In Case You Missed It: October at the Women’s Law Project

We know you are busy and as you’ll read, so are we, so we’re bringing back our monthly wrap-up posts to make it easier for you to keep up with everything going on at The Women’s Law Project. We’re leading the national effort to get politicians to exit the exam room It sounds like a plot line from a dystopian novella, but it’s real and happening right now: your doctor may be being forced to lie to you, and you have no way of knowing if what they are telling you is based on their expertise and scientific consensus, or if they are just mouthing the words of a politician you’ve never met. At least 33 states have passed laws that interfere with private doctor-patient relationships by either forcing doctors to lie to patients, gagging them from telling patients certain information, or mandating they perform medically unnecessary procedures or arbitrarily wait to administer care. These government intrusion laws have been getting a lot of attention, and doctors are organizing to fight back. We’re fighting back, too. On October 1, Rep. Dan Frankel, co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus, re-introduced the Patient Trust Act. The Patient Trust Act gives Pennsylvania the opportunity to lead the country by stating unequivocally that politicians should stay out of exam rooms. Learn more about these laws and the Patient Trust Act by reading this fact sheet co-authored by Women’s Law Project and the National Partnership for Women and Families, this report highlighting these laws, or reading WLP Assoc. Director of Strategic Communications Tara Murtha’s column at the Ms. Magazine blog. Want a full report on the prevalence of these laws across the country? That’s here.   WLP Executive Director Carol Tracy at the Vice President’s House WLP Executive Director Carol Tracy was invited to Vice-President Joe Biden’s residence to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.  In addition to speaking with the Vice-President about our work in Philadelphia, Carol also met Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to discuss ways to improve institutional response to sexual and domestic violence. November marks Carol Tracy’s 25thAnniversary with the Women’s Law Project Speaking of anniversaries, we’re preparing to celebrate Carol Tracy’s 25thanniversary leading the helm at the only public interest legal organization in Pennsylvania devoted to women’s rights. We hope you will celebrate with us in person at the fabulous party we are hosting in Philadelphia on December 4. You can register for the party here. It will feature delicious dinner by Bistro St. Tropez and a wine and beer open bar. The party is very kid-friendly, with face painting and balloons. We are also...

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PA Agenda for Women’s Health

Bills introduced as part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health are summarized here – Get update on Twitter using #PA4WomensHealth.

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Op-ed: On Pope Francis, Economic Justice & Reproductive Rights

Pope Francis has come to the United States to preach about economic justice amid an unprecedented attack on reproductive rights. Anti-choice advocates no longer simply try  to criminalize abortion. Now, most legislative attacks are part of a strategy that relies on steadily implementing incremental restrictions with the goal of reserving safe and legal abortion as a luxury of the rich. Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol Tracy and Kate Michelman, co-chair of WomenVote PA, wrote about this connection on the even of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia. From the piece: We, like many leaders in the reproductive rights and women’s rights movement, were baptized and raised as Catholics. Like many Catholics, we left because we could no longer continue to be part of a church whose doctrine denigrated the moral integrity of women. Catholic Church doctrine is not the only morally informed perspective on reproductive rights and abortion.   We believe the current assault on reproductive rights, which strives to reserve the access to contraception and safe abortion for the rich, is fundamentally immoral. We not only believe, but know, that women make morally informed reproductive decisions, including whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, every day.   And so we are watching this week with decidedly mixed emotions: nostalgia, anger, concern and hope.   We admire and respect Pope Francis. He brings us back to the memory of John XXIII, who was elected pope when we came of age. Like John, Pope Francis is shifting the church from dogma to pastoral care rooted in compassion, mercy and inclusion. He has criticized the church for “putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized.”   Having become acutely aware of increasing income inequality in recent years, Americans are ready for this message. Not only do 85 percent of American Catholics approve of Pope Francis, but seven out of 10 Americans as a whole.   In 2013, Pope Francis criticized the church for being “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” he said. “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”   In early September, Pope Francis released a statement addressing abortion. Specifically, the pope authorized priests to grant “forgiveness” to a woman for having had an abortion, if she seeks such absolution. We know that women can and do make their own moral decisions about whether they can bear and raise a child and do not need forgiveness. However, a wider analysis of the pope’s position reveals that his language is far less stigmatizing than the...

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Announcing #FrancisLovesMeToo

  For Immediate Release Contact: Mike Morrill, Keystone Progress Education Fund Tara Murtha, Women’s Law Project Leah Chamberlain, Philadelphia Women’s Center #FrancisLoveMeToo Local progressive advocates launch campaign to welcome the Pope’s message of economic justice—and call for real policy solutions Philadelphia- As you may have heard by now, Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia this week. We’ve watched in fascination as the former nightclub bouncer from Buenos Aires now known as Pope Francis—“part rock star, part diplomat and part politician,” according to the New York Times—has shifted the conversation about and within the Roman Catholic Church by preaching compassion, mercy and tolerance. He even criticized the Church for “putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized.” Turns out, listening to and ministering to the poor and advocating for economic justice is a popular message: Not only do 85% of American Catholics approve of Pope Francis, but seven out of ten Americans as a whole. As advocates for economic justice and reproductive rights, we are welcoming the Pope to Philadelphia by extending the conversations he is starting around issues of poverty and family, and discussing real solutions, under the banner #FrancisLovesMeToo. We invite you to join us as we explore Pope Francis’ message of mercy and economic justice for struggling families, something we need here in Pennsylvania and especially Philadelphia, a city with the highest rate of deep poverty, where children are routinely ravaged by the effects of poverty and trauma, and women suffer the highest rate of maternal mortality in the country. We are a community of advocates who fight to see the values espoused by Pope Francis reflected in the state Legislature and our communities. Economic justice and equality are not possible without equal access to reproductive healthcare including contraception and abortion, support for working mothers, and eliminating discrimination. We will be posting about the status of families in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania all week, and highlighting opportunities for policies to reflect the values being discussed. Throughout the week, we invite you to contact us for comment from experts on related issues, such as: reproductive justice, workplace discrimination, poverty as a risk factor for sexual violence, equal pay, contraception, abortion, LGBTQ discrimination, working mothers, healthcare access, the cost of mass incarceration, and raising the minimum wage. Like www.facebook.com/francislovesmetoo to stay up-to-date on messages from Pennsylvania advocates working to replace discriminatory “family values” rhetoric in Pennsylvania with policies that actually value families: traditional families, modern families, LGBTQ families, poor families, our families, and yours....

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On Pope Francis’ Statement on Abortion

Yesterday, Pope Francis addressed abortion through an open letter issued from the Vatican. Specifically, the pope authorized priests to grant “forgiveness” to a woman for having had an abortion if she seeks such absolution. From the letter: I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. This decree is neither a change in doctrine nor permanent; it is effective through the Holy Year, which ends in November, 2016. As expected, the letter was met with mixed reaction. Some public health advocates and professionals, all too aware of the disastrous effect of abortion stigma on women’s health and economic security, criticized the letter for promoting said stigma. “I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal,” wrote Pope Francis. “I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.” The organization A is For called the statement “classic” abortion stigma. It is important to respect the experience of all women. However, we know that abortion is not always, or even often, an agonizing and painful decision. According to a recent study, more than 99 percent of women who have abortions reported not regretting their choice. Higher perceived community abortion stigma and lower social support were associated with more negative emotions. Understanding this reality is important because the misunderstanding that abortion emotionally harms women has often been used to justify denying women the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is also used to adopt policies designed to economically coerce women into either keeping unwanted pregnancies or choosing unregulated methods of pregnancy termination by making safe and legal abortion unaffordable and out of reach. Women have always had abortions, and will always have abortions. The question is whether women will have access to safe abortions or not. The results are disastrous when women do not have access to safe abortion. The organization Catholics for Choice embraced Pope Francis’ expression of a pastoral, rather than political, take on abortion. They also pointed to the gulf between the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and the practice of what “ordinary Catholics do in their everyday lives.” Catholic women have abortions at roughly the same rate as women of other faiths and women who don’t identify with formal religion. Ninety-nine percent of Catholic women have used birth control. Read the statement issued from Catholics for Choice here. Writing from our home office in Philadelphia, where we are preparing to welcome Pope Francis for the World Meeting...

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Report: Lack of Paid Leave is the Real War on Families

The United States is one of the only industrialized countries that fails to support new motherhood in any meaningful way. Take, for example, the lack of guaranteed paid family leave. From a recent report published in In These Times: Most people are aware that Americans have a raw deal when it comes to maternity leave. Perhaps they’ve heard about Sweden, with its drool-inducing 16 months of paid parental leave, or Finland, where, after about 9 months of paid leave, the mother or father can take—or split—additional paid “child care leave” until the child’s third birthday. But most Americans don’t realize quite how out of step we are. It’s not just wealthy, social democratic Nordic countries that make us look bad. With the exception of a few small countries like Papua New Guinea and Suriname, every other nation in the world—rich or poor—now requires paid maternity leave… For women, still most often the primary caregivers of young children, this results in higher employment rates, which in turn translates to lower poverty rates among mothers and their children. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13 percent of U.S. workers have access to any form of paid family leave. Women who work in low-income jobs more likely to require physical labor—the kinds of jobs women who just gave birth need a break from in order to heal property–are least likely to have access to paid leave. States such as California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have paid family leave laws in the books. In Pennsylvania, which earned a “D” on family leave benefits from the National Partnership for Women & Families, several family leave bills have been introduced, but none have made any progress. The Family Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers in companies that employ at least 50 employees. Otherwise, there is no federal protection. It’s little wonder that nearly one in four women surveyed by the authors of the report were forced to go back to work within two weeks of having a child, sometimes with C-section wounds not fully healed. Paid leave is not just a matter of common sense in a society that supposedly values families: Research shows time off can be a matter of life and death for children. While revealing the harsh experiences of low-income working mothers struggling to patch together a little time to heal from giving birth before returning to work, the new report also highlights the fact that many women forced to immediately return to their jobs are also forced to stop breastfeeding because of the difficulty of pumping milk in their workplace. Natasha Long had to go...

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Officials: No Wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood in PA

A review of Planned Parenthood facilities throughout Pennsylvania initiated in response to an anti-choice video propaganda campaign has turned up no evidence of wrongdoing, according to state officials. Last month, a fake company covertly run by anti-choice activists published several videos in an effort to try to defund Planned Parenthood. The videos initially caused an uproar, but it soon became apparent to everyone from Factcheck.org at the University of Pennsylvania to the New York Times that the videos were misleadingly edited to try and suggest Planned Parenthood employees were engaging in illegal activity precisely because the activists couldn’t find real evidence of wrongdoing. Even as awareness grew that the propaganda campaign had no substance, anti-choice lawmakers—some of who, incidentally, apparently screened the videos weeks before they were published—then conveniently used the videos as an excuse to attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. At least a dozen states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood. So far, every state that investigated Planned Parenthood affiliates found them to be in full compliance with state laws and regulations, including Pennsylvania. “There is no evidence that any Planned Parenthood site in this commonwealth is involved in the buying or selling of fetal tissue,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy wrote in a letter quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune. Dr. Murphy initiated a review of Planned Parenthood facilities in conjunction with Governor Tom Wolf’s office, in response to the videos. “We know, and the public knows, that Planned Parenthood serves millions of women, giving them basic healthcare, access to contraception, cervical screenings, and STI information and testing,” WLP Executive Director Carol E. Tracy recently said. “One in five American women have visited a Planned Parenthood for healthcare.” A new poll shows “the vast majority of Americans favor providing federal funding for clinics that provide women’s health services, and most of them support these taxpayer dollars going to Planned Parenthood clinics specifically.” Moreover, the majority of Pennsylvanians are pro-choice. Nonetheless, anti-choice activists are planning to protest outside of Planned Parenthood facilities across the country on Saturday, August 22 as part of a coordinated campaign to defund healthcare for women. The protests will take place from 9am to 11am. Show your support by tweeting #StandwithPP and #PA4WomensHealth. WomenVotePA is the action arm of the Women’s Law Project. Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania. Stay up to date on issues and policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us on Facebook.     Text: Tara Murtha, WLP...

