ICYMI: Late Summer 2016 at the Women’s Law Project

“Things slow down in the summer,” they said. “It will be quiet,” they said. They are wrong! Here are some highlights of our recent work.

Rep. Donna Bullock and WLP's Tara Murtha lead a discussion on pay inequity in Pennsylvania at City Hall, Philadelphia

Rep. Donna Bullock and WLP’s Tara Murtha lead a discussion on pay inequity in Pennsylvania at City Hall, Philadelphia

Finding Solutions to “the double pay gap”

August 23 was Equal Pay Day for African-American Women, the day of the year that Black women had to work until in order to catch up the earnings of a non-Hispanic white men the prior year.

At City Hall in Philadelphia, the Women’s Law Project and Rep. Donna Bullock co-hosted a roundtable conversation to explore how to effectively address the gender and racial pay gaps in Pennsylvania.

As discussed, there are many ways to reduce the double pay gap: raising the minimum wage, addressing pregnancy discrimination, securing paid leave and yes, fixing Pennsylvania’s broken equal pay bill. Without simple corrective policies that close gaps in current equal pay law, Pennsylvania women are not on track to earn equal pay until the year 2072.

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. As of today, there are nine session days left in the current legislative session.

 

Working for Breastfeeding Rights

An enthusiastic attendee at the Big Latch On, 2016

An enthusiastic attendee at the Big Latch On, 2016

August is National Breastfeeding Month.

On August 4, we popped over to Franklin Square Park for the Big Latch On 2016, where we listened as breastfeeding mamas shared the joys and challenging of breastfeeding their babies—especially after returning to work. Pennsylvania, like every other states, falls drastically short of breastfeeding goals set by public health experts, a problem that could be significantly helped if working mothers were guaranteed private, sanitary space to pump milk at work. To learn more, read the editorial written by WLP’s Tara Murtha and Amal Bass recently published in the Patriot News.

We also hosted a webinar on the need for the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act. The Act, HB1100, would help women not covered by the Affordable Care Act and require their employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, sanitary space to express breast milk. The bill has been stalled in the legislature since May, 2015.

 

An Encouraging Buffer Zone Ruling in Harrisburg 

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania turned aside an effort by three abortion opponents to preliminarily enjoin Harrisburg’s “buffer zone” ordinance while their lawsuit against the ordinance is pending. Read more.

 

Making Progress on Paid Leave in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was awarded a federal grant to examine making paid leave a reality the same month a new poll showed that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support paid leave. The state will receive a $250,000 federal grant to facilitate planning a paid family leave program to enable more Pennsylvania workers to have access to paid time off to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. The United States is the only industrialized nation that grants zero weeks of paid leave.

 

Pennsylvania Official “Regrets” Falling for Sham Anti-Choice Bill

Truly remarkable: Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Mike Stack admitted that he regretted voting for ambulatory surgical facility regulations in Pennsylvania. Known as Act 122, the Women’s Law Project and allies for reproductive rights advocated strongly against Act 122 as unnecessary, burdensome regulations, which passed into law despite no evidence that such regulations would improve women’s health.

“Knowing what I know now, I would have voted ‘no,’” wrote Stack. “The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down a Texas law that used similar burdensome licensing standards and hospital admitting privilege requirements for physicians, in a veiled attempt [to] ‘protect women’ by shutting down abortion providers. The real purpose was to deny women access to safe legal abortions.”

Stack also called on members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to reject HB 1948, a severe abortion ban currently under consideration in Pennsylvania. We continue to watch Harrisburg to see if Pennsylvania lawmakers will try to pass this bill before the end of the current session.

 

Statement on the Penn State Rape Case Involving Nate Parker

In 2002, the Women’s Law Project represented a young woman in a complaint charging Penn State University with violating Title IX by failing to properly respond to the harassment to which she was subjected after she filed complaints to the police and the school alleging she was raped by PSU wrestlers Nate Parker and Jean Celestin. As Parker, now a Hollywood filmmaker, readied for the national release of his film Birth of a Nation, co-written by Celestin, details about the case surfaced in the press. After fielding countless requests for comment, we issued a statement and several documents relevant to efforts to improve response to sexual assault at Penn State University.

