Supreme Court ruling protects a woman’s right to an abortion up until fetal viability or around 25 weeks. Laws like this one passed by Georgia are meant to eradicate protections and implement aggressive restrictions. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have vowed to challenge the legislation well before it goes into effect in January 2020.

*Interactive map and extended list of states that recently introduced restrictive bills.*

Engagement Resources:

  • Planned Parenthood : Reproductive rights advocacy group that provided affordable and accessible health services to women across the US.
  • National Abortion Federation : Advocacy group which respects women’s ability to make informed decisions about her reproductive health.
  • Spark Reproductive Justice Now: A reproductive justice organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, advocating for policies that protect and expand access to sexual health and resources.
  • ACLU of Georgia : A national organization working to defend civil liberties across the United States.
  • Center for Reproductive Rights : Legal group ensuring the protection of reproductive rights for every woman around the world.

Photo by Maria Oswalt

2020 Budget Proposal Slashes Funding for Medicaid and Medicare

2020 Budget Proposal Slashes Funding for Medicaid and Medicare

Policy
In early March, the Trump administration announced its 2020 budget proposal with controversial cuts. The proposal included a $1.5 trillion cut to Medicaid and a $845 billion cut to Medicare over the next 10 years. The main reason for cutting Medicaid is due to its connection to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which Trump and the Republicans abhor. Proposed budget cuts to the program  eliminate extra Medicaid funding for states that have expanded the program under the ACA. Additionally, the budget proposal would give states the power to design their own Medicaid programs, including, controversially, allowing states to get a block grant or to introduce a per-person cap for Medicaid recipients. The proposed changes  to Medicare are supposedly  aimed to address and combat waste and abuse in the healthcare system, therefore making Medicare more efficient.

Analysis
This is a rollback of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, which allowed states to offer Medicaid coverage to a larger share of low-income people. Trump’s budget proposal would cut federal funding for the expansion, forcing states to either drop it or foot the bill themselves, in addition to cutting payments to hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Lower rates proposed for Medicare services would force providers to charge the government less for services. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget,  Overall, nearly all premiums, deductibles and copays would be left unaffected, but states would have the option of opting out of providing some services  due to the lack of federal subsidies. However Trump’s proposed budget  also could result in raising raise-out of pocket drug prices charged  under Medicare Part D.

While the plan proposed by the Administration must still go through Congress, where it likely won’t survive, the initiation of this proposal, highlights the Administration’s disregard towards the American people’s health,  and will surly leave those in the proposal’s crosshairs with negative feelings. The proposed cuts would dramatically increase the number of people without  health insurance. While this proposal is being presented as a method to correct systematic errors, millions would be negatively impacted by this ego driven proposal.

Engagement Resources:

Photo by unsplash-logoKendal James

EPA Finally Vows to Regulate Cancer Causing Toxins

EPA Finally Vows to Regulate Cancer Causing Toxins

Policy Summary
After persistent national outcry, the EPA has announced it will regulate a group of long-lasting chemicals, called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have been linked to reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects. The action plan creates a “maximum contaminate level” for PFAS, therefore lowering the ratio between drinking water and the substances that have also been found to contribute to low birth weights, thyroid problems and some cancers. The widespread contamination of these compounds has been felt across America, as they are used in nonstick cookware, water-repellant fabrics, grease-resistant paper products, and firefighting foams. The acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated in a news conference in Philadelphia that the EPA would set a limit for the chemicals under the Safe Drinking Act by the end of this year. This action plan’s key components are: nationwide drinking water monitoring of PFAS,  expand research on managing the risks and effects of PFAS, and continue and develop groundwater cleanup strategies.

Analysis
The unregulated contamination of drinking water has left communities and military bases fearful and scrambling upon the revelation of high PFAS in drinking water. Military bases and areas around them are exponentially affected due to the use of fire fighting foams that are knowingly riddled with PFAS during training exercises. The presence of PFAS are not new and the implementation of this act is coming at a time when lives have already been affected. Critics finds that the EPA and administration are making grandiose claims implying  stark changes, but recalling past approaches and responses to such outcry, little optimism exists. Last year, the Trump administration also tried to block the publication of a  health study(cite) by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that suggested the current regulations were inadequate and urged a much lower threshold of exposure to these compounds. In response to the EPA’s ineptitude, many states have already taken steps in limiting or banning such PFAS and addressing their threat to public safety*.

