“Things slow down in the summer,” they said. “It will be quiet,” they said. They are wrong! Here are some highlights of our recent work.
Finding Solutions to “the double pay gap”
August 23 was Equal Pay Day for African-American Women, the day of the year that Black women had to work until in order to catch up the earnings of a non-Hispanic white men the prior year.
At City Hall in Philadelphia, the Women’s Law Project and Rep. Donna Bullock co-hosted a roundtable conversation to explore how to effectively address the gender and racial pay gaps in Pennsylvania.
As discussed, there are many ways to reduce the double pay gap: raising the minimum wage, addressing pregnancy discrimination, securing paid leave and yes, fixing Pennsylvania’s broken equal pay bill. Without simple corrective policies that close gaps in current equal pay law, Pennsylvania women are not on track to earn equal pay until the year 2072.
House Bill 1160, sponsored by Representatives Brian Sims and Tina Davis, has been sitting in committee since May, 2015. Senate Bill 303, sponsored by Senators Teplitz and Williams, has been left to languish since January, 2015. As of today, there are nine session days left in the current legislative session.
Working for Breastfeeding Rights
On August 4, we popped over to Franklin Square Park for the Big Latch On 2016, where we listened as breastfeeding mamas shared the joys and challenging of breastfeeding their babies—especially after returning to work. Pennsylvania, like every other states, falls drastically short of breastfeeding goals set by public health experts, a problem that could be significantly helped if working mothers were guaranteed private, sanitary space to pump milk at work. To learn more, read the editorial written by WLP’s Tara Murtha and Amal Bass recently published in the Patriot News.
We also hosted a webinar on the need for the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act. The Act, HB1100, would help women not covered by the Affordable Care Act and require their employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, sanitary space to express breast milk. The bill has been stalled in the legislature since May, 2015.
An Encouraging Buffer Zone Ruling in Harrisburg
U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania turned aside an effort by three abortion opponents to preliminarily enjoin Harrisburg’s “buffer zone” ordinance while their lawsuit against the ordinance is pending. Read more.
Making Progress on Paid Leave in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania was awarded a federal grant to examine making paid leave a reality the same month a new poll showed that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support paid leave. The state will receive a $250,000 federal grant to facilitate planning a paid family leave program to enable more Pennsylvania workers to have access to paid time off to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. The United States is the only industrialized nation that grants zero weeks of paid leave.
Pennsylvania Official “Regrets” Falling for Sham Anti-Choice Bill
Truly remarkable: Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Mike Stack admitted that he regretted voting for ambulatory surgical facility regulations in Pennsylvania. Known as Act 122, the Women’s Law Project and allies for reproductive rights advocated strongly against Act 122 as unnecessary, burdensome regulations, which passed into law despite no evidence that such regulations would improve women’s health.
“Knowing what I know now, I would have voted ‘no,’” wrote Stack. “The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down a Texas law that used similar burdensome licensing standards and hospital admitting privilege requirements for physicians, in a veiled attempt [to] ‘protect women’ by shutting down abortion providers. The real purpose was to deny women access to safe legal abortions.”
Stack also called on members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to reject HB 1948, a severe abortion ban currently under consideration in Pennsylvania. We continue to watch Harrisburg to see if Pennsylvania lawmakers will try to pass this bill before the end of the current session.
Statement on the Penn State Rape Case Involving Nate Parker
In 2002, the Women’s Law Project represented a young woman in a complaint charging Penn State University with violating Title IX by failing to properly respond to the harassment to which she was subjected after she filed complaints to the police and the school alleging she was raped by PSU wrestlers Nate Parker and Jean Celestin. As Parker, now a Hollywood filmmaker, readied for the national release of his film Birth of a Nation, co-written by Celestin, details about the case surfaced in the press. After fielding countless requests for comment, we issued a statement and several documents relevant to efforts to improve response to sexual assault at Penn State University.
Celebrating Trans* Rights
As of August 8, the Pennsylvania Department of Health Department of Health no longer requires evidence of surgery before a change to a gender marker on birth certificates.
In Memoriam: John Timoney
We expressed condolences to the family and friends of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, and wrote a brief piece in order to lift his legacy by highlighting his vital role in reforming police response to victims of sexual assault in Philadelphia.
Eliminating Financial Barriers to Escaping Abuse
Over at Rewire, reporter Annamarya Scaccia wrote about another bill supported by the Women’s Law Project and the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health: “The legislation, HB 1051, introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County), would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease early or request locks be changed if they have “a reasonable fear” that they will continue to be harmed while living in their unit.”
Read the rest of the piece here.
The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health is Growing
We recently welcomed three new members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of local, state and national organizations calling for evidence-based policy in Pennsylvania. Huge welcome to the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.
Like the idea of equality and evidence-based policy in Pennsylvania? Like our Facebook page for updates.
On September 10, more than 30 cities across the country, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hosted events as part of All Access, a series of concerts and conversations about unequal access to abortion in America. WLP’s Tara Murtha spoke at the Electric Factory at the Philadelphia event, and WLP’s Sue Frietsche co-hosted the livestream party in Pittsburgh.
We talked about the State of Women’s Health 2016
On September 14, we explored the status of women’s health in Pennsylvania at the 2016 State of Women’s Health event hosted by Lifecycle WomanCare.
We Kicked off a Film Festival in Pittsburgh
The Women’s Law Project is a proud co-sponsor of the Just Films festival, which will feature a series of social justice documentaries in Pittsburgh. The festival will screen one film per month from September through next June.
The first film, Don’t Tell Anyone, premiered on September 15, and was a great success. Read more about the festival and films here. Tickets are free but we recommend reserving them now as they are expected to sell out!
Up Next: 2016 March Against Rape Culture
The Women’s Law Project is a proud sponsor of the 2016 March to End Rape Culture, taking place this Saturday, September 24 in Philadelphia. Check out all the details here, and we hope to see you there!
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.