5 Reasons To Raise the Minimum Wage in PA

Today, advocates once again called for Pennsylvania to raise the minimum wage at yet another rally at the Capitol in Harrisburg. There’s plenty of evidence that it would be good for both the economy and workers—especially female workers—to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is currently $7.25 per hour, the lowest allowed by federal law. The subminimum wage in Pennsylvania, that is, the base pay for tipped workers, is $2.83 per hour.

This week, the Keystone Research Center released a new policy brief underscoring the economic benefit of raising the wage in Pennsylvania. The report’s authors estimate a minimum wage increase will increase state tax revenues by $121.5 million and generate another $104 million in savings in reduced Medicaid spending.

Sam Jones of Restaurant Opportunities Center United calling for one fair wage at the Capitol. (Photo via @RaisetheWagePA)

Sam Jones of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United calling for one fair wage at the Capitol. (Photo via @RaisetheWagePA)

The report also notes that increasing the minimum wage pushes more families from the range in which the state pays nearly half the cost of Medicaid (48% in 2016) into the range in which – under the Medicaid expansion program – the federal government pays most or all of the cost. A minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour would shift an estimated $104 million in Medicaid payments from the state to the federal government.

Pennsylvania would additionally benefit from a $10.10 minimum wage increase because the resulting increase in wages and incomes would generate an estimated $121.5 million more in state income and sales tax revenue.

Here are 5 more reasons to raise the minimum wage:

One: It would help close the significant racial and gender pay gaps: Women make up the majority of the minimum wage workforce. Of that population, women of color are disproportionately represented.

Two: Since minimum wage employees working full-time and year-round in Pennsylvania earn just $14,500 per year, a single parent with two children working full-time still falls $4,000 below the federal poverty line. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would boost annual full-time earnings by $5,700 to $20,200, enough to pull a family of three out of poverty.

Raise-the-Wage-Mom-Feed

Three: The minimum cash wage for tipped employees in Pennsylvania is $2.83 per hour – just $5,660 a year. Many of these workers are paid less due to wage theft and other illegal practices. In Pennsylvania, women are 80 percent of tipped workers and also 80 percent of restaurant servers, the state’s largest group of tipped workers.

Four: The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that if the minimum wage were gradually increased to $10.10 per hour beginning this year, by 2016, over 1 million Pennsylvania workers would get a raise. Of the total affected workers, about 607,000 (57 percent) are women.

Five: Research shows the subminimum wage is linked to sexual harassment. Women living off tips are roughly twice as likely to experience sexually harassment than women in states that pay the full minimum wage to all workers.

We need to raise the wage to at least $10.10.

Today, advocates called for passage of a state minimum wage increase to help fund the 2016-17 state budget.

Meanwhile, at least nine bills have been introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature that would raise the minimum wage.

The PA Campaign for Women’s Health, a growing coalition of more than 50 organizations calling for an end to ideological politics trumping common-sense policy solutions in Pennsylvania, currently advocates for bills that raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and the subminimum wage to 70-75% of that rate.

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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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ICYMI: January at the Women’s Law Project

We closed out 2015 with a bang, took a holiday, and got back to work.

Next stop: The Supreme Court

The Women’s Law Project kicked off 2016 by submitting a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (previously called Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole). The WLP submitted the brief on behalf of ten abortion providers in Pennsylvania.

About the case: In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the justices will review two provisions of HB2, a Texas law designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services under the guise of improving women’s health. In doing so, they will answer the question reproductive rights advocates have been asking for the last several years: If the Constitution protects the right to abortion, how can our courts uphold laws that close down safe abortion providers and thereby deny many women access to care?

Oral arguments begin March 2.

Stay tuned.

 

Addressing Abortion Clinic Violence in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) introduced Senate Bill 1105, to provide freedom of access to reproductive health care facilities. Anti-abortion extremists have long used acts of violence such as arson and mass shootings in a severely misguided campaign to “stop abortion.” Recently, it has been getting worse: Last November, three people were murdered and nine more injured when a man went on a shooting rampage at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. The attack happened amid a sharp increase in threats and violence against abortion providers in the wake of a debunked video propaganda campaign.

