Monthly Archives: October 2008

Reproductive Rights on Ballots Across the Country – Part III: California

California is the third state that has an abortion-related measure on the ballot this November. Previously, we discussed Colorado’s and South Dakota’s anti-abortion ballot measures.

California’s measure, Proposition 4, is a reincarnation of Proposition 73 that was defeated in 2005 and Proposition 85, defeated in 2006. It would require young women getting abortions to notify at least one parent. It would also create a 48-hour delay in getting the procedure following notification.

Women’s groups in California and around the country have been mobilizing against Proposition 4. Requiring parental notification for minors undergoing abortions would place an unnecessary burden on young women and take fundamental constitutional rights away from them. Most young women already discuss abortion decision with their parents, and those who do not usually have good reasons for it – they may fear physical abuse. Requiring parental notification places young women in already dangerous situations of abuse in even greater danger. In addition, implementation of Proposition 4 would cost California several million dollars annually.

Campaign for Teen Safety has been organizing Californians against the Proposition. The Center for Reproductive has a fact sheet (in PDF format) about the dangers of Proposition 4 to the rights of young women.

Minors in Pennsylvania do have to get parental consent or obtain a judicial bypass prior to getting an abortion. To learn more about young women’s rights in our state, visit our website.

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Filed under Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Women Pay More for Health Insurance Coverage

The New York Times ran an interesting story this week about disparities in health insurance costs. A new report issued by the National Women’s Law Center, Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women, reveals that women’s health insurance policies cost hundreds of dollars more per year than men’s. Women even pay more than men for health insurance that does not cover maternity care. In fact, the gap is in the cost of health insurance for individual insurance policies that provide identical care. The full report is available here.

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Filed under Equality, Health insurance, The New York Times, Women's health

Know Your Voting Rights!

With an anticipated record voter turnout in Pennsylvania on November 4th, it’s important that we all know our voting rights.  So spread the word, and here are some quick facts about voting in Pennsylvania:

  • First-time voters, or voters who have moved and are going to a new polling location, must show some form of identification to vote. Approved forms of ID include: Voter Registration Card, PA Driver’s License, a passport, Armed Forces ID, an Employee ID, a Student ID, utility bill or a bank statement provided it has the person’s address on it.
  • If you don’t have identification, you can still vote by Provisional Ballot.
  • If your name is not listed on the rolls at the polling location, and you are sure this is your precinct, insist on voting by Provisional Ballot. Once your registration is confirmed your vote will be counted.
  • If voting machines break down in your precinct, election officials must immediately provide paper Emergency Ballots to voters.
  • People living in shelters and who have registered to vote using the shelter address can vote.
  • People who are on probation, parole, or house arrest CAN VOTE.
  • People in prison can vote only if they are serving time on a misdemeanor charge or they are awaiting trial (they can vote by Absentee Ballot).

If you experience problems voting or have a question about the process, call the Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.

For any questions related specifically to voting in Pennsylvania, or to find your polling location, you can check out PA Voting Resources.

And for a nonpartisan look at the issues at play in this election, head over to WomenVote PA.

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Filed under 2008 Election, Democracy, Voting rights, WomenVote PA

Philadelphia City Council Approves Unpaid Leave for Survivors of Domestic Violence

On Oct. 23, 2008, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved Councilmember William Greenlee’s bill requiring businesses employing more than 50 people to provide up to eight weeks of unpaid leave for workers who are survivors of domestic violence. Businesses employing less than 50 people must provide up to 4 weeks of unpaid leave for domestic violence survivors.

In June, WLP Managing Attorney Terry Fromson testified in front of City Council in support of the bill, saying at the time:

The Women’s Law Project knows firsthand how important adoption of this bill is to victims of abuse. Through both our telephone counseling service and policy initiatives, we hear from women who are unable to obtain protection orders or seek the assistance of other social services to help them address the abuse to which they are subjected because their jobs do not give them time off for such activities. Unable to risk losing their ability to support their families, these individuals continue to live in fear and suffer abuse without legal protection or other support. Those who take time off from work to address the domestic violence even though they lack leave time, risk loss of employment, destitution, and homelessness.

