Why We’re Working Today in Solidarity with the Women’s Strike

March 8 is International Women’s Day and, this year, organizers of the historic Women’s Marches have designated today as a women’s strike they are calling “A Day Without a Woman.”

From the announcement: “In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.”

Today, we express solidarity with women around the globe by showing up for our 15,681st day of work as the legal arm of the women’s equality movement in Pennsylvania, fighting against gender discrimination in all its forms, wherever it occurs: at work, in school, on the athletic field, in healthcare and in the criminal justice system.

Our mission, always urgent, is even more so today as we strategize against an regressive federal agenda and a state Legislature obsessed with depriving Pennsylvania women of access to safe and legal abortion, while failing to enact basic employment protections, including: temporary, minor accommodations for pregnant workers; a sanitary space for new mothers to express breast milk to feed the baby she was, in many cases, economically coerced to abandon before ready or recommended due to federal policy of providing zero weeks parental leave; and closing loopholes in our state equal pay law. They have also failed to raise the minimum wage above $7.25 per hour in Pennsylvania, where women represent two-thirds of minimum wage workers and are the breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of families.

In Pennsylvania policy and politics, a day without a woman means another typical day where a group of predominantly white men attempt to deprive us of our rights to control our own bodies, and fail to address systemic discrimination that creates barriers to enabling us to support our families. So we’re in the office today, and appreciate all women who are showing up for equality today, wherever and however best they can.

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

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

 

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WLP Statement on Proposal to Defund Planned Parenthood

President Trump’s reported threat to defund Planned Parenthood unless the organization stops providing safe, legal abortion care is the epitome of pro-life hypocrisy. Just last year, the president himself admitted that Planned Parenthood’s low-cost healthcare helps “millions and millions” of women, and yet he is willing to deprive those women of lifesaving care in order to further an ideological agenda that would, if implemented, endanger women’s lives.

As Planned Parenthood officials clarified while reportedly rejecting this proposition, federal money is already restricted from funding abortion.

As we will clarify, again: abortion is healthcare. We stand with Planned Parenthood, and we join them in condemning this latest attempt to score political points by risking women’s lives.

We demand evidence-based healthcare, including equal access to safe, legal abortion. We won’t go back.

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

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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WLP Testifies on the Impact Repealing the ACA Would Have on Women in Philadelphia

Today, Terry L. Fromson, Managing Attorney at the Women’s Law Project, testified before Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services regarding the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act on the residents of Philadelphia.

Photo by Ted Eytan via CC.

“Healthcare is a critical issue for all of us,” said Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District), who called for the hearings as Chair of the Committee on Public Health and Human Services. “Just the mention of repealing health coverage and protections is causing real insecurity among my constituents. I am particularly concerned about the strain such repeal will place on our City Health Centers, which must provide care to anyone regardless of insurance coverage.  With the ACA our Health Centers were able to be reimbursed for many of the patients coming through its doors.”

The Women’s Law Project has a significant track record advocating for equal access to health care for women, including insurance coverage of women’s health and the elimination of discriminatory insurance practices.

Here is Fromson’s testimony, in full:

The Women’s Law Project (WLP) is a legal advocacy organization that engages in high impact litigation, advocacy and education to advance the rights and status of women.

Addressing women’s access to health care has been a high priority for WLP.  We have long advocated for insurance coverage for contraception, abortion and pregnancy and the elimination of gender-based rating of insurance.  We also led the effort to stop insurers from denying coverage to domestic violence victims, protection against which was ultimately incorporated into the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In a 2012 report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, the Women’s Law Project documented the ways in which Pennsyvlania’s pre-ACA insurance policies and practices discriminated against women.

  • Insurers charged women more than men for the same coverage, a practice that prevented employers and individuals from purchasing insurance coverage for women.
  • Many insurance policies excluded pregnancy-related care and women were forced to either purchase expensive supplemental maternity coverage or pay all costs out of pocket.
  • Many policies excluded pre-existing conditions; in addition to pregnancy generally, women who had prior cesarean sections, breast or cervical cancer, or medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence were denied coverage for those conditions or coverage generally.
  • Many insurers did not provide comprehensive coverage for the full range of contraceptives or the medical treatment accompanying contraceptive devices.

The ACA significantly expanded affordable health care coverage for women, eliminating these discriminatory practices and ensuring access to quality, affordable care for millions of women.

The ACA prohibits women being charged more than men for their health insurance.

