Young v. UPS Heads to SCOTUS: What You Need to Know

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of Young v. United Parcel Service (UPS) to determine whether the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 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 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. Former Wal-Mart employee Heather Wiseman was fired after following her doctor’s recommendation to stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle at work. Victoria Serednyj was fired from a nursing home after her employer refused to excuse her from moving heavy objects, though her doctor advised she should avoid such exertion to reduce her risk of miscarriage. Amber Walker, a truck driver, was fired after asking someone to help her with heavy lifting during the later months of her pregnancy, even though the company provided similar assistance to other truck drivers with temporary physical limitations. All of these women challenged their terminations in court, and they all lost. The woman suing UPS is an employee named Peggy Young. Young requested a temporary shift in duties due to her pregnancy, and UPS refused. Yet, the company routinely accommodated similar medically-advised requests for temporary lighter duty. Reproductive health advocates are watching the case very closely. “The case illustrates the often hostile legal and policy environment U.S. women confront on issues surrounding pregnancy,” writes Ann M. Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Policymakers and the courts should ensure that women like Young who want to achieve a healthy pregnancy are reasonably accommodated by their employers without sacrificing their economic security.” Law professors and women’s organizations with expertise in pregnancy discrimination law, including the Women’s Law Project, have demonstrated support for Peggy Young by filing and signing on to amici curiae briefs, also known as friend-of-the-court briefs. From the amici curiae: “This case presents an issue of great significance for working women in the United States, who comprise nearly half the labor force. The vast majority of working women will become pregnant at some point during their working lives, and many of them will experience at least minor conflicts between job requirements or working conditions and the temporary, but real physical effects of pregnancy.” Meanwhile, as Young’s...

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A Road Map for Our New Governor to Improve Women’s Health and Economic Security

By Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy Democratic challenger Tom Wolf defied a national tide and 60 years of Pennsylvania history in defeating incumbent Republican governor Tom Corbett on November 4. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. October polls showed 61 percent of voters believed the state was on the wrong track — as did 100 percent of advocates for women’s health and economic security. It’s little wonder that Tom Wolf won the vote of women by 16 points. Read more...

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FBI Releases First Annual Report Using Revised Definition of Rape

By Tara Murtha The FBI recently released the preliminary annual Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics for 2013. The statistics reflect data submitted voluntarily from 18,415 city, county, state, tribal, campus, and federal law enforcement agencies. While the data is not a complete picture of the number of crime reports to police in the United States, it is significantly closer to accurate in one area in particular: rape. The 2013 UCR report is the first annual report to use the recently revised definition of rape. This  report represents a significant milestone in a long campaign to move national data on sexual assault reports to police closer to reality. The UCR report numbers are important because the data informs policy, our cultural understanding of problems that must be fixed in society, and the amount of grant money allocated to fund advocacy organizations working on behalf of victims of sex crimes and to improve institutional responses. Women’s Law Project led the charge to revise the FBI’s UCR definition of rape. In 2010, Executive Director Carol E. Tracy detailed the problem at a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. In 2011, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board voted in favor of changing the definition of rape in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS) to reflect what the public understands to be rape, and to conform with state felony sex crime statutes. Before the revision, the FBI defined rape as “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It excluded many other variations of rape and all male victims. In other words, it was “narrow, outmoded, steeped in gender-based stereotypes, and seriously understated the true incidence of sex crimes.” The FBI definition of rape had not been updated since the system was established in 1929. The revised definition is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” It encompasses male victims and offenders, includes drug-facilitated rape and reflects the various kinds of nonconsensual penetration of rape. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at the time. “The public has the right to know about the prevalence of sex crimes,” said Terry L. Fromson, Managing Attorney of the WLP. The FBI projected that the number of rapes will increase by as much as 41.7% as the more inclusive definition is implemented. This increase, however, does not necessarily mean that...

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Women of PA, Get Informed and Vote on Nov. 4th!

By Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy Pennsylvania women have the power to change the future of their state, and their own lives, by voting in next month’s election. The question is, do they understand the high stakes that make their participation vital? In the midst of political campaigns, with the inevitable preposterous claims and accusations flying around, it is easy to dismiss politics as a game, or to think that one vote won’t make a difference. That’s precisely what the people who hold political power in Pennsylvania hope you will think. The reality is very different.The women of Pennsylvania, more than five million strong, can and should be the decisive force in electing the policymakers who will determine the laws on issues like economic security, reproductive rights, domestic violence, and education. These issues affect women more than they do men. And poll after poll shows that women care more about these issues than men do. The reason our laws have been out of step with what would be best for women is simple: Women have not voted as if their lives depend on it. The women of the commonwealth need to think about these questions while deciding whether voting is worth the effort: Is it time for equal pay to become a reality? Despite all the evidence of a pay gap between men and women, Pennsylvania hasn’t updated equal-pay laws in more than 50 years. Is it time that so-called family-friendly values make their way to the workplace? Our elected officials talk a big game about support for families. Yet in most of Pennsylvania today, pregnant women don’t have the right to get a drink of water or take a bathroom break, and after giving birth, they don’t have the right to pump breast milk at work. Bills introduced to correct these discriminatory practices have languished in committee for months. Is it time to stop discriminating against poor and working women? For four years, the Pennsylvania legislature has passed measure upon measure that disproportionately burdens poor and working women. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of reproductive health. The simple truth is that women cannot control their own lives if they can’t control their own reproductive decisions. You don’t need to take our word for it. Experts repeatedly confirm that Pennsylvania’s record on women is abominable. The Center for American Progress recently gave Pennsylvania a C-minus grade on women’s issues, ranking us 28th among the 50 states in the treatment of women. Things can be different. The Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, led by Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny)...

