“The Flailing Tail of a Dying Dinosaur”

On Friday, December 3, WLP Executive Director Carol E. Tracy gave this speech at our annual party at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia:

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WLP Executive Director Carol E. Tracy

My talk today is very different from the program we anticipated we’d be showing while preparing for our party throughout the fall. We were planning to show a video of Jennifer Childs, a wonderful writer and actress from 1812 Productions, doing her hilarious impersonation of Hillary Clinton singing “My Way,” complete with an overlay of a giant glass ceiling crashing.

We expected to host an evening of fun.

But since the election, there’s not much to laugh about.

I am outraged, and I am very motivated.

I’m a baby boomer. My childhood took place in the world that many Trump voters wish to take us back to a world of stark and virtually total racial segregation and strict and unbending rules about women’s place in society.

So let me say at the outset: we are not going back to that world. We are not going to let that happen.

I grew up watching the news on television as African-Americans were sprayed with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs. I grew up in a neighborhood and schools where “the N-word” was used regularly. I grew up in a world where women were tied to the kitchen, my mother among them; where those who did work outside the home could only work in jobs legally segregated by sex and race.

Women were supposed to get married – to men, of course! – and quit work after they married, or at least once they had children. If a teacher, for example, became pregnant she would have to leave the classroom when she started “to show,” as though being pregnant was shameful and immoral, with no guarantee that her job would be held for her if she wanted to return to work. Battered women were trapped in their homes; there were no resources, no supports, virtually no legal protections. Like rape victims, they were held responsible for their assailants’ behavior.  

I grew up learning how to be a lady–apparently, not very well. I was told what to wear and how to behave. This was the experience of almost all women of my generation, and yet it sounds like another planet to young people. My undergraduate students were mystified when I told them that girls and women were not supposed to wear pants in public: to school, to church, to work. Even around the house, women wore house dresses. Back then, wearing pantsuits and kicking off pointed-toe spike heels were acts of resistance and liberation. But most of my students did not get the full of meaning and resonance of a “Pantsuit Nation.”

Of course, fashion is symbolic. Real liberation couldn’t come without reproductive freedom. I came of age when women took up collections for their friends to get abortions, some back-alley and some, eventually, safely in New York.

I came of age in the unprecedented era of civil unrest. I watched cities burn on television. I saw body bags being returned from Vietnam filled with boys my age. It was a time of wide-spread civil disobedience: some peaceful, some not. It was also a time of assassinations: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, President John F. Kennedy, The Rev. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy.

Those of us women who were around in the late sixties and seventies experienced social change for women– indeed social upheaval – in ways that the world had never seen. Women’s place in society, second-class at best, in every conceivable sphere, was deeply engrained in our laws and culture.

And then all hell broke loose.

1964 was the year that changed the landscape of employment opportunity for women. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed. Sex was added to the language by a racist representative as a last ditch effort to scuttle Title VII, in the belief that prohibiting discrimination against women was such a ludicrous proposition that it would kill the bill that was created to protect against discrimination based on color, national origin and religion.  .

In 1965, the birth control bill was put on the market, allowing women to plan their reproductive and economic lives. Separating reproduction from sexuality was monumental.

Demonstrators calling for voting rights at the 1963 March on Washington (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko)

Demonstrators calling for voting rights at the 1963 March on Washington (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko)

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally protected the right to vote for African Americans, resulting in the most formidable progressive voting bloc: African American women.

Title IX, prohibiting discrimination in education, enacted in 1972, blew open the doors to professional education – law, medicine, business – for women, and exponentially expanded athletic opportunities for girls and young women.

And 1973, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.

1977:  Women taking part in a demonstration in New York demanding safe legal abortions for all women.  (Photo by Peter Keegan/Keystone/Getty Images)

Women taking part in a demonstration in New York demanding safe legal abortions for all women. (Photo by Peter Keegan/Keystone/Getty Images)

In less than a decade, the world changed for women.

It was the time of The Feminist Mystique, the founding of the National Organization for Women, and the spontaneous formation of women’s consciousness-raising groups.

