WLP Condemns Reversal of Protections for Transgender Students

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In Pennsylvania, 74% of transgender or gender non-conforming students report experiencing harassment at school. Twenty-three percent report having been a victim of physical assault, and almost 1 in 10 report experiencing sexual violence.

Discrimination doesn’t end at the end of the school day, or after graduation. According to EqualityPA, transgender people experience poverty at higher rates than the general population, are routinely harassed in public spaces, and often refused medical care. Transgender women of color are disproportionately subjected to violence.

Yet, despite these facts, the president reversed his campaign trail position and revoked a landmark guideline that advised schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

This announcement was made on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference. It is unconscionable for the president to endanger the health and lives of vulnerable Americans simply to appease a subset of political supporters who do not represent the views of most Americans.

While insufficient, formal protections for transgender people do exist in Pennsylvania. State employees are protected from discrimination via a 2003 executive order. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws, as do 36 municipalities across the state.

Under the regressive federal agenda, local and state protections are more important than ever. The Women’s Law Project will continue to fight to protect all LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, including our continued support for statewide protections through the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.

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

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

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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What You Need to Know about the PA Senate SB3 Debate

After three hours of debate that included explicitly rejecting an opportunity to hear from doctors and the public, the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 3 by a vote of 32 to 18, in defiance of medical opposition and amid public outcry.

Did your Senator vote for SB3? Check here.

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Sen. Michele Brooks is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 3

SB3 is Confusing and Unclear. Many attempts were made to clarify the intention of Senate Bill 3, and what implementing a law with such an extraordinary level of political interference into doctor’s office would look like.

This task is challenging given the unprecedented nature of the legislation—no other state has implemented this law—and because the bill’s language relies on made-up propaganda phrases (“dismemberment abortion”) and neglects to define the main exception.

The Bill Does Not Tell Doctors What Counts as an Exception. SB3 has no exceptions for rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly.

Under threat of felony arrest, the only exceptions offered in the bill are the woman’s death, and “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.”

Sen. Daylin Leach, who voted against SB3, asked primary sponsor Senator Michele Brooks to define “major bodily function” several times. He asked if permanent sterility, for example, qualified as “major bodily function” and therefore counted as an exception under the law.

Brooks did not answer the question.

SB3 is on the Fast Track. SB3 was referred to Committee on Friday, Feb. 3, passed in Committee on Monday, Feb. 6, and passed in the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The Bill’s Supporters Are Divided About Whether It Will Criminalize D&E Procedures. On Monday, when SB3 was voted through the Senate Judiciary Committee, a supporter argued it did not ban dilation and evacuation, a standard, safe procedure used in both first- and second- trimester abortion.

Yesterday, supporters argued that the legislation does intend to ban D&E procedure, except in the cases of post-miscarriage treatment. It also remains unclear how a physician would defend him or herself when investigated, even though SB3 invites police to investigate physicians for providing standard care.

The Increased Medical Risk SB3 Forces Doctors to Inflict on Patients Was Unexamined and Disregarded. Senator Brooks, a politician with no medical background, listed abortion procedures that her legislation will allow physicians use on patients in order to try to avoid investigation and/or arrest.

When asked, Brooks could not provide complication rates for these alternate methods in order to compare to D&E.

A Female Republican Senator Opposing SB3 Shared Her Personal Story. Senator Lisa Baker is one of three Republicans who did not vote for SB3 and one of only 7 women in the entire Pennsylvania Senate. While speaking out against the bill, Senator Baker shared a devastating story of giving birth of a stillborn daughter.

“For weeks I rode the roller coaster of receiving good and bad news … tests that were conducted over a 7-week period,” said Baker. “[The doctor] said there was a 1 in 125,000 chance of having this result detected in an amniocentesis test. Needless to say, I couldn’t catch my breath. This couldn’t be happening to my family. My husband and I were in shock and disbelief…. I was planning for a nursery, never expecting to plan a funeral.”

Sen. Baker pleaded with her colleagues to reconsider their support for SB3.

“Has everyone taken the time to talk to a mother who has received this devastating news?”

 “Has anyone looked at the list of lethal defects that are not detectable until [after 19 weeks]?”

 “Why are we moving something so consequential so quickly?”

 “Are we going to take into account the impossible choices these individuals confront?”

For the majority of Baker’s colleagues and one Democrat, Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), the answer was no.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Are Trying to Silence Doctors. The consensus among medical and public health experts is strong opposition to SB3.

