You’re Invited to a Feminist Political Revolution Tomorrow

No matter who you support, just getting out there and voting—for all the races, not just the presidential primary—is a political revolution.

Or could be.

The fact is Pennsylvania Legislature doesn’t represent the population of Pennsylvania or reflect the majority beliefs of Pennsylvanians. As for Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation, we are the most populous state without a single female representative.

This organization published a pamphlet that argued against woman's suffrage because "90% do not want it, and do not care."

This organization published a pamphlet that argued against women’s suffrage because “90% do not want it, and do not care.”

We are not saying that you can predict a candidate’s positions based on their gender or ethnicity or race, but we are saying that you can predict that if you don’t bother to vote, you are likely to wind up paying the salaries of government representatives actively working against your interests.

Last November, just under 25% of registered voters cast a ballot.

Voting is a feminist act, and an act of resistance by everyone who has ever been marginalized out of the voting process. While refusing to vote is often couched in romantic terms, we guarantee that anyone promoting the idea that refusing to vote is a productive way to protest an imperfect system either directly benefits from people not voting, or does not know what they are talking about.

Here are some resources that can help you prepare to vote tomorrow:

Committee of 70 is a go-to source for non-partisan information about elections.

At CrowdPac, you can review candidates’ platforms and create a sample ballot.

The Patriot-News published a voter’s guide to the 2016 primary election.

The League of Women Voters Pennsylvania is hosting relevant information, and partnered to create another website where you can build and share your personal ballot at Vote411.

Philadelphia readers can also check out PhillyMag’s Guide to the 2016 Philadelphia Primary and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Voters’ Guide.

The Women’s Law Project is a proud member of Keystone Votes, a coalition devoted to updating Pennsylvania’s elections. Some of the simple changes to the process the coalition advocates for include optional voting via mail, youth voter preregistration, in-person early voting, and same-day voter registration. Sign up to stay informed about Keystone Votes initiatives here.

See you at the polls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

Text: Tara Murtha

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Legislating medicine: More than 1,000 provisions already introduced in 2016

So far this year, legislators in 45 states had introduced 1022 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. Of the 411 abortion restrictions that have been introduced so far this year, 17 have passed at least one chamber and 21 have been enacted in five states.

Guttmacher-2016-State

Here in Pennsylvania, Rep. Kathy Rapp recently introduced a bizarre double abortion ban that, if passed, will be one of the most severe in the country.

In addition to criminalizing abortion at 20 weeks and after, House Bill 1948 includes a “method ban” provision, which would criminalize one of the most common abortion procedures. The reason dilation & extraction, also known as D&E, is one of the most common methods of abortion is because it is one of the safest. In other words, the bill is clearly designed to punish women, an assertion underscored by the Physician General of Pennsylvania.

House members ignored the Physician General, and explicitly refused to hear testimony from medical experts twice.

The good news: After a huge outcry from constituents like you—including a press conference featuring women who spoke out about the tragic, real-world consequences of this type of ban—HB1948 has been temporarily taken off the House agenda.

The bad news is that it can come back at any time, as could any of many anti-choice bills flooding state legislatures across the country.

This new report arrives as we await a ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case currently under consideration by Supreme Court justices that could determine the landscape of access to reproductive healthcare in every state.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is one of several states leading the effort to push back against this continuing effort to chisel away our reproductive rights. Pro-science, pro-choice legislators in the Pennsylvania Legislature have introduced bills to protect physicians and patients from harassment and violence and to prohibit laws that force doctors to lie to patients—such as a misinformation bill in South Dakota that forces doctors to lie about a so-called “abortion reversal.” Not only is there no medical evidence of the possibility of “abortion reversal,” but if and when performed, it amounts to unregulated experimenting on pregnant people.

Members of the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature have also introduced bills to help pregnant workers minimize on-the-job risks to their pregnancies and promote infant health by protecting working mothers who are nursing.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the “pro-life” lawmakers who supported the anti-science double abortion ban have so far not supported these efforts to protect mothers and children in Pennsylvania.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

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ACTION ALERT: It’s Time to Fix Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law

PA's Equal Pay Law was last amended in 1967, to make it apply to fewer people.

PA’s Equal Pay Law was last amended in 1967, to make it apply to fewer people.

Today, advocates from all over the state including the Women’s Law Project gathered at the Capitol in Harrisburg to call for lawmakers to fix Pennsylvania’s broken equal pay law.

Some of the same lawmakers who have been busy trying to hustle a double abortion-ban into law without a public hearing have completely ignored proposed equal pay bills, despite robust evidence submitted during hearings on equal pay last year that revealed pay discrimination is a problem in Pennsylvania, and the current law has too many gaps and is too weak to address it.

Click here to tell your Representative to help fix PA’s Equal Pay law

House Bill 1160, sponsored by Representatives Brian Sims and Tina Davis, has been sitting in committee since May, 2015. Senate Bill 303, sponsored by Senators Teplitz and Williams, has been left to languish since January, 2015.

If some PA lawmakers would stop trying to play doctor, perhaps they would have time to start playing legislator, and work toward finding real solutions to real systemic problems that put Pennsylvania women at a disadvantage simply for living in this state.