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Good News in Horrific “Rape Bait” Case

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of the female plaintiff who was raped as an eighth grader by a male student in an Alabama middle school in the case Hill v. Madison County School Board. The young woman can now proceed to trial with her claim that Sparkman Middle School’s response to her reports of sexual harassment led to her being violently raped in a bathroom by a male student with a known history of violence and sexual misconduct. The case has been referred to as a “rape-bait” case in the press because of the outrageous scenario that led to the attack. A young woman who has asked to be called “Jaden” was a 14-year-old special education student when she reported that a 16-year-old male student who had been aggressively propositioning her once again asked her to meet him in a school bathroom to engage in sex. Instead of protecting the student, the aide and administrator hatched a sting plan in which the student would be used as “bait” based on the school’s sexual harassment policy. According to the policy, the “three exclusive types of evidence sufficient for the school to discipline a student for sexual harassment” were for the harasser to be “caught in the act,” physical evidence, and admission of guilt. In other words, victimized students were disbelieved as a matter of school policy. In order to try to catch the harasser in the act, Jaden was told to agree to meet her harasser in the bathroom. Teachers planned to intervene before she was harmed. The boy made a last-minute change and brought Jaden to another bathroom. He sodomized her, Jaden said. In the ruling, the court wrote that the school showed “deliberate indifference” to the girl’s allegations of sexual harassment. The plaintiff was represented by the National Women’s Law Center and Mastando & Artrip. The Women’s Law Project and Bondurant, Mixson, & Elmore filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the plaintiff in this case on behalf of thirty-three organizations dedicated to gender equality. “This decision is an important victory for students whose safety and educational opportunities are at risk when schools develop and implement biased policies like the one in this case,” says Women’s Law Project Staff Attorney Amal Bass who co-authored theamicus brief. WomenVotePA is the action arm of the Women’s Law Project. Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania.      Text: Tara Murtha, WLP Staff Photo: Federal Courthouse in Atlanta, via...

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Victory! Successful Lawsuit is Big Healthcare Win in PA

Successful Lawsuit Against PA Department of Human Services Is Big Win for Nearly 75,000 Women Women Unjustly Denied Medicaid Coverage Now Covered   Pennsylvania – After being unjustly blocked from full Medicaid coverage despite being qualified for the plan, nearly 75,000 low-income Pennsylvania women now have full healthcare coverage as a result of a settled lawsuit filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS). The affected Pennsylvanians were all women enrolled in SelectPlan for Women, a limited type of Medicaid that only covers family planning services. After learning of the Commonwealth’s refusal to transition qualified women on SelectPlan into full coverage in a timely manner, Women’s Law Project and Community Legal Services filed a federal lawsuit against DHS on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Voices Pittsburgh, and private citizens. In response to the lawsuit, DHS reviewed the cases of 74,415 women who were enrolled in SelectPlan. They determined that over 59,000 of them were eligible for Medicaid, and transferred them accordingly. They referred another roughly 14,700 women to the federally facilitated marketplace. Women on SelectPlan who do not qualify for full Medicaid or the exchange will remain on SelectPlan until at least June 30. “We are pleased to see the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services finally enable these women to obtain full healthcare coverage, and appreciate the Department’s attention and hard work to resolve the matter,” says Sue Frietsche, Women’s Law Project Senior Staff Attorney. “Now that the state has finally expanded Medicaid as intended under the Affordable Care Act, there is simply no good reason to exclude anyone qualified from it. Not even women.” “The full healthcare coverage now available to these women is absolutely vital to their wellbeing,” says Amy Hirsch, Managing Attorney at Community Legal Services. “The women who have benefitted from this settlement are low wage workers; they must be healthy in order to work, and this new health coverage will go a long way towards helping them stay employed and able to provide for themselves and their families.” For more information or to request an interview with an attorney who worked on this case, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.orgor 215.928.5762, or Amy Hirsch at ahirsch@clsphila.org or 215.227.2415. Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania. Founded in 1966, Community Legal Services has served more than one million clients who could not afford to pay for legal representation.  ...

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WLP at the Big Latch On 2015

The sun was shining in Franklin Square Park last weekend when I headed toward the carousel for the Big Latch On 2015. The Big Latch On is a worldwide event where groups of women come together at registered events in public places to breastfeed their babies. The goal is to celebrate breastfeeding, raise awareness of breastfeeding support within the community, and advocate for nursing women. Organizers of the Big Latch On imagine a world where every family was supported, nurtured by their community, and where breastfeeding is a normal part of life. Sanitary Conditions for Nursing Mothers (HB1100), sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley, would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space and break time for employees who need to express breast milk. The bill is currently under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature, and is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.It was a record year for the Big Latch On: 14,536 children latched, at 654 events across 28 countries. The Franklin Square event was organized byMaternity Care Coalition, members of the PA Campaign for Women’s Health. Members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health attended several Big Latch On events across Pennsylvania to support breastfeeding women and share information about a bill called Sanitary Conditions for Nursing Mothers. The PA Agenda is a bold, pro-choice legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women and families. The fact is that right now, nursing mothers in Philadelphia enjoy more workplace protections than women living elsewhere in the state. Pennsylvania needs policies that reflect modern reality: Not only do women work, but many women are both the primary breadwinner and caretaker for their family. At the Big Latch On, women shared stories of the joy of nursing their babies, and the trauma of having to stop before they felt their child should because of challenges of expressing milk in the workplace. Many of the women nursed their babies before Philadelphia’s current law. We believe all women across Pennsylvania deserve the right to pump milk at work in private, sanitary spaces, and that’s why we’re advocating for HB1100. Stay up to date on this topic and policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us on Facebook.  Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in...

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WLP Attorney Tara Pfeifer Recognized by the American Bar Association

Tara Pfeifer, staff attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office, was recently recognized by the American Bar Association for her service to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Pfeifer is Vice-Chair of the Allegheny County Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee and also a member of the Young Lawyers Division Diversity Committee. In the latter capacity, earlier this year she organized a forum on marriage equality featuring ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak. The forum, “The Marriage Equality Decision in Pennsylvania – A Conversation with Witold Walczak, Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania,” won second place in the Young Lawyers Division Diversity category at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago. “We are so pleased that Tara’s dedication to the public interest and to the LGBTQ community in particular has been recognized,” says Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director of Women’s Law Project. Congratulations to Tara on this well-deserved honor! While lawyers’ work is usually under the radar, Pfeifer is the second Women’s Law Project attorney to be recognized by the American Bar Association this week.  WLP Managing Attorney Terry Fromson just returned from Chicago, where she was awarded the ABA’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence 20/20 Vision award last weekend. WomenVotePA is the action arm of the Women’s Law Project. Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania. Stay up to date on issues and policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us on Facebook....

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Victory! Pittsburgh Passes Earned Paid Sick Days

In staying true to its goal of being the “Most Livable City,” Pittsburgh passed the Paid Sick Days Act yesterday, providing approximately 50,000 Pittsburgh workers the ability to earn paid sick days. The victory in Pittsburgh comes on the heels of a similar ordinance passed in Philadelphia. Women’s Law Project is proud to have been part of the unified effort to pass earned paid sick day legislation in both cities.  Specifically, we were sure to inform lawmakers the ways that a lack of access to paid sick leave disproportionately affects women, who are often both primary breadwinners and caretakers of their families. “Paid sick days in Pittsburgh is a win-win,” says Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project in Pittsburgh. “It’s a win for workers, and also a victory for public health. Over three quarters of Pittsburgh’s service workers had no paid sick time, and these workers—food service workers, health care workers—come into close contact with lots of people. When they come to work sick, they make other people sick.” National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Sponsored by Councilman Corey O’Connor, and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Natalia Rudiak, Ricky Burgess and Deb Gross, amendments to the legislation passed with seven in favor, one against, and one abstention. The Act ensures up to five paid sick days for employees of businesses with 15 or more employees. Employees of businesses with fewer than 15 employees would get up to three paid sick days. “We don’t want people to come to work simply because they are afraid of losing jobs or losing their pay,” said City Councilman Corey O’Connor. Today’s vote came after weeks of discussion and feedback and public comment from the community, during which time advocates worked with lawmakers to create a meaningful bill. Pittsburgh is now the 20th city nationwide to grant workers paid sick leave. Four states have also passed paid sick leave requirements.     Text: Tara Murtha, WLP Staff Photo:...

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Support Earned Paid Sick Days in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh City Council was scheduled to follow in the footsteps of Philadelphia and many other cities and vote for Paid Sick Days last week. At the last minute, Pittsburgh City Council members put the vote on hold for one week to work with advocates to create legislation that we could ALL be proud to support. The Women’s Law Project is working with state and local allies such as Pittsburgh United, the Thomas Merton Center and Raise the Wage PA to ensure that Pittsburgh’s paid sick days ordinance protects working people and the public health while safeguarding small business. We know from the fight in Philadelphia that in order to succeed, we must stand together. People should not be forced to choose between risking the health of coworkers and customers by going to work sick, or losing their job. More than 50,000 Pittsburghers don’t have access to one single paid sick day. Access to earned paid sick days is stratified by income level and race, with low-income, black and Asian workers least likely to have a paid sick day. What can you do to support earned paid sick days in Pittsburgh? Join citizens and advocates in calling for a meaningful paid sick day ordinance in Pittsburgh at a rally Thursday, July 30, at 1pm at the Pittsburgh City County Building, 414 Grant St 5th Floor. RSVP for the rally at the Facebook page for Pittsburgh United. Learn more and sign a petition supporting paid sick days at www.pghneedspaidsickdays.org Are you a Pennsylvania business that supports a fair minimum wage? Sign here. Stay up to date on this topic and other policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us...