It prohibits denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

It allows young women to stay on their parent’s insurance plans until age 26.

It made maternity and newborn care a required benefit for individual market health plans.

It required a list of preventive services to be provided women at no extra cost, including contraception, annual well-woman exams; breast-feeding support and supplies for new moms; screening and counseling for domestic and intimate partner violence; and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

These services provide essential health care for women who had struggled to meet these needs in the past due to cost and lack of access.

The ACA also made it illegal for government agencies and federally funded health insurers and hospitals to discriminate based on sex, race, color, national origin, disability or age. This is the first time federal civil rights law has prohibited discrimination based on sex in federally funded health programs.

The threatened repeal of the ACA places women at risk of losing insurance altogether, being unfairly charged more than men for care, and losing specific coverages guaranteed by the ACA that are essential to women’s health.  Increased health care costs will make health care out of reach, particularly for low income women.  This loss of insurance coverage will have many adverse health consequences for women and their families.

  • They will have to make choices on basic necessities. Pay the rent or get health care; put food on the table or get a prescription filled.
  • There will under-utilize health services and adverse health outcomes for women with chronic illnesses.
  • They will be unlikely to receive preventive care and screenings.
  • Individuals requiring costly medical services will be unable to afford them.

As a result, women may experience unhealthy pregnancies, putting them at risk of maternal illness, low birth weight babies, and infant mortality. Or they may be at risk of premature death.

Repeal of the ACA and accompanying Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania will take us back to a time when some women and families were forced to go without health insurance and were unable to afford the most essential health care.  Women of color and low-income women will experience the most dire consequences—contributing to health inequity and health disparities.

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

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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WLP Signs Brief Supporting Transgender Rights in Upcoming SCOTUS Case

The Women’s Law Project signed on to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States filed by the National Women’s Law Center in support of teenager Gavin Grimm in a landmark transgender right case.

Gavin Grimm (Photo: ACLU.org)

Gavin Grimm (Photo: ACLU.org)

Background: “The bathroom issue”

One day in 2014, a transgender teenage boy named Gavin Grimm decided to use the boy’s bathroom at Gloucester High School in Virginia. He had already begun re-introducing himself as a boy and had switched to using the men’s room in other public spaces when he decided to use the boy’s room at school.

“I went in, went out, same deal as always,” Grimm told the Washington Post last year. “It was like, ‘Okay, great — I can use the bathroom now.’ ”

Echoing the experience of other transgender students across the country, Grimm’s decision to use the bathroom that matched his gender identity sparked a years-long conflict with his school. Later this month, Grimm’s case is headed to the Supreme Court of the United States, in what is now seen as a landmark case for transgender rights.

G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board comes just weeks the president reversed his campaign trail position and revoked a 2016 guideline that advised schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. While rescinding the guideline did not effectively change the law—the guideline simply clarified for school administrators that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 covers gender identity in addition to sexual orientation, an interpretation based on 10 years of case law—it did signal an unsettling lack of support for transgender rights under the regressive federal agenda.

The argument against discriminatory bathroom policies

From the brief: Amici submit this brief because the policy at issue—which  bars  a  transgender  boy  from  using  the same restroom facilities as other boys—rests on the same sort of discriminatory stereotyping that historically has been used to justify discrimination against women  in  schools  and  the  workplace… Title  IX  rests,  in  substantial  part,  on  the  rejection  of  gender  stereotypes—that  is,  on  rejection of the insistence that an individual’s behavior and appearance must match the stereotype associated with his or her gender. (Read the full brief here.)

Oral arguments are scheduled for March 28. However, the Gloucester County School Board recently suggested a postponement. The delay was suggested ostensibly so the federal government has more time to weigh in given the confusion it itself created by suddenly withdrawing the 2016 guidance. It must be noted such delay, if granted, will give the school board a presumed benefit of including the opinion of Judge Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin March 20. Grimm and his team have requested to proceed as scheduled.

The Women’s Law Project represented Rainbow Alliance, an LGBTQIA student group at the University of Pittsburgh, in litigation against the school under the Pittsburgh Fair Practices Ordinance on behalf of transgender and gender nonconforming students. This case has been settled.

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

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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WLP Condemns Reversal of Protections for Transgender Students

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In Pennsylvania, 74% of transgender or gender non-conforming students report experiencing harassment at school. Twenty-three percent report having been a victim of physical assault, and almost 1 in 10 report experiencing sexual violence.