 

Celebrating Trans* Rights

As of August 8, the Pennsylvania Department of Health Department of Health no longer requires evidence of surgery before a change to a gender marker on birth certificates.

 

In Memoriam: John Timoney

WLP's Terry Fromson (left) and Carol Tracy talking to Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney about re-opened rape case files in 2002.

WLP’s Terry Fromson (left) and Carol Tracy talking to Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney about re-opened rape case files in 2002.

We expressed condolences to the family and friends of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, and wrote a brief piece in order to lift his legacy by highlighting his vital role in reforming police response to victims of sexual assault in Philadelphia.

 

Eliminating Financial Barriers to Escaping Abuse

Over at Rewire, reporter Annamarya Scaccia wrote about another bill supported by the Women’s Law Project and the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health: “The legislation, HB 1051, introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County), would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease early or request locks be changed if they have “a reasonable fear” that they will continue to be harmed while living in their unit.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

 

The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health is Growing

WLP is a founding member of this collaboration calling for evidence-based policy in Pennsylvania

WLP is a founding member of this collaboration calling for evidence-based policy in Pennsylvania

We recently welcomed three new members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of local, state and national organizations calling for evidence-based policy in Pennsylvania. Huge welcome to the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.

Like the idea of equality and evidence-based policy in Pennsylvania? Like our Facebook page for updates.

 

All all-access-logoAccess: The 30-city Concert for Abortion Rights 

On September 10, more than 30 cities across the country, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hosted events as part of All Access, a series of concerts and conversations about unequal access to abortion in America. WLP’s Tara Murtha spoke at the Electric Factory at the Philadelphia event, and WLP’s Sue Frietsche co-hosted the livestream party in Pittsburgh.

 

We talked about the State of Women’s Health 2016

On September 14,  we explored the status of women’s health in Pennsylvania at the 2016 State of Women’s Health event hosted by Lifecycle WomanCare.

 

We Kicked off a Film Festival in Pittsburgh

justfilms

The Women’s Law Project is a proud co-sponsor of the Just Films festival, which will feature a series of social justice documentaries in Pittsburgh. The festival will screen one film per month from September through next June.

The first film, Don’t Tell Anyone, premiered on September 15, and was a great success. Read more about the festival and films here. Tickets are free but we recommend reserving them now as they are expected to sell out!

Up Next: 2016 March Against Rape Culture 

The Women’s Law Project is a proud sponsor of the 2016 March to End Rape Culture, taking place this Saturday, September 24  in Philadelphia. Check out all the details here, and we hope to see you there!

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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You’re Invited: The Just Films Festival in Pittsburgh

justfilms

The Women’s Law Project is proud to present Just Films, a one-of-a-kind festival featuring films focused on social justice and gender inequity.

Free and open to the public, the monthly series features ten new social justice films—most showing in Pittsburgh for the first time, and many made by women. We also invite you to stay after each film and participate in engaging, post-screening panel discussions and talk-back sessions featuring local and national figures.

The festival kicks off this Thursday, September with Mikaela Shwer’s documentary, Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie). It will screen at 6:30PM at the Eddy Theatre on Chatham University’s Shadyside campus. The screening is free, but you must register for tickets.

 

About the film: In an environment where silence is often seen as necessary for survival, 24-year-­old Angy Rivera shares her parallel journey of being undocumented and sexually abused, an ordeal that is unfortunately all too common in her community. Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) follows immigrant activist Angy’s story from poverty in rural Colombia to the front page of The New York Times as she becomes a beacon in a movement for national change.

This month’s film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Christine Castro (Women’s Law Project), Maria Duarte (Chatham student), Monica Ruiz (Casa San Jose Latino Community Organization), and Sister Janice Vanderneck (Casa San Jose).

