Catch Up on News You Might Have Missed in January

It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new… legislative session in Pennsylvania. There’s no time to waste: we’re working toward bills to close the loophole in equal pay law, protect equal access to reproductive healthcare services, and to end pregnancy discrimination at work … among other important things.

First, the aerial view: On their first day in office, Congress introduced a 20-week abortion ban.

These bans, though blocked for being unconstitutional in several states, are an increasingly popular way to chisel away women’s rights, so you will be seeing a lot more of them introduced in state legislatures anyway. Congress’ plan to vote on the federal version on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade fell apart, though, when several Republican Congresswoman withdrew their support.

Instead of voting on the 20-week abortion ban, they voted on a bill that they claim stops taxpayer money from funding abortion. But in reality, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal tax dollars for abortion care since 1976. What this new bill would actually do is codify the Hyde Amendment forever. It would also prohibit women from purchasing insurance policies through the exchange that cover abortion, with no exception for health of the pregnant woman.

This is just one of at least five anti-abortion bills that have been introduced in Congress so far this year.

Things are a little better than that, at least, here in Pennsylvania. Recently, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced a resolution calling for paid parental leave for some city workers.

WLP attorney Amal Bass testified at Philadelphia’s third hearing on earned paid sick day legislation, and many advocates are saying that the third time will be a charm.

In response to Philadelphia’s progress, though, some state lawmakers are rushing to pass a pre-emption bill that would “bigfoot” Philadelphia’s legislation.

On the equal-pay front, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research issued a report that revealed poverty could be slashed in half if women earned equal pay for equal work.

The Women’s Law Project is proud to be on the steering committee for the Equal Pay Today campaign, a unique partnership of 17 organizations working together to eliminate the wage gap. You can sign on to the Equal Pay campaign here.

Last year, Women’s Law Project senior staff attorney Sue Friestche testified at the first hearing held in Pennsylvania before a state legislative standing committee on the subject of equal pay in 50 years. Keep an eye out for more information on the effort to progress toward equal pay in PA, there’s going to be a lot happening there.

Congratulations are in order for our friends at New Voices Pittsburgh, who helped launch The National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

Then there’s Medicaid. Last month, Women’s Law Project and Community Legal Services filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Voices Pittsburgh, and a private individual, against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) for unlawfully delaying the enrollment of tens of thousands of Pennsylvania women into comprehensive Medicaid coverage for which they qualified effective January 1.

The press is wondering what we are we: Why is Pennsylvania Unlawfully Delaying Health Coverage for Low-Income Women?

So far this year, we’ve already issued a bad-bill alert. The first official bad bill of 2015 would enable virtually anyone to refuse to do their job if they “conscientiously object” to a patient obtaining contraception or having an abortion, even a medically necessary termination.

A recent report revealed that abortion clinic harassers are “emboldened” by a wave of anti-choice bills: threats against abortion providers have doubled since 2010.

It’s distressing news. Know that Women’s Law Project is working closely with Senator Larry Farnese on a new state bill that would protect providers and patients trying to enter healthcare facilities.

In a recent issue of The Legal Intelligencer, Staff attorney Amal Bass highlighted four key bills in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health that we’ll be working on this year.

The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health will be one of the hot topics at the Progressive Summit, happening this weekend in Harrisburg. In addition to an entire panel dedicated to exploring the Agenda, senior staff attorney Sue Friestche is co-hosting a panel called “Abortion in the U.S.: The Good and the Bad, and the Local.” Tara Murtha is co-hosting a “Media Training 101” for advocates interested in learning how to successfully work with editors and reporters.

That’s it for now. It’s going to be a very busy next few months.

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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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