Urgent Call to Action: Tell your State Representative to Vote NO on SB3

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives plans to vote on Senate Bill 3 as early as Monday, December 11.

SB3 has already passed the Senate.

It is urgent that you contact your state Representative and urge him or her to vote NO on SB3.

  • The AmericanCollege of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say Senate Bill 3 poses serious danger to pregnant patients
  • Legal experts including attorneys here at Women’s Law Project have assessed that SB3 is blatantly unconstitutional
  • Physicians who provide abortion care like Dr. Lisa Perriera says Senate Bill 3 would force “women to be incubators by not allowing them to make choices for their health”
  • Physician advocate groups like the Pennsylvania Medical Society says SB3 would set “a dangerous precedent by legislating specific treatment protocols”

Senate Bill 3 is dangerous and unconstitutional, which is why SB3’s supporters forced it through the legislative process by repeatedly voting against testimony from medical experts, doctors, and the public.

Kelsey Williams is a Pennsylvanian who bravely shares her story of terminating her pregnancy in the 21st week after receiving shocking news about serious fetal anomalies. Though SB3’s supporters refuse to listen to women, she shares her story to try to help families who may experience similarly devastating news, and wind up in the same unthinkable position.

Pennsylvania lawmakers supporting Senate Bill 3 refuse to listen to Kelsey, but we hope you will.

From Rewire:

“Since my abortion, I’ve had to listen to proponents of these bills like SB3 say that they know what’s best for babies and mothers, that they are the true voice for life. And that’s just flat out wrong,” she said. “I’m the only one in this world who ever held my son, carrying him in my womb for nearly six months. And I loved him enough to let him go so that he didn’t live only to know pain and suffering because life is about so much more than just a heartbeat.”

To learn more, go to our Info for Advocates page and see fact sheets on SB3.

Find your Representative, and urge them to vote NO on Senate Bill 3.

We will keep you posted. Thank you for speaking out.

The Women’s Law Project is a 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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Read our Letter to Pennsylvania Lawmakers Outlining Why SB3 is Unconstitutional

On December 6, we sent this letter to members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives outlining why Senate Bill 3 is unconstitutional. The House is expected to vote on Senate Bill 3 next week, as early as Monday, December 11. For background, read our statement on Senate Bill 3 passing out of the House Health Committee by 16-10, along partisan lines.

 

Dear members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives,

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest legal organization with expertise in reproductive health law and policy. We have represented abortion providers in Pennsylvania since the 1970s.

We urge you to vote against Senate Bill 3.

Senate Bill 3 seeks to criminalize almost all abortion by any method after 19 weeks’ gestation, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly, including unviability. In addition to making abortion after 19 weeks a felony, SB 3 also criminalizes a procedure referred to in the bill as “dismemberment abortion.”  No medical procedure exists by that name. It would likely ban a procedure known as dilation and evacuation or “D&E,” at any stage of pregnancy.

Under well-established constitutional standards, SB 3 is blatantly unconstitutional.

Banning abortion after 19 weeks’ gestation is unconstitutional.

For 44 years, the U.S. Constitution has prohibited states from banning abortion before fetal viability. Every time a pre-viability ban has been challenged in court, it has been blocked from going into effect under Supreme Court precedent.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that viability is a matter best left to the doctor’s medical judgment. Obstetrician-gynecologists recognize the threshold of viability to be no earlier than the 24th week of gestation.

SB 3 has a narrow health exception: it would not be illegal for a physician to perform an abortion after 19 weeks if the physician “reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent either the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.”

SB 3’s narrow exception would require women to sustain damage to their health, even serious damage, that is “irreversible” but not “substantial,” that is “substantial” but not “irreversible,” and that is both “substantial and irreversible” but that does not impair a “major” bodily function. SB 3 is unconstitutional because its health exception is too narrow and would make it illegal for doctors to give women medical care they need to save them from damage to their health. There is no exception for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.

