When Neera Tanden, an American domestic policy adviser and president of the Center for American Progress, walked out of the opening plenary of the National Council of Jewish Women triennial conference March 23, the women who filled the ballroom cheered as if she were a hero going into battle.
“They just delayed voting on Trumpcare,” Tanden said as she left to catch a flight back to Washington. When that Republican health care legislation was withdrawn the next day for lack of votes, it was a victory for the many NCJW members who worked tirelessly to support President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The title of the opening plenary session of the NCJW convention at the JW Marriott in Buckhead was “A Conversation: The Trump Era, the Path Moving Forward.” The panel discussing the consequences of President Donald Trump’s policy proposals consisted of Gail Evans, a former CNN vice president; Kathy Miller, the president of Texas Freedom Network; and Tanden.
The three women discussed what they considered an attack on women’s health by the current administration in a session that NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman later said may have veered too far to the left.
“We worked really hard to make ACA a reality. The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of Americans have access to health care,” Kaufman said during her opening remarks.
The Republican program to replace Obamacare failed because it did not address health care concerns for Americans, Tanden said. Instead, it would have exacerbated issues by making health care less accessible for those who need it.
“This is a plan that the more you need health care, the more you pay,” Tanden said. “They designed a plan that if you’re 50 years old and live in a rural community, you have an eight-times increase in what you pay.”
The speakers encouraged NCJW members to use their talents and activism to help pass legislation that benefits women and minorities. Tanden attributed the failure of the Republican health plan to calls to congressmen to voice dissatisfaction with the proposal.
“People’s activism over the last several months has shifted the debate,” Tanden said. “Yesterday a Republican member of Congress came forward and said, ‘The calls are 2,000 to 1, so I’m voting against this.’ ”
The panelists also expressed the importance of supporting institutions such as Planned Parenthood and said 90 percent of Americans oppose defunding Planned Parenthood.
Miller stressed work to defend women’s reproductive rights. She said one-third of women have been raped, and one-third of women have had an abortion.
“If you don’t know a woman who has had an abortion, that is because you made her feel silenced and ashamed,” Miller said. “We need to talk about abortion every day in a situation where you feel uncomfortable talking about.”
These perilous times enable white women to acknowledge racial issues surroundings women’s health and abortion, Miller said. She said women’s health care and welfare programs such Women, Infants and Children are being targeted in an attempt to control women, particularly women of color.
But there is strength in numbers, Miller said, and NCJW members have a chance to support women of color and other marginalized groups.
“Go to Black Lives Matter rallies. Go to immigrant rallies. Uniting against other rising segregation is a way to not normalize it,” Miller said. “The intersectionality of hate is becoming more apparent because of Trump and his administration.”