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Catch up with the Latest WLP News

It’s been a busy summer. So busy, in fact, that we wanted to reach out to give you a brief round-up of some of what’s been going in case you haven’t been able to keep up.   WLP’s Terry L. Fromson Honored as a Trailblazer We’re thrilled to share the news that Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson is being honored with a prestigious award by the American Bar Association for spearheading legal reform to improve systemic response to violence against women. Fromson will be honored along with Vice President Joe Biden, who introduced the Violence Against Women Act in 1990, Senator Patrick Leahy, and other visionary leaders from across the country. Terry will receive her well-deserved award on August 1 during a ceremony in Chicago. You can read the full story here.   Women’s Law Project Stands with Planned Parenthood This week, we’ve seen cynical politicians use deceptively edited video as a pretext to attack, and try to defund, Planned Parenthood. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so if you haven’t had a chance to sort through the coverage yet, we suggest you begin with this investigation by FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania. FactCheck’s findings clearly debunk the claims made by the creators of the videos, and the lies told by anti-choice activists seeking to use them for political gain. From FactCheck.org: The edited video, released July 14 by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress, leaves the impression that [senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood] was talking about Planned Parenthood affiliates making money from fetal tissue. But the edited video ignores other things [she] said that contradict [their claim]. The fact is that some Planned Parenthood affiliates, with the consent of their patients, legally and lawfully enable patients who choose to donate fetal tissue for biomedical research to do so. As repeatedly stated—but edited out—of the video, Planned Parenthood does not profit from this service. These attacks are not simply attacks on Planned Parenthood. They are also an attacks on biomedical research, and a cynical attempt to use propaganda to subvert ethical and legal scientific research. Anti-choice extremists will go to any length to stigmatize abortion providers, politicize women’s health, and try to restrict abortion. It is shameful that they are politicizing tissue donation for further their agenda. We are not deceived, and will not be bullied. We #StandwithPP.   Women’s Law Project Fights to Protect the Buffer Zone in Pittsburgh After federal courts repeatedly upheld Pittsburgh’s 15-foot clinic buffer zone ordinance, opponents of legal abortion are still fighting to knock it down. This week, Women’s Law...

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WLP’s Terry L. Fromson Honored as Trailblazer

Fromson honored for spearheading legal reform to improve systemic response to violence against women Terry L. Fromson, managing attorney of the Women’s Law Project, has been chosen to receive a prestigious 20/20 Vision Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence. Marking its 20th anniversary, the Commission created the 20/20 Vision Award to honor 20 lawyers who have played key roles in improving societal response to domestic and sexual violence. Fromson will be honored along with Vice President Joe Biden, who introduced the Violence Against Women Act in 1990, Senator Patrick Leahy, and other visionary leaders from across the country. One of Fromson’s many accomplishments noted by the Commission is her pioneering work exposing disgraceful and widespread practices of insurance companies that discriminated against domestic violence victims. As it so often does, Fromson’s inquiry began when a courageous woman reported that she was denied health, life and mortgage insurance because she had told her doctor she was assaulted by her husband. After investigating the details of this woman’s case, Fromson worked with allies to collect documentation of similar stories, and analyzed insurance company regulations and procedures regarding domestic violence. Fromson discovered that insurance companies were using information about abuse learned from medical records and insurance databases to deny insurance altogether, charge increased premiums, cancel coverage, and refuse to pay claims. And they were doing it in health, life, disability, and property insurance. In some cases, insurance companies refused to provide group coverage for a business if any employees had a documented history of domestic violence. Such discrimination has dangerous consequences. For example, if a batterer set a spouse’s house on fire, the insurance company could deny the claim made by the victim by using an exclusion for “intentional acts.” Through this practice, insurance companies were essentially helping abusers achieve their goal of leaving victims without any options or ability to recover, or move on. After investigating and documenting the problem, Fromson and allies spearheaded legal reform by working with insurance regulators and lawmakers to draft legislation. Since then, 45 states and D.C. have passed legislation that prohibits insurers from using a history of domestic violence to inform coverage. Battling insurance discrimination is just one of many pioneering projects Fromson has undertaken through her career, which has been entirely dedicated to serving the public interest. In Pennsylvania, Fromson helped change the law to provide victims of domestic violence a safe and confidential process to change their names. In Philadelphia, Fromson played a leading role in a 15-year campaign to improve police and prosecutorial responses to sexual assault and domestic violence, which ultimately led to the FBI...

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WLP Files Amicus Brief in Pittsburgh Buffer Zone Appeal

After federal courts repeatedly upheld Pittsburgh’s 15-foot clinic buffer zone ordinance, opponents of legal abortion are still fighting to knock it down. The fight in Pittsburgh is an important one, with implications for the safety of patients and providers across the country. The background: Last year, in McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme Court of the United States held that Massachusetts’ 35-foot fixed buffer zone was content-neutral and advanced significant government interests, but struck it down on the grounds that it wasn’t “narrowly tailored” enough to balance the rights of patients and protesters or “sidewalk counselors.” Shortly after the ruling, the religious advocacy group that represented the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case sought to have the courts strike down the Pittsburgh buffer zone as well. Subsequently, they filed a lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh, representing self-described “sidewalk counselors” Nikki Bruni and four other women. The plaintiffs claimed that the buffer zone prevented them from having close, personal conversations with patients and their partners outside of Planned Parenthood’s facility on Liberty Avenue. The plan didn’t work. A federal judge upheld the Pittsburgh zone in March. In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon asserted that the plaintiffs’ communication was not “effectively stifled” by the 15-foot buffer zone. From the opinion: Prior to the enactment of the Ordinance, there were incidents of physical intimidation, violence and obstruction where the buffer zone now stands. Such incidents have rarely, if ever, occurred since the buffer zone has been implemented… The buffer zone does not prevent a willing listener from stopping within the zone in order to accept Mrs. Bruni’s literature and listen to her message, or from exiting the zone in order to converse with her further. The Ordinance does not prevent Mrs. Bruni or anyone else from engaging in sidewalk counseling with individuals leaving the clinic, once they exit the buffer zone.   As the first time a federal judge has upheld a buffer zone since the McCullen decision, the ruling is significant and has broad implications for patients and providers across the country. “This ruling is a great victory for the City of Pittsburgh and will help protect both the patients in need of medical care and the doctors and medical staff at Planned Parenthood,” said Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office in Pittsburgh, which represented Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and its volunteer escorts in the suit. Then the plaintiffs appealed the case. In response, yesterday, Women’s Law Project attorneys and Thomas E. Zemaitis, a partner at the private law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of...

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Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced in Pittsburgh Today

Pittsburgh City Council member Corey O’Connor introduced an ordinance that mandates some employers provide paid sick days for certain employees today. The number of paid sick days would depend on the number of hours an employee worked within a given week, with a cap of either 72 or 40 hours per year, depending on the size of the employer. Thirty hours of work would accrue one hour of paid sick time.   From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Mr. O’Connor said the law would prevent workers from having to choose between losing a day’s pay or coming to work sick. According to a draft of the ordinance, about 40 percent of Pittsburgh’s private sector workers and 77 percent of service workers have no paid sick time. The National Partnership for Women and Families, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, estimates that 43 million people nationwide have no paid sick time. “I don’t want somebody cooking who shouldn’t be at work that day,” Mr. O’Connor said. It also would prevent employees from having to lose wages to stay home to take care of a sick child or another family member.   Approximately 50,000 working Pittsburghers do not have access to a paid sick day. The ordinance is supported by Pittsburgh for Paid Sick Days, a coalition of faith-based organizations, women’s rights groups, organized labor and community members. Women’s Law Project is proud to be a member of this effort. The introduction of a paid sick leave ordinance in Pittsburgh is part of a wave of similar actions in cities across the country. Philadelphia passed a paid sick leave ordinance in February. Women’s Law Project Staff Attorney Amal Bass testified about the disproportionate impact having no access to paid sick days has on working women at a hearing on the issue in Philadelphia.   From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. The battle for paid sick days in Pittsburgh will be an interesting one. As Philadelphia progressed toward passing its ordinance, the state Legislature responded by introducing what’s known as a pre-emption bill which, if passed, would prevent other cities from passing similar ordinances. After Philadelphia passed paid sick days, the state’s...

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WLP’s Terry Fromson Discusses Women & the Minimum Wage

Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson recently met with Pennsylvania Senator Rob Teplitz to discuss the disproportionate impact of Pennsylvania’s low minimum wage on women workers. “In Pennsylvania, the minimum wage workforce is three-quarters women,” says Terry L. Fromson, managing attorney of Women’s Law Project. “They are living on $7.25 an hour, the lowest possible minimum wage in the country. A mother in Pennsylvania with two women is living on poverty wages. Her take-home pay is less than the U.S. poverty threshold.” Fromson met with Senator Teplitz as part of the “10 Days for $10.10” Campaign. Last year, Fromson testified about the importance of raising the minimum wage before the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee. In addition to being the majority of workers earning minimum wage, women are also nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s tipped workers. Pennsylvania’s minimum tipped wage is $2.83 per hour, a rate unchanged since 1998. It’s little wonder that 18 percent of Pennsylvania’s female tipped workers live in poverty, more than double the rate for working women overall. Almost one-quarter of female servers and bartenders in Pennsylvania live in poverty. There’s another reason to be concerned about low tipped minimum wage: women working for tips may be more vulnerable to sexual harassment. A recent study from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that female tipped workers in states with a $2.13 tipped minimum wage are more likely to experience sexual harassment than their counterparts in states where employers are required to pay the regular minimum wage before tips. As founding members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, the Women’s Law Project supports three minimum wage bills currently under consideration by the Pennsylvania Legislature: Senator Tartaglione’s SB 195 and SB 196, and Representative Patty Kim’s HB 250. Click here to learn more about the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a statewide group of organizations advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women. A rally advocating for Pennsylvania to raise the minimum wage will be held on the front steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg this Thursday, July 2, at 11AM. Find out more about the rally here. Stay up to date on this topic and other policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us...

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Marriage Equality

“All Americans are entitled to protection under the law regardless of who they are or who they love.” – President Obama, June 26, 2015   This morning’s Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional marks a victory for love. I can hear the chants outside my window, see it on the faces of my co-workers and feel it in my bones. When Pennsylvania became the 19th state where same-sex couples could legally marry last year, the federal judge that overturned our state ban wrote that “we are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.” Today we are all better people. We have achieved marriage equality in the United States. “The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the aban­donment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.” – Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion Today is also a victory for advocates who have been fighting for marriage equality and the rights of LGBTQ community. Women’s Law Project is proud to have filed an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief in support of marriage equality for all. We signed the brief as a member of The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, an alliance of state-based women’s equality and gender justice legal organizations. From the brief: “The Alliance organizations’ commitment to LGBT rights initiatives over the last forty years is consistent with their understanding of the true nature of gender inequality. They believe that all forms of gender discrimination are linked, and that sexual-orientation discrimination must be analyzed as a facet of sex discrimination. Bans on marriage of same-sex couples are state-backed legal regimes that are based on and reinforce gender stereotypes that harm everyone, including LGBT people and heterosexual and nontransgender women and men oppressed by the imposition of those stereotypes. Such bans cannot stand.” We were right: Such bans cannot stand. Thank you for your ongoing support as we continue to fight for the rights of women and girls, and equality. We are thrilled to share this tremendous victory for the LGBTQ community in Pennsylvania and across the country with you.   -Tara Murtha, WLP...

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Today is the 43rd Anniversary of Title IX!

