Special November-December Wrap Up!

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

Welcome to a special end-of-the-year, double-month wrap-up. It’s been a bit, but hmm, what happened in November? Oh, right: Pennsylvanians broke from a sixty-year state history and national trend to elect a new governor into office in Harrisburg.

Turns out, Pennsylvania women didn’t keep our eyes closed.

The most immediate challenge–besides the budget—is Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania. 600,000 people who would have had coverage this year had Governor Corbett expanded Medicaid as intended under the Affordable Care Act still don’t have coverage. Instead, Corbett proposed an alternate plan that cuts benefits for current Medicaid recipients called HealthyPA.

Meanwhile, Governor-elect Wolf has promised to scrap HealthyPA for “traditional” Medicaid expansion.

It gets more complicated.

In November, news got around that the state planned to let a Medicaid program that supplies low-income women with access to birth control expire at the end of the year.

As reported in ThinkProgress, advocates pushed back. Subsequently, the state announced they will extend SelectPlan for Women for an additional six months. A victory, right? Well, yes, except . . . most of the women on SelectPlan are eligible for full Medicaid on January 1, 2015, but the Corbett Administration is refusing to transfer them to the better coverage. Instead, the Department of Human Services is directing caseworkers to individually, manually review all 88,000 SelectPlan files over the next six months.

Meanwhile, two more big Medicaid problems have emerged. Healthcare providers serving low-income mentally ill and drug-addicted Pennsylvanians state stopped receiving reimbursement for services because of a “glitch” in the transition process.

Then, advocates filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), formerly known as the Department for Public Welfare. The lawsuit alleges that the DHS assigned 1.1 million adult Medical Assistance recipients benefits packages that do not meet their needs, using secret standards and without proper notice.

In other news, the reproductive Justice movement recently celebrated twenty years. If you don’t understand exactly what reproductive justice is, here is an explainer by Sister Song, and another good one by Loretta Ross.

Here in Pennsylvania, the RJ movement is led by New Voices for Reproductive Justice in Pittsburgh, an organization that recently expanded to Philadelphia. Like them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here.

In Pittsburgh, the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom is representing abortion opponents in a renewed assault on the city’s 15-foot clinic buffer zone law. Since 2006, this modest city ordinance has carved out a small semicircle of peace on two sidewalks outside of Pittsburgh’s only remaining abortion facilities. Within this zone, no one may congregate, demonstrate, picket, or patrol, to preserve clinic access and defuse confrontations. The case, Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh, is in the hands of Judge Cathy Bissoon. The Women’s Law Project is representing non-party witnesses Planned Parenthood and its clinic escorts.

WLP in the media:

Barely a day goes by when the subject of campus sexual assault, and the difficulty in figuring out how colleges and universities should handle them, is not in the news. Now the subject will be tackled in a high-profile documentary.

From the creators of The Invisible War, a documentary about sexual assault in the military comes The Hunting Ground, an exploration of campus rape and survivors’ quest for justice. WLP Executive Director Carol E. Tracy appears in the film as an expert on institutional response to rape. The Hunting Ground premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The National Partnership’s “Repro Watch” blog highlighted the work of WLP Senior Staff Attorney Sue Frietsche, who wrote a piece about how here in Pennsylvania, despite an aggressive anti-choice agenda across the country, we are waging a proactive fight for abortion access and economic rights.

Meanwhile, Executive Director Carol E. Tracy made her Huffington Post Live debut. She spoke about a recent report alleging five New Orleans Police Department detectives may have failed to investigate sex crimes over a three-year period.

Philadelphia police, of course, has a history of doing exactly what it appears New Orleans police has been doing—which is why Women’s Law Project has been conducting an annual review of the police department’s sex crime files for the last fifteen years.

“Having feminist lawyers come in and review their case files, has been an interesting experience to say the least for the Philadelphia police,” Carol said. You can watch the full video here.

We’ve made a lot of progress advancing the rights of women and girls this year, and we’re ready to make even more in 2015.

Back home over at PennLive, the editors wondered why women do not yet earn equal pay for equal work, and called for passage of the Equal Pay bills proposed within the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.

As we head into the new year, our eyes are on the Supreme Court of the United States, as the justices will decide an important case for pregnancy discrimination. We filed an amicus brief in this case, because we #standwithpeggy.

It’s been a productive year, and we’re ready for 2015.

About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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