June at the Women’s Law Project

We took a short break from sending a monthly newsletter, but now we’re back. There’s a lot going on, and we want to make sure you have every opportunity to stay up to date on our work and what’s happening in women’s and worker’s rights in Pennsylvania.

We’ve been fighting unconstitutional abortion bans in the state Legislature, and analyzing Trump’s attack on Title X, the only federal funding program devoted to family planning.

In a case called In Re: LJB, we successfully requested that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania re-consider whether a woman’s behavior while pregnant can be considered child abuse under civil law. This case may have profound implications for pregnant people, and anyone who could become pregnant.

We’re living in a time where relentless attacks on reproductive rights are colliding with an explosive opioid epidemic, a combination that threatens both civil rights and public health. In early June, we authored and filed an amicus brief in Commonwealth v. Dischman, a case in which the defendant was charged with a first-degree felony after she overdosed on opioids while pregnant. Yet, the relevant criminal statute has a clear immunity provision protecting pregnant women from prosecution for conduct during their pregnancy.

We are representing the freestanding abortion providers who have a direct interest in a Pennsylvania Right-to-Know appeal before the Office of Open Records. Jean Crocco, an employee of the extremist anti-abortion Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, is asking the Pennsylvania Health Department to turn over the names of doctors and other clinic personnel contained in the clinics’ license applications. The Department correctly withheld this information; our legal filings argue that the history of violence and disruption against abortion providers justifies the Department’s action. A decision is expected on or before June 29, 2018.

We continue to support the City of Philadelphia in defending the city’s prior-wage equal pay ordinance in a case where WLP attorneys authored and filed an amicus brief on behalf of 27 organizations. The latest update on the case is that both the City of Philadelphia and the Chamber of Commerce have appealed the split decision ruling.

On May 18, we proudly joined our friends from Raise the Wage PA at a press conference in Media, Pennsylvania to explain how raising the minimum wage is a both women’s issue and a worker’s issue, and why eliminating the tipped wage would be an effective strategy to address sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. While we’re on the topic, check out this article highlighting the work of Coalition for Health and Safety in Restaurants, a Philadelphia-based coalition working to prevent sexual harassment in restaurants.

On May 22, we co-sponsored a rally at the Capitol organized by MomsRising. We called on lawmakers to pass legislation to address sexual harassment in Pennsylvania, and highlighted the #MeToo policy agenda we developed to improve and update sexual harassment protections for workers across the state.

Good News Department

Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order addressing equal pay for state employees. The executive order:

  • No longer ask job applicants their salary history during the hiring process;
  • Base salaries on job responsibilities, position pay range, and the applicant’s job knowledge and skills;
  • Clearly explain the pay range on job postings.

Of course, we are still fighting for the state Legislature to advance a bill that would address equal pay for all Pennsylvania workers.

We were there in person at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the rights of transgender students to use restrooms and facilities that reflect their gender identity. Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project and co-counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the Boyertown policy that argues that the presence of transgender students in facilities corresponding to their gender identity does not violate Title IX. Rather, Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use those facilities.

Every year, we review sex crimes files at the Philadelphia Police Department in order to improve policy accountability and address gender bias in policing sex crimes.  The annual advocate-led review is sometimes called “the Philadelphia Model” for where it originated or “the Timoney model” for John Timoney, the late police captain whose focus on reform helped initiate the project. This recent NBC10 report provides a great overview of our work’s origins and goals.

Thank You

Thank you to everyone who attended Rights to Realities, our annual spring gala in Pittsburgh! We had a record-breaking attendance, and look forward to making it even bigger next year. We appreciate your support. As a non-profit organization that does not charge for our services, we are not exaggerating when we say we couldn’t do this work without you.

Catch up on WLP in the News

Catch up on our Blog Posts

What’s Next

Look for an explainer on why the aforementioned case Commonwealth v. Dischman is so important, an action alert when #HB129, the bill that targets women, disabled people and the elderly recovering from addiction, when it heads to the Pennsylvania Senate, and lots more. Stay tuned.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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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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