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX   Title IX is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX, established in 1972, is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs, and to provide people effective protection against those practices. The law has often been leveraged to protect and promote gender equality in schools’ athletic opportunities. Title IX requires schools and colleges that receive federal funds to give women and girls an equal chance to play sports, and to treat men and women equally when it comes to athletic scholarships and other benefits like equipment, coaching and facilities. Under Title IX, the number of male college athletes increased from 170,384 in 1972 to 228,106 in 2005-06. Meanwhile, the number of female college athletes has quintupled, from 31,852 to 170,526 over the same period. In other words, it is a success. But there’s still plenty of work to do toward achieving equality in athletic opportunities, and resources for women’s athletic programs continue to lag compared to men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, though women are 53% of the student body at Division I colleges, they are only 44% of the athletes, receive only 32% of recruiting dollars and 37% of the overall amounts that colleges spend to support their teams. A recent report published by the Women’s Sports Foundation outlined the many benefits of participating in sports—and the negative health consequences disproportionately suffered by poor women, women of color and women with disabilities as a result of having less access to sports programs.   Gender Equity in Sports in PA In 2012, Pennsylvania passed the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act, a law requiring that Pennsylvania public high schools, middle schools, and junior highs annually report data on gender equity in athletic opportunities. The first year’s report revealed gender disparities that underscore how important it is that Pennsylvania schools are required to submit this data, so that students, parents, coaches and the community at large can identify possible discrimination and ensure equality. (Werecently told you about a bill that could have been used as a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. After you took action, the bill has been fixed to ensure that it does not threaten this reporting requirement.) Data from the 2013-2014 school year should...

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HB 1112 Amended: Victory for Female Athletes in PA!

We recently warned you about House Bill 1112, and asked you to take action on behalf of female athletes in Pennsylvania. We’re happy to report that your voices were heard, and the problem has been resolved. The bill’s stated purpose is to identify unnecessary, burdensome or redundant regulations governing data collection in schools, and then eliminate them. While that sounds reasonable, we noticed that the bill could have been used as a backdoor repeal of a very good law called the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year. Such reporting is necessary because, in short, Pennsylvania shortchanges female athletes. A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled. Gender gaps as big as 34% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports. Equal opportunities to play sports is not just about recreation and fitness. Research shows people who play on high school sports teams tend to get better jobs and earn higher salaries—benefits that reverberate throughout life. “In other words, there are clear and robust individual and societal benefits that appear to be generated through the current system of school support for participation in competitive youth athletics.” Rep. Rosemary M. Brown, prime sponsor of the bill, amended the legislation so it does not apply to data reporting required by laws or regulations, leaving the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act in effect and untouchable by the legislation. We’d like to thank you for speaking up on behalf of Pennsylvania’s female athletes, and thank Rep. Brown for listening to our concerns. Together, we can make real change in Pennsylvania. -Tara Murtha, WLP...

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Bad Bill Alert: HB 1112 Threatens Athletic Opportunities for Girls

Please urge your Pennsylvania lawmakers in the House Education Committee to vote against HB 1112, legislation that would suspend education data collection laws, including those related to athletics. This bill is scheduled for a vote in the Education Committee on Monday, June 15, 2015. The problem: HB 1112 could result in a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year. True, HB 1112 specifies that the Department of Education would only suspend data collection laws it finds unnecessary, burdensome or redundant. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not unnecessary, burdensome or redundant, but that doesn’t mean the DOE won’t assert otherwise, and repeal it if HB 1112 is passed into law. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is still necessary.  Pennsylvania schools are shortchanging girls. A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled. Gender gaps as big as 18.72% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not burdensome.  The data on athletic opportunities, such as the number of students on athletic teams and what year teams were added or eliminated, is readily available to schools. It should take only between two and six hours to fill out Pennsylvania’s reporting form. In Kentucky and Georgia, where gender equity disclosure laws have been on the books for more than a decade, school administrators take between two and six hours to complete very similar reports. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not redundant.  Without this law, it is difficult to find gender equity data. This law puts all of the information related to athletic opportunities for girls in one place, enabling parents, students, coaches, and others in the community find out whether their public schools are providing female athletes with the equitable opportunities and treatment they deserve, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Without this law, it would be much more difficult for a community to discover if their school’s athletic program is discriminating against girls. Repealing the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act would also increase the burden on schools, which would have to respond to possible multiple “Right to Know” requests from parents, students or community members — responses to which are due within a few days —...

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11 “Revenge Porn” Cases in First Six Months of PA’s New Law

A law criminalizing a type of digital harassment known as “revenge porn,” an initiative of the Agenda for Women’s Health, passed into law last year. A new analysis by The Tribune-Review reveals that in the first six months the law has been on the books, 11 cases are already underway. “I don’t know that I want to say I’m encouraged, but I do feel vindicated,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus. Schwank championed the legislation last year. From the report: A year ago, the explicit photos she didn’t know were taken would have remained online. Calls and photos from strangers would have kept coming. She would have had no recourse. The young woman, who attended college in the Pittsburgh area, discovered that her former boyfriend had posted explicit photos of her on the Internet. Hers is one of 11 cases across Pennsylvania in which prosecutors have used a “revenge porn” law that was enacted six months ago. The law makes it a crime for anyone to post explicit photos of a former partner online or send them to others. Violators could be sentenced to a year in prison and fined $5,000 if the victim is an adult, or five years with a $10,000 penalty if the victim is a minor. “It’s scary to know that a law has been implemented specifically to address situations such as these. It means that this is becoming a common occurrence, and that’s really frightening,” the woman said.   According to a survey conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, an anti-revenge porn advocacy group, 93 percent of victims say they have experienced “significant emotional distress,” and 49 percent say they have been stalked or harassed by people who saw their images. The group notes that 90 percent of revenge porn victims are women. As more and more states pass similar laws, a Pennsylvania State University (PSU) fraternity has made national headlines for allegations of digital harassment. Last week, it was reported that the (PSU) fraternity Kappa Delta Rho was suspended for three years following an investigation initiated after authorities discovered a Facebook page featuring images of naked women who seem to be unconscious. According to the Washington Post, fraternity members were allegedly harassing two specific female students “who were degraded through multiple postings.” Pledges were reportedly ordered to create and share “pornographic images.” It remains to be seen if any members of PSU’s KDR fraternity will face charges under the new law. The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of...

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WLP on the Radio Discussing Pregnant Workers’ Rights

On Wednesday, WLP staff attorney Tara Pfeifer talked with WITF Smart Talk’s Scott LaMar about the rights of pregnant workers. The rights of pregnant workers is at a tipping point, especially since the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. UPS back in March. “What the decision means is an [affirmation] of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an act passed way back in 1978, that was designed specifically to eradicate discrimination against pregnant workers,” Pfeifer told LaMar. “As that particular law has played out in court decisions over the last few decades, it’s not being consistently applied. Employers such as UPS in the Young case, had policies they identified as “pregnancy-blind,” but in reality, what it was doing was shutting out pregnant women exclusively for certain accommodations that other workers, as you identify, even ones that were convicted of DUI, were given routinely.” The Young decision, Pfeifer explains, lands in the middle ground. It is a victory for pregnant workers, but also underscores the need for additional protections, and the need to clarify the requirements around providing temporary, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. One helpful fix: Passing a state-level law requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Currently, the Pennsylvania Legislature is considering the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA). Sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith (D-Washington/Allegheny), the PPWFA would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless it poses an undue hardship on the employer. It is part of a legislative package of bills to improve women’s health called the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. There is also a forthcoming companion bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). Women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of modern families. No woman should have to worry that she could be forced off the job if she gets pregnant, and lose her paycheck and health care at the very moment her family needs her most. So far, fourteen states and several cities have passed laws requiring some employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers—including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That leaves an overwhelming number of Pennsylvania women with less protections, simply because of their zip code. Listen to the full interview Smart Talk: What Rights do Pregnant Workers...

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Victory: Philadelphia’s Earned Paid Sick Days in Effect Today

Philadelphia’s earned paid sick leave ordinance goes into effect today. That means that if you work more than 40 hours per year in the city of Philadelphia, you qualify to earn paid or unpaid sick time to care for yourself or a family member. The law also makes sure that your boss can’t retaliate against you if you use your right to take a sick day. This victory is a sterling example of what we can accomplish when we all work together. As Ellen Bravo of Family Values at Work wrote, “[Passing paid sick leave in Philadelphia had] everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.” In particular, we applaud the tireless advocacy of Marianne Bellesorte of PathwaysPA for her leadership on the issue. When Women’s Law Project staff attorney Amal Bass testified for paid sick days in front of City Council, she specifically addressed the impact of the lack of earned paid sick leave on working women. From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Some workers lose their jobs. This new law will help all Philadelphians, and especially working mothers. Meanwhile, as you may have heard, some lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Legislature have introduced a pre-emption bill with a retroactive amendment in an attempt to strip Philadelphia of this progress, and ensure no other Pennsylvanians earn paid sick time. The bill, SB 333, is currently sitting in the Labor & Industry Committee of the Pennsylvania House. Governor Wolf has stated he would veto the bill if necessary. We will keep you posted. To learn more about how paid sick time works, check out this flyer. The City of Philadelphia is responsible for regulating and enforcing this law, and will make final decisions on its interpretation. To contact the city, email paidsickleave@phila.gov. ...

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WLP Announces the Campaign for Women’s Health

Women’s Law Project is proud to announce founding membership in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a new statewide coalition formed to change the conversation about women’s health care in Pennsylvania. For years now in Harrisburg, the phrase ‘women’s health’ has been code for restricting access to safe and legal abortion for poor and working women. The result of substituting sound public health policy for buzzword politics is clear: Pennsylvania consistently ranks abysmally low for women’s health and economic security across all indicators. Most recently, a national analysis conducted the Institute for Women’s Policy Researchranked Pennsylvania 31st for women’s health & well-being, 31st for reproductive rights, and 23rd for employment & earnings. In the bigger picture, the United States ranks dead last in the developed world–50th–in maternal mortality–and Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of that dubious ranking. On average, pregnant women and newborns in Philadelphia fare worse than in the rest of the state and country. Maternal and infant mortality is severely stratified by race: African American women are three times as likely as white women to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. While alarming, these statistics shouldn’t be surprising: Studies show the number of abortion restrictions is directly correlated with poor women’s health and higher risk of maternal death. In other words, this is a preventable crisis—and can be turned around. That’s why we’re proud to join with nearly two dozen other Pennsylvania organizations in the Campaign for Women’s Health. Our current focus is supporting the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda is a legislative package of bills that proposes evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by women and families in Pennsylvania. The first and second waves were introduced last session; the Women’s Health Caucus announced the third wave of bills this afternoon at the Capitol. Bills in the Agenda for Women’s Health are sponsored and introduced by members of the Women’s Health Caucus. The Caucus is a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers from both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature committed to taking pro-active steps to turn the status of women’s health and economic security around. We applaud the Caucus for their continued commitment to common-sense policy solutions. Some of the bills proposed within the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health include:   Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted 36 years ago. Yet, even today, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. Some employers still force women to choose between a healthy pregnancy and employment by refusing to make temporary, minor accommodations, like allowing her to sit on a stool behind a register or carry a water bottle. The Pennsylvania Pregnant...

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Cast Your Online Vote in Our “Say What?” Contest

“[Ebola] may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming. Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.” -Radio reporter Rick Wiles, August 2014 *** “In our age of sexual equality, why drunk female students are almost never characterized as irresponsible jerks is a question I leave to the feminists. But it is precisely those irresponsible women that the brothers must be trained to identify and protect against, because all it takes is one to bring an entire fraternity system down.” -Forbes magazine contributor Bill Frezza, September 2014 *** “Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?” -Fox News Host Eric Bolling, September 2014 ***   What is the “Say What? Most Witless Words About Women” contest and award? It’s the special time of year when the Women’s Law Project invites you, dear reader, upstanding citizen, trusty connoisseur of absurdly sexist snubs, to cast your vote for the most witless words about women uttered by real people, in public, in the last year. Of course, you can cast your vote in person at this Friday’s Rights to Realities party in Pittsburgh, the annual gala thrown by our Western Pennsylvania office. But you can vote online, too. The online voting is open until Friday at noon! The “winner” will be announced at the Rights to Realities party. Then after the party, we’ll send him or her an award to let them know what you think of their witless words about women. Vote here!...