Since doctors have been locked out of the process, they are working on alternate ways to express opposition and warn the public about the medical dangers of SB3.

At the session yesterday, critics of the bill read parts of a letter signed by 78 doctors opposing SB3 in order to enter medical testimony into the record. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pennsylvania Medical Society, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and many more physicians have issued statements strongly opposing this legislation.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Are Denying the Public Any Say. Pennsylvania lawmakers voted against public hearings at least twice last session when considering House Bill 1948, last session’s version of SB3.

That trend is continuing this session. On Monday, the GOP majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a motion submitted by Sen. Larry Farnese to allow public hearings in order to hear from doctors and Pennsylvania women.

Yesterday, they voted against a public hearing again.

Sen. Brooks Argues Noting No Rape Exception “Exploits” Rape. SB has no exception for victims of rape and incest of any age.

Children and teens may not know or recognize the signs of pregnancy, or may fear having their parents finding out about the assault and pregnancy. Women with unsupportive or abusive partners may pregnancy to hide a sexual assault by another person.

Sen. Brooks argued that despite the lack of exceptions for rape victims, pointing out the lack of exception exploits the “hideous” crime of rape, and rape victims.

Have Questions and Concerns About SB3? Send Them to Us. Pennsylvania lawmakers have repeatedly shut down opportunities for the Pennsylvanians affected by SB3, but they are still speaking up and asking questions.

If you have a question, story or statement about SB3, please submit to Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org. We will collect them and send appropriate statements, share them with lawmakers who do want to hear from constituents, and try to submit them onto the record. Please provide your complete name and town or city if you want your statement shared publicly.

You can also tweet questions about comments to #AskMicheleSB3, a hashtag launched after primary sponsor Sen. Brooks failed to appear to answer questions about SB3 during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Next: SB Heads to the Pennsylvania House

The House reconvenes in March. Stay tuned.

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

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

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ACTION ALERT: Urge Your Senator to Oppose SB3

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Yesterday, ten Pennsylvania lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 3, one of the most dangerous abortion bills in the country, out of Committee. All nine Senators who voted to punish pregnant women—Senators Greenleaf, Rafferty, Eichelberger, Gordner, Langerholc, Reschenthaler, Vulakovich, Yaw, Alloway—are Republican men.

Senate Bill 3 is a uniquely dangerous abortion restriction which contains two provisions. In addition to criminalizing pregnancy termination after 19 weeks, it also contains a “method ban” provision, which seeks to criminalize the use of a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). D&E is a commonly used, medically tested, safe procedure. It is often used to address miscarriages.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pennsylvania Medical Society, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and many more physicians are on record strongly opposing this legislation.

Despite robust medical-expert opposition to legislation that leaves the only exception—“death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” undefined, and criminalizes a common, safe procedure without suggesting a safe substitute, these men explicitly rejected a motion to allow input from medical experts, women, and the public.

 The bill’s sponsor, Senator Michele Brooks, was invited to the Senate Judiciary Committee session, but did not show up to answer questions.

Senate Bill 3 goes to a full vote as soon as tomorrow, Wednesday, February 8.

We need your help to defeat this legislative attack on women, families and physicians in Pennsylvania.

FIRST ACTION: Contact your state Senator

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FIND your state Senator here.

CONTACT them any way you can, giving phone calls a priority, to urge them to OPPOSE SB3.

SPREAD THE WORD by posting this alert on social media. Post on lawmakers’ social media pages. They intend to fast-track this bill, and we need to be visible and make noise.

SECOND ACTION: Contact the Primary Sponsor 

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Senator Michele Brooks, a politician with no medical training, sponsored this bill but did not show up to the Senate Judiciary Committee session to answer questions.

Do you have a question for Michele Brooks about this legislation? To ask a question, or share your opposition directly with Sen. Michele Brooks, contact her:

Email: mbrooks@pasenate.gov

Phone: 717-787-1322

Fax: 717-772-0577

Facebook 

 

THIRD ACTION: #AskMicheleSB3

Please share your question for Senator Brooks with the rest of us! We will collect questions and share them with lawmakers who support evidence-based policies for women and families, so they can ask questions behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania who have been locked out of discussion.

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If you would like your name and question read into the record tomorrow (we can’t guarantee it will happen but need your approval) mail or forward your question to Tara Murtha tmurtha@womenslawproject.org.

You can also tweet your question with the hashtag #AskMicheleSB3

Thank you for speaking up for physicians, women and families in Pennsylvania, and against this outrageous political interference and over-reach into the way doctors practice medicine, and the private life of families struggling to make complicated decisions.