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Anti-abortion activists exploit civil rights messages while omitting King’s family planning legacy

Guest Blogger:  La’Tasha D. Mayes, executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, an organization building a social change movement in Pennsylvania and Ohio dedicated to the health and well-being of black women and girls. An anti-abortion group calling themselves “Created Equal” is in Philadelphia today with the sole purpose of blitzing tourists and residents with what the Philadelphia Inquirer described as a “high-tech assault.” They have a 10-foot-tall screen on Independence Mall where they are broadcasting a video that opens with black-and-white footage of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for equal rights at the 1963 March on Washington, then cuts to full-color “gruesome close-ups of the bloody remnants of abortions.” Willing or not, tourists, residents, children and families will be forced to view these images. Created Equal takes a specific jab at the African-American community by co-opting the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This tactic shamelessly exploits the political struggle of black Americans to achieve their human rights and fully manifest that noble ideal of being “created equal.” In doing that, they omit the important legacy of Dr. King’s support for family planning. When he received the Margaret Sanger award in 1966, Dr. King said, “There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.” For the last several years, the anti-abortion movement has stigmatized and shamed black women in particular through unsuccessful attempts to filter their abortion-restricting agenda through the legacy of the Civil Right movement. It is imperative for black communities, women and abortion providers, who are the targets of these tactics, to understand the deceptive nature of this cultural and political attack. On their website, the Columbus, Ohio-based group explicitly advocates against “consensual” communication. On Facebook, the group revealed they intend to broadcast not only pictures, but also footage of “abortions in progress.” Assaulting passersby with (sometimes doctored) bloody imagery is nothing new for anti-abortion groups, while at the same time shouting racially motivated epithets to women of color exercising their human right to abortion care. An incoherent message Relevant history and public health data persuasively highlights the need for women to have access to safe abortion services; lacking a rational argument, anti-abortion advocates have long relied on communication styles designed to incite emotions, rather than appeal to logic. Over the years, the...

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Victory! Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Eviction Heads to Governor’s Desk

We asked for your help, you gave it. We heard about all the phone calls and emails. Now, together, we achieved a huge victory for the rights of domestic violence survivors in Pennsylvania, who can no longer be legally evicted from their homes for calling authorities for help when they need it. The background: Sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, HB1796, titled “Protection for Victims of Crime from Certain Municipal Ordinances” was drafted in response to a situation so outrageous that it gained national attention. Thanks to a so-called “nuisance property ordinance” that enabled landlords in Norristown, Pa. to evict tenants for calling 911, a domestic violence victim named Lakisha Briggs was forced to choose between eviction and enduring physical abuse at the hands of an ex-partner, who would not leave the home she shared with her toddler. But after passing through the House, this good faith bill was hijacked by one bewildering amendment after another. First, a bad sick day amendment was the problem. Then, a pro-gun amendment was tacked on to the bill the same day domestic violence advocates traveled to Harrisburg to remember the victims of DV murdered in Pennsylvania last year—many of them with a gun as the weapon. Following the lead of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, we called out for supporters to contact their senators and ask to drop the amendments and pass the bill—and that’s just what happened an hour ago on the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate on their last day in session. They listened. “No woman or man should have to risk their life, or their family because they’re scared of being evicted,” Senator Judy Schwank said. “Do I need to remind us when we all saw a few weeks ago the senseless beating of a woman in an elevator?” asked Senator John Rafferty, Jr., before pointing out that this victory is an example of the good work that can get done when both sides of the aisle come together to cooperate on important issues. In the end, the bill passed the Senate unanimously. “I am glad that you colleagues in the Senate decided to do the right thing and remove the paid sick leave preemption language from House Bill 1796,” Senator Vincent Hughes, an advocate of the bill, told Women’s Law Project. “We must do everything we can to protect the victims of domestic violence and this version of the bill is a step forward instead of a step backwards.” Next, it heads to the desk of the Governor to be signed into law. This bill is the third initiative of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a bipartisan,...

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Pittsburgh Passes “Reasonable Accommodations” for Pregnant Workers

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation that calls for “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women who work for the city or city contracts, and bans discrimination against pregnant employees. The ordinance, Reasonable Accommodations Due to Pregnancy, Childbirth or Related Medical Conditions, was introduced by councilmembers Dan Gilman and Deb Gross. At a hearing introducing the bill last month, Gilman called the legislation “essential.” “Many times women don’t know the rights they have,” Gilman said. “It’s an important opportunity to use the megaphone of city hall to tell all women in Western Pennsylvania that if you’re going to work for the city or do business with the city, you have a reasonable expectation of a healthy and vibrant pregnancy while working.” The ordinance notes that “more than 35 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) made it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of her pregnancy, women still face discrimination on the job when they become pregnant, especially in physically-demanding jobs.” It also cites examples of discrimination from around the state, including a supermarket cashier in central PA who lost her job because she followed her doctor’s orders to carry a water bottle and a pregnant security guard denied a request to sit down part of her shift in downtown Pittsburgh. Though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 banned discrimination against pregnant workers, it does not address reasonable accommodations under all circumstances. Women’s Law Project provided legal guidance and strongly supported the ordinance. Staff attorney Tara Pfeifer testified at a hearing earlier this month in support of the bill. “At the Women’s Law Project, we have seen an increasing number of pregnant women contact us over the past few years because of the obstacles they face at work,” Pfeifer testified. “The majority of the women who have contacted us work in low-wage, physically demanding jobs, are having healthy pregnancies, and need only minor adjustments in the workplace as their pregnancies progress. “ As the ACLU noted, Pittsburgh City Council, unfortunately, doesn’t have the authority under state law to expand protections to pregnant women who work for private employers. Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Painter and Senator Matt Smith introduced bills to extend similar protections to pregnant workers throughout the state as part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. Both bills have been sitting in committee for months. Pennsylvania is one of the top ten worst states for pregnancy discrimination, according to a 2008 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families. In January, Philadelphia amended the Fair Practices Ordinance to provide reasonable accommodations protection for pregnant workers. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Jr. has been...