Except for the domestic abuse hotline and emergency services in Philadelphia, the courts and most social services operate on a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule. While someone faced with imminent danger may call 911 or file a petition for an Emergency Protection From Abuse order at any time, anyone seeking a final order of protection or relief from the criminal justice system must ultimately appear in court during the work week, typically for many hours, and often on a repeated basis. Women seeking such orders have told us they simply could not take more time off from work to return to court again. If the plaintiff does not appear for a hearing, the court dismisses the petition and no relief is granted. This bill, if adopted, will enable victims of abuse to seek legal and other protection. …

We anticipate that the business community may assert concerns about misuse or overuse of the leave provided by this legislation. This concern has been raised in other venues in which we have worked to confront discrimination against and achieve accommodation for battered women: insurance discrimination and waivers of welfare work requirements. We have seen no abuse in those arenas. In conversations with state insurance departments around the country, I have been assured that the number of individuals seeking relief under statutes prohibiting insurance discrimination against battered individuals has been extremely low. In our work in Pennsylvania on implementation of the Family Violence Option, which allows domestic violence victims to be excused from work requirements if domestic violence impedes their ability to comply, we have also seen no abuse. Despite estimates that domestic violence victims make up 40-60% of the TANF population, the number of TANF recipients in Pennsylvania seeking to be excused from work requirements is very small, only approximately 2 % or less of the TANF adult population statewide. Philadelphia’s numbers are even lower, with the percentage of the city’s welfare population seeking work waivers consistently below 1%. (Department of Public Welfare, unpublished data April -August, 2007). Just as fears of false allegations of domestic violence have not been realized in these situations, we do not anticipate false claims in this one.

The reasons are the same: battered women want to work and need to work to support themselves and their families. They are not likely to take unpaid time off for reasons other than those provided for by the legislation or for longer than necessary because they cannot afford to. In addition, victims of domestic violence do not easily disclose domestic violence to anyone, let alone their employer: shame and fear of loss of benefits and employment are a strong deterrent to disclosure of domestic violence. Because requesting domestic violence leave requires such a disclosure, we do not expect domestic violence victims to request leave unless it is absolutely necessary for them to be excused from work.

We applaud the Philadelphia City Council for passing this important legislation guaranteeing that survivors of domestic violence will not fear losing their jobs on top of all the other stresses they experience in their situations. We hope that Mayor Nutter will promptly sign the bill.

For more information, the bill in its entirety can be found here in PDF format.

Terry’s complete testimony can be found here, also in PDF format.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Employment, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Council

Rep. Waxman Joins the Fight Against HHS Regulation

In September 2008, the Women’s Law Project joined dozens of women’s groups in opposing the Provider Conscience Regulation that was proposed on August 26, 2008, by the Department of Health and Human Services. The WLP believes that the breadth and vagueness of the Regulation create unnecessary confusion and may result in denial of health services and information to patients based on the moral beliefs of their provider. A copy of written comments submitted to the DHHS is available here (in PDF format).

On Monday, October 27, 2008, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Henry Waxman (D – Calif.) submitted a letter to DHHS (in PDF format) in which he suggested that in issuing the Regulation, DHHS failed to “avoid regulations that are consistent, incompatible or duplicative with its other regulations or those of other federal agencies” as required by a 1993 executive order. The National Partnership for Women and Families discusses Rep. Waxman’s letter in greater detail here.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is keeping track of “What Will HHS Do?” here.

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Filed under Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Wage Gap Widens in Pennsylvania

Bad news for Pennsylvania women: according to a new report by the Keystone Research Center, women stopped closing the wage gap with men. The wage gap was consistently improving between 1970s and the early 1990s, but according to the study, it has come to a halt.  In fact, since 2003, women have been losing ground and from 2003 to 2007, the pay gap grew by 28 cents. Women comprise 47% of Pennsylvania’s workforce and now earn $13.20/hour, as opposed to $17/hour that men earn.

The press release about the study can be found here, and information specific to the Commonwealth is here (in PDF format). The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a story about the study,  as did the Patriot-News in Harrisburg.

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Filed under Employment, Equal pay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Reproductive Rights on Ballots Across the Country – Part II: South Dakota

South Dakota is one of three states with abortion-related measures on the ballot this November. Previously, we discussed Colorado’s constitutional amendment and its implications on women’s health.

South Dakota’s first ballot initiative to ban all abortions was introduced and narrowly defeated in 2006.  It did not provide for any exceptions, including health of the mother, rape or incest.

