Women’s Law Project is proud to announce founding membership in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a new statewide coalition formed to change the conversation about women’s health care in Pennsylvania.
For years now in Harrisburg, the phrase ‘women’s health’ has been code for restricting access to safe and legal abortion for poor and working women. The result of substituting sound public health policy for buzzword politics is clear: Pennsylvania consistently ranks abysmally low for women’s health and economic security across all indicators.
Most recently, a national analysis conducted the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranked Pennsylvania 31st for women’s health & well-being, 31st for reproductive rights, and 23rd for employment & earnings.
In the bigger picture, the United States ranks dead last in the developed world–50th–in maternal mortality–and Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of that dubious ranking. On average, pregnant women and newborns in Philadelphia fare worse than in the rest of the state and country. Maternal and infant mortality is severely stratified by race: African American women are three times as likely as white women to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.
While alarming, these statistics shouldn’t be surprising: Studies show the number of abortion restrictions is directly correlated with poor women’s health and higher risk of maternal death.
In other words, this is a preventable crisis—and can be turned around.
That’s why we’re proud to join with nearly two dozen other Pennsylvania organizations in the Campaign for Women’s Health. Our current focus is supporting the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.
The Agenda is a legislative package of bills that proposes evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by women and families in Pennsylvania. The first and second waves were introduced last session; the Women’s Health Caucus announced the third wave of bills this afternoon at the Capitol.
Bills in the Agenda for Women’s Health are sponsored and introduced by members of the Women’s Health Caucus. The Caucus is a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers from both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature committed to taking pro-active steps to turn the status of women’s health and economic security around.
We applaud the Caucus for their continued commitment to common-sense policy solutions.
Some of the bills proposed within the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health include:
Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted 36 years ago. Yet, even today, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. Some employers still force women to choose between a healthy pregnancy and employment by refusing to make temporary, minor accommodations, like allowing her to sit on a stool behind a register or carry a water bottle. The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. (SB 40 – Sen. Smith, D-Washington/Allegheny; HB TBA; Rep. Delozier, R-Cumberland & Rep. Cohen, D-Philadelphia)
Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers
Study after study shows that both mothers and children benefit from breastfeeding. For most babies, breast milk helps fight against disease. For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of several health problems. Nursing women shouldn’t be sent to a janitor’s closet or bathroom to pump milk. The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act would help salaried women not covered by the Affordable Care Act and require their employers to provide break time and a private, sanitary space to express breast milk. (HB 1100 – Rep. Daley, D-Montgomery & Rep. D. Parker, R-Montgomery; SB TBA – Sen. McIlhinney, R-Bucks)
More than 50 years after equal pay became the law of the land, even the most conservative data repeatedly confirm that women working fulltime, year-round jobs are paid less than their male counterparts, with women of color faring the worst. In recent years, progress toward equal pay has stalled. A recent report revealed that, at the current pace, women in Pennsylvania will not earn equal pay for equal work until 2072. The Equal Pay Act will help close the gender wage gap by prohibiting wage secrecy and closing loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more by, among other things, blaming “market forces” or workers’ previous salaries. (HB TBA – Rep. Sims, D-Philadelphia & Rep. Davis, D-Bucks; SB 303; Sen. Teplitz, D-Dauphin/Perry & Sen. Williams, D-Delaware/Philadelphia)
For a full list of Agenda bills and more information about the Campaign for Women’s Health, go to www.pa4womenshealth.org.
We’re calling for an end to ideological politics trumping common-sense policy solutions in Pennsylvania.