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Doctors Aren’t Dummies: Support the Patient Trust Act

By Kate Michelman, WomenVote PA and Susan Frietsche, WLP Senior Staff Attorney Doctors aren’t dummies. They don’t need politicians to tell them what they can and can’t say to patients, or how to administer tests and treatments. On September 8, the House Democratic Policy Committee convened to explore the need to pass the Patient Trust Act in Pennsylvania. Physicians, medical ethics experts, and patient advocates met in Pittsburgh to discuss the dangers patients face when medical care becomes politicized. Introduced by Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) and Senator Mike Stack (D-Phila) in July, the Patient Trust Act is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a pro-active, pro-choice package of bills developed by the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus in the Pennsylvania Legislature. The Patient Trust Act protects patients. It says that politicians have no business putting words that are “not medically accurate and appropriate for the patient” into the mouths of doctors. Since antiquity, physicians have taken an oath to treat patients to the best of their ability, with knowledge rooted in clinical experience and scientific consensus. But in recent years, politicians have made it difficult — and in some cases even illegal — for doctors to keep that sacred obligation. These government-intrusion laws run the gamut from prohibitions on discussing gun storage safety with patients to gag orders preventing doctors from naming the toxic chemicals that are poisoning a patient’s body. A significant number of these government-intrusion laws are proposed by lawmakers trying to disguise their opposition to contraception and abortion by disingenuously claiming that these laws promote women’s health and safety. Recently, the National Partnership for Women and Families released a report that explored the nationwide spike in laws that command doctors what to say and coerce them to administer — and bill patients for — medically unnecessary procedures. Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health found that the majority of states — 35 in all — have passed such laws. In many cases, the information doctors are forced to give patients is not even medically and scientifically accurate. The report’s authors concluded that “anti-choice laws are requiring health care providers to choose between following their medical training and their ethical obligations to their patients — and following the law.” From the Bad Medicine report: *Five states force doctors to tell patients of a false link between abortion and breast cancer. *Five states force doctors to falsely advise a patient that an abortion will affect her future fertility. *Eight states force doctors to provide misinformation that falsely indicates the only possible emotional response to abortion is negative. *Twelve states force doctors to provide unfounded...

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AllAboveAll

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff This week, we saw a glimpse of the tragic consequences of the misguided effort to “end abortion” by forcing healthcare clinics that provide abortion services to shut down. A 39-year-old mother in Montour County—the smallest county in Pennsylvania–was sent to jail after ordering abortion-inducing pills for her teenage daughter. The woman, a professional nurse’s aid, told police she couldn’t find any abortion clinics nearby, and her daughter lacked health insurance. The news underscored the need to expand access to safe and legal abortion care in Pennsylvania, a goal shared by All Above All, a national group that stopped in Philadelphia Wednesday to host a rally in Love Park. All Above All is a movement to build support for equal access to abortion care by repealing abortion coverage bans. Their vision is “to restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.” Since the passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld coverage for abortion services from women insured through the Medicaid program. Currently, nearly 1 in 7 women of reproductive age (15-44) is insured through the Medicaid. The percentage of women insured through the program is rising, as more states expand Medicaid with federal funds provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The problem isn’t just the Hyde Amendment. Last year, Pennsylvania lawmakers made it impossible for a woman to buy an insurance plan that covers abortion through the online marketplace. An exception to protect the health of the mother was explicitly rejected. Now, a woman with a health insurance plan purchased through the marketplace has to pay out of pocket to end a pregnancy, even if she faces a serious health risk like cancer. Wealth should not be a prerequisite to exercise constitutional rights. The advocates who gathered in Love Park know this all too well. From CBS Philly: Jessica Arons, of the Reproductive Health Technology Project, says it takes bravery to take on the issue of abortion funding at this time, when abortion opponents have succeeded at curbing access to abortion across the country, but she says the issues are related. “Not having insurance coverage for abortion care, not being able to afford an abortion procedure just compounds the problem so let’s say she finally gets to the clinic, she still has to pay for it so that’s why we’re working on both,” Arons said. Another way to try to make abortion unaffordable for poor women is to shut down providers. In 2012, Pennsylvania Legislature targeted abortion providers with new regulations, despite the opposition of relevant medical...

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Let’s Leave Politics Behind for the Sake of Healthcare

By Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy Pennsylvania is facing a 1.3 billion deficit and the annual state budget is due June 30. The obvious solution is to expand Medicaid, but some Pennsylvania legislators won’t consider it. When Governor Corbett rejected expanding Medicaid as designed under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), the state gave up millions of dollars in federal funds that are still available, ready to be disbursed. By expanding Medicaid, even temporarily, Pennsylvania lawmakers could immediately draw down $600 million dollars for the 2014-15 budget – $500 million more than Governor Corbett’s Executive Budget – which would slash the 1.3 billion deficit considerably. Of course, Medicaid expansion would also mean that the 600,000 Pennsylvanians left in the “coverage gap” without access to healthcare could actually see a doctor. Refusing to expand Medicaid immediately in the face of a budget crisis not only means forgoing $500 million dollars in readily available revenue, but also maintaining an unacceptable status quo that means some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians receive the least help. Currently, because Pennsylvania didn’t expand Medicaid, the qualification cut-off for “traditional” Medicaid for non-disabled parents is 38% of the federal poverty level, or about $9,000 a year for a family of four. Meanwhile, the ACA provides families of four earning between $24,000 and $95,500 a year with tax subsidies to assist them with purchasing a private insurance plan through the online marketplace. Families with incomes between $9,000 and $24,000 are left uninsured. Refusing to expand Medicaid as intended under the ACA has created a bizarre system where a mother of two children who earns $10,000 a year does not qualify for subsidized coverage, while a childless single person earning $44,000 a year does. Healthy mothers mean healthy families. Women’s lack of access to healthcare contributes to ailments that cause premature births, infant mortality and maternal mortality. With recent research showing that pregnant women and infants in Philadelphia suffer higher incidence of maternal and infant mortality than the rest of the country, we can’t afford to continue to play politics with health policy. Health shouldn’t be determined by geography. Every state touching Pennsylvania’s borders has expanded Medicaid. To be clear, the 600,000 working-poor Pennsylvanians in the coverage gap are stuck there simply because they live in Pennsylvania. In addition to improving health and adding $500 million dollars in revenue, expanding Medicaid would create approximately 35,000 jobs. State budget secretary Charles Zogby recently admitted that if the state attempts to balance the budget with only existing revenues, there would be no new funding for basic education, higher education or to reduce waiting lists for services for people with intellectual...