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Report: Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage in PA

As the Pennsylvania Legislature considers bills to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10, a new report breaks down the big-picture and local benefits of hiking the minimum wage. Currently, minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25, the lowest amount allowed by federal law since 2009. HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage. Governor Wolf has stated that he supports the effort. Boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise the wages of 1.2 million workers and create 6,000 new jobs, according to a new Policy Watch report from the Keystone Research Center. The report also breaks down the impact of a raised minimum wage by county. From the report: When a significant number of jobs in Pennsylvania don’t pay enough for our neighbors to afford the basics – things like food, car repairs and eye glasses – the local economy suffers. For many in our communities wages are so low that they are forced, even while working, to rely on the local food bank to help make ends meet. Policies to raise the wage and benefits floor can help restore spending on the basics and, in the process, boost the local economy. Notably, in the Western Pennsylvania counties of Mercer, Armstrong and Indiana, a $10.10 minimum wage would raise the wages of workers by 30% or more. Additional highlights from the report: *The majority of workers in Pennsylvania that would get a raise as a result of a statewide minimum wage increase are adults (87%) working full-time (50.3%). *Philadelphia and Allegheny counties have the largest number of workers that would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at 135,640 and 113,852 respectively. *In 46 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, at least one in four workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. One the reasons so many adults would benefit from a minimum wage increase is that on average, from 1969 to 2015, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen by 0.4% a year. As corporate lobbying has successfully suppressed the wage floor, the purchasing power of laborers working full-time has plummeted. After adjusting for inflation the hourly earnings of the bottom fifth of workers in Pennsylvania are lower today than they were in 1979. To attempt to correct that fundamental imbalance, 29 states have already raised minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25. Pennsylvania is one...

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Rights to Realities: Come to WLP of Western PA’s Party on May 1

In 2002, the Women’s Law Project, the only public interest law firm in Pennsylvania devoted to women’s rights, opened an office in Pittsburgh so we could more directly serve and support the women of Western Pennsylvania.  We are proud of all the work we’ve been able to accomplish in the region over the past thirteen years to advance and protect women’s and girls’ rights. We hope that you can help sustain our work by coming to our party on May 1st at 5:30 p.m. at the Fairmont Pittsburgh’s Grand Ballroom. We call our annual party “Rights to Realities” because that is what we try to do—translate, leverage and improve the law so that it benefits the working people, and especially women, of Pennsylvania. So often, women’s rights exist on paper or in a textbook, but are not protected in practice. We litigate high-impact cases to clarify and advance women’s rights, advocate for evidence-based policy and legislative solutions, and educate constituents on legal issues that affect women’s health and economic security. Because the Women’s Law Project is a non-profit organization and does not charge for its legal services, we need your support in order to help sustain our work and keep making rights become realities. We have been working incredibly hard this year to promote and protect women’s health and economic security, and we do it all  on private foundation grants and the generosity of individual supporters like you. We’ve been busy planning an amazing party. Guests can look forward to several fantastic silent and live-auction items (to be auctioned off by our entertaining and charismatic celebrity guest auctioneer, former Pennsylvania state Representative Erin Molchany), live jazz music, delicious food and drinks, and of course the opportunity to mingle and celebrate with over 200 fellow women’s rights supporters. We’ll also announce the much-anticipated “winner” of our annual “Say What?” contest. For our “Say What?” contest, we collect unbelievably sexist things said about women—by real people, in public—and you vote for the worst. After we count up the votes, we send the “winner” a little something to let them know what the good people of Pennsylvania think of their views of women. Cast a vote here. You can register for the party here or calling us at (412) 281-2892, and please invite your friends on Facebook. We look forward to celebrating with you on May...

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WLP of Western PA Joins the Fight for $15

Our fight for health and economic security of Pennsylvania families is usually waged behind closed doors, in offices and courtrooms. But yesterday, hundreds of low-income workers and advocates took that fight to the streets by calling for $15 minimum wage and union protections. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: More than 1,500 workers, students and local activists in Oakland joined a nationwide day of protests Wednesday that organizers said hit 236 cities as low-wage workers walked off their jobs to call for higher wages. The Oakland march was more than three blocks long on Forbes Avenue, which was closed for the event, backing up rush-hour traffic. “We advocate for low-income Pennsylvanians every day,” says Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project of Pittsburgh. “I can’t tell you how energizing it was to stand alongside people coming together in the streets to call for the simple right to support themselves. I heard story after story of people working full-time and still unable to support their families.” A recent study revealed that when corporations are able to under-pay their workers, taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Critics of citizens relying on public assistance may sneer for them to ‘get a job,’ but the fact is that most Americans on public assistance alreadyhave a job. Families in which at least one member is working now make up the vast majority of those enrolled in major public-assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.The Fight for 15 movement, which began in 2012 when fast-food workers in Chicago and New York City protested their inability to live on minimum wage, also came to Philadelphia this week. “For more than two years, fast-food workers have been striking to sound the alarm about how wealthy companies are profiting by paying their employees wages that are too low to survive on,” Devan Spear, a University of Pennsylvania student, wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Washington Post called it a “hidden cost” of low minimum wage. Taxpayers are effectively subsidizing corporations to the tune of $153 billion a year. Two bills addressing minimum wage will be introduced within the Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bill designed to address real problems faced by real Pennsylvanians with evidence-based policy solutions. The Agenda is supported by the pro-choice, bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature. HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage....

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WLP Joins Rally for the Agenda for Women’s Health

On Monday, a sea of pink flooded the Capitol for Planned Parenthood’s Day of Action. Women’s Law Project was there to join constituents in asking Pennsylvania lawmakers to support the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda is a legislative package of bills designed to promote and protect the health and economic security of women in Pennsylvania. Agenda bills are sponsored and supported by members of the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, pro-choice caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature. Since the first wave of Agenda bills was introduced last session, more than a dozen bills have been introduced, and three have successfully passed into law. We were thrilled to join young women and men from all over the state, many who were visiting the Capitol for the first time, to express their support for the Agenda and concern that too often in Pennsylvania politics, “women’s health” is just code for “abortion restriction.” “What a thrill to be surrounded by hundreds of women’s health activists fighting for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health,” says Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project in Pittsburgh. “The Capitol looked beautiful in pink.” Pennsylvania consistently ranks as one of the worst states for women’s health andeconomic security. It’s clear we need less rhetoric and more solutions to the very real problems faced by women in Pennsylvania. For example, did you know that women who work at small businesses in Pennsylvania have less protections against sexual harassment than employees at large corporations? It’s true. An Agenda bill has been proposed to close that legal loophole by extending the protections of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits sexual discrimination, to all companies across the state. Even though pregnancy discrimination is technically illegal, in practice, some employers try to force pregnant workers off the job by refusing to provide minor temporary accommodations such as letting an employee sit on a stool or carry a bottle of water. We routinely receive phone calls from women around the state who are stuck in this situation. The Agenda’s “Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers” would ensure that women are not forced to choose between employment and a healthy pregnancy.Philadelphia and Pittsburgh passed limited local protections, but the rest of the women in state are left without protection. Women’s Law Project attorney Amal Bass, who testified in support of the Philadelphia ordinance, addressed the crowd on the Capitol steps. “There are many women who will never need a workplace accommodation during their pregnancies, but for individuals who do, the consequences are dire when their employer refuses to provide one,” said Bass. “Let’s make it happen. The health and economic security...

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Let’s Not Wait Until 2072 For Equal Pay in PA

April 14 is Equal Pay Day. Why do we need a whole day to draw attention to the problem—and possible solutions—to gender-based wage discrimination? Because if we do nothing other than wait,Pennsylvania women will not earn equal pay until the year 2072. That’s 57 years from now. As recently noted on The Daily Show we expect to use a 3-D printer to create a fake human heart before we expect to achieve equal pay. Though some progress was made narrowing the gender pay gap between men and women following the adoption of the Equal Pay Act in the 1963, the progress has stalled. As Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee last year, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s pay narrowed by only 1.7 percent between 2004 and 2013. The most recent analysis of equal pay in Pennsylvania shows that on average women in Pennsylvania earn just 76% of what men in the state earn, though that number varies bylocation within the state, race and ethnicity. The gender wage gap widens significantly more for women of color, with Latinas faring the worst. The good news: there are reasonable policy solutions. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers like Rep. Brian Sims are proposing to strengthen the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more for the same work and banning wage secrecy policies. Most women suffering economic discrimination by being paid less than her male counterpart do not know it until after they leave the job—or ever. President Obama acknowledged the role of wage secrecy in perpetuating the gender wage gap last year when he signed an executive order last year prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talked about their salaries. “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it,” the president said, “not in federal contracting or anywhere else.” A 2011 survey from the IWPR found that about half of workers “report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment.” Unsurprisingly, the same study found employers prefer to keep it that way. Want to learn more? Terry L. Fromson and a panel of experts including a representative from the U.S. Department of Labor will be speaking about equal pay and other policy issues affecting women in Pennsylvania at the Library of Philadelphia at 2pm on Tuesday, April 14. Click here for more details and to register, and follow the conversation at...

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“It Shall Be Fair”

By Sue Frietsche, WLP Senior Staff Attorney I spent Saturday, March 28 with about 40 women and a few men at a workshop called, “Women’s Rights on the Job: Building Knowledge, Power and Community.” The Women’s Law Project cosponsored this event, along with Working Women Rising—a broad and growing network of working and union women from across the Pittsburgh region—and the Women’s Caucus of Fight Back Pittsburgh, the Associate Member Program of USW Local 3657. On this cold spring afternoon, the great room at the Smithfield Church in downtown Pittsburgh was hung with bright banners saying, “$15 and a Union” and “Fight Back Pittsburgh.” The room was buzzing with workers from the restaurant, fast food, and hospital industries. It seemed that every person had a jaw-dropping story of workplace injustice to tell. Before long, a whole wall was dotted with neon orange and fuschia sticky notes cataloguing “Issues for Working Women on the Job” (aka problems), and “How We Stand Up, Fight Back” (aka solutions). I was struck by how many of the issues plastered on the church wall involved incredibly illegal conduct by employers (sexual harassment, wage theft, pregnancy discrimination, no accommodations for nursing mothers, unequal pay), and yet how few of the solutions involved calling a lawyer or filing a discrimination charge. This roomful of vibrant, engaged, angry women did not, for the most part, see the legal system as a useful source of protection or safety, or an available route to justice. Instead, they saw the legal system as an empty promise, or simply irrelevant to their struggles. What can feminist lawyers do to help make the promise of workplace equality a reality for these women? Surely, one answer is to strengthen laws. For most working parents, the need for such humane and commonsense policies such as paid sick and parental leave, a predictable schedule, affordable child care, and a living wage is nearly universal, yet these policies are simply not guaranteed by law. Incredibly, discrimination based on a worker’s sexual orientation is perfectly legal in most Pennsylvania counties. Even when a law exists to address a problem (such as sexual harassment, unequal pay, pregnancy discrimination), it is often riddled with exceptions, exclusions, and defenses that skew it against the victim. So, expanding legal protections, closing loopholes in existing laws, and eliminating provisions that give certain employers a “free pass” to discriminate or harass are bound to help. A second answer is to enforce these laws more aggressively. The chasm dividing Title VII from the restaurant worker whose boss won’t stop the customers from grabbing her is wide and deep. That chasm can only be bridged...