On twitter, the Women’s Law Project convened a Twitter Town Hall on the subject of the rise of clinic violence and Senator Farnese’s new bill. The #ProtectTheZonePA Town Hall event featured Senator Larry Farnese, WLP’s Senior Staff Attorney Sue Frietsche, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Pennsylvania, The Women’s Centers, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Access Matters, Keystone Progress, the Feminist Majority and the National Federation of Abortion Providers.

Read more about it in The Philly Voice and PhillyMag.

Follow us on twitter @WomensLawProj.

 

New report: The Exponential Rise of Abortion Restrictions

The Guttmacher Institute released a new report that reveals in the 43 years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, states have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions. Of these, 288 (27%) have been enacted just since 2010.

This is why reproductive rights is going to the Supreme Court.

 

The WLP in Slate: “Preventing the Next Kermit Gosnell”

The anti-choice lawmakers trying to force abortion clinics to close through strategic over-regulation routinely justify their actions by claiming such laws are necessary to “prevent the next Kermit Gosnell.” As Pennsylvania advocates who witnessed the atrocity of the Gosnell case up close, we believe we have a responsibility to refute these disingenuous arguments.

Women’s Law Project senior staff attorney Sue Frietsche and staff attorney Tara Pfeifer, along with WLP board member, author and law professor David S. Cohen co-authored an article for Slate that explained why abortion restrictions such as HB2 will not “prevent another Gosnell” and in fact, create opportunity for like-minded criminals.

You can read the article here.

 

Carol Tracy on the so-called “Cosby Effect”

Our Executive Director Carol Tracy spoke to The Washington Post about the so-called “Cosby effect.” News organizations have been using the phrase “Cosby effect” as shorthand, to refer to the trend of more women coming forward to speak out about sexual assault.

Read the article here.

 

#Roe43

January 22 was the 43rd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Pennsylvania plays no small part in the story of the right to choose in the United States. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that set the current standard by which courts judge the constitutionality of abortion restrictions, evolved from a challenge to Pennsylvania law (the defendant Casey is former Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey, father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey). In the 1992 Casey ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the core of Roe, but changed the constitutional standard to permit states to pass additional regulations on abortion.

To commemorate Roe at 43, the Pittsburgh office of the Women’s Law Project hosted a Happy Hour at Howl at the Moon, which also functioned as a blizzard-welcoming party. Thank you to everyone who came out to support! We also co-sponsored an Anniversary Rally with Planned Parenthood and fellow advocates, and wrote a list of 10 facts about abortion in Pennsylvania that you may not know, but should.

Read “10 Facts About Abortion in Pennsylvania” here.

 

Good Luck to Staff Attorney Tara R. Pfeifer

Unfortunately, we had to say farewell to our staff attorney Tara R. Pfeifer, who worked out of the Women’s Law Project office in Pittsburgh. Senior staff attorney Sue Frietsche wrote a moving piece highlighting just a handful of Pfeifer’s extraordinary contributions to the women of Pennsylvania and the LGBTQ community at large:

Tara is a former college rugby player who, when confronted with injustice, would often remark cheerfully, “I feel like tackling someone.” Among the many clients Tara represented during her tenure at the Law Project were a woman who gave birth while shackled in a prison van; a woman who discovered she was being paid a fraction of what her male coworker was earning; a new mother harassed for pumping at work; a young survivor of high school sexual assault; a lesbian couple seeking the first-ever same-sex adoption in a rural Pennsylvania county; a woman who was kicked out of her social club for complaining about rampant sexual harassment; and an LGBT student group fighting for better treatment of transgender students.

Read the rest of the piece here.

We will miss Pfeifer, as will the many advocates and lawmakers who reached out to thank her for her hard work. Notice we didn’t actually say good-bye. We just said we look forward to seeing you at our annual Rights to Realities fundraiser party in Pittsburgh, which will take place on Friday, May 6.

 

Rep. Donna Bullock on Equal Pay in PA

On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, PA Rep. Donna Bullock wrote a guest column about efforts to address pay discrimination in Pennsylvania.