Films will screen once per month through June, 2017.

Check the complete list of films and dates, and mark your calendars.

The Women’s Law Project proudly presents the Just Films festival in collaboration with our partners at the Chatham University Women’s Institute, New Voices Pittsburgh, and the Women and Girls Foundation.

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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Judge Denies Protesters’ Attempt to Preliminarily Enjoin Harrisburg Clinic Buffer Zone Ordinance

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania turned aside an effort by three abortion opponents to preliminarily enjoin Harrisburg’s “buffer zone” ordinance while their lawsuit against the ordinance is pending. The ordinance, implemented in 2012, bans anyone from congregating, demonstrating, picketing, or patrolling within 20 feet of entrances, exits and driveways of covered health care facilities. The purpose of the ordinance is to promote the health and welfare of patients, health care workers, and protesters outside the City’s health care facilities.

Photo via Rewire

Photo via Rewire

The Women’s Law Project represents several non-party witnesses in the case.

The plaintiffs, three anti-abortion sidewalk protesters, allege that the buffer zone prevents them from distributing anti-abortion pamphlets to people attempting to enter facilities. Judge Rambo denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, and asserted that the plaintiffs came “nowhere close to stating a plausible claim for relief.” In a footnote, Rambo noted plaintiffs’ additional activities included “photographing and shouting at employees and patients of the health care facilities,” “jumping out at employees and patients from behind cars and dumpsters,” and “chanting ‘kill, kill, kill, death, death, death.’”

This preliminary ruling is good news for the City of Harrisburg, and reproductive health care patients and providers.

“We agree that the plaintiffs did not satisfy the burden for a preliminary injunction, and we look forward to vigorously defending what remains of the case,” Frank Lavery, Jr., an attorney representing the City of Harrisburg, told the Legal Intelligencer.

The effort to knock down the buffer zone in Harrisburg is not isolated. As reports of targeted harassment of abortion providers spike in the wake of failed propaganda videos released last year, anti-abortion advocates are continuing efforts to chisel away protective spaces outside of healthcare facilities designed to help shield patients and staff from harassment and intimidation.

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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Hey Pennsylvania: Rock Out for Abortion Rights this Saturday 9/10           

This Saturday, more than 30 cities across the country, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are hosting events as part of All Access, a series of concerts and conversations about unequal access to abortion in America.

all-access-logo

This is the deal: Women’s healthcare is in a preventable crisis in the United States. In the last five years, hundreds of abortion bans have been passed into law depriving women all over the country, including in Pennsylvania, of access to healthcare. In short, since anti-choice activists can’t legally criminalize abortion outright, they’re focused on proposing laws that discriminate against low-income women by installing financial and logistical barriers to abortion access.

Equality is not possible without equal access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including abortion. Racial justice and economic security are not possible without reproductive freedom.

Please join us this Saturday in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as we rock for abortion access.

 

All Access: Philadelphia

The party starts in the afternoon at the Trestle Inn. Hosted by New Voices for Reproductive Justice and produced in partnership with the Power Street Theatre Company, the All Access: Philadelphia Day Party features vocalist and poet Nayo Jones and vocalist Tiffany Quinones.

The party is free, but please register here.

Saturday, September 10, 3pm – 6pm, Trestle Inn, 339 N 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

At 6pm, head over to the Electric Factory for a free concert featuring performances by Rye RyeTunde OlaniranRocky RiveraJoie KathosPinkwash, as well as DJ Diamond Kuts, DJ NiiLO and DJ Kash. This event is hosted by Philadelphia’s own Stephanie Renée.

Rocky Rivera (Photo: Rocky Rivera About.Me)

Rocky Rivera (Photo: Rocky Rivera About.Me)

Tickets are free, but you must RSVP.

Saturday, September 10, 6pm, all-ages, Electric Factory, 421 North 7th Street .

