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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WLP Statement: Victory in Pittsburgh Buffer Zone Case

Amid a documented rise in targeted harassment of patients and doctors, anti-choice activists have been aggressively trying to knock down the Pittsburgh buffer zone. In 2015, “pro-life” protesters sued the city of Pittsburgh, claiming the city’s 15-foot statutory buffer zone, passed in 2005, unconstitutionally violated protesters’ right to free speech.

It does not, per yesterday’s ruling by Judge Cathy Bissoon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

“We are so pleased with the ruling in Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh,” says WLP Senior Staff Attorney Susan Frietsche. “The buffer zone is a common-sense ordinance that respects protesters’ right to demonstrate, but also gives doctors and patients a small piece of the sidewalk where they can be safe. We’re very grateful to the City of Pittsburgh for defending this ordinance and standing up for women’s health and safety.”

Women’s Law Project represented Planned Parenthood staff and volunteer clinic escorts, who were witnesses in this case.

“We are relieved,” says Kim Evert, President of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. “This ruling preserves our buffer zone which has been so important in protecting people’s ability to access our healthcare services freely and without intimidation.”

Anti-choice harassment has been spiking in tandem with efforts to knock down buffer zones. Last year, nearly half of all abortion providers in the country (49.5%) experienced some form of severe violence, threats of violence and harassment in 2016, up from 43.3% in 2014.

“Buffer zones are important not only to protect patients, but also to make sure that providers entering and exiting clinics are safe,” says attorney David S. Cohen, WLP board member, professor at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University, and co-author of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism. “Today’s decision allows Pittsburgh to continue to send the message that both women’s reproductive rights and providers’ right to be free from threats and abuse are essential.”

Download or read the summary judgment ruling here.

Background: The city of Pittsburgh adopted a 15-foot buffer zone ordinance in 2005. At the City Council hearing to assess the need for a buffer zone, Evert testified that between February and November 2005, “there were 13 cases of aggressive pushing, shoving and hitting, and 30 complaints of harassing behavior that included shoving literature into people’s pockets, hitting them with signs and blocking their entrance to the building.”

Pittsburgh police testified they were dispatched 22 times in just the six months prior to the hearing, and asserted a buffer zone, having “clearly defined” parameters, would be more effective at ensuring access to clinic entrances than enforcing existing laws.

Plaintiffs, including Nikki Bruni, an organizer of “40 Days for Life,” a campaign that calls for gathering anti-choice activists to protest outside of healthcare facilities that provide abortion for 40 days in a row every year, failed to cite an instance where patients or doctors were unable to hear them shouting from behind the buffer zone. In fact, Bruni admitted she had no evidence that the buffer zone impeded her from talking with willing listeners at all.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in McCullen v Coakley, striking down a 35-foot state statutory buffer zone in Massachusetts as insufficiently narrowly tailored to balance the first-amendment rights of the protesters with the civil rights of patients, doctors and staff.

Plaintiffs challenged the Pittsburgh buffer zone three months later, claiming that it too was unconstitutional. But Judge Bissoon determined that the two laws were substantially different, and noted that “unlike in [the Massachusetts case], there is undisputed evidence in this case that [protesters] are able to communicate their anti-abortion message using their preferred form of expression.”

It is unknown at this time whether the plaintiffs plan to appeal this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

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For more information or 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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Women’s Equality Advocates Sue the Trump Administration over Equal Pay

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and Democracy Forward filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration on behalf of NWLC and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement for illegally rolling back critical pay transparency requirements intended to root out discrimination and close the wage gap.

At issue is the Trump administration’s decision to block what is known as the EEOC’s EEO-1 equal pay data collection.

After six years of analysis, the EEOC concluded that collecting employee pay data was necessary to enforce the nation’s civil rights laws. In August, the Trump Administration abruptly reversed the prior approval of this data collection.

Without the requirements, roughly 60,886 employers —who collectively employ 63 million workers—are empowered to continue shielding race and gender pay gaps from scrutiny.

“Equal pay cannot be achieved without transparency, bottom line,” says WLP Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson, who has testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee in Philadelphia on the persistence of the wage gap and proposed policy solutions. Fromson also testified in support of Philadelphia City Council’s ban on relying on prior pay as a basis for wage decisions and co-authored, along with WLP Staff Attorney Amal Bass, an amicus curaie brief on behalf of WLP and 27 organizations supporting the constitutionality of that ordinance, which has been challenged by business interests.

In just the last year, equal pay initiatives have been aggressively blocked on the federal, state, and local levels.