All of this was against the background of a far more organized and effective civil rights movement advancing the rights of African Americans and a far more radical anti-war movement, in both of which many women participated.

During this time, women in small and large communities throughout the United States stepped up and called for an end to violence against women. There was no email, no Facebook, no Twitter – women just spontaneously came together and talked, and somehow all reached the same conclusion: to be free, women needed control of our own bodies, and that meant reproductive freedom, and freedom from violence and abuse.

The anti-violence against women movement wasn’t a policy proposal. It was a zeitgeist, a collective consciousness that was expressed in living rooms, community centers, makeshift women’s centers and church basements, and we demanded justice for women who were raped and abused.

These demands by grassroots feminists led to sweeping reforms in legal and other institutions and the creation of shelters, safe houses, hotlines and rape crisis centers, initially all staffed by volunteers. The gains made in dealing with violence against women were not the result of legislative action, advances in social science research, sophisticated legal analysis, or a Supreme Court ruling – it was women in local communities, talking to each other, developing strategies and mobilizing around these critical issues.

The advantage of doing movement work as long as I have is that it gives one a long view. More often than not, people I voted for did not become president. I have lived through Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes. Obviously, I did not vote for the current President-elect—just like the majority of Americans who voted did not vote for him.

Here in Philadelphia, we had Frank Rizzo as mayor for eight years. For those of you who don’t know about him, he said things as disgusting as Trump has said, but worse, he used his nightstick with ferocity against Black people in Philadelphia.

We have survived these administrations, but we have not come out unscathed. Indeed, countless harms have occurred to many people. Additionally, legal protections related to abortion, voting rights and others have diminished, and relentless, well-funded attacks on our new freedoms have been launched during these last four decades. Yet, we have not been defeated, and the spirit of resistance, and the movement for equality and social justice, has survived.

I don’t think any of us in the progressive movement is underestimating what is ahead of us. We are taking Trump and his appointments at their word. It’s going to be a long and potentially very dangerous four years.

It’s important to remember that much of the hate that was manifested during this past year was already present. I think many of us have buried this knowledge. One colleague told me after the election that she wondered if she made a mistake in bringing her African American daughter up to believe that she was living in a post-racial society, when she herself knew how deep and profound racism still runs. We know how rampant sexual assault is, we know that doctors and workers in healthcare facilities that provide abortion care are under constant threat, and some have been murdered in cold blood. We know that lesbian, gay, and transgendered people have been ridiculed, harassed and emotionally and physically harmed .We know how Muslims and immigrants have been bearing the brunt of hatred. Trump did not make this happen. He just took the scab off this festering wound.

For the last several years, it’s been clear that new or reinvigorated social movements have been developing: some are organized, some simply organic and collaborative, and all have amazing social media savvy.

“Black Lives Matters” has upended the discussion about race in America, and acts of racism are actually being videotaped. Women have stepped out of the shadows and publicly thrown down the shackles of shame historically associated with rape and sexual assault, from campus to Cosby to Fox News, and then presidential candidate Trump. The acceleration of the movement out of the closet for members of the LGBT community and toward legal and economic equality, such as same-sex marriage, has been staggering. The Reproductive Justice movement, led by women of color, eloquently shifted the focus from the ability to choose abortion to a broader understanding of reproductive oppression that includes intersecting experiences of inequality, such as economic justice, immigration status, and physical ability, and the struggle to raise children in safe healthy communities. Young white men are participating in social justice movements from “Occupy” to “Feeling the Bern,” representing a level of enthusiastic participation that I have not seen since the draft ended. Abortion Out Loud is a refreshed movement to remove the stigma associated with abortion, which we know one out of three women will experience in their lifetime.

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Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia

I have often wondered what the confluences of factors were that made so much happen in the 60s and 70s, and what it would take to light such a fire again. I think a new confluence of factors is clearly present.

I think Donald Trump and his voters lit that fire.

I see clarity, and I see opportunity.

So what are we going to do? The Women’s Law Project is going to do what we have always done: protect, defend, and advance the rights of women.

No matter what the differences that might occur among leadership in Congress and our General Assembly here in Pennsylvania, we can be sure we know the one issue that will be used to unify our opponents: limiting access to abortion.

