We closed out 2015 with a bang, took a holiday, and got back to work.
Next stop: The Supreme Court
The Women’s Law Project kicked off 2016 by submitting a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (previously called Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole). The WLP submitted the brief on behalf of ten abortion providers in Pennsylvania.
About the case: In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the justices will review two provisions of HB2, a Texas law designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services under the guise of improving women’s health. In doing so, they will answer the question reproductive rights advocates have been asking for the last several years: If the Constitution protects the right to abortion, how can our courts uphold laws that close down safe abortion providers and thereby deny many women access to care?
Oral arguments begin March 2.
Addressing Abortion Clinic Violence in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) introduced Senate Bill 1105, to provide freedom of access to reproductive health care facilities. Anti-abortion extremists have long used acts of violence such as arson and mass shootings in a severely misguided campaign to “stop abortion.” Recently, it has been getting worse: Last November, three people were murdered and nine more injured when a man went on a shooting rampage at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. The attack happened amid a sharp increase in threats and violence against abortion providers in the wake of a debunked video propaganda campaign.
On twitter, the Women’s Law Project convened a Twitter Town Hall on the subject of the rise of clinic violence and Senator Farnese’s new bill. The #ProtectTheZonePA Town Hall event featured Senator Larry Farnese, WLP’s Senior Staff Attorney Sue Frietsche, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Pennsylvania, The Women’s Centers, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Access Matters, Keystone Progress, the Feminist Majority and the National Federation of Abortion Providers.
Follow us on twitter @WomensLawProj.
New report: The Exponential Rise of Abortion Restrictions
The Guttmacher Institute released a new report that reveals in the 43 years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, states have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions. Of these, 288 (27%) have been enacted just since 2010.
This is why reproductive rights is going to the Supreme Court.
The WLP in Slate: “Preventing the Next Kermit Gosnell”
The anti-choice lawmakers trying to force abortion clinics to close through strategic over-regulation routinely justify their actions by claiming such laws are necessary to “prevent the next Kermit Gosnell.” As Pennsylvania advocates who witnessed the atrocity of the Gosnell case up close, we believe we have a responsibility to refute these disingenuous arguments.
Women’s Law Project senior staff attorney Sue Frietsche and staff attorney Tara Pfeifer, along with WLP board member, author and law professor David S. Cohen co-authored an article for Slate that explained why abortion restrictions such as HB2 will not “prevent another Gosnell” and in fact, create opportunity for like-minded criminals.
You can read the article here.
Carol Tracy on the so-called “Cosby Effect”
Our Executive Director Carol Tracy spoke to The Washington Post about the so-called “Cosby effect.” News organizations have been using the phrase “Cosby effect” as shorthand, to refer to the trend of more women coming forward to speak out about sexual assault.
Read the article here.
January 22 was the 43rd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Pennsylvania plays no small part in the story of the right to choose in the United States. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that set the current standard by which courts judge the constitutionality of abortion restrictions, evolved from a challenge to Pennsylvania law (the defendant Casey is former Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey, father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey). In the 1992 Casey ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the core of Roe, but changed the constitutional standard to permit states to pass additional regulations on abortion.
To commemorate Roe at 43, the Pittsburgh office of the Women’s Law Project hosted a Happy Hour at Howl at the Moon, which also functioned as a blizzard-welcoming party. Thank you to everyone who came out to support! We also co-sponsored an Anniversary Rally with Planned Parenthood and fellow advocates, and wrote a list of 10 facts about abortion in Pennsylvania that you may not know, but should.
Good Luck to Staff Attorney Tara R. Pfeifer
Unfortunately, we had to say farewell to our staff attorney Tara R. Pfeifer, who worked out of the Women’s Law Project office in Pittsburgh. Senior staff attorney Sue Frietsche wrote a moving piece highlighting just a handful of Pfeifer’s extraordinary contributions to the women of Pennsylvania and the LGBTQ community at large:
Tara is a former college rugby player who, when confronted with injustice, would often remark cheerfully, “I feel like tackling someone.” Among the many clients Tara represented during her tenure at the Law Project were a woman who gave birth while shackled in a prison van; a woman who discovered she was being paid a fraction of what her male coworker was earning; a new mother harassed for pumping at work; a young survivor of high school sexual assault; a lesbian couple seeking the first-ever same-sex adoption in a rural Pennsylvania county; a woman who was kicked out of her social club for complaining about rampant sexual harassment; and an LGBT student group fighting for better treatment of transgender students.
We will miss Pfeifer, as will the many advocates and lawmakers who reached out to thank her for her hard work. Notice we didn’t actually say good-bye. We just said we look forward to seeing you at our annual Rights to Realities fundraiser party in Pittsburgh, which will take place on Friday, May 6.
Rep. Donna Bullock on Equal Pay in PA
On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, PA Rep. Donna Bullock wrote a guest column about efforts to address pay discrimination in Pennsylvania.
From the piece:
I am proud to represent hard-working women and families of Pennsylvania’s 195th Legislative District. The gender and racial pay gap is more than a moral outrage for my constituents: Pay discrimination undermines their very ability to survive and support their families. Closing the wage gap for women, and particularly women of color, is crucial not only for these families, but for our economy. Many women are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families, and their salary can mean the difference between poverty and economic security.
You can read the entire piece here.
What’s next: Come See Us at the Keystone Progress Summit
Women’s Law Project’s Tara Murtha and Sue Frietsche will be in Harrisburg for the 2016 Keystone Progress Summit. On Saturday, February 20, they host a panel focused on exploring the upcoming Supreme Court case and how it may affect access to reproductive healthcare services in Pennsylvania. Please do consider coming to our panel and saying hello.
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The Women’s Law Project, a non-profit organization, is the only public interest legal center in Pennsylvania devoted to the rights of women and girls.