Legislation to close the loopholes in the state equal pay law continue to be neglected, despite robust evidence of the need to update the law. Pennsylvania adopted an Equal Pay Act in 1959, then weakened it less than a decade later to reduce the number of employees it applies to. Our equal pay law only applies to a very small number of Pennsylvanians.

Our refusal to update equal pay law shows in our sky-high wage gap: Pennsylvania’s wage gap is larger and more persistent than the nation’s average. If current trends continue, Pennsylvania women are not projected to earn equal pay until 2068. That estimate is an average, because the wage gap is much wider for women of color than white women. White women will not see equal pay until 2056. Black women will not see pay equity until 2124, while Hispanic women must wait 231 more years until 2248.

Since state legislators against workplace equality know they can’t simply ignore the issue forever, they floated a fake fix that would actually reverse the state’s meager protections while stalling on real legislative solutions.

To close the gender wage gap, we need strategic policy solutions that support wage transparency on the local, state and federal level.

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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“Birthright: A War Story” Documentary premieres in Philadelphia 11/16

This new documentary shows how the U.S. is becoming “The Handmaid’s Tale.” ~ Newsweek

Birthright: A War Story is a new documentary that premieres in Philadelphia on Thursday, November 16 at the International House.

The 7PM screening will be followed by a Q&A with local healthcare providers and the film’s director, Civia Tamarkin.

About the film: Birthright: A War Story is the real-life version of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In America today, a radical movement has tightened its grip on state power, seeking to control whether and how women bear children. In this crusade, pregnant women are subject to state control, surveillance, and punishment. Even women who don’t want an abortion face shocking risks—like the pregnant woman in Alabama who faced criminal charges for taking half a Valium. Or like the grieving woman in Nebraska who, already devastated by a bleak diagnosis at 22 weeks, was forced to continue an unviable and dangerous pregnancy because of a new “fetal pain” law. Birthright: A War Story tells these stories of women caught up in a frightening new legal system, which criminalizes and physically violates women, threatens our lives, and challenges our constitutional protections.

Buy tickets here.

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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December 1: Please Join Us at Our Annual Gala in Philadelphia 

It’s been a year and we’re still here–fighting harder than ever for gender justice and equality for women and girls in Pennsylvania.

The theme of our December 1 party is “Nevertheless, She Persisted.”

Our party is Friday December 1, 5:30 – 8:30 at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Kids are welcome. Buy your ticket here, and then help us spread the word by clicking “Going” on the Facebook event page here.

It 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 by reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King when opposing the nomination of Sessions for federal judge back in 1986.

Our party theme was inspired by Warren, but is in honor of you, and in honor of all the resisters and persisters that refuse to be silenced and continue to fight for equality and justice—including of course the almost 200 Pennsylvanians who tattooed the phrase on their bodies to help raise money for our work.

Can’t make the party but want to support our work? Consider honoring a woman who has persisted, or inspired you to persist this year.

We are also persisting, but we need your support. Considering the onslaught of attacks on healthcare, reproductive rights, rape victims, LGBTQ community, people of color and low-income Americans, our role as the legal watchdog for Pennsylvania women is more important than ever. We’ve been assessing the constitutionality of abortion restrictions, testifying about the need for workplace equality protections, filing lawsuits, writing amici curaie briefs for the Supreme Court of the United States, developing legislation, and organizing Community Conversations about Women’s Health across the state of Pennsylvania to do what our so-called representatives will  not: listen to women, and help develop solutions to improve their health and economic security.

We continue to expand our work to eliminate gender bias in policing and improve police accountability. The Philadelphia Model, the advocate-led review of rape case files we conduct every year at the Philadelphia Police Department, continues to spread across the continent, with multiple American and Canadian cities adopting the best practice.

We worked on an action plan to protect contraception access in the wake of the Trump administration widening exceptions, and developed and launched a website that exposes discrimination against female athletes in Pennsylvania schools.

Equal pay and workplace equality are also priorities. In Philadelphia, we authored an amicus curaie brief supporting the City of Philadelphia in the lawsuit filed by businesses to block an equal pay prior-wage ordinance. Alongside our partner advocates, we declared May 23, the day the ordinance was supposed to take effect, Unequal Pay Day in Philadelphia. We continue to advocate for a bill to close loopholes in the state Equal Pay Act, which has not been updated in 50 years, call to raise the minimum wage, and work to protect pregnant workers.

This is just a glimpse into our 2017, and we have much, much more to do in 2018.

Please join us on December 1 to support and celebrate our work. Introduce yourself. Bring a friend. Let’s create a story of persistence together, and win.

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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