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Supreme Court Rules That For-Profit Employers Can Refuse to Cover Birth Control

Pennsylvania Women’s Advocates Cry Foul June 30, 2014 – In a sharply divided 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., two for-profit businesses employing thousands of women of diverse faiths, could refuse to include coverage of FDA approved contraceptive methods by invoking the companies’ religious opposition to birth control. “Faced with the choice of protecting the religious exercise rights of thousands of women workers or that of private businesses, the Supreme Court sided with the businesses,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “Contraception is an essential part of women’s health care, and today’s ruling is a dramatic setback to the cause of women’s health and economic security.” Kate Michelman, Co-Chair of WomenVote PA stated, “As an advocate for women’s equality, I was dismayed to see that the majority took pains to make it clear that today’s ruling only applies to health care needed by women.” The Affordable Care Act and its implementing regulations require that all new health insurance plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without cost-sharing. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, for-profit corporations that assert religious objections to certain methods of contraception, claimed that corporations have a right to practice religion, and that this right is being illegally infringed by the contraceptive coverage rule. Today’s majority opinion from Associate Justice Samuel Alito did not dispute that the government’s interest in ensuring that women had access to contraception was compelling, but held that other means were available to advance that interest. The Court cited the accommodation already established for religious employers and suggested that the cost of coverage could be paid by with public funding. “We urge HHS to act quickly to fill the coverage gap created by today’s ruling,” said Susan Frietsche, senior staff attorney in the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office in Pittsburgh. “In both this case and last week’s buffer zone ruling, the Court has shown little concern for the health, safety and rights of America’s women,” continued Tracy. “They are sadly out of touch with women’s experiences, struggles, and needs. It’s my hope that these rulings energize every woman and lead to a surge in activism and civic engagement by all supporters of women’s equality and gender...

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Women’s Law Project Denounces Supreme Court Ruling In Abortion Clinic ‘Buffer Zone’ Case

Statement by Carol E. Tracy and Kate Michelman June 26, 2014, Philadelphia, PA – The Women’s Law Project and its civic engagement action arm, WomenVote PA, expressed disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous  decision in Eleanor McCullen v. Martha Coakley, which struck down a 35-foot buffer zone at reproductive health clinics in Massachusetts.  “Today’s Supreme Court decision, though disturbing, was not sweeping.  The decision is narrow and nuanced,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.  “Sadly, the decision also was all but silent about the harassment, intimidation and violence that women entering clinics for constitutionally protected health services face, nor did it take note at all that two women were murdered and five others injured at Massachusetts clinics” said Kate Michelman, co-chair of WomenVote PA. “Significantly, however, it did not declare that all fixed buffer zones are unconstitutional nor did it overrule Hill v. Colorado or even discuss it, so floating 8-foot bubble zones within 100 feet of clinic entrances are presumably constitutional today as they were previously” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project. Justice Scalia, though concurring in the judgment, was highly critical of the majority opinion’s reasoning, stating that the specific problems with the Massachusetts law could be easily overcome: “With a dart here and a pleat there, such regulations are sure to satisfy the tailoring standards. . . .” Pennsylvania has two fixed buffer zone ordinances:  One in Pittsburgh that is 15 feet and one in Harrisburg that is 20 feet. “Both ordinances affect significantly smaller areas than the Massachusetts statute. Both were enacted after a history of obstructive and violent conduct that other measures failed to remedy. And both are limited to municipalities. For these and other reasons, these ordinances are different from the Massachusetts law and, we believe, withstand the constitutional test,” added Susan Frietsche. “The Women’s Law Project will continue to work with abortion providers and local law enforcement, advocates, and legislators to ensure that Pennsylvania women have access to safe, legal abortion care,”  added Carol Tracy...

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Alert: HB 1796 Has Been Hijacked

Update on PA Agenda for Women’s Health:  Right now, one of the Agenda’s bills, House Bill 1796, which would provide important housing protections for victims of domestic violence, has been hijacked by conservatives who have amended it by adding language that would prohibit municipalities in Pennsylvania from enacting local ordinances requiring paid or unpaid sick leave. This amendment clearly adds insult to injury, as domestic violence survivors are often most in need of sick leave. This bill is moving quickly. We need you to contact your state senator today requesting her/him to vote to remove Amendment AO5863 language from HB 1796 and support the original intent of the...

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Long Road Since “Roe”

Kate Michelman, President Emeritus, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Co-Chair of WomenVote PA For me and millions of other women, inequality before the law has been the story of our lives. Most recently, advocates on both sides of the equal-pay issue seem to forget that personal stories are more compelling than statistics. They also ignore the fact that equal pay will not be resolved until we confront other issues inextricably linked with it. My story begins in 1969, when my husband abruptly left my three very young daughters and me, stranding us without financial support. A few weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant. I knew it was impossible to give a new baby what it deserved while also giving my daughters what they needed. I made the difficult decision to have an abortion. Because state law radically restricted access to the procedure, I had two choices: a back-alley abortion or humiliation before a hospital review board to obtain permission for a “therapeutic abortion.” Ironically, in order to grant me permission to do what was best for me and my daughters, the board would have to diagnose me as emotionally unfit to be a parent. To top it off, I also was required to get written permission from the husband who deserted us. This situation changed everything for me and fast. I had a college degree, but suddenly I had no car, no income, and few alternatives. To keep our family going, I was forced onto welfare and relied on food stamps to keep food on the table. In the blink of an eye, my aspirations for achieving a comfortable middle-class life for my family were shattered. That experience sparked a lifetime of activism that eventually took me to the front ranks of the national pro-choice movement, driven by a powerful desire to give women real choices to control their lives, choices denied to women of my generation. It also awakened in me a clear sense of the centrality of reproductive freedom as an indispensable human right – a right that underpins every woman’s ability to live in dignity, to enjoy full and equal citizenship, and to pursue a healthy and fulfilling life. This principle became a powerful and defining force for me and guided my professional work over my lifetime. What most do not appreciate – even today – is that if women are not allowed to control something as fundamental as when they will and will not bear children, there is little hope that they will have an equal chance in the workforce or at the pay window. Demanding “equal pay” may seem less controversial than abortion, but...