The WLP team will ramp up our work to meet new challenges to support women and abortion care providers.

We will continue our groundbreaking work that has transformed police practice for responding to sexual assault in Philadelphia, a project that catapulted our work to national prominence.

We will put our hearts and souls in the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of 55 local, state and national organizations working together to improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania. The Campaign advocates for bills supported by Pennsylvania’s pro-choice Women’s Health Caucus, and also serves as an educational campaign, informing concerned citizens, like yourselves, about the health and economic status of women in Pennsylvania and opportunities for improvement.

With our allies, in the coming year, we plan to organize “People’s Hearings on Pregnancy and Women’s Health” throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians will testify about what it is like here under the current status quowhich, if you don’t know, is extremely poor compared to the rest of the country. We will hear testimony about the hypocrisy of the so-called “pro-life” movement and lawmakers who provide so little support to pregnant women, withhold money to fight the Zika virus, and care so little about the health, education and welfare of America’s children. Women will tell their stories of why they chose abortion, and the hardships encountered trying to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

We will hear stories about what life is like for minimum wage workers and for low-wage women workers who nevertheless are the major breadwinners for their families: women who do not have paid sick days, paid family leave, or access to decent childcare.

Many of these women, particularly those who are white and nonurban, have consistently voted against their self-interest. We have to reach out to them and do more to bring them to progressive causes. Our collective failure to do so cost us heavily in this election.

They will talk and we will listen. Just this week, we were invited to speak in a friend’s living room. Thirty-one women and two men gathered: a cross section of millennials, Gen X-ers and boomers.  We had an invigorating conversation, and a totally unplanned but spontaneous outcome was that at least three women decided they would run as committee people in Philadelphia

You never know what might come out of women’s living rooms!

To that end, we are going to turn our office into a living room. We will talk, we will listen to each other and we will develop action plans. More on that soon.

We encourage all of you to open your living rooms, to strategize, to mobilize; to add to your weekly “to do” lists the calls you will make, the letters you will write, your posts to Facebook and Twitter, the meetings you will organize and attend, the marches and demonstrations you will join. We cannot afford to let a week go by without doing something.

I am personally unforgiving of those who voted for a person who spewed such hateful rhetoric.  I know that only 26% of the eligible voting population voted for him; that he lost the popular vote by more than 10 million votes; that the first woman presidential candidate of a major party earned more votes than any previous white male candidate.

I have to believe that American is better than the outcome of this election. We know that much of the vote was a protest vote against gridlock and for a vague, if woefully misdirected, idea of change in Washington.

The result is members of our community are rightfully fearful. We will collaborate with other public interest law groups and allied social justice movements to protect the vulnerable. We will defend our communities, we will join the fight to keep Philadelphia a Sanctuary City, and we will continue to press forward.

We must not, and will not, let fear turn into silence or inaction.

In many ways it is appropriate that we are here at the Academy of Natural Sciences, surrounded by dinosaurs. It makes me think that we are experiencing the last throws of the flailing tail of a dying dinosaur; that is, white male supremacy. I’ve said that the benefit to being my age is that I have the long view, and this is it. White male supremacy is powerful, and it is destructive. But it is coming to an end!

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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Can You Spare $25 to Protect Reproductive Rights in Pennsylvania?

Reproductive rights are under attack. In a recent interview, the President-elect said that any justices he appoints to the Supreme Court will be “pro-life,” and that if Roe was overturned, the issue will be returned to the states. He then suggested that women living in states where abortion was criminalized could “perhaps” go to another state.

The Women's Law Project rallied with allies from Pennsylvania outside the Supreme Court during Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt arguments on March 2.

The Women’s Law Project rallied with allies from Pennsylvania outside the Supreme Court during Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt arguments on March 2.

Perhaps, if they have the time and money to do so.

What we know for sure is that not everybody has those resources, and the result is preventable injury and death. Around the world, 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it a leading cause of maternal mortality (13%).