Discrimination doesn’t end at the end of the school day, or after graduation. According to EqualityPA, transgender people experience poverty at higher rates than the general population, are routinely harassed in public spaces, and often refused medical care. Transgender women of color are disproportionately subjected to violence.

Yet, despite these facts, the president reversed his campaign trail position and revoked a landmark guideline that advised schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

This announcement was made on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference. It is unconscionable for the president to endanger the health and lives of vulnerable Americans simply to appease a subset of political supporters who do not represent the views of most Americans.

While insufficient, formal protections for transgender people do exist in Pennsylvania. State employees are protected from discrimination via a 2003 executive order. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws, as do 36 municipalities across the state.

Under the regressive federal agenda, local and state protections are more important than ever. The Women’s Law Project will continue to fight to protect all LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, including our continued support for statewide protections through the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.

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

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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What You Need to Know about the PA Senate SB3 Debate

After three hours of debate that included explicitly rejecting an opportunity to hear from doctors and the public, the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 3 by a vote of 32 to 18, in defiance of medical opposition and amid public outcry.

Did your Senator vote for SB3? Check here.

brooks-photo

Sen. Michele Brooks is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 3

SB3 is Confusing and Unclear. Many attempts were made to clarify the intention of Senate Bill 3, and what implementing a law with such an extraordinary level of political interference into doctor’s office would look like.

This task is challenging given the unprecedented nature of the legislation—no other state has implemented this law—and because the bill’s language relies on made-up propaganda phrases (“dismemberment abortion”) and neglects to define the main exception.

The Bill Does Not Tell Doctors What Counts as an Exception. SB3 has no exceptions for rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly.

Under threat of felony arrest, the only exceptions offered in the bill are the woman’s death, and “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.”

Sen. Daylin Leach, who voted against SB3, asked primary sponsor Senator Michele Brooks to define “major bodily function” several times. He asked if permanent sterility, for example, qualified as “major bodily function” and therefore counted as an exception under the law.

Brooks did not answer the question.

SB3 is on the Fast Track. SB3 was referred to Committee on Friday, Feb. 3, passed in Committee on Monday, Feb. 6, and passed in the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The Bill’s Supporters Are Divided About Whether It Will Criminalize D&E Procedures. On Monday, when SB3 was voted through the Senate Judiciary Committee, a supporter argued it did not ban dilation and evacuation, a standard, safe procedure used in both first- and second- trimester abortion.

Yesterday, supporters argued that the legislation does intend to ban D&E procedure, except in the cases of post-miscarriage treatment. It also remains unclear how a physician would defend him or herself when investigated, even though SB3 invites police to investigate physicians for providing standard care.

The Increased Medical Risk SB3 Forces Doctors to Inflict on Patients Was Unexamined and Disregarded. Senator Brooks, a politician with no medical background, listed abortion procedures that her legislation will allow physicians use on patients in order to try to avoid investigation and/or arrest.

When asked, Brooks could not provide complication rates for these alternate methods in order to compare to D&E.

A Female Republican Senator Opposing SB3 Shared Her Personal Story. Senator Lisa Baker is one of three Republicans who did not vote for SB3 and one of only 7 women in the entire Pennsylvania Senate. While speaking out against the bill, Senator Baker shared a devastating story of giving birth of a stillborn daughter.

“For weeks I rode the roller coaster of receiving good and bad news … tests that were conducted over a 7-week period,” said Baker. “[The doctor] said there was a 1 in 125,000 chance of having this result detected in an amniocentesis test. Needless to say, I couldn’t catch my breath. This couldn’t be happening to my family. My husband and I were in shock and disbelief…. I was planning for a nursery, never expecting to plan a funeral.”

Sen. Baker pleaded with her colleagues to reconsider their support for SB3.

“Has everyone taken the time to talk to a mother who has received this devastating news?”

 “Has anyone looked at the list of lethal defects that are not detectable until [after 19 weeks]?”

 “Why are we moving something so consequential so quickly?”

 “Are we going to take into account the impossible choices these individuals confront?”

For the majority of Baker’s colleagues and one Democrat, Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), the answer was no.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Are Trying to Silence Doctors. The consensus among medical and public health experts is strong opposition to SB3.

Since doctors have been locked out of the process, they are working on alternate ways to express opposition and warn the public about the medical dangers of SB3.