The 2016 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt invalidated legislation similar to SB 3 because it imposed an undue burden on women’s access to abortion and provided “few, if any, health benefits for women.”

SB 3 would, according to medical experts, be worse than providing “few, if any, health benefits for women.” SB 3 would inflict great harm on the health of Pennsylvania women, according to the Pennsylvania section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Pennsylvania Medical Society, Pennsylvanians for Reproductive Health, and scores of OB-GYN doctors.

Criminalizing D&E is unconstitutional.

Even prior to Hellerstedt, in case after case, the Supreme Court had already ruled that abortion “method bans” that eliminate safe, common abortion procedures for no medical purpose are unconstitutional.

The D&E procedure is the safest and most commonly used midterm abortion method. It is sometimes used in the first trimester. The alternative procedure SB 3 seemingly leaves open—induction abortion—is not a comparable alternative to D&E abortion and provides no medical benefit for most women. The Supreme Court has already recognized that the D&E method is generally safer than other methods in the mid-second trimester.

Should this bill become law, it will be subject to a legal challenge. For more legal analysis, please see this memo detailing our complete legal analysis of SB 3.

Conclusion

Instead of forcing unconstitutional bills that would endanger women’s lives, the Legislature should consider advancing long neglected legislative proposals that would actually support healthy pregnancies.

Right now for example, in most of Pennsylvania, a pregnant worker can be fired over requesting to keep a water bottle at her work station, even if it is her doctor’s orders.

While pursuing unconstitutional abortion bans, Pennsylvania lawmakers have even ignored legislative efforts to decrease infant mortality by ensuring new mothers have a sanitary place to express breastmilk while at work.

We urge to vote against SB 3.

 

Very truly yours,

Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director

Women’s Law Project

 

Susan Frietsche, Senior Attorney

Women’s Law Project

 

To request an interview with a WLP attorney, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org or 215-928-5762.

Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is a public interest legal organization devoted to advancing and protecting the rights of women and girls.

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WLP Statement: Why We Strongly Oppose Senate Bill 3

PENNSYLVANIA–The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes Senate Bill 3, which passed the state House Health Committee last night by a vote of 16-10, along partisan lines.

“Pennsylvania politicians just advanced an unconstitutional bill that seeks to throw doctors in jail for providing standard medical care for their patients,” says WLP Senior Staff Attorney Susan J. Frietsche. “They are using discredited junk science to justify it, and repeatedly refusing testimony from real doctors, or their constituents. Anyone not seriously alarmed at both the goal and the process here is not paying attention.”

By criminalizing D&E, a common and safe medical procedure, for no medical reason, SB3 mandates substandard care for women. By criminalizing all pregnancy termination after 19 weeks for no medical reason, SB3 would force doctors to refuse standard medical care for patients facing crisis pregnancies, forcing them to carry unviable pregnancies to term, against their will and despite increased likelihood of infection and medical complications.

Surely politicians so determined to interfere with medical decisions of Pennsylvania families know that severe fetal abnormalities are typically detected after 19 weeks.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Physicians for Reproductive Health strongly oppose this bill.  Rep. Matt Baker, who supports the bill, cited the support of the “Christian Medical and Dental Association.” The mission statement of this group is “to glorify God.”

The mission of the Pennsylvania Legislature should be to protect and promote the health and economic security of Pennsylvania families.

Clearly, it is not: Many of the lawmakers supporting Senate Bill 3 have stonewalled repeated legislative efforts to protect pregnant workers and nursing mothers in the workplace, enable Pennsylvanians to earn a livable wage and indeed, even legislation designed to reduce infant mortality by increasing breastfeeding rates.

Here are more facts on Senate Bill 3.

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To request an interview with a WLP attorney, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org or 215-928-5762.

Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is a public interest legal organization devoted to advancing and protecting the rights of women and girls.