Without simple corrective policies that close gaps in current equal pay law, American women, on average, will not achieve equal pay until 2058. Pennsylvania women, however, are not on track to earn equal pay until the year 2072.

“It’s time for a stronger equal pay law,” said Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia). “Pennsylvania women are paid on average 54 to 83 cents for every dollar a man makes, depending on which county they live in. Equal work deserves equal pay. Anything less is unacceptable.”

“Wage inequality and pay secrecy are not only a detriment to working women, but to families,” said Sen. Rob Teplitz, (D-Dauphin/Perry). “Women make up half of our workforce, and many Pennsylvania households are headed by women, so improvements to the pay equity law not only impact women, but their families as well.”

Pennsylvania’s equal pay law has not been updated since 1967… when it was amended so that it would apply to fewer people.

“House Bill 1160, [our] equal-pay legislation, should be at the forefront of everyone’s legislative efforts,” said Rep. Tina Davis (D-Bucks). “It is unacceptable that the effort to provide economic opportunity and equality is allowed to wallow in committee for eleven months. Let’s get House Bill 1160 out of committee and to votes before the House and Senate.”

When the Pennsylvania Legislature fails to take simple steps to address discrimination, they are failing Pennsylvania families.

Click here to urge your Representative to support Equal Pay for equal work by fixing Pennsylvania’s equal pay law.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

Text: Tara Murtha

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Action Alert: PA House to Vote on HB 1948 Today

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Today, the Pennsylvania House plans to vote on HB 1948, the double-abortion ban we’ve been telling you about since they fast-tracked it to the House floor last week.

 Read: 10 facts about HB1948

In addition to criminalizing abortion at 20 weeks and after, the legislation includes a “method ban” provision, which would criminalize one of the most common abortion procedures. The reason dilation & extraction, also known as D&E, is one of the most common methods of abortion is because it is one of the safest.

Such method bans are part of the national movement to intimidate and harass physicians. They are also dangerous to women’s health. Recently, the Physician General of Pennsylvania stated this bill would punish women for having pregnancy complications. Perhaps that’s why House members rushing this ban explicitly refused to hear testimony from medical experts twice.

Click here to send an email telling your Representative to vote NO on HB 1948.

We also urge you to pick up the phone and call your representative. Simply tell them you would like them to vote no on HB 1948.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

Text: Tara Murtha

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Action Alert: PA House Rejects Input from Medical Experts on HB 1948

On Monday, the Pennsylvania House Health Committee fast-tracked a bizarre double-abortion-ban bill that would criminalize not only almost all abortion at 20 or more weeks in Pennsylvania, but also one of the most common and safe abortion procedures.

10 Facts About HB 1948 You Should Know

The House Health Committee also explicitly voted against hosting a public hearing in order to dedoctor-outprive medical experts of an opportunity to submit comments on House Bill 1948 (not to mention the women this bill may directly affect). On Wednesday, when the House of Representatives passed the bill on second consideration, they once again explicitly rejected a request to postpone the vote until expert medical opinion could be heard. When Rep. Dan Frankel suggested doctors should weigh in, his microphone was reportedly cut off.

Perhaps the lawmakers pushing this bill don’t want to hear from medical experts because they suspect medical experts tend to object to anti-science legislative efforts to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania section of the American Association of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG), a professional organization that represents more than 1300 physicians and partners in women’s health in the Commonwealth, sent a letter to lawmakers to expressing opposition to HB 1948:

“We strongly oppose governmental interference in the doctor-patient relationship and respectfully urge you to do the same.

Few relationships exist as personal as those between women and their OBGYNs. The relationship is compromised when a trusted physician is faced with the ethical decision to appropriately provide unbiased, scientifically-based care to a patient, which may conflict with state law.

Difficult medical decisions, especially those involving the complex medical circumstances that accompany the issues discussed in HB 1948, should be left to women and their expert medical providers, not governed.

Efforts to legislate and criminalize the practice of medicine sets a dangerous precedent. We urge you to join us in protecting the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.

 The Pennsylvania Medical Society, the professional “voice of Pennsylvania’s physicians,” has also urged the Pennsylvania Legislature to reject HB 1948.

Click here to urge your lawmaker to vote NO on HB 1948

Lawmakers have successfully blocked medical experts from submitting testimony, but they can’t stop us from speaking up about the fact that we don’t believe Pennsylvania lawmakers should be practicing medicine.

We expect HB 1948 to head to the House floor for a full and final House vote on Monday.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

Text: Tara Murtha

 

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10 Facts About HB 1948, PA’s Proposed Abortion Ban

After taking a record-breaking nine months to finalize last year’s budget—which caused rape crisis centers and domestic abuse advocates to wonder if they could continue providing services–the Pennsylvania Legislature demonstrated they can, in fact, move quickly on issues they believe matter, such as spreading anti-science, anti-woman propaganda in an election year.

Click here to urge your lawmaker to vote NO on HB 1948

To say HB 1948 was fast-tracked is an understatement. The bill was introduced on Friday, and the Health Committee voted on it Monday. It passed by a mostly partisan vote. They explicitly voted against holding a public hearing so they would not have to consider doctors’ testimony.