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History in the Making in Pennsylvania

On December 11, 2013, the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania legislature announced the first phase of a comprehensive Agenda for Women’s Health. It is a groundbreaking approach to addressing the unique health needs and concerns of women that could serve as a model for other states who seek to improve the lives of women. Historically, Pennsylvania legislature has spent unprecedented time and energy on creating barriers to contraception and abortion, rather than enacting legislation that would improve the health of women, including, ironically, pregnant women and nursing mothers. But the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, led by Representative Dan Frankel and Senators Judy Schwank and Chuck McIlhinney, made history last week. They took a proactive, positive approach by addressing a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality, and in recognizing that women’s reproductive rights and reproductive health are the keystone. The agenda is not born of ideology, but reflects the very real struggles of real women and families throughout Pennsylvania. The first phase of the agenda is seven pieces of legislation, including protecting pregnant women in the workplace, filling gaps in protection for nursing mothers at work, ensuring unimpeded and safe access to women’s health centers, strengthening the equal pay law and prohibiting wage secrecy, extending health screenings to more women, stopping intimate partner harassment, and ensuring that domestic violence victims are not punished for contacting law enforcement. One of the key pieces of legislation is a 15-foot buffer zone to protect women’s clinics. The prime sponsor of this bill is a former clinic escort who has seen first-hand the violence and harassment that women seeking abortion at these clinics experience. This unprecedented focus on improving the condition of women’s lives comes on the heels of Pennsylvania’s “C-” grade on women’s issues given by the Center for American Progress, putting it 28th out of the 50 states in the treatment of women. We say “given” because those of us who toil in these fields know that the C- grade was generous. It would be tempting for advocates of women’s rights and equality to fall back to the defensive posture we so often find ourselves in or to just be outraged that we need legislation to address matters as basic as permitting a pregnant woman to take a bathroom break or carry a bottle of water. But this positive vision presents an opportunity to make things better for the women of Pennsylvania, who encounter numerous barriers to good health and full equality. And it’s something we can do right now. The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health offers...

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PA Agenda for Women’s Health

December 11, 2013 Women’s Law Project Commends Groundbreaking State Legislative Initiative To Improve Women’s Health Harrisburg, PA – The Women’s Law Project and its civic engagement action arm, WomenVote PA, commend the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, as it unveils the first phase of a comprehensive Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. Led by Representative Dan Frankel and Senators Judy Schwank and Chuck McIlhinney, the Caucus is taking a proactive, positive approach to helping women by addressing a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality. Each component of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health arises out of the struggles of real women in Pennsylvania. The first phase of the agenda includes legislation protecting pregnant women in the workplace, filling gaps in protection for nursing mothers at work, ensuring that women’s health centers are safe and accessible, prohibiting wage secrecy, extending health screenings to more women, stopping intimate partner harassment, and ensuring that domestic violence victims are not punished for contacting law enforcement. “Although we’ve made progress over the years, it’s a well-documented fact that women’s health and well-being are still not a priority in Pennsylvania,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “This legislation will address real problems that real women have every day, solutions as simple as enabling a pregnant woman to carry a water bottle during her shift and ensuring that women earn the same amount as a man doing the same job. This legislation is the beginning of a full-scale effort by the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus focused on leveling that playing field for good.” “This new legislative focus on real women’s real health needs is long overdue,” said Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office. “For far too long, the Pennsylvania legislature has obsessively focused on restricting women’s access to reproductive health care. That is not what women want or need. We want sensible laws that improve the lives of women, not more roadblocks to women’s health.” Kate Michelman, renowned feminist and co-chair of WomenVote PA, stated, “Rather than helping women achieve the equality they deserve, the Pennsylvania legislature has spent unprecedented time and energy on creating barriers to contraception and abortion.” She continued, “We can’t afford to continue to be one of the worst states in the nation for women,” citing a recent report assigning Pennsylvania a “C-” grade, and ranking the Commonwealth 28th out of the 50 states in its treatment of women. “The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health has the potential to change that, and it deserves the support of every person...

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Reproductive Freedom is at the Heart of Equality

Reproductive freedom is an indispensable human right – a right that underpins every woman’s ability to live in dignity, to enjoy full and equal citizenship, and to pursue a healthy and fulfilling life.  The right to control matters of reproductive health including, pregnancy, childbirth, contraception and abortion, enables a woman to take personal responsibility for her own life as well as her family’s well-being and security.  In order to effectuate these life shaping decisions she must be able to have access to affordable health care. Simply put, reproductive freedom lies at the heart of the promise of human dignity, self-determination, and equality. When a woman is denied these rights – including birth control, safe and legal abortion, as women once were, she is denied the means to protect her health and direct her own life.   Kate Michelman and Carol Tracy Women have the potential to become pregnant for over thirty years of their lives, and most spend a significant amount of that time trying to avoid pregnancy. Fast Facts 99% of women ages 15-44 who have ever had intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method in their lifetime In 2008, only 47.6% of the need for subsidized contraceptive care services in PA was met Surveys found that women would use different, often more effective & longer-lasting contraception if they didn’t have to worry about cost Because emergency contraception doesn’t end a pregnancy but only prevents one, it is not a form of abortion. Emergency contraception prevents abortions A majority of teens will have sex at or before age 19 and studies show that abstinence-only programs do not stop or delay...

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Pennsylvania Is Failing Women

So much for Pennsylvania as the birthplace of freedom and democracy. A report last month from the Center for American Progress offered some alarming statistics about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the way it treats the six million or so women who live here, assigning us a “C-” grade, and ranking our state 28th of the 50 states on women’s rights…

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Reproductive Health Care & African American Women

African American women die at a much higher rate from pregnancy and childbirth than white women.

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Reproductive Rights & Access to Abortion

A third of women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.

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Leading Up to the 2012 Election

Personal account of the lead-up to 2012 election.