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Still Shopping? Give the Gift of Equality for Women & Girls  

Do you know a persister? A woman who kept going, against the odds, and despite all the obstacles in her way?

Do you know someone leading the resistance, a person who is determined to stand up to the attacks against women, people of color, immigrants and people with disabilities by misogynist white supremacists?

Do you know a woman who has persisted?

Maybe it’s your mom, who somehow managed to work and raise you right. Or an aunt, or your sister, or best friend—or someone you met since the election that has inspired you or even helped show you how to make your voice heard. Maybe you have been most inspired by role models such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Little League pitcher Mo’Ne Davis, or NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

We invite you to honor the PerSister (or PerSisters!) in your life with a donation of $25.00 or more to the Women’s Law Project.

We are a non-profit organization that relies on grants and individual donations. We need your support in order to continue our work, including:  

  • Expanding our work addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault
  • Improving police and prosecutor response to domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Defending and expanding the rights of pregnant women and nursing mothers in the workplace
  • Providing expert pro bono legal representation for abortion providers
  • Defending buffer zones designed to protect patients and doctors at abortion care facilities
  • Litigating on behalf of female student athletes
  • Drafting legislation to address pay discrimination
  • Fighting gender and sex discrimination in healthcare
  • Writing and delivering expert testimony at local and state legislative hearings
  • Assessing legislation for its impact on women and girls
  • Co-leading the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health
  • Acting as the legal watchdogs for women and girls in Pennsylvania

Click here to Honor a PerSister

If you include an address, we will send the PerSister you honor a note letting her know about the gift. We will also acknowledge all PerSister Honorees submitted by noon on Friday, December 1 at our upcoming fundraiser gala in Philadelphia that evening. The theme of this year’s party, you guessed it, is Nevertheless, She Persisted. We hope to see you there, too!

The Women’s Law Project is a 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.

A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. 

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2017 is the Year We Changed the Game

Tara here! I grew up playing basketball, soccer, and softball. In high school, I ran track. All that time, and even to this day, I have no clue if the schools I attended provided equitable athletics opportunities for girls and boys, or if they broke the law by discriminating against female student athletes.

What I do know now, though, is that Pennsylvania schools have a long, sad record of discriminating against female athletes. And for a long time—decades—there was no way for a concerned parent, coach, student or community member to find out about it.

This year, we changed the game.

FAIR:PLAY is our new website that enables anyone to quickly and easily check if any given public secondary school in Pennsylvania may be discriminating against female athletes.

Type the name of any public Pennsylvania high school, junior high, or middle school into the search bar, and you will be shown the Title IX gap. The Title IX gap is calculated by subtracting the percent of school-sponsored athletic opportunities filled by female athletes from the percent of female students. For comparison’s sake, the results will also display the statewide Title IX gap (which is 6.53%) and the relevant countywide Title IX gap. A double-digit Title IX gap strongly suggests that the school’s athletic program is not in compliance with Title IX. You will also be able to tell if a particular school failed to submit data at all.

FAIR:PLAY builds on our many years of work fighting discrimination against female student athletes. When schools didn’t report their data, we advocated for the 2012 law that mandates reports. When reports were submitted in a way that made the data useless, we hosted a hackathon, where female coders developed FAIR:PLAY.

When necessary, we litigate. We currently represent eight Lock Haven University athletes in a class-action lawsuit challenging the university’s failure to provide equitable athletic opportunities and benefits for female students.

This holiday, as you enjoy the big game, consider helping us support female athletes.

Also! Please register today to attend our annual gala in Philadelphia on Friday, December 1, and consider honoring a woman or girl in your life who has persisted, or has inspired you to persist, despite challenges and obstacles.

I plan to honor by friend Wendy, who recently persisted through a serious health challenge with inspiring positivity and resolve.

Have a great holiday!

The Women’s Law Project is a 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.

A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. 

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From Carol Tracy: Do You Know a Woman Who Has Persisted?

