Public Health/Contraception & Health Insurance – New Federal Rules:
The Affordable Care Act provision requiring health insurance coverage for contraception has been the source of ongoing controversy. Some religious nonprofits, including Catholic schools and hospitals, objected to this practice, arguing that it went against their beliefs.
As a way to circumvent this issue, while still granting women access to contraception, the Obama Administration required nonprofits that objected to contraception to notify the insurer who would then be responsible for the cost of the contraception coverage and for administering it. Religious nonprofits objected to this because they argued that the very act of reaching out to the insurer about providing contraception to their employees went against their religious beliefs. In essence, religious organizations saw it as a “permission slip” for women to gain access to birth control and ultimately, to use it.
In response to the religious nonprofits concerns and in an effort to avoid litigation, the Obama Administration announced a new way for women who work for religious nonprofits to have access to contraception while providing an accommodation for religious employers. Under new interim final regulations, nonprofit religious organizations can notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objections to providing some or all contraception services under their health plan, and the Department of Labor will step in and arrange for a third party insurer to make contraception available to women free of charge. Religious organizations are questioning whether this is still a violation of their beliefs.
This rule does not currently apply to all religious organizations. In June, the Supreme Court held that closely held for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby are allowed to opt out of making contraception available to women for religious reasons. Hobby Lobby is an arts and crafts store owned by a Christian family.
A recent study by Weill Cornell Medical College and published on July 30, 2014 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that “1 in 20 adults will be affected by financial abuse after they turn 60.” Elder abuse in the form of financial exploitation can manifest in a number of ways including, but not limited to: stolen cash, credit card fraud, or by forcing the elder to relinquish control of his/her accounts to another. As the elderly population continues to grow, this problem is expected to grow.
In 2011, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) issued an advisory to financial institutions calling for their cooperation and due diligence in battling elder abuse. The advisory also contains a series of red flags to help identify potential financial exploitation. Many financial institutions have implemented special teams to investigate such claims and to monitor any red flags.
Technology and Domestic Violence:
LED cameras are being used in a pilot program in Indianapolis to help strengthen domestic violence cases. This program comes after Marion County officials reported an increase of 500 domestic violence calls between 2010-2012. The cameras are able to detect the formation of bruises and strangulation marks before the naked eye can see them. In addition, these cameras can detect bodily fluids, which will allow law enforcement to collect evidence quicker in sexual assaults. The cameras will provide the physical evidence necessary to help ensure convictions in domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
The LED camera, the Illumacam-2, was purchased as part of the Baker One Project, a collaboration between the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and domestic violence groups. This project is designed to combat domestic violence at the early stages to prevent the situation from escalating to homicide. The funding for the cameras has been provided by a federal grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan is aimed at eliminating the number of traffic deaths in New York City. According to the Vision Zero website, “being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors.” The plan looks to combine stricter enforcement of traffic laws along with efficient and safer road engineering to protect the public from traffic fatalities. This type of plan to end traffic fatalities began in Sweden with the Vision Zero Initiative. The Initiative has reported that the number of pedestrian deaths has decreased by 50%, including the number of children killed in traffic accidents.
On August 9, 2014, Governor Cuomo signed a law authorizing New York City to reduce the city speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. This would affect city streets that are not already marked with a speed limit and will go into effect in ninety days. Mayor de Blasio cited this law as a necessary step in making the streets safer for families and eliminating traffic deaths in New York City. To view the rest of the law, please click here.
Paid Sick Leave:
On March 20, 2014, Mayor de Blasio signed the law requiring many employers to provide up to 5 days (40 hours) of accrued paid sick leave; his first law as Mayor. The law took effect on April 1, 2014 allowing employees to begin accruing sick time that would be available for use as of July 30, 2014. The law encompasses any employer that has five or more employees, and for those with less than five, requires them to provide unpaid sick leave opportunities. Employees can use the sick time for themselves or to take care of a sick family member.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) held a meeting on Friday, July 25 to discuss moving about 750 homeless families to the head of the list for housing placement. This will cause the families to move ahead of many domestic violence victims already on the list. On its website, NYCHA has application information for need-based housing; N-1 is priority for victims of domestic violence and lists the forms and steps necessary for domestic violence victims to obtain priority housing.
Prior to 2005, NYCHA set aside about 3,000 homes for homeless families, but this practice was terminated when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to decrease the agency’s waiting list. There are currently about 210,000 people on the waiting list for NYCHA Housing.
Some City Council members and the Coalition for the Homeless petitioned NYCHA to reserve more housing for homeless families as the number of homeless families is on the rise. According to an article in the Daily News, as of Wednesday, “54,700 people were in city shelters, including 11,400 families with 23,600 kids.” To read the rest of the Daily News article, please click here.
Guns and Domestic Violence:
A new ad funded by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group created by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, tackles the increasing correlation between guns and domestic violence. The ad depicts a man violently knocking on a woman’s door as she calls 911, telling the operator that she has a restraining order. He kicks in the door and goes to grab their son despite the mother’s plea not to take him. The two struggle and the man takes out a gun and shoots the woman.
In a study conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increased the risk of murder by 500%.
A father appealed a Suffolk County Family Court decision, which found that he had neglected his son, Laequise P. The facts allege that while at a party, a then 8-year-old Laequise P., cursed at an adult. In order to discipline him, his father spanked him. At the Family Court fact-finding hearing, the father admitted that he had spanked the boy with an open hand. There were also allegations that the father had struck the child with a belt once while they were home; the father denied these allegations. In child neglect proceedings, the petitioner has the burden of proving neglect by a preponderance of the evidence. The Appellate Division, Second Department, found that the burden had not been met with respect to whether the father had struck the boy with a belt. Furthermore, “The father’s open-handed spanking of the child as a form of discipline after he heard the child curse at an adult was a reasonable use of force and, under the circumstances presented here, did not constitute excessive corporal punishment.” The Appellate Division denied and dismissed the petition.
This past week NY1 News presented a weeklong news segment on the epidemic of Human Trafficking in New York City. Often times when people think of “human trafficking” or “sex trafficking,” they think of immigrant girls coming to the United States who are forced to work in the sex trade. However, the reality is that some young girls, born and raised in the five boroughs, are also being trafficked. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services says about 1,900 girls between the ages of 11-18 are commercially and sexually exploited in the city.
The internet has provided for a number of ways for traffickers and the “johns” to conduct business. Some pimps require the girls to post photos online of themselves together in what the pimp calls his “stable.” The NYPD’s Vice Squad has been working to identify the pimps and save the girls.