D.C. Justice Updates
From the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries staff in Washington, D.C.

Monday, December 6, 2021 • Justice Update


  • Abortion: The Supreme Court heard arguments on December 1 in what may well be considered one of the most consequential cases in decades, asking the court to reverse itself and overturn Roe v. Wade. The case, brought by the only licensed abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a Mississippi law passed in 2018 that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks into a pregnancy. During oral arguments it was pointed out that Mississippi legislators expressly cited the changed make-up of the Supreme Court as a reason for pressing ahead with their case that directly asked the Court, now with three Trump-nominated justices, to overturn the core holding in Roe. The Solicitor General and Julie Rikelman, arguing for the clinic, pointed out that for the Court to reverse settled precedent to take away a right would deprive pregnant people, primarily women, of liberty, autonomy over their bodies, and their ability to be full participants in societyBased on the questions asked by the six conservative justices, it is widely assumed that the Court will overturn the protections of Roe v. Wade which would, among other harms, open the door for the reversal of other rights that flow from the holdings of that 1973 decision. Almost half the states in the US have laws that could immediately go into effect should Roe be overturned that would ban most abortions. A decision is expected by late June, but possibly earlier, in the case.


  • Voting Rights: The case for much-needed democracy protections becomes even more clear as states gear up to offer even more restrictions on voting and redistricting in the 2022 legislative session. After passing 33 laws of voting limits in 19 states this year, Republicans in at least five states — Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire — have filed bills before the next legislative sessions have even started that seek to restrict voting in some way, including by limiting mail voting. In over 20 states, more than 245 similar bills put forward this year could be carried into 2022, according to Voting Rights Lab, a group that works to expand access to the ballot.

  • Build Back Better: The Senate majority leader says that the Build Back Better bill will be considered before the end of the year – discussions are still ongoing with the Senate Parliamentarian waiting to find out if she will sign off on the latest immigration plan, which would grant 6.5 million foreign nationals a temporary parole status that would give them five-year work and travel permits. If the bill doesn’t pass before the end of the year there would be an interruption in the child tax credit payments.

  • Government Funding: A stopgap government funding bill was signed by the President last week, pushing the discussion of long-term funding to February.  This isn’t great because funding levels will remain low for many of the social programs that people rely on, but is good because it averted a government shut-down.

  • Debt Limit: Congress must increase the debt limit by mid-December before the U.S. defaults on its loans. This process used to be bipartisan but has become a political hot potato in the past several years. 

  • Global Vaccine Equity: Over 5.2 million people have died from Covid-19 to date. With the new omicron variant spreading across the globe, the World Health Organization and global leaders have started working on a “pandemic treaty” which would help prevent and deal with future pandemics. Additionally, the WTO postponed its December meeting that could have addressed trade restrictions that continue to limit the development of vaccines and treatments in developing countries. Advocates are increasing pressure on the Biden Administration to use its leverage at the WTO and with EU partners to push for a temporary waiver of the “TRIPS agreement”. 


  • Killer Robots: Last week, US officials balked at supporting a binding agreement that would regulate or ban the use of “killer robots” at a meeting in Geneva to discuss an upcoming review conference on the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons. While the U.S. would not support a legally-binding treaty, the official did indicate support for a “code of conduct” at the United Nations. The World Council of Churches launched a new campaign focused on the issue of “killer robots” last week, and published this toolkit for use by member communions. 


  • China: The Biden administration announced an administrative boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over ongoing human rights concerns. Athletes will be allowed to compete, but there will not be an official delegation. The move is seen as a result of China’s treatment of Uyghurs — which the U.S. government has called “genocide.” Faith offices are hosting a webinar on U.S.-China relations on 12/7 at 6:30 pm ET which you can register for here

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In responding faithfully to God’s call for abundant life for all people, a common life in which no one is left behind, we are drawn inevitably to engage in public policy advocacy and decision-making.   

The UCC Washington DC Office was called into being by a resolution at General Synod 10 in 1975. This predecessor body to Justice and Witness Ministries (then called the Office for Church in Society) was created to assume a leadership function for social action concerns in the UCC and to provide resources to the national, conference and local churches. 

THE GOAL of the UCC JWM Washington office is to make a better world possible by addressing the systemic problems that we face as a country and as part of the world. Hunger, poverty, peace and security, racism, care for the earth. These are among the types of justice issues that we work to improve through federal policies.