12 Facts About the Attacks on Reproductive Rights in Pennsylvania

On Wednesday July 19, Lady Parts Justice League will bring a comedy-and-activism themed road trip they’re calling the Vagical Mystery Tour to Pittsburgh, and the Women’s Law Project is pleased to be a part of the talkback section of the show. (Get tickets!)

Why is the LPJ League stopping in Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania, which ranks 49th in female representation in the state Legislature, is extremely hostile to reproductive health and rights. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that Pennsylvania is a hotbed of [anti-]abortion extremism,” Winstead recently told the Pittsburgh CityPaper.

Did you know that Pennsylvania is a hotbed of anti-abortion extremism? Here are twelve facts you should know about attacks on reproductive rights & health in Pennsylvania.

1

Pennsylvania is one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion access. Currently, 1,237 pages of laws, statutes and regulations related to abortion are on the books, despite legal abortion being a safe procedure with very low complication rates.

2

Pennsylvania is currently considering the most severe abortion restriction in the country. Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Brooks, contains two restrictions in one bill: it criminalizes all abortion after 19 weeks, and also contains a “method ban” provision. The bill uses non-medical terminology, but it seems to seek to criminalize the use of a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E), despite the fact D&E is a commonly used, medically tested, safe procedure.

3

Radical right-wing Pennsylvania lawmakers are pushing the Trump agenda by targeting Planned Parenthood patients via Senate Bill 300. SB300 is a misleadingly written bill that would ban subsidies for preventative reproductive healthcare such as contraception for Pennsylvanians who rely on Planned Parenthood—whether by preference, or because they have no other choice due to a lack of other options.

4

In 2013, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a law that prohibits women from purchasing private health insurance coverage through the state exchanges—in other words, through the Affordable Care Act—that covers pregnancy termination. The Pennsylvania Legislature debated, then explicitly denied, an exception for the health of the pregnant woman.

5

In 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a controversial law mandating that freestanding abortion facilities adhere to architectural and personnel regulations established for ambulatory surgical facilities, despite opposition from all relevant medical associations. It is similar to a provision knocked down by the Supreme Court last year in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

6

In 2012, Pennsylvania proposed one of the most invasive transvaginal ultrasound laws in the country. The proposed law would have not only required women seeking abortions to undergo mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, but doctors would have had to document whether or not their patient looked at the screen during the procedure.

7

Medicaid does not cover abortion. Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.

8

Though we enforce a Medicaid ban and prohibit families from purchasing private insurance through the exchange to cover pregnancy termination even when the health of the pregnant woman is at stake, Pennsylvania annually funnels millions of taxpayer dollars into so-called “crisis pregnancy centers.”

9

82% of Pennsylvania counties have no abortion providers.

10

Anti-abortion radicals, with support of a multi-million dollar right-wing Christian legal group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, are attacking the buffer zone in Pittsburgh with the goal of enabling sidewalk protesters to move physically closer to patients and staff.

11

Another evangelical legal group called Liberty Counsel, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is attacking the buffer zone in Harrisburg.

12

A panel of experts recently determined that 24% of statements in Pennsylvania’s “informed consent” booklet, given to women considering abortion, are scientifically inaccurate or misleading.

Want to help fight back? You can start by signing up for our Action Alerts, and review this list of good and bad legislation currently under consideration in Pennsylvania.

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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July 19: Join us in Pittsburgh with Lady Parts Justice League

7:30PM. Wed., July 19. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $15-20 (21 and over).

Lady Parts Justice League is on a comedy-and-activism themed road trip they’re calling the Vagical Mystery Tour this summer, and the Women’s Law Project will be a part of their Pittsburgh show!

WLP Senior Staff Attorney Susan Frietsche will be featured as a special guest at LPJ League’s July 19th Pittsburgh show at The Funhouse @ Mr. Smalls, where she’ll discuss the landscape of reproductive rights in Pennsylvania along with representatives from the Western Pennsylvania Fund for Choice and the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center after the showcase. (Get tickets!)

The Pittsburgh event features host Lizz Winstead, comedians Leah Bonnema, Alex English and Joyelle Johnson, the sketch troupe Buzz Off Lucille, and musician Jill Sobule.

Pennsylvania is a must-see destination on a road trip where the idea is to stop in every state where equal access to reproductive healthcare is under attack. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that Pennsylvania is a hotbed of [anti-]abortion extremism,” Winstead recently told the Pittsburgh CityPaper.

If this information surprises you, and you live in Pennsylvania, please sign up for our Action Alerts, and check out these 12 facts about the attacks on reproductive rights and health in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the 1, 237 pages of laws, statutes and regulations governing access to abortion care already on the books in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers are currently trying to pass arguably the most severe abortion restriction in the country (that would be SB3). They are also currently considering banning Medicaid reimbursement payments for preventative reproductive healthcare services provided at Planned Parenthood facilities (that would be SB300) while using taxpayer money to fund “crisis pregnancy centers.”