This year’s ballot measure is Initiated Measure 11 (full text available here). Unlike the 2006 measure, proponents claim it provides limited exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life or the health of the woman. However, the language of measure is so vague that it would be impossible to guarantee that women who need abortions to save their health or their lives, or women who have survived rape and incest would be protected.

South Dakota is already one of the most hostile states to women’s health. Currently, there are no doctors living in South Dakota who are willing to provide elective abortions. Planned Parenthood flies in doctors from Minnesota to perform the procedure.

More information on the dangers of Initiative Measure 11 in South Dakota:

National Public radio did an in-depth story on the Measure.

The South Dakota Healthy Families Coalition is working to defeat the Measure.

The Center for Reproductive rights has a fact sheet about the dangers of South Dakota’s ballot measure to the rights of women.

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Filed under Reproductive Rights, Women's health

WVU ADs Get it Right on Title IX

Last week, the West Virginia University student newspaper reported on some recent changes to the school’s athletics program:

In 2003, then-West Virginia University President David Hardesty asked the athletic department to develop a strategic plan for the future.

Among the list of tasks athletic director Ed Pastilong and staff compiled were placing more of an emphasis on football, building better facilities and making more money – $500,000 more.

To implement these ideas, the department decided to make athletics cuts.

“We could’ve just chopped every team’s budget a little bit and just water-down the entire program, but we looked at all the options and this was the one we came up with,” said associate athletic director Russ Sharp.

As a result, the rifle, men’s tennis, men’s cross country and men’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams were cut from the budget in 2003.

But because 54 of 56 of those athletes were male, the athletic department was criticized for making cuts to meet Title IX requirements.

“We got a lot of flak,” Sharp said. “A lot of people, because they were all men’s sports, pointed to (Title IX). People went there even though it wasn’t the reason.

“The reality of it is, we didn’t do that for Title IX reasons.”

It is heartening to see athletics department officials not scapegoat Title IX as the reason for cuts in men’s sports. Associate AD Sharp lays out the facts – the school’s president wanted more of an emphasis on football, so they had to cut some men’s teams to accommodate the increase in spending on football.

Later in the article, Sharp admits that Title IX factored slightly into the decision to cut the men’s sports, saying, “We recognized at the time that any decision we made … we couldn’t drop three women’s sports. We couldn’t make our Title IX position worse.” This statement is consistent with the argument that feminists and supporters of women’s sports have been making for years: that it is expensive men’s sports that hurt the chances of smaller men’s sports succeeding, not offering women equal opportunity to participate in athletics.

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Filed under Title IX

Reproductive Rights on Ballots Across the Country – Part I: Colorado

This fall, voters in three states will see anti-abortion measures on their ballots. The New York Times gives a good overview of all three in an editorial that opposed all the initiatives. We’ll be taking a closer look at each initiative, starting with Colorado’s Amendment 48.

When voters in Colorado head to the polls on November 4, they’ll be deciding whether their state constitution will be amended to recognize personhood from the moment of fertilization. Amendment 48 is “[a]n amendment to the Colorado constitution defining the term ‘person’ to include any human being from the moment of fertilization as ‘person’ is used in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law.” (Full text of the Amendment is here in PDF format.)  Women’s groups around the country are opposing the Amendment, pointing out that if enacted, it will pit the rights of women against the rights of fertilized eggs and threaten women’s health, jeopardize access to birth control, and lay the foundation for outlawing all abortions. Even Colorado’s anti-choice Catholic governor Bill Ritter came out in opposition of the Amendment, saying that it “goes too far.”

More information on Colorado’s Amendment 48:
Protect Families Protect Choices coalition is leading the effort in opposition to the Amendment.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has a fact-sheet on the Amendment and its implications on women’s health (in PDF format).

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Filed under Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Uncategorized, Women's health

30th Anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA amended Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, making it illegal for businesses employing more than 15 workers to discriminate against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The PDA was a great step forward in ensuring that women do not experience discrimination while they’re pregnant. However, more work needs to be done. In Pennsylvania, for example, the law does not prohibit employers from asking job applicants questions about their marital or family status. We need to encourage the PA legislature to pass HB 280 and SB 280, currently in committee, which would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to outlaw discrimination against people based on their family or marital status.

To contact your legislators, look them up on the PA Legislature’s website.

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Filed under Employment, PA Legislature, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Women's health