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

 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

 We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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Action Alert: PA Lawmakers Pushing Most Dangerous Abortion Restriction in Nation

 

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Extremist Pennsylvania lawmakers have just proposed one of the most unusual and dangerous—and unconstitutional– abortion bills in the country.

Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Pennsylvania Senator Michele Brooks, a politician with no medical experience or expertise, is a bizarre double abortion restriction similar to House Bill 1948. Last session, HB1948 was fast-tracked through the legislative process with its champions repeatedly rejecting input from doctors and medical experts, who strongly oppose these measures. (HB1948 was stopped before passing into law.)

SB 3 seeks to arrest and jail a physician if she or he performs a pregnancy termination after 19 weeks’ gestation, no matter what the circumstances or reason. In fact, the legislation explicitly orders physicians to disregard a diagnosis of potential suicide if forced to continue to carry the pregnancy. There are no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomaly.

SB3 also contains a “method ban” provision. If this provision became law, physicians could be arrested for performing dilation & evacuation (D&E) the most medically tested pregnancy termination procedure, under any circumstances. D&E is often used in the course of addressing miscarriages.

By criminalizing pregnancy termination at 20 weeks, 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.

SB3 is another example of political interference and government over-reach into the exam room. “Research shows that surgical abortion procedures are safer than labor induction,” says Dr. Lisa Perriera, abortion provider and women’s Law Project board member. “Why are Pennsylvania lawmakers ignoring medical evidence?”

To be clear, this legislation is designed to punish women for choosing abortion–and that includes punishing women who experience medically complicated pregnancies, sexual assault, and severe fetal anomalies, which are often diagnosed in the 20th and 21st week of pregnancy.

SB3 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a vote is scheduled for Monday.

We need your help to defeat this legislative attack on women, families and physicians in Pennsylvania.

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TAKE ACTION ONE STEP AT A TIME:

FIND members of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee here.

CONTACT them any way you can, giving phone calls a priority, to urge them to OPPOSE SB3.

Prepare for a possible full vote in the Senate by FINDING your state Senator in the Committee of 70’s Citizen Guide.

CONTACT your state Senator any way you can, giving phone calls a priority, and urge them to OPPOSE Senate Bill 3.

SPREAD THE WORD by posting this alert on social media. Contact reporters. Post on lawmakers’ social media pages. They intend to fast-track this bill, and we need to be visible and make noise.

Thank you for speaking up for physicians, women and families in Pennsylvania, and against political interference and government over-reach.

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

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

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

 

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Action Alert: Oppose Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

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The final Senate confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos, the current nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, could happen as early as today.

Please contact Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and urge him to vote NO on Betsy DeVos. (Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey has already committed to voting against the confirmation.)

DeVos is bad for education. If confirmed, DeVos would be the first Secretary of Education that has not attended, taught, or even sent her kids to public school.

DeVos is bad for students, especially LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students face discrimination, hostility and erasure in schools every day and are in need of more protections, not less. According to The Guardian, DeVos and her family have donated to Focus on the Family, a right-wing group that supports so-called “conversion therapy.” Additionally, the DeVos family invested significant amounts of fighting against marriage equality. “The DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, a family foundation, has donated generously to the far-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which is challenging the Obama administration’s protections for trans students in court,” according to The Guardian.

DeVos is bad for student victims of sexual violence. The future enforcement of Title IX, a federal law designed to eliminate sex discrimination in schools and education programs, is unnervingly unclear under the new administration. When asked about upholding the official Title IX guidance issued by the Office of Civil Rights in 2011, DeVos said it would be “premature” to commit to upholding it.

DeVos is bad for civil rights. The Secretary of Education must enforce civil rights laws. The Department of Education is responsible for implementing and enforcing laws protecting of students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and disability. DeVos’ unclear position regarding compliance with federal civil rights laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) make her unfit to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education.

TAKE ACTION ONE STEP AT A TIME:

CONTACT Sen. Pat Toomey and urge him to OPPOSE the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

It is notoriously difficult for constituents to get in touch with Sen. Pat Toomey. You can call, email, fax, tweet and post to his Facebook page to urge him to vote NO on DeVos for Secretary of Education.

BONUS ACTION:

Sen. Bob Casey has stated he will vote against DeVos.

Please contact Sen. Bob Casey and thank him for standing up for students in Pennsylvania by calling him, emailing him, tweeting him or posting to his Facebook page.