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Voting Age Millennials Lower Turnout

 Less than half voter aged millennials made it to the polls in 2012.

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Millennials a Diverse Voting Block

Millennials are the largest, most diverse, most progressive, in current history.

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Equal Pay

In 2012, Pennsylvania women made 77 cents for every dollar men earned, for a pay gap of 23%. Women are offered fewer job opportunities, fewer promotions and lower pay than men, even when they have identical resumes. Women compose nearly 2/3 of the adult minimum wage workforce…

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What’s At Stake

The time is now for learning and mobilizing on behalf of women’s rights.

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Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence (IPV)

More than one-third of women aged 18 and over in the U.S. were subjected to physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking by a current or former intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) estimates that 37.7% of Pennsylvania women, or 1.9 million women, have experience…

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2,340 Intimate Partner Homicides in 2007

Intimate partner violence is often fatal. For example, stalking, which involves unwanted repeated harassing or threatening conduct that causes fear in a reasonable person, often escalates over time and may become violent and ultimately lethal. There were 2,340 intimate partner homicides in 2007. 70% of the victims were female. Women are more often killed by someone they know: in 2007, 64% of the female homicide victims were killed by a family member or intimate partner. An additional 25% of the female homicide victims were killed by other individuals they knew, and approximately 10% were murdered by a stranger. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not...

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Increased Screening at Pediatric Emergency Centers

Health care providers should routinely assess for IPV. In addition to hospitals, obstetrics and gynecology offices, and primary care practices, there may also be opportunities for increased screening at pediatric emergency centers of adults who seek treatment for their children, to determine whether the adults have experienced IPV. IPV victims are more likely to seek medical care for their children than they are for themselves. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not...

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1.9 Million Women, Have Experienced IPV

The NISVS estimates that 37.7% of PA women, or 1.9 million women, have experienced IPV. Almost 20% of PA women, or 977K, are estimated to be victims of stalking. These numbers are estimates because currently, the Commonwealth does not collect data on the number of PA individuals victimized by IPV. Data from the number of individuals who obtain assistance from IPV programs does not accurately reflect the number of abused women because it is estimated that only one in six victims of IPV receives services from a domestic violence service provider. Many victims are not aware of the existence of free services. Additionally, many victims do not report incidences of IPV because they view IPV as a private family matter, believe the situation will improve without intervention, fear retaliation if they seek intervention, are concerned the police will not believe them or protect them, or fear loss of custody of their children. All of these factors hinder victims of IPV from seeking assistance. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not...

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Prevent Cycle of Violence

Children who witness IPV are more likely to be abused themselves. More than 50% of households affected by violence between intimate partners include children under the age of twelve. The children may be physically injured in the course of violence directed toward their mothers. Witnessing IPV causes emotional distress, behavioral problems, and physical health problems for children. Studies show strong correlations between childhood exposure to violence at home and post-traumatic stress symptoms, as well as various health problems, such as asthma and gastrointestinal problems. If there is no adequate intervention, research shows that these children are at risk of repeating the violence in their intimate relationships as adults. Intervention is necessary in order to prevent this cycle of violence from occurring. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not...

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Subjected to “Reproductive Coercion”

The health consequences of IPV are severe and devastating. IPV is reported to be one of the most common causes of injury to women, with injuries to the head, face, neck, thorax, breasts and abdomen occurring more often in battered women than in other women. Hospital emergency rooms see many of the short term effects, though patients often do not identify the injuries as due to domestic violence and medical professionals often do not adequately screen for domestic violence. Women who experience sexual assault as well as physical abuse experience 40-45% more health issues than women who experience physical abuse alone. IPV victims may also be subjected to “reproductive coercion,” which includes forcing a partner to engage in unwanted sexual acts, intentionally transmitting STIs, sabotaging birth control to impregnate a partner against her will, and controlling the outcomes of a partner’s pregnancy. Ultimately, IPV victims may experience life-long psychological trauma stemming from abuse. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not...

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Solutions for Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence

To effectively combat epidemic rates of domestic violence in the U.S., an integrated response system and services infrastructure is required. Behavioral and Physical Health Care Victims of intimate partner violence in all 67 PA counties should have access to IPV services in health care settings. This includes trauma-informed care. Health care providers should routinely assess for IPV, including increased screening at pediatric emergency centers of adults who seek treatment for their children, to determine whether adults have experienced IPV. IPV victims are more likely to seek medical care for their children than they are for themselves. Courts Judges, court personnel, and mental health professionals should be educated about domestic violence and stalking and the importance of addressing victim and child safety in protection from abuse (PFA) and custody determinations. Access to legal assistance for victims of intimate partner violence should be increased. PA must increase and expand court-sponsored assistance for those representing themselves (“pro se litigants”), beyond the assistance courts may currently provide at intake. Law Enforcement The Pennsylvania State Police should include domestic violence and stalking education in its annual training. Currently, this training is not required. Better training on these issues sensitizes officers to the obstacles IPV and stalking victims face, helping them respond appropriately, so as to protect victims and increase the safety of the community. Police response to IPV must be improved and myths and biases that deter appropriate police response must be eliminated. Government Both the U.S. government and the Pennsylvania state government should enact legislation to prohibit the eviction from or denial of public housing based on a victim’s history of domestic violence. Services       Pennsylvania should increase funding for IPV services. The availability, early use, and quality of batterer treatment programs should be expanded and improved. Research should be pursued to determine which models are most effective to reduce battering. Pennsylvania should institute statewide domestic violence data collection. PA does not currently collect data on number of incidences and medical visits related to domestic violence. Employment Pennsylvania should enact legislation to provide paid leave for victims of IPV and stalking and mandate other employer protections in the workplace. Community PA should adopt coordinated local response approaches to IPV statewide. This means the integration of law enforcement, advocates, health care providers, social services, employers and schools. This system will work better and faster for...