 

All Access: Pittsburgh

The Women’s Law Project is proud to present the All Access: Pittsburgh Livestream Party at KST’s Alloy Studios, in partnership with New Voices for Reproductive Justice. The livestream party will simulcast the main All Access 2016 concert live from Cleveland, and also feature a showcase of local artists and advocates for reproductive justice and abortion access. Performers include Jacquea Mae, vocalist and poet Crystal Noel, spoken word artist and hip-hop artist Nerdboy.

SIA headlines the anchor concert in Cleveland

SIA headlines the anchor concert in Cleveland (Photo: Yahoo)

The main All Access 2016 concert, in Cleveland, will be hosted by Comedy Central’s Jessica Williams and feature a headline performance by boundary-defying songwriter and performer Sia, a performance by Latin Grammy Award-winning musical artist Natalia Lafourcade, and comedienne Leslie Jones, the dynamic star of Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live, among other performers.

Tickets to All Access: Pittsburgh are free, but please register, and join on Facebook.

Saturday, September 10, 7pm – 11pm, free with tickets, KST Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue.

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Op-ed: Pennsylvania fails new mothers in the workplace

 

This is an excerpt of an editorial written by WLP’s Amal Bass and Tara Murtha recently published on PennLive.com:

Twenty-six years after the World Health Organization and other international groups signed a document calling to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in order to improve public health, U.S. breastfeeding rates still fall short of national goals.

This failure is not due to lack of information about the problem, but rather a lack of political will rooted in a sexist refusal to acknowledge, and accommodate, the needs of working mothers.

Working mothers are the sole or primary breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, yet the United States is the only developed country in the world that provides zero weeks of paid leave for new parents, a situation that forces many new mothers back to work within weeks, or even days, of childbirth.

HBG-Capitol

The Pennsylvania state Capitol building dome in Harrisburg (Dan Gleiter, The Patriot-News)

In Pennsylvania, many moms are forced to choose between breastfeeding babies and earning a paycheck.

Medical experts at WHO, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups recommend new mothers breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of a baby’s life, and then continue breastfeeding for one year, or for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. The Center for Disease Control cites increasing breastfeeding rates as a “key strategy” for improving the health of Americans.

Breast milk provides infants and mothers with a wide range of benefits. Breastfed babies tend to have a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a lower risk of hospitalization for respiratory tract infections, and a lower rate of gastro-intestional problems. Health benefits for breastfeeding mothers include a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Nonetheless, Pennsylvania has failed to enact workplace protections that would enable more new mothers to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.

Perhaps this speaks to the priorities of a General Assembly that is 82 percent male, but it is a basic biological fact that a woman who recently gave birth simply can’t go eight hours without expressing breast milk five days a week, or perform even longer shift work, and still maintain her milk supply.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

Despite all the evidence supporting the need to pass legislation that supports new mothers, The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act (House Bill 1100), sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley and Rep. David Parker, has been sitting in the Labor & Industry Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 15 months.

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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On Women’s Equality Day, 2016

In 1920, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, finally granting women the right to vote. The success was achieved a full 42 years after the amendment was introduced into Congress, and 72 years after the suffrage movement officially launched in Seneca Falls, New York.

The fight for suffrage, the fight for full citizenship and equality in law and practice, is an ongoing history of fragile alliances and schisms. The struggle for equality is a complex and women-votepainful project, and though much progress has been made over the last century, it is a project that is not even close to complete.

After the 15th and 19th amendments were passed into law, barriers such as voting taxes and “literacy tests” were used to prevent Black people from voting, an effort reinforced through violence. Some states prohibited Native Americans from voting until 1957. In 1925, Congress banned Filipinos from U.S. citizenship unless they have served three years in the Navy.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law to correct “a clear and simple wrong” by eliminating tactics such as literacy tests and installing supervision of states with a history of strategically disenfranchising Black voters.

Progress does not march a straight line.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act, effectively removing federal oversight of problematic states and districts. Immediately, some of these states proposed changes to voting procedures such as voter identification laws.