Meanwhile here in Pennsylvania, anti-choice extremist lawmakers are focused on passing more state-level abortion bans. Recently, on the last day of our two-year session, a day usually reserved for farewells to departing legislators and discuss leadership for next year, Pennsylvania House Republicans threatened to pass HB1948, a dangerous double abortion ban.

HB1948 is not only medically dangerous, it is blatantly unconstitutional. On top of that, Governor Tom Wolf has stated that if passed into law, he would veto it.

At the last moment, they didn’t vote on HB1948, but the message was loud and clear: Our work protecting equal access to reproductive rights in Pennsylvania will be extra challenging into the foreseeable future, as extremists do everything they can to chisel away at our reproductive rights.

We have been representing abortion providers since the 1970s. We have the expertise to navigate byzantine laws and to assess constitutionality of proposed policies. But we need resources. We are a non-profit organization. We are the only public interest legal center devoted to the rights of women and girls in Pennsylvania.

On this day of generosity called Giving Tuesday, can you spare $25 to help protect reproductive rights in Pennsylvania? Click here to make a one-time donation, or become a sustaining supporter of the Women’s Law Project.

Thank you for your support, and please join us at our annual party in Philadelphia this Friday, Dec 2.

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

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Pittsburgh: The Next CEDAW City?

Photo of Pittsburgh City Council CEDAW hearings by Rebecca Addison, via Pittsburgh Citypaper

Photo of Pittsburgh City Council CEDAW hearings by Rebecca Addison, via Pittsburgh Citypaper

Pittsburgh City Council held a public hearing this Tuesday, November 15, on the CEDAW Ordinance. The CEDAW stands for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and is an international treaty promoting gender equality. The United States is among very few countries that failed to ratify the CEDAW.

In fact, only the United States and six other U.N. countries, including Iran, have failed to adopt it, according to the Pittsburgh Citypaper.

The CEDAW Ordinance strives to advance the principles of the convention by incorporating them into local legislation. The central piece of the Ordinance is an inter-disciplinary analysis to be conducted by various departments of the City of Pittsburgh on the issue of gender equity. This analysis will then be used to effectuate public policy change and influence government decision-making. Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced the Ordinance in the City Council on October 25, 2016.

During the hearing, over 20 members of the Pittsburgh community gave testimony encouraging the City Council to pass the Ordinance, including the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, Carlos Torres. Social science scholars and scientists presented horrifying statistics on the persistent wage disparity between men and women, the poverty level among single mothers’ households, and domestic violence affecting women. Representatives of non-profit organizations, including the Women’s Law Project, New Voices Pittsburgh, the American Association of University Women, and Planned Parenthood, emphasized the importance of passing the Ordinance.

At the end of the hearing, Councilwoman Rudiak thanked everyone who showed their support for the Ordinance and noted that she will propose creating a position within the City of Pittsburgh that will oversee the implementation of the Ordinance.

Learn more about the CEDAW Ordinance here.

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

Support equal rights? We invite you to join us at our upcoming fundraising party Dec. 2 at the Academy of Sciences in Philadelphia, or considerdonating.

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Text: Christina Alam

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On Overturning Roe: “We’re Not Going to Let It Happen”

The Women's Law Project rallied with allies from Pennsylvania outside the Supreme Court during Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt arguments on March 2.

The Women’s Law Project rallied with allies from Pennsylvania outside the Supreme Court during Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt arguments on March 2.

President-elect Donald Trump recently said he supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision in which the United States Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

At the Women’s Law Project, we vow to battle any efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“There is no way I believe all the rights we have won in the last 50 years are going to be overturned in four years’ time,” Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy said in the Metro. “We are not going to let it happen.” (Read the full Metro story here.)

In an interview on 60 Minutes, Trump said that any justices he appoints to the Supreme Court will be “pro-life,” and that if Roe was overturned, the issue will be returned to the states.

“Then some women won’t be able to get an abortion,” said reporter Leslie Stahl.

“Yeah. Well perhaps they have to go to another state,” Trump responded.

The idea that women in need of abortion care could just “go to another state” ignores the reality that many women would not be able to afford the time off or travel expense to do so. It also clarifies Trump’s stance that women who seek abortion should suffer “some kind of punishment.”