From the piece:

I am proud to represent hard-working women and families of Pennsylvania’s 195th Legislative District. The gender and racial pay gap is more than a moral outrage for my constituents: Pay discrimination undermines their very ability to survive and support their families. Closing the wage gap for women, and particularly women of color, is crucial not only for these families, but for our economy.  Many women are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families, and their salary can mean the difference between poverty and economic security.

You can read the entire piece here.

 

What’s next:  Come See Us at the Keystone Progress Summit

Women’s Law Project’s Tara Murtha and Sue Frietsche will be in Harrisburg for the 2016 Keystone Progress Summit. On Saturday, February 20, they host a panel focused on exploring the upcoming Supreme Court case and how it may affect access to reproductive healthcare services in Pennsylvania. Please do consider coming to our panel and saying hello.

You can register for the Keystone Progress Summit here.

 

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 The Women’s Law Project, a non-profit organization, is the only public interest legal center in Pennsylvania devoted to the rights of women and girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PA Rep. Donna Bullock: I Want to Believe We Can Achieve Equal Pay in Pennsylvania

Today is the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. As we reflect on the progress made toward equal pay and how far we still need to go to achieve it, we are pleased to welcome Rep. Donna Bullock as a guest writer.

The newly rebooted version of 90s cult classic television series The X-Files is a throwback in more ways than one. Actress Gillian Anderson, who plays agent Dana Scully, recently revealed that she was offered only half the paycheck offered to David Duchovny, the actor who plays her character’s partner.

“As usual, they come to me with half of what they want to offer David,” she said. Anderson found the offer particularly galling because she had already waged and won that battle after fighting for equal pay on the set back in the 1990s.

The wage gap has been stagnant for nearly a decade. At this rate, women in Pennsylvania are not on track to receive equal pay until 2072.

The wage gap has been stagnant for nearly a decade. At this rate, women in Pennsylvania are not on track to receive equal pay until 2072.

Many stories of gender pay discrimination are coming out of the entertainment business lately. But of course, pay discrimination is not unique to Hollywood. Whether we are talking about waiting tables or running a company, men, on average, make more money than women for the same work.  However, most working women don’t have a platform, like actresses and other entertainers, to speak out about the problem. In reality, most working women arguably don’t even know if they have been paid fairly, thanks to employer pay-secrecy policies.

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives representing the 195th Legislative District in North and West Philadelphia.

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives representing the 195th Legislative District in North and West Philadelphia.

The problem is worse for women of color. In Hollywood, not a single woman of color was listed on FORBES magazine’s annual Top 10 Highest Paid Actresses last year. In almost every industry, women of color across America are paid significantly less than white men. On average, women who work full time, year round in the United States are typically paid only 79 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. However, African American women typically make only 60 cents, and Hispanic women only 55 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

I am proud to represent hard-working women and families of Pennsylvania’s 195th Legislative District. The gender and racial pay gap is more than a moral outrage for my constituents: Pay discrimination undermines their very ability to survive and support their families. Closing the wage gap for women, and particularly women of color, is crucial not only for these families, but for our economy.  Many women are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families, and their salary can mean the difference between poverty and economic security.

I ran for office, in part, out of a fundamental belief in fighting for economic justice, and there is no economic justice without equal pay. If we do nothing, and fail to intervene with appropriate corrective policies, American women will not achieve equal pay for equal work until 2059, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In Pennsylvania, where the pay gap is narrowing at an even slower rate than the national average, women are not on track to receive equal pay until 2072.

It is simply disgraceful that more than 50 years after President John F. Kennedy signed the federal Equal Pay Act into law, and seven years after President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, it could take another 56 years to achieve equal pay. Clearly, we need to make both federal and state laws stronger. Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Act, as currently written, doesn’t even cover most Pennsylvanians.

I do not want to wait decades to fix a system of discrimination that rigs the game—especially when we already know what steps we can take to chisel away at the gender and racial pay gaps. It’s just a matter of political will.

There are efforts to close the loopholes that make Pennsylvania worse than the national average. But those bills are sitting in Committee.