We hope to see you at the Funhouse on July 19! Find tickets here.

 

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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PA Senate Goes Backward, Passes Dangerous TANF Ban

We strongly oppose Senate Bill 6. Read the letter we sent to Pennsylvania Senators urging them to oppose Senate Bill 6.

Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Senate just passed SB6 by a margin of 40 to nine.

We’d like to thank Pennsylvania Senators Blake, Costa, Farnese, Fontana, Haywood, Hughes, Leach, Schwank, and Tartaglione for supporting women in recovery by opposing this bill.

Senate Bill 6, despite a recent amendment, is still dangerous and counterproductive, and still disproportionately targets mothers struggling to recover from drug addiction, domestic violence survivors and survivors of sexual violence.

Why is SB6 dangerous and counterproductive?

In short, Senate Bill 6 imposes a 10-year ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance for any Pennsylvanian with an addiction that led to certain drug-related felony convictions or guilty pleas. TANF is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency.

The only people who are potentially eligible for TANF are pregnant women and families with minor children. Ninety percent of the adults who receive TANF support are women.

SB 6 also imposes a $100 fee on families that need a replacement EBT card more than once in a lifetime.  EBT cards are how people get their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and TANF benefits.

$100 is a huge penalty for a mother working at a low wage job, and struggling to feed her children.  To put it in context, food stamps are only an average of $1.40 per person per meal, and the maximum TANF grant for a mother and child in most parts of Pennsylvania with no other income is only $316/month.  There is no exception for victims of domestic violence, or theft, or homeless families who may have lost belongings during an eviction.

How do we know it wouldn’t work the way it supporters want it to work?

Pennsylvania already experimented with lifetime bans for drug-related felonies, and it backfired.

Before passing Act 44 of 2003, Pennsylvania enforced TANF bans for certain drug-related offenses. The vast majority of those banned for life were women with children. Criminal justice and drug policy experts, together with women’s drug treatment professionals and domestic violence programs, saw from first-hand experience that this lifetime ban on public assistance sabotaged women’s recovery prospects and made the drug problem worse, not better.

With the failure of the TANF ban evident, more than 100 organizations supported the bipartisan reform legislation that reversed it.

Now, fourteen years later, no evidence exists that suggests bringing back bans on public assistance for certain drug-related crimes would not be as disastrous as it was before. Likely, the impact would be even worse, given Pennsylvania is in the throes of a full-fledged opioid addiction epidemic.

Why is Pennsylvania going backwards and refusing to learn from our mistakes?

More puzzling, the legislation currently under consideration by the Pennsylvania Legislature defies expert recommendations published in a recent report ordered by the Legislature.

Last year, the House Majority Policy Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives spoke with dozens of medical experts at public hearings about the opioid crisis, and published a report with recommendations in October, 2016. Experts urged lawmakers to protect multiple pathways to recovery, in part by ensuring they are affordable. That goal is not accomplished by severing safety-net funds to mothers in recovery.

What’s next?

Senate Bill 6 will now go to the House for a vote. We will keep you posted.

Speak Out

Find your state legislators.

Contact your House Representative and urge them to oppose this bill.

Thank your state Senator if he or she voted against Senate Bill 6.

If your Senator voted for SB6, give them feedback on any channel possible: Schedule an in-person meeting, or contact them via phone, text, twitter or Facebook.

Help spread the word by sharing this information.

Find out what else is going on in Pennsylvania right now that needs your attention by checking out the fact sheets on our Info for Advocates page.

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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WLP’s Amal Bass Honored as Attorney ‘Shaping Philadelphia’

WLP Attorney Amal Bass and her work at the Women’s Law Project are spotlighted today in Billy Penn’s “Who’s Next?” feature focused on the legal profession.

From BillyPenn.com: Young people make up some of the best lawyers and legal minds in Philadelphia. So for the third year in a row, Billy Penn is highlighting the city’s next great stars in law, from prosecutors to litigators to defenders to social justice advocates.

WLP attorney Amal Bass testifying in support of legislation that would clarify the obligations of employers and rights of pregnant and nursing workers in Pennsylvania

Amal is a champion for women and families who face discrimination, is a policy expert who has testified in support of legislation that supports workplace equality, and is the acting chair of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of more than 55 organizations working toward evidence-based policies to improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania.

Read more about Amal’s work here. Congrats to Amal and fellow honorees!

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: Support Women in Recovery by Opposing SB6

The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes Senate Bill 6, and urges you to support women in recovery in Pennsylvania by expressing opposition to this legislation to your state Senator.

In short, Senate Bill 6 would impose a lifetime ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance for any Pennsylvanian with an addiction that led to a drug-related felony conviction or guilty plea. TANF is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency.