The 60 Minutes segment makes it clear the punishment Trump envisions for a woman seeking abortion would be either carrying an unwanted pregnancy or more likely, given criminalizing abortion does not affect abortion rates and only determines who has access to a safe and regulated one. In this scenario, the only women subject to such punishment would be those can’t afford to travel to a state where abortion is legal and regulated.

We don’t need to speculate what would happen if Trump’s vision becomes a reality, we already know from before Roe, and current public health analysis of other countries where abortion is criminalized and therefore not regulated. Around the world, 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it a leading cause of maternal mortality (13%).

In the Metro story, Carol Tracy recalls life before Roe in Philadelphia. “There were hospital wards full of women injured and dying from botched abortions,” said Tracy. “Women killed using knitting needles to attempt their own abortions.”

Trump’s position on abortion has been erratic, to say the least. Prior to his ascent in politics, Trump stated he was “pro-choice in every respect.”

Regardless of Trump’s history of waffling and pandering on the issue, given there is a current vacancy on the Supreme Court and an unclear number of potential appointees during Trump’s upcoming administration—anyone could choose to retire, or unexpectedly pass away—reproductive rights advocates are obviously very concerned.

Roe v. Wade didn’t make abortion legal; it enshrined abortion in the Constitutional right to privacy, thereby prohibiting states from criminalizing it outright. If, as Trump suggested, the issue of abortion was returned to the states, access to safe and affordable abortion would be determined by geography—and income.

At least 11 states have unenforced, pre-Roe bans that threaten to cast the legality of abortion into doubt in those states should Roe be overruled.

Want to see what life was like in Philadelphia before Roe? We suggest watching the documentary ‘Motherless‘.

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

Support equal rights? We invite you to join us at our upcoming fundraising party Dec. 2 at the Academy of Sciences in Philadelphia, or consider donating.

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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United State of Women Features Terry L. Fromson

The United State of Women is a movement, initially convened by the White House, taking action on key gender equality issues. Recently, the United State of State of Women profiled national leaders in the fight to close the gender wage gap, and featured our Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson.

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Fromson is a champion calling for economic justice in Pennsylvania, lending her expertise to advocate for progressive policy reform related to minimum wage, pregnancy discrimination, workplace equality and of course, pay discrimination. In 2014, Fromson testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee in Philadelphia on the persistence of the wage gap and proposed policy solutions. Despite robust evidence that Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Act has too many loopholes to be effective, the Pennsylvania Legislature did not pass an equal pay law this session.

As a result of the failure, Pennsylvania women are behind the curve: American women are not on track to achieve equal pay until 2058. Without corrective policy, Pennsylvania women will not earn equal pay until the year 2072.

Fromson is the state lead in Pennsylvania for Equal Pay Today! Campaign, a project of the Tides Center that is an innovative collaboration of women’s legal and worker’s rights organizations working at state, regional, and national levels to challenge the legal, policy, and cultural barriers that have allowed the gender wage gap to persist.

Check out the #StateofWomen Spotlight Report here, and be sure to sign up to receive our Action Alerts if you want to stay informed about efforts to close the gender and racial wage gaps in Pennsylvania.

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: Free Screening of “Audrie & Daisy”

Pittsburgh friends, please join us for a screening of Audrie & Daisy, a new documentary that examines the ripple effects when two underage women find out that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera.

The case at the centerpiece of the film made headlines in 2013, when the Kansas City Star published a long investigative report on the allegations of sexual assault and subsequent legal and social fallout in a small Missouri town. The story begins at the scene of a burned-down house, a year and a half after Daisy Coleman, then 14 years old, was discovered nearly unconscious, lying on the front lawn in 22-degree weather.

The screening will be at 7PM on Thursday, November 10 at the University of Pittsburgh, Crawford Hall, Room 169, at Fifth & Ruskin Avenues. A panel discussion will follow.

The event is free, but please RSVP.

Audrie & Daisy is co-sponsored by Southwest PA Says NO MORE, FISA Foundation, Heinz Endowments, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Women’s Law Project, PCHE, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Robert Morris University, Point Park University and La Roche College.

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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