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Sexual Assault on College Campus

20% of young women and 6% of young men will experience a completed or attempted rape during their college career. Young women in their first two years of college are at the highest risk of sexual assault. Fear of retaliation, self-blame, lack of confidence that something will be done, and lack of understanding that what was done to them is a reportable problem…

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Paid Sick Leave

Because women bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities, working women are disproportionately impacted by the current lack of paid sick leave. Women are disproportionately affected by lack of paid sick leave because they are more likely than men to work part-time and to be in low-wage jobs. Without access to paid leave, working mothers are less likely to seek…

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Sexual Assault

Prior to 2011, no surveys reported the prevalence of rape in Pennsylvania. The NISVS reported that during a woman’s lifetime in Pennsylvania, 18.8% or 960,000 will experience rape, and 2.3 million women will be subjected to sexual violence other than rape. 5% of rape victims of reproductive age (12-45) become pregnant as a result …

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Absentee Voting

Pennsylvania has relatively restrictive voting regulations for casting an absentee ballot. A voter is eligible to cast an absentee ballot if they are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day for one of the following reasons listed here. None of ten reasons that Pennsylvania accepts as valid for requesting an absentee ballot cover men or women who are taking care …

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Time Off for Democracy

There is no specific Pennsylvania law providing employees time off to go to their polling place to vote on Election Day. In 2008, WomenVote PA launched Time-Off for Democracy to encourage all employers to consider adopting policies that would allow flexible work schedules on Election Day. Time-Off at the beginning or end of the day can help employees, especially those with family obligations, to get to the polls and vote.  Because women still shoulder the majority of the responsibility as caregivers, especially of children, many mothers find it difficult to juggle work, family duties, children’s schedules, and sometimes it seems impossible to fit in time to vote on Election Day. It is all too easy to believe that one vote really doesn’t matter — but it does! By adopting such policies, employers are leading by example in showing how important it is to be civically engaged in our communities and to participate in our democracy.  Read the proposed Time-Out for Democracy Policy in full here. Pennsylvania is one of 20 states nationwide currently without any specific law requiring time off to vote. Policies that allow time off for voting are extremely important in Pennsylvania given the current restrictive voting laws and the stringent qualifications for casting an absentee...

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Early Voting & Same Day Registration

Pennsylvania law does not allow same day voting registration or early voting. Residents who wish to cast a ballot must register to vote at least 30 days in advance of Election Day.  Early voting and same day registration give voters more flexibility to vote when it is more convenient for them.  Women who shoulder more of the caregiving responsibilities would benefit greatly from having more flexibility for when they can vote.  Early voting also can reduce long lines on Election Day, making it easier for mothers to bring their children to the polling location with them.  Early voting leads to increased voter participation, especially in otherwise lower turnout elections, where research shows that women are less likely than men to vote. Fact Facts Election Day registration significantly boosts voter turnout.  In 2012, states with Election Day registration had average turnout of 71.3%, 12.5 points higher than the turnout in states without EDR. Sixteen states have implemented or passed legislation to allow for online paperless voter registration. Arizona pioneered online registration in 2002 and today over 70% of the state’s voter registrations are performed online. In addition to making registration easier for voters, online registration allows Arizona to save money by eliminating data entry and has increased the accuracy of its voter rolls. In 2010, the costs associated with a paper registration were 83 cents while online registration was just 3 cents. However, legislation has been introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would establish and implement procedures for online voter registration and early...

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Recommendations for Reform

There should be no voter ID requirements and the voter ID law signed by Governor Corbett in 2012 should be repealed. On the day of a federal, state, or local election, an employee eligible to vote in that election may take up to two hours off work, without loss of pay, in order to vote. After giving at least seven (7) days notice, and with approval of…

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Voter ID Law

Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law is currently the subject of litigation and when it will be fully in effect is questionable. The Voter ID law requires all voters to present photo ID when voting at the polls, but those photo ID requirements are NOT currently in effect.  All voters will be asked to present photo ID when they appear at the polls to vote, but they will be allowed to cast a regular ballot without a photo ID.  Voters who are voting for the first time in a polling place are still required under existing law to present a form of...

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Usually Know The Person

Female college students usually know the person who sexually assaulted them. Most campus sexual assaults are committed by a perpetrator who is known to the victim. Most often, the attacker is a boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, classmate, friend, acquaintance, or co-worker. Because they frequently know their perpetrators, college students are less likely to report sexual harassment and assault. Low reporting can have an enormous impact on the incidence of future assaults because perpetrators of campus sexual assault are frequently repeat offenders. A 2002 campus study found that 120 rapists were responsible for 1,225 separate acts of interpersonal violence, including 483 acts of rape. Repeat rapists averaged 5.8 rapes each. Low reporting rates and lax disciplinary proceedings on campuses leave perpetrators in a position to perpetrate additional assaults. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Op-ed on recent action taken by the Department of Education to address sexual assault on college...

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Unable to Complete Their Education

Due to sexual victimization in college, many promising students are unable to complete their education and achieve their goals. Our schools need to do more to prevent sexual harassment, deter sexual predators on campus and respond appropriately to sexual misconduct. For too long, campus victims of sexual misconduct have suffered in unresponsive environments embedded with victim-blaming myths. Much like women in the military, campus victims of sexual misconduct have struggled through confusing policies and systems while seeking justice. In addition to the devastating physical and mental health consequences of sexual harassment and assault, many victims experience re-victimization at the hands of university officials, law enforcement and other community members who trivialize or dispute their assaults. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Op-ed on recent action taken by the Department of Education to address sexual assault on college...

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Many Reasons Victims Do Not Report

Fear of retaliation, self-blame, lack of confidence that something will be done, and lack of understanding that what was done to them is a reportable problem are some of the many reasons victims do not report sexual harassment or assault. Various estimates suggest only 5-11.5% of campus sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement, meaning that 88.5-95% go unreported. Fear of retaliation, self-blame, lack of confidence that something will be done, and lack of understanding that what was done to them is a reportable problem are some of the many reasons victims do not report sexual harassment or assault. Due to low reporting rates by victims, there are serious concerns that colleges and universities do not publicly report all known instances of sexual victimization. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Op-ed on recent action taken by the Department of Education to address sexual assault on college...