Thank you for speaking out in support of equality.

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

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

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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ACTION ALERT: Philadelphia & Pittsburgh Workers’ Rights Under Attack

paid-sick-daysRight now, special interests are pushing state legislation that would prohibit Pennsylvania cities and towns from providing workers paid sick leave protections, through what’s called a “pre-emption” bill.

Even worse, they edited the proposed legislation to make it retroactive—which means that if passed into law, Senate Bill 128 would deprive Philadelphia workers of their right to paid sick leave, and guarantee Pittsburgh’s paid leave ordinance will never go into effect.

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This edit makes SB128 retroactive, so it can repeal Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance.

Philadelphia’s  “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces” law went into effect in May of 2015. Before the law was passed, 35% to 40% of workers in Philadelphia, or approximately 200,000 workers, lacked access to paid sick leave, according to the national Bureau of Labor Statistics.

SB 128, sponsored by Senator John Eichelberger, would also repeal provisions in Philadelphia’s ordinance designed to protect victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Pittsburgh passed a local paid sick days ordinance in the summer of 2015. Before the ordinance could take effect, it was challenged by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. A court enjoined it, and supporters of paid sick leave took an appeal. This case is currently awaiting a ruling from Commonwealth Court.

Why are Harrisburg politicians pushing a bill to attack the rights of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh workers?

We will not let special interests dictate to state governments that they must pass laws protecting corporate profits at the expense of the health of local communities.

We need your help to defend workers’ rights, and defeat Senate Bill 128.  

 TAKE ACTION ONE STEP AT A TIME:

FIND your state Senator in the Committee of 70’s Citizen Guide.

ENTER his or her contact information into your phone. As an engaged citizen and advocate for equality, you should have it handy.

CALL them, tell them you are a constituent, and ask them to protect paid sick days for workers. If you are in Philadelphia, tell them you don’t want Harrisburg politicians taking away Philadelphia workers’ rights. In Pittsburgh and elsewhere, you can say you hope to see paid sick days become the law.

URGE your state Senator to OPPOSE Senate Bill 128. If you have had a personal experience with using or needing paid sick days, please share it. Your experience matters.

SHARE this message with your friends. Ask them to help protect worker’s rights and paid sick days, and ask them to sign up for Women’s Law Project’s Action Alerts to stay informed about opportunities to speak up for equality for women and girls in Pennsylvania.

BONUS ACTION:

Prepare for the vote in the House.

FIND your state Representative in the Committee of 70’s Citizen Guide.

ENTER his or her contact information into your phone. As an engaged citizen and advocate for equality, you should have it handy.

CALL them, tell them you are a constituent, and that you want them to protect paid sick days for workers. If you are in Philadelphia, tell them you don’t want Harrisburg politicians taking away Philadelphia workers’ rights. In Pittsburgh and elsewhere, you can say you hope to see paid sick days become the law.

URGE your state Representative to OPPOSE Senate Bill 128. If you have had a personal experience with using or needing paid sick days, please share it. Your experience matters.

Thank you for speaking up for Pennsylvania workers, and women. Women are primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of Pennsylvania families, and often the primary caretaker of children and other family members.

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

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

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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Video: Carol Tracy at the Women’s March on Philadelphia

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On Saturday, the Women’s Law Project proudly participated in what experts are calling the biggest protest demonstration in the history of the United States. As a state-based organization with a long record of national impact, we chose to resist locally by attending the Women’s March on Philadelphia.

Like cities and towns all over the world, attendance in Philadelphia far exceeded projections. Approximately 50,000 people marched up the Ben Franklin Parkway toward Eakins Oval in a peaceful but powerful protest of a regressive agenda and expression of solidarity.

During her remarks, WLP Executive Director Carol Tracy talked about the work of the Women’s Law Project as the legal arm of the women’s rights movement in Pennsylvania for the last 40 years, and that we are prepared to continue that fight.

If you came out and marched with us, thank you. If you showed up for someone who couldn’t—or just wouldn’t–we thank you. And if you want to join a sustainable progressive movement in Pennsylvania that demands equality for all women and girls through strategic advocacy, we welcome you, and invite you to sign up for our Action Alerts.

Photo: Emily Cooper Morse

Photo: Emily Cooper Morse

We also invite you to tune into the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of 55 local, state and national organizations working together to call for evidence-based policies to improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania. If you are an organization interested in joining the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org.

Saturday was a thrill. Now, let’s get back to work. Please join us.

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.

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution. Thank you.

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