Do you know a persister? A woman who kept going, against the odds, and despite all the obstacles in her way?

Do you know someone leading the resistance, a person who is determined to stand up to the attacks against women, people of color, immigrants and people with disabilities by misogynist white supremacists?

Maybe it’s your mom, who somehow managed to work and raise you right. Or an aunt, or your sister, or best friend—or someone you met since the election that has inspired you or even helped show you how to make your voice heard. Maybe you have been most inspired by role models such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or baseball pitcher Mo’Ne Davis, or NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

We invite you to honor the persister (or persisters!) in your life with a donation of $25.00 or more to the Women’s Law Project.

Personally, I am going to honor my sister Clare who has stood up to bullying men in the workplace– often at the expense of her career–since she was 19 years old.

I will acknowledge all Persister Honorees submitted by noon on Friday, December 1 at our upcoming fundraiser gala in Philadelphia that evening. The theme of this year’s party, you guessed it, is Nevertheless, She Persisted.

Our theme is, of course, a reference to the iconic moment when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shushed Senator Elizabeth Warren as she objected to the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. But we chose the theme in honor of you, and all persisters, including the almost 200 Pennsylvanians who tattooed the phrase on their bodies to help raise money for our work.

As the legal watchdogs for women’s rights in Pennsylvania, we can tell you there is lot of work to do—that is, a lot legal work to do—to protect the rights we have earned and keep pushing forward through 2018.

There’s no reason to mince words, this year was exhausting. Nevertheless, we will persist in our efforts to eliminate gender bias in police response to sexual assault; advocate for fair adjudication of allegations of sexual misconduct on campus; beat back unconstitutional abortion restrictions; craft and advocate for better laws to address workplace discrimination, particularly for pregnant women and nursing mothers; and hold schools accountable for discriminating against female student athletes.

So who are you going to honor?

Click here to honor the persister (or persisters!) in your life, and thank you for supporting equality for women and girls.

If you designate an address, we will send them a note letting them know. All honorees will be acknowledged at our annual gala in Philadelphia on December 1. We hope to see you there!

Best,

Carol E. Tracy

Executive Director, Women’s Law Project

 

 

The Women’s Law Project is a 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.

A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. 

 

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Pittsburgh City Council Passes Resolution Supporting Abortion Access for All

The Women’s Law Project supports the Will of Council resolution adopted today by Pittsburgh City Council directing our federal and state officials to repeal the Hyde Amendment and similar restrictions on public and private insurance coverage for abortion care.

Photo via @NewVoicesPGH

For 41 years, politicians have used the Hyde Amendment to deny coverage of abortion care for those enrolled in government-sponsored insurance programs, including low-income individuals who qualify for Medicaid, Native American women, residents who serve in the military, volunteer for the Peace Corps, or are serving time in federal prison. While 17 states use their own funds to provide insurance coverage for abortion, Pennsylvania is not among them – and goes even further than the federal government by prohibiting insurance coverage of abortion in plans purchased through the state exchange established by the Affordable Care Act.

“At a time when politicians across the country—and in Washington, DC—have relentlessly sought to undermine the health and well-being of our communities, Pittsburgh has, once again stepped up as a leader in the struggle for justice,” said Lexi White, Policy Manager of New Voices for Reproductive Justice.

Denial of public funding for abortion violates women’s autonomy, traps families in poverty, and sabotages women’s ability to participate equally in education, employment, and civic life. It is antithetical to our state Equal Rights Amendment and other state constitutional equal protection guarantees. The suffering, economic hardship and physical and mental health damage inflicted on thousands of Pennsylvania women by this insidious form of gender discrimination are intolerable.

The Women’s Law Project applauds Pittsburgh City Council for speaking out against this decades-long injustice and becoming the thirteenth municipality to go on record calling for the repeal of Hyde-type funding restrictions.

The Women’s Law Project is a 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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