It is no secret that the country is in the throes of an opioid addiction epidemic, and that “Pennsylvania is in the midst of a full-fledged epidemic.”

In October 2016, the House Majority Policy Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives spoke with dozens of medical experts at public hearings about the crisis, and published a report with recommendations.

According to the report:

  • In 2015, 3,383 Pennsylvanians of all kinds, from all backgrounds, died from drug overdose.
  • Despite a great demand for treatment, there is a significant “bed” and provider shortage in Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvania is also experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals to fill the in-demand jobs of the substance abuse treatment field.
  • In regards to treatment, most experts agreed that there are multiple pathways to recovery, and addicts need affordable access to all options.
  • Over time, money invested in prevention, intervention and treatment will result in significant savings to our criminal justice system and all levels of government.

Yet, as the opioid crisis continues to worsen in Pennsylvania, the same legislative body that recommended supporting multifaceted paths to recovery just months ago are now proposing to partially re-implement lifetime public bans on public assistance for anyone with an addiction that led to a drug-related felony conviction or guilty plea.

Pennsylvania enforced lifetime bans in the past, and the results were disastrous. Supporters of these bans often argue they are cracking down on “drug kingpins out to milk the system,” an unfounded argument rooted in stereotypical tropes about low-income and addicted people. In reality, the vast majority of people banned for life were addicted women with children, and the ban made recovery harder for them, and the addiction crisis worse.

When Pennsylvania got rid of lifetime bans in 2003, over 100 organizations including the District Attorney’s Association, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and women’s drug and alcohol service providers supported the move.

Now, Pennsylvania suddenly wants to go backwards again, at a time when the addiction crisis is at its peak.

The Women’s Law Project sent all Pennsylvania Senators a public memo urging them to vote against Senate Bill 6, which you can read and downloaded here.

We urge you to contact your Senator and urge him or her to OPPOSE Senate Bill 6.

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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WLP Speaks Out in Support of Philadelphia’s Prior Wage/Equal Pay Ordinance

Rupali Patel Shah of Philadelphia United for Progress (Philly Up) speaks out in support of Philadelphia’s prior wage/equal pay ordinance at Philadelphia City Hall (Photos via @PhillyWeRise)

Advocates gathered at Philadelphia City Hall today to express support for Philadelphia’s prior wage/equal pay ordinance, and the city officials who are fighting against the current attempt to obstruct it.

After a hearing in which Women’s Law Project and Pathways PA, members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, testified in support of the bill, Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted to pass the ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, into law.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: After the legislation passed in Council, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia and Comcast Corp. began privately lobbying against the bill, trying to persuade Mayor Kenney to veto it. When Kenney signed it, the chamber filed suit in early April.

WLP’s Tara Murtha at Philadelphia City Hall.

The city has agreed to hold off on enforcing the law pending a judge’s decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction in the case.

Today, Tara Murtha of the Women’s Law Project spoke about the issue at a press conference at Philadelphia City Council, alongside Melissa Robbins of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women, Rupali Patel Shah of Philadelphia United for Progress, Daisy Cruz of SEIU 32BJ, Laura Wentz and Kathy Black of the Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women, and Ejaz Momen of the Student Power Network and Drexel University.

Here are Murtha’s remarks:

My name is Tara Murtha, and I am the communications director at the Women’s Law Project, the only public interest legal center devoted to the rights of women and girls in Pennsylvania.

First, I want to thank Councilman Bill Greenlee, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Mayor Jim Kenney and all the other Philadelphia officials who are working to make Philadelphia a better place to live for women and families. By better, I mean better than yesterday, and better than Pennsylvania at large, which I’ll talk about more in a minute.

I was here last month, to help declare May 23 Unequal Pay Day. May 23 was the day that Philadelphia’s prior wage ordinance was scheduled to go into effect, but as we all know, it is being blocked.

There is a lot of data about equal pay. Most relevant today are two facts: One, the gender wage gap begins right after college, and then typically widens throughout a women’s career. Two, the wage gap is really gender and racial wage gaps, because sexism and racism intersect to create what seems like an insurmountable wage gap for Black women and women of color, especially.

Except, it’s not insurmountable. Simple policy fixes exist that would help narrow the gap, but they are ignored—in the case of the Pennsylvania Legislature–or obstructed, as is happening in Philadelphia with the Chamber of Commerce suing to block the ordinance.

Every day, I work with the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health. We’re a collaboration of more than 55 organizations working together to call for evidence-based policies to improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania. We work from the understanding that you cannot separate these issues. Women’s health informs our economic security, and our economic security informs our health.

I want to talk a bit about where Philadelphia’s prior wage equal pay ordinance fits in the big picture, in the context of what I’ve taken to calling life on the wrong side of the womb in Pennsylvania.