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Philadelphia Debut of ‘The Hunting Ground’ & Discussion with Filmmaker

“Triumphant… a stirring call to action” – Indiewire   The Hunting Ground is a moving new documentary from the Oscar-nominated filmmakers behind The Invisible War. Their new film explores the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, and the broad failure of university administrators to protect victims and hold assailants accountable for their actions. As much as The Hunting Groundis about failures of our society and institutions, it is also an illuminating profile of the college activists who, by working together, transformed themselves from rape survivors to advocates demanding reform. The incredible young women featured in The Hunting Ground successfully sparked a long-overdue conversation what college administrators can and should be doing to prevent and properly adjudicate sexual assault. Now, we want to continue that conversation with you. This Friday, The Hunting Ground will premiere in Philadelphia at the Ritz Five theater. Following the 7:05 screening, The Hunting Ground producer Amy Ziering, Laura Palumbo of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center NSVRC, Kristen Houser of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape PCAR, and Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy will discuss the film. We understand that Friday is an important religious holiday, but wanted to extend this invitation to learn more about this incredible wave of activism, meet the film’s producer and hear from Carol, who served as an advisor to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and who has a cameo appearance in the film. The Women’s Law Project has provided legal assistance to students for many years. Recently, WLP spoke out against flawed criticism of the new adjudication process implemented at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where Carol is also a lecturer in Women’s Studies. We hope to see you on...

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What ‘Young v. UPS’ Means for Pregnancy Discrimination in PA

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff   The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion yesterday in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service. At issue is whether or not the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. In short, the news is good for women. The Supreme Court pushed the case back to a lower court, giving Peggy Young another chance to prove that the company discriminated against her. “We think it’s a big win for Peggy Young,” said Samuel Bagenstos, Young’s lawyer at the Supreme Court. “We think it’s a big win for pregnant workers around the country.” This decision tells employers that if you are accommodating most non- pregnant workers with injuries or disabilities, while refusing to accommodate most pregnant workers who need it, you are likely violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by placing a significant burden on pregnant workers. However, individual pregnant workers may still face uncertainty about their rights in the specific contexts of their own workplaces. Pregnant workers’ rights also vary by zipcode. In Pennsylvania, for example, certain workers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh currently have more protections against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace than elsewhere in the state, though that could change if a proposed bill passes into law.   The background The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by clarifying that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Title VII applies to companies with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Despite the PDA, many pregnant women have been fired or forced to exhaust paid or unpaid leave after requesting temporary accommodations due to physical limitations from pregnancy and related conditions. This type of discrimination disproportionately affects low-income women working jobs with physical demands, like Peggy Young. When Ms. Young told UPS she was pregnant, UPS required her to get a doctor’s note “listing her restrictions,” which included her doctor’s directive to not lift more than 20 pounds. Ms. Young was otherwise willing to continue her regular duties, but Ms. Young was advised that she could not work while under a lifting restriction because she was “too much of a liability.” Meanwhile, UPS regularly provided so-called “light duty” and similar accommodations to people with disabilities and people with on-the-job injuries. They even accommodated workers who had lost their commercial drivers’ licenses as a result of DUI convictions. The Young opinion is encouraging step toward protecting pregnant workers from discrimination, but it also underscores the need to clarify protections for pregnant workers through...

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Judge Upholds Pittsburgh Buffer Zone

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff   A federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of a 15-foot buffer zone ordinance that protects health care facilities in Pittsburgh. The decision is the first federal ruling on the constitutionality of a clinic buffer zone since McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme Court case decided last June. In the Pittsburgh case, Nikki Bruni and four other anti-choice protesters sued the city, claiming the buffer zone prevented her and other protesters from “sidewalk counseling” patients entering the Planned Parenthood health center on Liberty Avenue. Bruni is the local campaign director of “40 Days for Life,” a campaign wherein anti-choice protesters picket clinics daily for forty days every spring and fall. The campaign is happening now. The protesters were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that represented the plaintiffs in McCullen. The Alliance announced their intention to challenge the Pittsburgh buffer zone immediately in the wake of McCullen, which struck down the 35-foot buffer zone established by the Massachusetts Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act as insufficiently narrowly tailored. In ruling in the Bruni case, U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon held that the protesters were unlikely to be able to prove that the Pittsburgh buffer zone ordinance was unconstitutional under McCullen. She also denied the protesters’ request for a preliminary injunction and dismissed all of the protesters’ claims except for an allegation that a police officer did not enforce the law evenhandedly, which could not be resolved without additional evidence. From Judge Bissoon’s ruling: Prior to the enactment of the Ordinance, there were incidents of physical intimidation, violence and obstruction where the buffer zone now stands. Such incidents have rarely, if ever, occurred since the buffer zone has been implemented… The buffer zone does not prevent a willing listener from stopping within the zone in order to accept Mrs. Bruni’s literature and listen to her message, or from exiting the zone in order to converse with her further. The Ordinance does not prevent Mrs. Bruni or anyone else from engaging in sidewalk counseling with individuals leaving the clinic, once they exit the buffer zone.   “This ruling is a great victory for the City of Pittsburgh and will help protect both the patients in need of medical care and the doctors and medical staff at Planned Parenthood,” says Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office in Pittsburgh, which represented Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and its volunteer escorts in the suit. “Women who have to fight their way past anti-abortion protesters in order to see their doctor deserve, at least, the safety and dignity of a small secure...

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Philadelphia Premiere of “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a new full-length feature documentary that explores the early era of the U.S. feminist movement, premieres in Philadelphia tonight. Following the 7pm screening at the Ritz Bourse, Access Matters President Melissa Weiler Gerber will host a Q&A with the film director, Mary Dore. Watch the trailer here. “An overdue documentary flashback to the U.S. women’s liberation movement, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry arrives at a time when, despite notable gains, the clock seems to be turning backward on many of the issues — reproductive rights, sexual harassment, equal pay, etc. — that ‘libbers’ fought more than 40-odd years ago,” notes Variety scribe Dennis Harvey. True enough. The last four years have brought an unprecedented spike in state laws that curtail women’s access—meaning, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likes to point out, all women except rich women—to safe and legal abortion services. Here in Pennsylvania, only thirteen healthcare facilities still provide surgical abortion care for 67 counties, and yet we still have lawmakers trying to pass sham bills to shut down more. The history of women fighting for their rights is a big, long story to tell. By honing in on the years 1966 to 1971, Dore illuminates an era when organizing a group of women around a kitchen table to share experiences with rape, harassment and unwanted pregnancy was a revolutionary act. The film isn’t merely a time capsule, though; it carefully threads the early era to the modern movement. “We’ve had high school feminist groups show up at screenings, which is so great, that is wonderful,” Mary Dore told me during a recent conversation. “A lot of people asking for advice and help because I think it’s hard for them to figure out how to organize and who to align with. There are always so many excellent [websites] and young organizers online. That’s important for people to know, that young women are doing all kinds of things.” Before modern street theater like SlutWalk, there was W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!), women who ran around in Halloween witches costumes to throw hexes on the wretched. Talking with Dore reminds me of the observation frequently made online: The women’s movement didn’t begin the moment you realized it exists. “When you talk about the women’s movement and you act like it began when women had birth control, and all these things that had huge changes for women, you’re missing the cultural context,” explains Dore. “We particularly [explore] the civil rights movement, because many of the women who started the women’s movement in the 1960s came from the civil rights movement… they were also being treated as second-class citizens.” This film has been a long time coming, both as cultural product and for...

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King v Burwell: What’s at stake for women in PA?

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff   Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the latest attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act. King v. Burwell is a lawsuit brought by Virginia residents who ultimately hope to strip premium tax credits, also called a subsidy, from people who buy their health insurance through one of the 37 states with federally run exchanges. Pennsylvania is one such state. The stakes could not be higher, according to the Center for American Progress. “The sudden elimination of a key component of the ACA would cause substantial disruptions to the U.S. health care system. Moreover, it would take away health insurance coverage from more than 8 million Americans and cause premiums to spike for many more.” Here in Pennsylvania, more than 400,000 would lose subsidy if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs. Of those, approximately 329,000 would lose health insurance coverage altogether. The impact of the decision disproportionately affects women. In Pennsylvania, 221,740 women are at risk of losing their subsidy, according to National Women’s Law Center. Of those women, 31,430 women are African-American, 22,490 women are Latinas, 9,650 are Asian and 430 are Native American. Background: What’s the latest attack about? The heart of the case rests of four words. Specifically, it relies on an ACA provision that specifies tax credits are available to individuals enrolled in “exchanges established by the State.” The ACA, however, empowered states whose governors refused to run their own exchanges, like former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, to defer to the federal government to run their state exchange. So the plaintiffs argue that  “exchanges established by the State” means that only individuals and families in those 13 states and the District of Columbia that have established their own health insurance exchanges can receive tax credits—and not individuals and families in the 37 states that rely on federally-facilitated exchanges, like Pennsylvania. In short, the plaintiffs are attempting to exploit the letter of the law to subvert its spirit. Though the challenge is being brought by Virginia residents, the legal theory fueling the case derives from a 2012 paper conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler and political analyst Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute. As Nicholas Bagley recently explained, conservatives are attempting to deprive millions of Americans of health insurance coverage based on “snippets of text in a statutory provision” while ignoring the entire context of the rest of the Affordable Care Act. It is willful ignorance as strategic political maneuvering. Or as the New York Times recently called it, “a marvel of reverse-engineered legal absurdity.” Watch this space for updates on the...

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PA Trying to Kill Philadelphia’s Earned Paid Sick Days

Last month, Philadelphia became the twentieth city to pass earned sick day legislation. Today, Pennsylvania lawmakers moved to undo that victory by not only banning every other municipality across the state from mandating earned paid sick leave, but adding an amendment to SB333 specifying the law, if implemented, would retroactively take effect January 1. Philadelphia passed its ordinance on February 12.   Why We Need Paid Sick Days Women’s Law Project is proud to have been a part of a broad-based coalition that advocated for the common-sense measure by submitting formal testimony to Philadelphia City Council. Earned paid sick days is, after all, a women’s issue. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Workers without paid sick leave are less likely to receive the healthcare they need in general, according to the CDC.   More facts about earned paid sick days from the Department of Labor: * Workers who had access to paid sick days were 28 percent less likely to be injured on the job *Offering even one paid “flu day” reduced flu transmission by 25 percent *Another study concluded that there could have been 5 million fewer individuals contracting the H1N1 virus during the 2009 pandemic if workers had access to paid sick days   As earned paid sick leave gains momentum around the country, Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the federal Healthy Families Act. “I believe that in 30 years, we will look back at this as the moment we began to turn the corner,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “when a sleeper issue finally began to awaken and when grass roots momentum began to gather steam and roll toward a broad national consensus.” That is, except here in Pennsylvania–if this bill is allowed to pass. In the memo circulated seeking co-sponsorship for the bill, Senator John Eichelberger cites no research. He simply declared his intent to legislate “clear state preemption of local mandated leave ordinances” by arguing “uniformity is important.” Uniformity is important: The United States is the only industrialized country without mandatory paid sick days.   Don’t let Pennsylvania roll backwards on this issue as the rest of the country moves forward. Urge your representatives to say no to Senate Bill 333.   WomenVotePA is the action arm of Women’s...