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The bill is now expected to go to the House for a full vote on Wednesday. HB 1948 is sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp, who also proposed the 2012 mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bill that would have required doctors to position the ultrasound screen near a patient’s face, and then document whether or not she looked at the screen. (That bill was beat back after former Gov. Tom Corbett notoriously said that women enduring this medically unnecessary procedure “just have to close [their] eyes.”)

Here are 10 facts you should know about the bill that the Pennsylvania Legislature is trying to push into law without a public hearing or input from doctors.

  1. HB 1948 is anti-science. In her co-sponsorship memo, Rep. Kathy Rapp claims that she knows through “personal experience” that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Trained scientists, however, do not agree with Rep. Rapp’s speculation. A synthesis of research on the topic conducted by FactCheck.org concluded that the assertion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks “does not stand.”
  2. By criminalizing pregnancy termination at 20 weeks, AKA abortion, doctors could be forced to deprive patients with unviable pregnancies of standard care, like this Texas woman who was forced to endure the days-long experience of her body expelling the fetus, against her will, because of a similar ban.
  3. No, there are no exceptions for fetal anomaly in HB 1948.
  4. Or rape.
  5. Incoherently enough, HB 1948 includes a “method ban.” Specifically, in addition to criminalizing almost all abortions at and after 20 weeks, it criminalizes the use of a procedure known as D&E (for dilation and extraction).
  6. That means HB 1948 doesn’t only criminalize abortions for women who are 20 or more weeks pregnant: According to a 2014 report from the Pennsylvania department of Health, 40% of the D&E procedures that were performed that year were in the first-trimester. HB 1948 would criminalize these abortions also.
  7. Doctors are ethically obligated to treat their patients with procedures that pose the least medical risk—which is why D&E is common. The method ban provision in HB 1948 seeks to force doctors to use a method that is less safe as a way to punish women for having an abortion. Legislatively coercing doctors to use anything less safe than standard care for no medical reason violates the ethical obligations of a physician.
  8. It is also unconstitutional.
  9. Governor Wolf issued a statement confirming that if necessary, he will veto this bill. That is temporarily relief. We still need to speak up and let our lawmakers know we will not tolerate these cynical schemes.
  10. While PA lawmakers waste taxpayer money spreading anti-science, anti-woman propaganda in an election year, what they aren’t doing is supporting bills that actually promote and protect the health of women and families in Pennsylvania, such as bills that address pregnancy discrimination, promote breastfeeding, support equal pay and raise the minimum wage.

We will NOT tolerate this abuse of power. Urge your lawmaker to vote NO on HB 1948 by sending an email. We also urge you to pick up the phone and call your representative. Simply tell them you would like them to vote no on HB 1948.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

Text: Tara Murtha

 

 

 

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Action Alert: Say NO to Another Abortion Ban in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania lawmakers just introduced yet another abortion ban.

House Bill 1948 would criminalize almost all abortion by any method after 19 weeks’ gestation, with no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomaly.

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Members of the Health Committee in Pennsylvania House of Representatives plan to vote on this bill this afternoon. Click here to urge them to vote NO.

In addition to making abortion after 19 weeks a felony, HB 1948 includes an additional provision that attempts to criminalize a procedure known as a D&E at any stage of pregnancy. The D&E abortion procedure is the safest and most commonly used midterm abortion method. It is sometimes used in the first trimester. It is the same procedure that is used to complete a miscarriage.

If HB 1948 were to take effect, doctors would be forced to use less safe abortion techniques such as induction abortions, which no longer meet the standard of care. Physicians who are caring for women experiencing miscarriages would have to consult the hospital legal department first. And some doctors caring for pregnant women experiencing sudden, severe fetal complications would be forced to abandon patients in desperate need of care.

The New York Times recently reported a tragic case out of Texas, where doctors, after informing a woman that her pregnancy was no longer viable, were unable to terminate the pregnancy because of a similar 20-week ban there. As a result, she was forced to endure the days-long process as her body expelled the fetus—a medically unnecessary, painful ordeal.

HB 1948 is an attempt to criminalize doctors for administering best-practice medical care, and punish women with substandard care. It is also unconstitutional.

“This bill is not a serious effort to regulate abortion. It’s an abortion ban. It endangers women’s health because it criminalizes the safest and most common abortion procedure used as early as eight weeks of pregnancy,” says Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project. “That violates the constitution.”

You would think that after spending a record-breaking 277 days finalizing last year’s budget, lawmakers would be interested in getting to work addressing real problems faced by real families in Pennsylvania. But no, bills that address pregnancy and nursing discrimination are left to gather dust in committees while they rush through an offensive bill such as HB 1948.

Click here now to urge members of the House Health Committee to vote NO on HB 1948.

We also urge you to send emails, or call members of the House Health Committee.

Tell them to spend our tax dollars supporting legislation that would actually protect the women of Pennsylvania instead of scheming new ways to interfere in the doctor’s exam room, where they don’t belong.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

 

 

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