Bills providing clear steps toward closing the gender and pay gaps in Pennsylvania have been sitting in Committee.

I am proud to sign on as a co-sponsor to HB1160, sponsored by my colleagues Representatives Brian Sims and Tina Davis.

Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Act (HB1160) would prohibit wage secrecy. It would also close loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more by, among other things, blaming “market forces” or workers’ previous salaries. Last year, Pennsylvania held the first public hearings on equal pay in 50 years, and we intend to build on that momentum. (Companion bill Senate Bill 303, sponsored by Sen. Rob Teplitz and Sen. Anthony Williams, was introduced last year.)

But we can do more than simply pass the Equal Pay Act. We can raise the minimum wage, which in Pennsylvania, is the lowest allowed by federal law. We can eliminate other forms of discrimination against working women, such as ensuring employers provide temporary, minor accommodations for pregnant workers, and ensuring nursing mothers have access to private, sanitary space to pump milk at work. I joined the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to work on these critical issues, and hope to work with my colleagues to win these major victories for the women of Pennsylvania.

The fact is women work in today’s world. Unfortunately, we’re working in a world that still has rules leftover from a society that openly discriminated against female workers.

That is why we need more women, and particularly women of color, in elected office.  Women need to be at the decision-making table raising awareness about equal pay and other issues that impact women disproportionately. As a mentor of mine often says, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”

Rep. Donna Bullock is an attorney and a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives representing the 195th Legislative District in North and West Philadelphia. You can contact her here.

Bills to close the loopholes in Pennsylvania’s equal pay laws are initiatives of the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, a group of lawmakers devoted to supporting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by real women and families in Pennsylvania. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell to WLP Staff Attorney Tara R. Pfeifer

Five years ago, Pennsylvania was on the brink of closing down almost all of its freestanding abortion providers. An extraordinarily generous response to an emergency fundraising appeal allowed the Women’s Law Project to hire an experienced attorney to help research and draft the mountains of legal filings and regulatory paperwork we would need to submit to keep the independent providers’ doors open. That is how Tara Pfeifer came to work as a staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project’s western Pennsylvania office in Pittsburgh.

WLP Staff Attorney Tara Pfeifer testifying before Pittsburgh City Council.

WLP Staff Attorney Tara Pfeifer testifying before Pittsburgh City Council.

Tara is a former college rugby player who, when confronted with injustice, would often remark cheerfully, “I feel like tackling someone.” Among the many clients Tara represented during her tenure at the Law Project were a woman who gave birth while shackled in a prison van; a woman who discovered she was being paid a fraction of what her male coworker was earning; a new mother harassed for pumping at work; a young survivor of high school sexual assault; a lesbian couple seeking the first-ever same-sex adoption in a rural Pennsylvania county; a woman who was kicked out of her social club for complaining about rampant sexual harassment; and an LGBT student group fighting for better treatment of transgender students. Tara testified in support of Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave and at public hearings in the Pennsylvania legislature for statewide employment protection for workers with family responsibilities. She crunched the raw data on reams of excel spreadsheets that revealed thousands of missing athletic opportunities for female high school students in Pennsylvania. She represented the Law Project on the board of the Girls’ Coalition. She coauthored a U.S. Supreme Court brief in the most important abortion rights case in almost a quarter century.

We took more road trips to Harrisburg than I can count. It became something of a joke that you couldn’t go anywhere with Tara without some old friend or colleague or law school buddy of hers rushing up to hug her and demand to see a family photo. Tara seemed to know everyone in Pittsburgh, most people in Harrisburg, and a fair sampling of people in Philadelphia.

Tara is leaving the Law Project for a litigation position at Duquesne Light. She is leaving behind a record of successful litigation and advocacy that strengthened women’s legal status and alleviated a lot of suffering. I will take a lesson from her—she never complained—ever—no matter if she had just come off a series of sleepless nights and was facing unreasonable deadlines and an unreasonable workload and unreasonable odds of success—and I won’t complain either. I’ll just say how grateful I am to have had the gift of five years of working with one of the finest lawyers and finest people I’ve ever known.

-Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project

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10 Facts About Abortion in Pennsylvania at #Roe43

 

Today is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Pennsylvania plays no small part in the story of the right to choose in the United States. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that set the current standard by which courts judge the constitutionality of abortion restrictions, evolved from a challenge to Pennsylvania law (the defendant Casey is former Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey, father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey). In the 1992 Casey ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the core of Roe, but changed the constitutional standard to permit states to pass additional regulations on abortion.

Meanwhile, on March 2, the Supreme Court of the United States will once again consider abortion when it hears oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the justices will review two provisions of HB2, a Texas law designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services under the guise of improving women’s health. In doing so, they will answer the question reproductive rights advocates have been asking for the last several years: If the Constitution protects the right to abortion, how can our courts uphold laws that close down safe abortion providers and thereby deny many women access to care?

The Women’s Law Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of 10 abortion providers in Pennsylvania. You can read about that here.

As we celebrate Roe today and look forward to the Supreme Court finally addressing the exponential rise of abortion restrictions, let’s do a reality-check review of 10 facts about abortion and abortion access in Pennsylvania:

One: Pennsylvania is one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion access. Of 14 abortion restrictions, Pennsylvania already enforces 11 and has proposed two more.

Two: 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.

Three: 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. (A similar law is one of two provisions challenged in the upcoming Supreme Court case.)

Four: 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. F Governor Tom Corbett defended the bill by advising women to “just close their eyes” and deal with it. Advocates fired back, and the bill was shelved.

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

Six: Though no public funds cover elective abortion—and a family can’t purchase private insurance in the federally facilitated marketplace that covers abortion even when the health of the pregnant woman is threatened by continuing the pregnancy—every year in Pennsylvania, millions of dollars in taxpayer money goes to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” faux-medical centers with a record of lying to women.

Seven: 82% of Pennsylvania counties have no abortion providers.

Eight: In the first half of 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature spent one-third of its voting session days advancing abortion restrictions and debating how to limit poor women’s access to abortion.

Nine: One of the only federal FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act cases to be brought during the Bush Administration arose out of a Pennsylvania abortion protester’s blog which named a specific doctor, listed the doctor’s home address, license plate number, and work schedule, and advised readers to shoot her in the head because she wears a bulletproof vest to work. Recently, anti-choice advocates have been attacking Pittsburgh’s buffer zone. This month, Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese introduced a new bill to address clinic violence, targeted threats and intimidation, which has increased from 26.6% in 2010 to 51.9% in 2014.

Ten: Just days after three people were murdered and nine more injured in an attack on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, wherein the alleged shooter reportedly regurgitated propaganda from debunked anti-choice videos released last summer, Pennsylvania Representative Kathy Rapp distributed a co-sponsorship memo announcing her intention to propose a 20-week abortion ban. The memo contains inflammatory, medically inaccurate information, and such bans are unconstitutional.

 

You helped us beat back the mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bill, and we will need your voice again.

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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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Invitation: #ProtectTheZonePA Twitter Town Hall, 10AM on 1/20

You’re invited!

When: 10AM – 10:30AM on Wednesday, January 20

What: Twitter Town Hall at #ProtectTheZonePA

Featured participants include:

 @LarryFarnese, Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) is a former clinic escort and the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 1105, a bill that would provide freedom of access to reproductive health care facilities

@WomensLawPGH, Legal expert Sue Frietsche is Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project, and is based in Pittsburgh

@PPadvocatesPA, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Pennsylvania

@WomensCenters, The Philadelphia Women’s Centers

@PPSPtweets, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania

@ACLUPA, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

@AccessMatters4U Access Matters, Transforming Access to Sexual & Reproductive Health (formerly Family Planning Council)

@KeystoneProgres Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive network

@MajoritySpeaks Feminist Majority Foundation, national advocates for women’s social, political, economic equality

@WomensLawProj will be moderating

Please join us Wednesday morning as Senator Larry Farnese and advocates for women’s health discuss the rise of abortion clinic violence and physician harassment across the country and Pennsylvania’s effort to address the problem.

Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) recently introduced Senate Bill 1105, which would provide freedom of access to reproductive health care facilities.

“My new proposal makes it clear that people who try to intimidate or hurt women entering a reproductive health care clinic will be punished, ordered to pay a hefty fine, and spend a lot of time in jail,” said Sen. Farnese, who has worked as a volunteer clinic escort.

Modeled on federal legislation, SB 1105 provides for safe access to reproductive health care facilities, prohibits harassment and intimidation of patients and clinic staff, and combats vandalism and deliberate obstruction of clinic entrances.

“The burden of public safety should not be carried by reproductive healthcare workers alone,” said Amanda Kifferly, Director of Patient Advocacy for The Women’s Centers. “We support legislation that unites the healthcare community with lawmakers and safety officials to criminalize violent acts against doctors, healthcare staff, and patients seeking care at our Centers.”

Pennsylvania abortion providers have been subjected to death threats, obstructive clinic protests, fake anthrax attacks, bomb threats, arson, vandalism, targeted harassment at home and at church, internet stalking, and assault. Counting the recent tragedy in Colorado Springs, there have been 11 murders and 28 attempted murders in attacks targeting reproductive health care providers in the US and Canada.

Senate Bill 1105 is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a package of bills supported by members of the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan group of lawmakers focused on addressing the state’s appalling record on women’s health by promoting evidence-based health policy, eliminating workplace discrimination, and other initiatives aimed at advancing women’s health and well-being.

Please join us at 10AM on 1/20 at the hashtag #ProtectTheZonePA to learn more about this problem and the effort to address it. Feel free to ask general questions at the hashtag, tweet specific participants, share your story, voice solidarity with patients, clinic escorts and providers, or simply call for protecting the zone in Pennsylvania. 

To request more information or to request an interview, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject. To learn more about the PA Campaign for Women’s Health, visit http://www.pa4womenshealth.org.

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Preventing the Next Kermit Gosnell

In response to the exponential rise of abortion restrictions and subsequent mass closure of healthcare facilities providing reproductive healthcare for poor and working-class women, abortion is going to the Supreme Court.

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the justices will review two provisions of HB2, the Texas law that forced more than half the clinics in the state to close. In doing so, they will answer the question reproductive rights advocates have been asking for the last several years: If the Constitution protects the right to abortion, how can our courts uphold laws that close down safe abortion providers and thereby deny many women access to care?

Advocates for women’s health in Pennsylvania have a unique perspective on the case, because anti-choice lawmakers across the country have repeatedly justified HB2 and similar regulatory schemes by distorting the case of Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell is the infamous Philadelphia criminal arrested in 2010 and subsequently convicted of murder, involuntarily manslaughter, drug trafficking and a host of other crimes.

Today in Slate, Women’s Law Project senior staff attorney Sue Frietsche and staff attorney Tara Pfeifer, along with WLP board member, author and law professor David S. Cohen explain why abortion restrictions such as HB2 will not “prevent another Gosnell” and in fact, create opportunity for like-minded criminals.

From Slate:

There are three important reasons that Kermit Gosnell is not a justification for the law that, if fully enforced, will leave Texas with only nine or 10 abortion clinics—down from more than 40.

First, the story of Kermit Gosnell is not one of under-regulation, but rather of government failing to enforce already-existing laws that were more than sufficient to shut him down. When Gosnell was operating his criminal enterprise, Pennsylvania’s restrictions on abortion—which included physician-only provisions, a mandatory 24-hour delay, biased counseling, parental consent, gestational limits, broad public funding bans, exhaustive reporting requirements, burdensome facilities regulations, and detailed clinical care requirements—were among the nation’s toughest, and served as a template for other antiabortion legislatures across the country. And like all other states, Pennsylvania had criminal laws on the books that prohibited murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, fraud, and other crimes of which Gosnell was convicted.

Read the rest of the story here.

Read about the friend-of-the-court brief the Women’s Law Project filed to the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of 10 abortion providers in Pennsylvania here.

To request more information or an interview with an attorney at the Women’s Law Project, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject. 

Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, signing up to receive our Action Alerts, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

 

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