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First 2 Years – Highest Risk of Sexual Assault

Young women in their first two years of college are at the highest risk of sexual assault. Women attending college are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault to an extent greater than their non-college peers. Young women in their first two years of college are at the highest risk of sexual assault. Recent studies estimate 20% of young women and 6% of young men will experience a completed or attempted rape during their college career. Almost 2/3 of college students report experiencing some form of sexual harassment during their college careers, with nearly 1/3 of college students reporting being touched, grabbed or forced to do something sexual while in college. Both male and female students are likely to be sexually harassed: women were typically subjected to sexual comments and gestures, while men are more likely to be targeted with homophobic comments. The rates of sexual harassment in middle and high schools are just as high. In a 2011 survey conducted by the AAUW, almost 50% of students in grades 7-12 reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or assault at some time in their school career. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Op-ed on recent action taken by the Department of Education to address sexual assault on college...

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Life-Long Consequences

Sexual harassment and/or assault experienced in college can cause physical, emotional & educational consequences that may be life-long. The health consequences resulting from sexual harassment and sexual assault are extraordinary and long-lasting, impacting a victim’s academic, social and future pursuits, in addition to their physical and mental health. Physical injuries from rape may include genital injury, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as bruises, black-eyes, cuts, scratches, and swelling. Victims of sexual violence may be subject to chronic reproductive health conditions such as painful, prolonged, and heavy menstrual periods and sexual dysfunction. Victims of rape also experience a wide range of psychological harm: shock, humiliation, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, anger, distrust of others, fear of STIs, such as HIV/AIDS, and guilt. Sexual harassment affects the health of young women in similar ways. In addition to negative effects on their education, victims may experience depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches, weight loss or gain, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and PTSD. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Op-ed on recent action taken by the Department of Education to address sexual assault on college...

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Solutions for Sexual Assault on College Campus

An appropriate and effective response team to handle sexual harassment and assault in school environments requires coordinated programming and action by multiple actors at the school, state, and federal level. For K-12 Schools: Adopt and publicize a non-discrimination policy that outlines the school’s responsibilities with respect to responding to sexual violence and identifies procedures to be followed and the identity of staff to contact if sexual victimization is experienced or observed. Provide early education on sexual harassment and sexual assault be integrating gender violence into the curriculum so that students understand what it is, that it is not acceptable and how to report it. Implement bystander education programs, which engage students by imagining every person as a potential witness (rather than the victim or perpetrator) of sexual violence. Provide mandatory education to the entire school staff by recognized experts in the area of sexual violence on how to identify sexual harassment and how to respond to it. For Colleges & Universities Adopt a sexual harassment policy that is readily available and clearly describes all forms of sexual misconduct, including what is and is not consent, prevalence of non-stranger sexual assault (acquaintance rape), drug facilitated sexual assault, the effects of sexual assault, how to report an assault, and available resources on campus and in the community. Adopt a procedure for community members seeking to file a complaint. The procedure should be written in easily understood language and widely disseminated so that students know it exists, how it works, and how to file a complaint. Train campus police, security personnel, and other individuals charged with responding to sexual victimization to effectively respond to sexual assault complaints. Make crisis intervention services available to students 24/7, every day of the school year, and make free emergency contraception, antibiotics and post-exposure HIV preventative treatment available in school health centers. Make long-term counseling services available for students, including access to unlimited free counseling for survivors. Provide annual educational programs regarding sexual assault. Promote reporting of sexual assaults by better handling of reports, having peer educators and advocates, and assuring that victims will not be punished if they report an assault that occurred while they were drinking or using drugs. Administer appropriate discipline, including suspension and expulsion, in order to eliminate the hostile environment, enable the victim to recapture her life, and prevent repeat offenders. NCAA Adopt a gender-violence policy that sets forth clear actions for individuals and schools that violate the guidelines. Pennsylvania Adopt legislation that protects individuals who testify in school internal judicial proceedings from being sued by persons against whom the judicial proceedings were brought. The current lack of legal protection deters victims...

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Rape Results in Estimated 32,101 Pregnancies Yearly

5% of rape victims of reproductive age (12-45) can become pregnant as a result of a rape, resulting in an estimated 32,101 pregnancies each year. Unwanted pregnancy: 5% of rape victims of reproductive age (12 to 45) can become pregnancy as a result of rape, resulting in an estimated 32,101 pregnancies each year, most occurring among adolescents and resulting from assault by a known, often related perpetator. The risk of pregnancy may increase when the assailant is an intimate partner.  There is a risk of poor pregnancy outcomes when a woman is pregnant at the time of the rape. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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960,000 Will Experience Rape

The NISVS reported that during a woman’s lifetime in Pennsylvania, 18.8% or 960,000 will experience rape, and 2.3 million women will be subjected to sexual violence other than rape. Until recently, no surveys reported the prevalence of rape in Pennsylvania. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) report estimates that in Pennsylvania 18.8% or 960,000 women were raped, and that 45.3 percent or 2.3 million women are subjected to sexual violence other than rape. The only other available Pennsylvania-specific data relate to those who report to police or who seek counseling services from Pennsylvania’s sexual assault service providers. Under the federal Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, police reporting of crime data is voluntary. However, in 2004, Pennsylvania created the Pennsylvania UCR Program, which requires local, county, and state police authorities to submit monthly crime statistics to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and requires the PSP to publicly report such data on an annual basis. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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Sexual Assault May Include Physical Injuries

Physical consequences of sexual assault may include physical injuries, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), chronic pain, gynecological problems, and unwanted pregnancy. The physical consequences of sexual assault may include: Physical injuries: 31.5% of women victims incur an injury in addition to the rape itself, victims also suffer minor scratches, bruises and welts, broken bones, dislocated joints, sore muscles, sprains, strains, chipped or broken teeth, knife wounds, internal injuries, and loss of consciousness. Studies find an elevated prevalence of STIs among survivors of sexual violence. Chronic pain, headaches, and stomach problems. Gynecological problems: Common consequences of forced sex include vaginal bleeding, genital irritation, pain during menstruation, and sexual dysfunction. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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