While this is a step in the right direction, the process of getting a handle on such toxins will take months, if not years, due to their widespread use and presence. Additionally, there is reasonable concern about  this action plan being successfully executed due to Trump’s recent proposal to reduce the EPA’s funding by 31% ; Reduced spending reduces resources, which reduces the efficacy of this plan in cleaning up communities saturated with PFAS. Finally, this plan of action is exactly what the name suggests, a plan, but not definitive policy or mandates that are enforced and causing concrete change.

*States that took action are Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

  • Resistance Resources:
  • Comment directly on EPA proposed regulations, make your voice heard – Note: Commenting privileges are available for 60-90 days after a proposed regulation is announced.
  • Clean water for all campaign : An organization promoting water access as a human right.
  • National Drinking Water Alliance : A network of organizations and individuals across America working to ensure all children have access to safe drinking water.

Contact: This brief was authored by Taylor J Smith Contact: Taylor@usresistnews.org

  • Learn More
  • EPA official statement announcing plan
  • EPA Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan – Full
  • EPA Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan – Fact sheet
  • Community in Michigan drastically impacted by PFAS.
  • Additional criticism of “action” plan.
  • Announcement by Andrew Wheeler and America’s history with PFAS:
  • Proposed budget cuts, EPA is severely impacted.
  • Additional article on regulation of PFAS
Judge Rules HIV Status is Not an Exclusionary Factor in the Ability to Serve

Judge Rules HIV Status is Not an Exclusionary Factor in the Ability to Serve

Brief #51—Health

Policy
A federal judge put a stop to the recent attacks on military members, referred to as  the “Deploy or Get Out” ;policy. This policy , sponsored by the former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, effectively mandated that any military personnel who were not deployable worldwide be cut. This policy affects personnel deemed non-deployable due to medical reasons, directly affected two HIV positive airmen, who recently sued the Department of Defense. In this case, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Alexandria, Virginia, ordered that the US Air Force stop discharging service members who are HIV positive. The Judge found the policy to be “irrational” and “outdated”, and noted that because of the advances in treatment and medicine, the disease “does not impose unreasonable burdens on the military when compared with similar conditions” nor does HIV “seriously jeopardize the health or safety of the service members or his companions in service. “These justifications were central in the judge’s ruling that the military cannot claim HIV status to be an exclusionary factor in ability to serve.

Analysis
According to the “Deploy or Get Out” policy. the HIV status of these airmen meant that they could not be deployed around the world and therefore must be discharged from military service, Not only is this a direct attack on those with medical conditions that do not impair their ability to serve but this also reduces the readiness of the Airforce and other military branches by reducing their enlistment numbers. This policy additionally affects those most effected by HIV, gay males, continuing the administration’s attack on the LGBTQ community, like the transgender ban.

The original policy, according to Mattis, was put in place to ensure fairness in deployment rates. Specific articles within this policy state that military members who have been non-deployable for the past twelve months or more will be separated from the military, with the expectation of having only deployable personnel and reducing individuals from avoiding deployments. However, service members in the Air Force claim they are being discharged despite the recommendations and influence of their doctors and commanding officers who claim they are fit to serve and are being removed due to their HIV status. While this policy looks to “trim the fat”, it simply reduces the number of available military personnel by arbitrarily choosing individuals to remove from service.

By focusing on the nonexistent impact that HIV has on military abilities and acknowledging that the military cannot make the decision to remove individuals according to outdated biases, the court ruling protects the liberties of U.S. military personnel globally.

  • Resistance Resources:
  • Outserve SLDN : Organization providing legal defense for LGBTQ service members.
  • Human Rights Campaign : LGBT civil rights advocacy group who works toward equal rights.
  • Lambda Legal : A  nonprofit, national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Contact: This Brief was authored by Taylor J Smith Contact: Taylor@usresistnews.org 

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