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WLP Attorneys: Penn Professors Are Wrong

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff   Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy, Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson and Staff Attorney Amal Bass, lawyers with extensive experience working with Title IX, the civil law that prohibits discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, have written an open letter responding to University of Pennsylvania professors’ criticism of their school’s new system for adjudicating sexual assault complaints. The background: Last month, in response to ongoing criticism and national debate regarding how schools should appropriately handle accusations of sexual assault, the University of Pennsylvania announced a new disciplinary system designed to improve adjudication of rape allegations. The changes went into effect on February 1. From the Philadelphia Inquirer: Penn joins a growing number of schools around the country that have examined their practices in the wake of increased scrutiny over the handling of sexual assault and harassment on campus. More women are coming forward to lodge complaints, and men who are accused of assault in some cases are suing universities for disciplinary action taken against them. More than 90 universities around the country — Penn is not one of them — are under review by the U.S. Department of Education for their handling of sexual assault. Last week, 16 of the University’s 49 tenure or tenure-track law school faculty members (16 of 67 full-time law school staff, according to the school’s website) signed an open lettercriticizing the new system. The dean of the law school did not sign the letter. On Wednesday, 26 students at University’s law school responded to their professors’ criticism and defended the new system. From the letter from students to professors: “[Your] letter perpetuates the harmful myth that survivors of sexual violence should be disbelieved, silenced and denied non-criminal relief unless they seek and obtain criminal conviction of their assailant.” Specifically, the law students accused the professors of “conflating” the rules, scope and evidentiary standards applicable to courtroom trials of criminal defendants with the actual issues at hand, which are the rules, scope and evidentiary standards of the school-based adjudication process for identifying student misconduct. “[The professors’] Open Letter must be seen for what it is: a disagreement with Title IX’s mandate that sexual assault survivors not be made to struggle through grievance procedures that specially insulate those accused of sexual assault,” wrote the students. Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project with extensive experience working with Title IX also responded to the professor’s letter. From today’s Philadelphia Inquirer: With all due respect, the 16 law professors who have objected to the new disciplinary procedures for sexual violence have it wrong… Our decades of experience working directly with victims...

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Bad Bill Alert: “Admitting Privileges” Coming to PA

Admitting privilege legislation is the latest trick deployed nationally by opponents of abortion rights to shrink the (already inadequate) number of abortion providers. That’s why it’s been all over the news for months. Recently, we learned the admitting privilege controversy is coming to Pennsylvania. The bill will be co-sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp. You may recall Rapp, a member of the Susan B. Anthony National Pro-life Caucus, as a sponsor of Pennsylvania’s mandatory ultrasound bill–an idea ridiculed by professional medical associations. (Then former Governor Corbett advised women endure the medically unnecessary procedure by just closing their eyes, and the entire country wondered what was wrong with Pennsylvania.) The other sponsor is Rep. Bryan Barbin, the Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania House Pro-Life Caucus.   What are admitting privileges? Admitting privileges refer to a specific type of contractual arrangement between hospitals and doctors. It is not required for a doctor to send patients to a hospital.   So why suddenly require an unnecessary new contract? What’s the trick here? As usual, proponents of the bill claim they want to protect women. In reality, admitting privileges have nothing do with medical safety and everything to do with creating an opportunity to force doctors who provide abortion care to stop working and abortion clinics to shut down. Hospitals are not required to provide admitting privileges to qualified doctors because they aren’t necessary. Because admitting privileges are unnecessary, many hospitals deny granting them to a doctor unless he or she sends them a certain number of patients per year. So ironically, one reason doctors who perform abortions are often not granted admitting privileges is because abortion is safe. Hospital administrators can deny doctors admitting privileges if the doctor doesn’t live within a certain number of miles of the hospital. But really, hospital administrators don’t need any reason at all to deny admitting privileges. Catholic hospitals, for example, are required to follow health care directiveshanded down by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops—they aren’t exactly handing out admitting privileges to doctors who provide abortion care and contraception. Meanwhile, the number of Catholic hospitals continues to grow. All that suddenly and randomly requiring doctors and hospitals draw up an “admitting privileges” contract does is give administrators of hospitals that don’t provide abortion care the power to veto abortion from happening at any clinic or office within a 30-mile radius of their hospital. It just doesn’t make sense. While always unnecessary, the concept of admitting privileges is particularly absurd in Pennsylvania, one of the few states where facilities providing abortion care have, by law, already maintained transfer agreements with hospitals for decades. Under the new law,...

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Philadelphia Passes Paid Earned Sick Days Bill

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff We did it! Philadelphia is now the 20th  jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee certain workers the ability to earn paid sick days. The measure has been passed by City Council twice before, so it’s easy to say the third time’s a charm. But this success is, of course, is the result of a full-court press by advocates who refused to give up. As Ellen Bravo of Family Values at Work wrote earlier today, “This third time has nothing to do with charm and everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.” From Bravo’s article: It started with the broad and diverse Philadelphia Healthy Families and Workplaces Coalition, dozens of groups concerned about ending poverty and caring for seniors, about gender and racial justice, about the well-being of kids and about economic growth. The coalition included low-wage workers looking for a small but significant reform that would let them hang on to their paychecks and their jobs when they or a loved one was ill. As restaurant worker Jason McCarthey put it, “There’s a sick worker at nearly every restaurant in this city every day. We should be able to stay home and not spread germs when we’re sick.” Women’s Law Project is proud to have been part of this effort. We gave feedback on the bill and recommendations of the Task Force. Staff attorney Amal Bass testified in City Hall to support the bill while making recommendations. From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. In a nice bit of progressive symmetry, Philadelphia is celebrating the passing of earned paid sick days the same day that Senator Murray and Representative DeLauro plan to reintroduce the Healthy Families...

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Women’s Law Project Heads to the PA Progressive Summit

by Tara Murtha, WLP Staff As a non-profit Pennsylvania-based organization dedicated to advancing the legal status of women and girls, we are, of course, heading up to Harrisburg for the Progressive Summit today. These are a few of the panels that you will not want to miss: At 11AM on Saturday, Senior Staff Attorney Sue Frietsche—a well-recognized expert in policy and regulations relating to reproductive healthcare in Pennsylvania–will co-host a session called “Abortion in the U.S.: The Good and the Bad, and the Local.” This panel will describe the state of abortion rights after the 2014 state legislative session, including both harmful and progressive laws, implications for abortion care and law in Pennsylvania, and how the way we talk about abortion can change the way people think and legislators act. The panel will also discuss opportunities to change abortion access and the culture around abortion in your local community, regardless of the politics in Harrisburg. Frietsche is co-hosting the panel with Jordan Goldberg, Senior Counsel for the National Institute for Reproductive Health; Sari Stevens, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood PA Advocates; and Ravina Daphtary, Senior State Strategies Manager at All Above All. Right after that session, we’re heading over to “The Agenda for Women’s Health: Where This Groundbreaking Package of Bills is Heading in 2015.” The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health is a bipartisan, pro-choice package of bills that is changing the conversation around reproductive healthcare in the Capitol and the public sphere. Since it was introduced last legislative session, Pennsylvania has been lauded as a model for developing proactive legislation to protect women’s reproductive freedom and economic security amid unprecedented anti-choice legislative attacks. With a pro-women’s health governor at the helm, will we see the attacks on reproductive health diminish and efforts to strengthen women and families flourish? This session will explore this, and other pertinent questions. At 5:00PM, Associate Director of Strategic Communications Tara Murtha will co-host Media Training 101 with Keystone Progress Communications Director John Neurohr. This session will detail what to expect when talking to reporters, strategies to keep in mind when trying to get “earned media” for your organization, and how to use all available media platforms to get your message out. Participants will learn about building relationships with journalists and outlets, about proactive and reactive media outreach and how to think about media from the perspective of a journalist, not just from your perspective. We are also looking forward to attending a slew of workshops and panels that address eliminating discrimination and securing economic prosperity in Pennsylvania. In particular, we are interested in “Building the Movement for Reproductive Justice,” co-hosted by Jasmine Burnett and Julia...

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Catch Up on News You Might Have Missed in January

by Tara Murtha, WLP Staff It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new… legislative session in Pennsylvania. There’s no time to waste: we’re working toward bills to close the loophole in equal pay law, protect equal access to reproductive healthcare services, and to end pregnancy discrimination at work … among other important things. First, the aerial view: On their first day in office, Congress introduced a 20-week abortion ban. These bans, though blocked for being unconstitutional in several states, are an increasingly popular way to chisel away women’s rights, so you will be seeing a lot more of them introduced in state legislatures anyway. Congress’ plan to vote on the federal version on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade fell apart, though, when several Republican Congresswoman withdrew their support. Instead of voting on the 20-week abortion ban, they voted on a bill that they claim stops taxpayer money from funding abortion. But in reality, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal tax dollars for abortion care since 1976. What this new bill wouldactually do is codify the Hyde Amendment forever. It would also prohibit women from purchasing insurance policies through the exchange that cover abortion, with no exception for health of the pregnant woman. This is just one of at least five anti-abortion bills that have been introduced in Congress so far this year. Things are a little better than that, at least, here in Pennsylvania. Recently,Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced a resolution calling for paid parental leave for some city workers. WLP attorney Amal Bass testified at Philadelphia’s third hearing on earned paid sick daylegislation, and many advocates are saying that the third time will be a charm. In response to Philadelphia’s progress, though, some state lawmakers are rushing to pass a pre-emption bill that would “bigfoot” Philadelphia’s legislation. On the equal-pay front, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research issued a report that revealed poverty could be slashed in half if women earned equal pay for equal work. The Women’s Law Project is proud to be on the steering committee for the Equal Pay Today campaign, a unique partnership of 17 organizations working together to eliminate the wage gap. You can sign on to the Equal Pay campaign here. Last year, Women’s Law Project senior staff attorney Sue Friestche testified at the first hearing held in Pennsylvania before a state legislative standing committee on the subject of equal pay in 50 years. Keep an eye out for more information on the effort to progress toward equal pay in PA, there’s going to be a lot happening there. Congratulations are in order for our friends at...