At the session yesterday, critics of the bill read parts of a letter signed by 78 doctors opposing SB3 in order to enter medical testimony into the record. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pennsylvania Medical Society, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and many more physicians have issued statements strongly opposing this legislation.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Are Denying the Public Any Say. Pennsylvania lawmakers voted against public hearings at least twice last session when considering House Bill 1948, last session’s version of SB3.

That trend is continuing this session. On Monday, the GOP majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a motion submitted by Sen. Larry Farnese to allow public hearings in order to hear from doctors and Pennsylvania women.

Yesterday, they voted against a public hearing again.

Sen. Brooks Argues Noting No Rape Exception “Exploits” Rape. SB has no exception for victims of rape and incest of any age.

Children and teens may not know or recognize the signs of pregnancy, or may fear having their parents finding out about the assault and pregnancy. Women with unsupportive or abusive partners may pregnancy to hide a sexual assault by another person.

Sen. Brooks argued that despite the lack of exceptions for rape victims, pointing out the lack of exception exploits the “hideous” crime of rape, and rape victims.

Have Questions and Concerns About SB3? Send Them to Us. Pennsylvania lawmakers have repeatedly shut down opportunities for the Pennsylvanians affected by SB3, but they are still speaking up and asking questions.

If you have a question, story or statement about SB3, please submit to Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org. We will collect them and send appropriate statements, share them with lawmakers who do want to hear from constituents, and try to submit them onto the record. Please provide your complete name and town or city if you want your statement shared publicly.

You can also tweet questions about comments to #AskMicheleSB3, a hashtag launched after primary sponsor Sen. Brooks failed to appear to answer questions about SB3 during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Next: SB Heads to the Pennsylvania House

The House reconvenes in March. Stay tuned.

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

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ACTION ALERT: Urge Your Senator to Oppose SB3

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Yesterday, ten Pennsylvania lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 3, one of the most dangerous abortion bills in the country, out of Committee. All nine Senators who voted to punish pregnant women—Senators Greenleaf, Rafferty, Eichelberger, Gordner, Langerholc, Reschenthaler, Vulakovich, Yaw, Alloway—are Republican men.

Senate Bill 3 is a uniquely dangerous abortion restriction which contains two provisions. In addition to criminalizing pregnancy termination after 19 weeks, it also contains a “method ban” provision, which seeks to criminalize the use of a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). D&E is a commonly used, medically tested, safe procedure. It is often used to address miscarriages.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pennsylvania Medical Society, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and many more physicians are on record strongly opposing this legislation.

Despite robust medical-expert opposition to legislation that leaves the only exception—“death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” undefined, and criminalizes a common, safe procedure without suggesting a safe substitute, these men explicitly rejected a motion to allow input from medical experts, women, and the public.

 The bill’s sponsor, Senator Michele Brooks, was invited to the Senate Judiciary Committee session, but did not show up to answer questions.

Senate Bill 3 goes to a full vote as soon as tomorrow, Wednesday, February 8.

We need your help to defeat this legislative attack on women, families and physicians in Pennsylvania.

FIRST ACTION: Contact your state Senator

phone

FIND your state Senator here.

CONTACT them any way you can, giving phone calls a priority, to urge them to OPPOSE SB3.

SPREAD THE WORD by posting this alert on social media. Post on lawmakers’ social media pages. They intend to fast-track this bill, and we need to be visible and make noise.

SECOND ACTION: Contact the Primary Sponsor 

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Senator Michele Brooks, a politician with no medical training, sponsored this bill but did not show up to the Senate Judiciary Committee session to answer questions.

Do you have a question for Michele Brooks about this legislation? To ask a question, or share your opposition directly with Sen. Michele Brooks, contact her:

Email: mbrooks@pasenate.gov

Phone: 717-787-1322

Fax: 717-772-0577

Facebook 

 

THIRD ACTION: #AskMicheleSB3

Please share your question for Senator Brooks with the rest of us! We will collect questions and share them with lawmakers who support evidence-based policies for women and families, so they can ask questions behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania who have been locked out of discussion.

askmichele

If you would like your name and question read into the record tomorrow (we can’t guarantee it will happen but need your approval) mail or forward your question to Tara Murtha tmurtha@womenslawproject.org.

You can also tweet your question with the hashtag #AskMicheleSB3

Thank you for speaking up for physicians, women and families in Pennsylvania, and against this outrageous political interference and over-reach into the way doctors practice medicine, and the private life of families struggling to make complicated decisions.

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

 Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

 We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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