More than half of all pregnancies in Pennsylvania are unplanned. Consider that fact alongside the poverty rate, and it is unlikely a pregnant woman in Pennsylvania has extra money on hand when she discovers she is pregnant.

Let’s say she decides to carry the pregnancy to term. Her job that requires physical labor. Her doctor advises she needs to drink extra water to stay hydrated, but her boss won’t allow her to keep an extra bottle on hand. Now she is forced to choose between following doctor’s orders, or her boss’ orders. This happens because Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the Northeast that has not implemented workplace accommodations for pregnant workers—but Philadelphia has.

She gives birth, and goes right back to work … because, of course, we don’t have paid leave in Pennsylvania.

Now she’s back at work, not even physically healed from childbirth yet. Because breastfeeding reduces infant mortality and has health benefits for the mother, medical experts urge her to breastfeed. And she wants to. But her employer refuses to make the necessary minor, temporary workplace accommodations, so she has to stop. This happens because Pennsylvania has not passed workplace accommodations for nursing workers—but Philadelphia has.

While working, she has to pay for childcare. And maybe she’s getting paid less than her male coworker for a comparable job. Maybe it’s because she was asked her previous salary, and the company made an offer based on that, instead of based on her qualifications and the job’s requirements.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act hasn’t been updated since 1967, when it was amended to apply to fewer people. There are proposed bills, including a bill that includes a prior wage provision, but we are waiting for that to pass, and given the climate, we may be waiting a long time, on top of the 50 years that have already passed.

My point is that the perpetual failure of the Pennsylvania Legislature to address workplace equality makes Philadelphia’s efforts all the more important, and all the more necessary, and all the more appreciated.

I am grateful that Philadelphia continues to lead on pro-family issues, and hope that the state follows our lead, because all women deserve workplace equality, and all women deserve to be compensated according to our skills and talents–not a lowball estimate that locks us into a pattern of perpetual discrimination throughout our working years.

Pay equity is a workplace equality issue, it is a discrimination issue, and it is a health issue.

Thank you all for being here today and for your support.

We will keep you posted.

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: Tell Senators Toomey & Casey You Oppose Trumpcare (BCRA)

After weeks of secret deal-making among a handful of Republican Senators, the Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), technically called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), was finally released. Bottom line: It is a tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the lives of vulnerable Americans.

Like the House version, the Senate Trumpcare bill will devastate millions of Americans by:

  • Gutting Medicaid
  • Allowing states to strip out consumer protections currently required under the Affordable Care Act, such as maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment
  • Block Planned Parenthood from receiving reimbursement for providing preventative healthcare services

It’s ironic that the party currently using the slogan “Make America Great Again” plan to destroy Medicaid, a program that was initially established to shore up national security after it was discovered that half of all applicants for the armed forces in 1962 were rejected for military service due to poor health. The 1964 report, “One Third of a Nation: A Report on Young Men Found Unqualified for Military Service,” concluded that the widespread poor health of the nation’s 18-year-old men was attributed to “inadequate education and insufficient health services.”

Today, millions of Americans rely on Medicaid to meet their healthcare needs.

Facts about Medicaid and Who Relies on it in Pennsylvania:

  • Nearly two-thirds of all Medicaid spending is for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
  • Six in 10 nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid.
  • Medicaid coverage contributes to a decline in maternal and infant mortality.
  • Medicaid bolsters the private insurance industry by keeping costs down. Since Medicaid covers people with serious illnesses and disabilities, it effectively functions as a high-risk pool for the private insurance industry. Also, Medicaid supplements private insurance coverage for people with disabilities.
  • Medicaid supplements Medicare. One in five Medicare beneficiaries are “dual eligibles” who rely on Medicaid to supplement Medicare by contributing to out-of-pocket costs, and relying on Medicaid for dental and vision care and coverage.
  • Expansions of Medicaid for pregnant women and children have led to improved birth outcomes and child health.
  • In Pennsylvania, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health and long-term care coverage to more than 2.9 million low-income children, pregnant women, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities in Pennsylvania.
  • Two in five children in Pennsylvania are covered by Medicaid, 3 in 5 nursing home residents, and 1 in 2 people with disabilities.
  • Under Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion in 2014, 702, 800 adults were added to Medicaid, including 82,000 veterans.

TAKE ACTION: CONTACT PENNSYLVANIA’S U.S. SENATORS:

Senator Bob Casey has said he is opposed to this bill. Senator Pat Toomey was one of the handful of Senators who designed it.

Contact Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey and urge them to protect our care. Click here to send them an email.

You can also contact them other ways, too:

  • Senator Pat Toomey is on Facebook and twitter. Toomey’s phone number is (202) 224-4254.
  • Senator Bob Casey is on Facebook and twitter. Casey’s phone number is (202)-224-6324.

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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