This summer I worked as a Legislative Assistant on the Government Relations, Advocacy, and Community Engagement (GRACE) team at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Washington, DC. The mission of the ADL is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment for all. Among the organization’s core policy issues is protecting religious freedom by ensuring separation of Church and State. The ADL advances separation of Church and State by filing amici briefs in nearly every religious freedom case. Moreover, the ADL supports legislation such as the Do No Harm Act that ensures religious freedom cannot be misused to discriminate. Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to attend hearings, write blog posts, and write public comments in response to different issues related to religious freedom such as LGBTQ equality and access to healthcare.
Throughout college, my policy interests have been focused on domestic and global women’s health issues. My passion for reproductive health is rooted in the belief that health and the ability to choose and access reproductive health is a fundamental right. I have pursued my passion by working at Duke Women’s Center as a Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention Facilitator and researching contraceptive discontinuation rates.
Over the course of this summer, I saw different ways that religious freedom often conflicted with reproductive healthcare access. I came to recognize religious liberty as important to women’s health and other social justice issues such as LGBTQ equality, healthcare access, immigrant rights. When religious liberty is misused, it often disproportionately affects access to reproductive healthcare. For example, the Trump Administration announced a final rule for healthcare providers that allows individuals to claim a religious exemption from providing healthcare to certain patients such as those who are transgender and in need of transition care. Known as denial of care rules, such regulations would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations such as LGBTQ individuals, people of color, and women.
As a person of faith, understanding religious freedom to be intimately connected with my passion for reproductive healthcare access has made advocating for religious freedom even more urgent. In a political climate that increasingly weaponizes scripture and religious liberty as defense for discriminatory policies, I have learned that my experience as a Jew and my Jewish values can be used to protect my right to practice Judaism freely and defend access to reproductive healthcare.