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WLP Supports Passage of Philadelphia Earned Paid Sick Day Bill

Today, Philadelphia City Council is holding a hearing on the merits of proposed bill mandating earned paid-sick leave for certain employees. This is the third hearing on the issue since 2011. Mayor Nutter has vetoed earned paid sick-day legislation twice, then convened a task force to study the issue. In December, the task force endorsed the measure. The current bill would require companies with 10 or more employees to provide earned paid sick time, and mandate businesses with fewer than 10 employees provide unpaid sick time. Women’s Law Project staff attorney Amal Bass is testifying today in front of City Council. WLP strongly endorses the bill for the sake of the economic and physical health of working Philadelphians, with some additional recommendations. From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Some workers lose their jobs. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. While endorsing the bill, Women’s Law Project recommends Philadelphia lower the threshold so the paid leave mandate applies to companies with 5 or more employees. According to an analysis cited by the task force report, only 28.7% of Philadelphia businesses have 10 or more employees. By lowering the threshold from 10 to 5 employees, the bill would extend the mandate to another 18.5% of Philadelphia companies. Even at that threshold, the legislation would not apply to more than half of Philadelphia employers, since 52.8% of local businesses have between 1 to 4 employees. WLP also urges City Council to reconsider the exemptions; specifically, the exclusion of adjunct faculty members . Across the nation, well over half of higher education instructors are non-tenure track faculty, including adjunct faculty, and many live below the poverty line. A large percentage of them are women, who are less likely to receive tenure than their male peers, particularly...

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Bad Bills Alert: Dangerous Legislation on the Horizon in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania already has several laws on the books that enable physicians and other healthcare employees to refuse to provide certain health care services they find personally objectionable. Such provisions are found within the Religious Freedom Protection Act, the Human Relations Act, and the Abortion Control Act. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania Senator John Eichelberger plans to re-introduce yet another “conscientious objection” refusal bill. As with all legislation that seemingly duplicates existing law, you have to wonder what this one would really do. In a memo, Eichelberger explicitly mentions contraception, abortifacients and “chemical” abortion, also known as medical abortion. But Women’s Law Project senior attorney Sue Frietsche says that the bill lacks clear boundaries. “It would free the hospital janitor from having to clean the hallways leading to the operating room in which an abortion is scheduled to occur,” says Frietsche. Another example: In the event of an abortion covered by Medicaid—which by law would mean the patient was either a rape survivor or in fatal danger–a billing coordinator could refuse to transmit the paperwork to the appropriate department. As written, Senate Bill 292 eliminates the right of patients to sue for negligent, reckless, or malicious malpractice in the event of damage or death resulting from a provider’s refusal to provide care. For example, a doctor could refuse to terminate the pregnancy of a woman with a life-threatening condition, or to immediately transfer her to a doctor who will provide industry-standard care. Eichelberger’s legislation appears to be taken directly from the “recommendations” posted for Pennsylvania by Americans United for Life. (AUL). AUL is a bill factory that drafts much of the anti-choice state legislation popping up simultaneously in state legislatures across the country. “Founded in 1971 … AUL first focused on reversing Roe v. Wade flat out, but in the 1990s it turned its attention to rolling back reproductive rights incrementally at the state level.” In Pennsylvania, we see more of these “incremental” state bills on the horizon in 2015. While tactics vary, they’re designed to make it impossible for working and poor women to access safe, affordable abortion by forcing clinics to close and driving up the cost of the procedure in a clinic setting. Wealthy women can obtain abortions from private physicians in a hospital setting. By focusing on over-regulating clinics and driving up clinic costs, the incremental strategy makes the fact that abortion is legal irrelevant to working and poor women who can’t afford to obtain one. Another tactic to reserve constitutional rights for the wealthy is to sever funding streams, real and imagined. In fact, Senator Eichelberger is the sponsor of another bill (Senate Bill 291) that would forbid municipalities...

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Pittsburgh Introduces Paid Family Leave Bill

Having a child is the single most expensive health event faced by young families. In fact, thirteen percent of families with a new infant become poor within a month, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. Yet, the United States remains one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave to new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), adopted 20 years ago, enables some parents to take up to 12 unpaid weeks to care for a new baby. Only 40% of the workforce is eligible for FMLA, though, and because the leave is unpaid, many eligible families simply can’t afford to use it. “Most families cannot go for 12 weeks without getting paid, and imagine how much more compelling that is when it’s not just you and your husband, but you have a new baby as well,” Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney for Women’s Law Project, told Pittsburgh’s NPR station WESA90.5 FM. “That is exactly the wrong time to go without a paycheck.” To that end, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced legislation yesterday calling for at least six weeks of paid leave for certain city employees. The legislation covers parents of any gender, and to parents adopting or fostering children. From WESA’s report: While those opposed to paid family leave argue that it’s too expensive, Tara Simmons, Vice President of the Women and Girls Foundation, said the country is already paying for it every time an employee quits a job. “The Society for Human Resources Management has quantified that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it could six to nine months’ salary on average” Simmons said. Rudiak highlighted studies showing that paid parental leave helps reduce infant mortality and shorten hospital stays as well as leading to higher IQs and educational attainment. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto supports the bill, which would apply to the city’s 430 nonunion employees. It’s a start. Councilwoman Rudiak hopes the bill will encourage private employers to adopt similar policies, and her proposal comes at a time when the issue has momentum. President Obama called for paid family leave during the last State of the Union address. “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue,” he said, “and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.” So far, 16 other cities and three states have passed similar...

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Roe at 42: the U.S. House Set to Vote on Discriminatory Abortion Restriction

by Tara Murtha, WLP Staff On this day in 1973, the Supreme Court decided the landmark abortion case Roe V. Wade. Forty-two years later, women’s reproductive rights are being chiseled away as national and state anti-choice lawmakers are proposing, and in many cases passing, abortion restrictions at record levels. To get a sense of the current climate, the 114th Congress introduced a 20-week ban on their first day in session, and then decided to hold a vote on the bill the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That plan was scuttled last night after several Republican women withdrew support. Twenty-week abortion bans are unconstitutional, dangerous to women’s health and based on fake science. The Congresswomen who backed out of supporting the ban, though, reportedly expressed concern that revealing contempt for women this early in the session would “alienate young female voters.” They also expressed concern about the bill’s narrow exception for rape victims, which requires that a rape victim impregnated by her assailant report the assault to the police to “earn” her right to abortion, though this right is established by Roe V. Wade. With the 20-week ban temporarily shelved, House Republicans plan to vote for the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The Hyde Amendment already prohibits tax dollars from funding abortion; the misleading title is to gin up support among people who will not bother to read the actual contents of the bill. What HR 7 actually does is tinker with the free market by prohibiting insurance companies from selling policies that cover abortion through the state exchanges. HR 7 regulates private business to leverage a woman’s constitutional right against her income by forcing working women—women earning approximately $46,000 a year and under—who may need or want an abortion to pay out of pocket for it. Here in Pennsylvania, a similar bill (HB 818) already passed into law in 2013. The Pennsylvania law prohibits private insurance companies from selling healthcare plans through the state exchange from covering abortion, even in cases of medical emergency, health of the mother, and severe fetal anomaly. Pennsylvania lawmakers explicitly rejected an amendment to add health of the woman. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 29 states currently prohibit insurance plans from covering abortion services for all or some residents. Constitutional rights are not only for the wealthy. Tell the House of Representatives to stop discriminating against working women, stop misleading the public and vote NO on HR...

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Federal Lawsuit Targets DHS For Illegally Delaying Health Coverage for 85,000 Pennsylvania Women

Women qualified for full coverage on January 1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (1/13/2015) Today, two women’s health organizations and a private citizen filed a federal class action claiming that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is unlawfully delaying the enrollment of tens of thousands of Pennsylvania women into comprehensive Medicaid coverage for which they qualified effective January 1. According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, approximately 85,000 women in Pennsylvania who are currently enrolled in SelectPlan for Women, a limited Medicaid program that only covers family planning services, currently qualify for full health coverage either through Healthy PA, the Corbett Administration’s version of Medicaid expansion, or through subsidized insurance on Pennsylvania’s federally facilitated health insurance Marketplace. “These 85,000 women are the working poor,” said Amy Hirsch, attorney for Community Legal Services. “While DHS is dragging its feet, these women are being denied health coverage.” Dayle Steinberg, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, which is a plaintiff in the case, commented: “Planned Parenthood provided more than 5,000 SelectPlan recipients with family planning services last year.  We see women on a regular basis who have to delay diagnostic tests and urgent care for conditions we discover, because they lack the financial resources to pay for health care, and their insurance coverage is limited to family planning.  Refusing 85,000 Pennsylvania women the health coverage that they’re qualified for is dangerous and inexcusable.” “No one can deny that DHS has mismanaged the SelectPlan transition,” said Susan Frietsche, staff attorney for the Women’s Law Project who together with Ms. Hirsch represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Our clients can’t even get information about their coverage out of the Department because when they call, they get a recording telling them to call back another time.” Hirsch explained that a February 15th open enrollment deadline is looming for approximately 15,000 SelectPlan women whose income disqualifies them for Healthy PA. Applicants must complete the enrollment process in the Marketplace by that date, or miss their chance to get health coverage until 2016. “DHS never told these women they would qualify for full health coverage starting January 1, and they never mentioned the February 15 open enrollment deadline,” said Frietsche, who also called the notices DHS sent SelectPlan recipients in November and December misleading and confusing. “Instead, DHS told them it was evaluating what coverage to offer them and if they want timelier help, they should call the Helpline or fill out another application.” The complaint notes that DHS automatically transferred other groups of limited-coverage recipients to full coverage by January 1 using information already in their...

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Class Action Lawsuit Filed over Pennsylvania Medicaid Cuts

By Tara Murtha, WomenVote PA, WLP Staff – Two big problems with Pennsylvania Medicaid emerged yesterday [December 22]. The problems aren’t with Medicaid per se, but with the chaos-riddled transition from traditional Medicaid to Governor Corbett’s controversial, non-expansion alternative. To further complicate matters, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf, who promised to expand Medicaid as intended under the Affordable Care Act, takes office next month, and benefit changes are scheduled to take place January 1. Under the Affordable Care Act, states are encouraged to expand access to Medicaid coverage, with the federal government picking up the tab through 2016 and then paying no less than 90 percent on a permanent basis. The background: Ever since the Supreme Court decided that states can refuse to expand Medicaid, the situation here in Pennsylvania been a saga fueled by partisan politics–at the expense of the health and well-being of more than 500,000 low-income residents. As every state bordering Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid, Pennsylvania has become “the island of the uninsured.” In order to obtain the federal dollars without actually expanding Medicaid, the Corbett administration assembled an alternative plan called Healthy Pennsylvania, called Healthy PA for short. The plan was “met with harsh criticism by many and for good reason.” As predicted by experts and advocates all along, the federal government rejected the majority of proposals within HealthyPA, such as tethering work requirements to health benefits. The rejection shouldn’t have been a surprise to the Corbett Administration either, since some of the proposals had already been refused in other states even before Pennsylvania submitted this proposal. In August, after nearly a year of negotiation, the federal government approved a stripped-down version of HealthyPA. Then in November, Corbett became the first Pennsylvania governor in 60 years to lose re-election when people of the Commonwealth voted Tom Wolf into office. Governor-Elect Tom Wolf ran on a promise to expand traditional Medicaid. Meanwhile, 500,000 residents are still left in the gap created by Corbett’s refusal to expand last year. Now, as Governor Corbett gets ready to leave the governor’s mansion, the whole system is a mess. On December 19th, Pennlive.com reported that healthcare providers serving low-income mentally ill and drug-addicted Pennsylvanians state stopped receiving reimbursement for services because of a “glitch” in the transition process. From PennLive.com: Deb Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, said the problem is creating a crisis for providers, particularly small nonprofits, which are being forced to decide whether to swallow the cost of care or deny treatment. “It’s just incredible,” Beck said earlier this week. “We have families who desperately want help, kids who want help and access. This has...

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