Despite scant evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, lawmakers here passed a voter identification law in 2012. The law was subsequently struck down by a state judge who “ruled that the law hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law — that it was needed to combat voter fraud — was not supported by the facts.”

And so the project continues.

In Pennsylvania, coalition of organizations are working to reform and improve elections called Keystone Votes. They advocated for four types of reform to make it easier to vote in Pennsylvania, which has notoriously outdated voting procedures. When more people are able to vote, our policies will start better reflecting the realities of our citizens. It is perhaps not a coincidence that Pennsylvania, behind the times when it comes to running elections, is also failing to support modern American families.

For example, a new state-by-state analysis of laws that support expecting and new parents conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families gave Pennsylvania a D minus. The grade is disappointing, but hardly surprising, given the lack of political will to pass the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act, or protect pregnant workers from discrimination, or fix Pennsylvania’s broken equal pay law.

Ninety-six years after the 19th amendment was passed, women still do not enjoy equality with men. Our reproductive rights are under attack. We are paid less than men for comparable work. Violence against us goes unpunished all too often. All women are not treated equally, either. Pay inequity is stratified by race. Women of color are disproportionately affected by attacks on reproductive healthcare. Black women face police brutality and Black schoolgirls are disproportionately punished in school.

In Pennsylvania, only 18% of our General Assembly are women. Only seven of 253 lawmakers are Black women.

We will celebrate Women’s Equality Day by continuing to work for it, and we thank you for your support. Please vote.

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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Equal Pay for Black Women Roundtable at City Hall

Rep. Donna Bullock and WLP's Tara Murtha lead a discussion on pay inequity in Pennsylvania at City Hall, Philadelphia

Rep. Donna Bullock and WLP’s Tara Murtha lead a discussion on pay inequity in Pennsylvania at City Hall, Philadelphia (Photo via Rep. Bullock’s office)

Thank you to everyone who attended the roundtable discussion on equal pay co-hosted by Rep. Donna Bullock and the Women’s Law Project, including Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis, Rep. Brian Sims, Brenda Shelton-Dunston of the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance, Samuel Jones of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, Jovida Hill of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission for Women, community organizer Denise Ripley, and Jazelle Jones of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.

Yesterday marked the day of the year that Black women had to work until in order to catch up the earnings of a non-Hispanic white men the prior year. Pay discrimination cuts across almost all industries and demographics, but the problem disproportionately affects Black women and women of color, who experience a double pay gap.

“Pay equity is a family issue,” said Rep. Donna Bullock. “It is an economic stability and growth issue.”

Brenda Shelton-Dunston of the Philadelphia Black Women's Health Alliance spoke to the affect of pay inequity on women's health.

Brenda Shelton-Dunston of the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance spoke to the affect of pay inequity on women’s health.

The Center for American Progress gave Pennsylvania a D+ ranking for economic security, and the number of children living in poverty is on the rise.

Indeed, just today, a new state-by-state analysis ranked Pennsylvania 47th for women’s equity.

These abysmal scores are unsurprising given the Pennsylvania Legislature’s refusal to fix the state’s broken equal pay law, raise the minimum wage beyond the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, ensure basic workplace protections for pregnant or breastfeeding workers, or even extend the state’s sexual harassment protections to all female employees.

In recent years, legislation has been introduced that would address all of these issues. Expert testimony about these problems and the disastrous affect they cumulatively have on the economic security of Pennsylvania families have been submitted for lawmakers’ consideration on almost all of these issues.

Yet these bills, including legislation to fix Pennsylvania’s broken equal pay law, have not been passed into law, despite ever-expanding evidence of Pennsylvania families falling behind as a result of outdated policies.

EPT-graphic

The Women’s Law Project, as members of both the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health and the national Equal Pay Today campaign, will continue to advocate for equal pay and related issues in Pennsylvania.

To stay posted on our progress, like the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health on Facebook.

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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