In the US, women in general make 85% of a man's median annual earnings. Asian women make 90%, white non-Hispanic women make 77%, African American women make 63%, Pacific Islanders make 59%, Native American women make 57%, and Hispanic women make 54% of a non-Hispanic white man on a annual basis.

Equal Pay Day 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018, is the day on which women’s wages catch up with men’s wages from the previous year. This day varies year to year. It symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man made the previous year.  April 10 is six days later than Equal Pay Day 2017, two days earlier than Equal Pay Day 2016, four days later than Equal Pay Day 2015, one day later than Equal Pay Day 2014, five days earlier than Equal Pay Day 2013, and seven days earlier than Equal Pay Day 2012 when Ni-Ta-Nee NOW started tracking this date!

Since I started this blog at the end of 2012 (8 months after Equal Pay Day 2012), I’ve created a blog to provide some information on this day and its meaning to economic justice for women.  Each year, I created a flyer for Ni-Ta-Nee NOW that we distributed to the public in State College, PA on Equal Pay Day and then turned it into a blog for the general public. The previous blogs can be found here:

In the US, women in general make 85% of a man's median annual earnings. Asian women make 90%, white non-Hispanic women make 77%, African American women make 63%, Pacific Islanders make 59%, Native American women make 57%, and Hispanic women make 54% of a non-Hispanic white man on a annual basis.

A look at the national wage gap by gender and ethnicity on Pay Equity Day 2018. Data collated by AAUW.

The general theme of these previous blogs is that women’s wages are currently moving at a snail’s pace towards equity with men’s wages. At the rate of change since 1960, it will be 2059 before women achieve wage parity; but at the slower, snail’s pace rate of change since 2001, it will be 2119 before women’s wages reach parity.

Yet there is some bright news. On Tuesday, April 9, 2018, the eleven-member 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously gave the idea of pay equity a boost by ruling that “employers cannot use previous salaries to justify higher payment for men than for women.” This decision only applies to the nine states within the 9th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction, but it is a start.

So to change my blog a bit, I thought I’d share Nel’s New Day‘s commentary on this decision and on Equal Pay Day 2018.  She talks about similar issues, including varying dates of pay equity for people of color and a more in-depth effort to debunk the reasons for pay inequity than I have done in the past.

She also talks about international pay equity, ranking the United States against other countries around the world. I, in contrast, looked at the ranking of PA as compared to the United States.  So I’ll add that bit and then share Nel’s commentary with you.

How About PA?

The wage gap is even worse in Pennsylvania than in the United States. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap places us at 29 out of 51 (tied with CT, TX, OR, & IL) among the states. The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year-round in Pennsylvania in 2016 (the last date data were available) was $41,047 compared to men’s $51,780 or 79% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 21%.

In  the Old PA 5th Congressional District where I live

In 2016, Pennsylvania’s old 5th Congressional District (CD)women in the district made $35,384 compared to the $45.640 that men earned or 77.5% of what a man earned (a BIG improvement over the 73.4% in 2015). The old 5th Congressional district ranks 9 out of 18 (up from 15) in the state in terms of the wage gap.  This is a wage gap of 22.5%. Philadelphia’s 1st CD fairs better than the rest of the state with a difference of just 13.7%.

[Side note: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on January 22, 2018, that Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. After the General Assembly and the Governor failed to create a new map by the mandated February 15 deadline, the Supreme Court established and announced the new districts on February 19.  Due to this recent redistricting, the pay equity data for Pennsylvania’s new Congressional Districts has yet to be done.]

Lifetime Wage Disparity in Pennsylvania

A woman in Pennsylvania who is just starting her career now will earn, on average, $429,320 less than her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career (ranked 30 out of 51 states). For Asian-American women, it’s $418,280; for white, non-Hispanic women, it’s $463,960, for Black women, it’s $657,680; for Native American women, it’s $840,800; & for Hispanic women, it’s $679,920.

Equal Pay Day – Help from the 9th Circuit with a National and International Perspective on Pay Equity

via Equal Pay Day – Help from the 9th Circuit

If women got the same wages that men do for equal jobs, then Equal Pay Day would be December 31 each year. But we don’t, and women on the average have to work over three months longer to equal the men’s salaries each year because women make $.80 for each $1.00 that men make. This year, Equal Pay Day is April 10, and women can celebrate a great court win today.

Almost one year ago, a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court ruled that employers can pay women less than men for the same work by using differences in workers’ previous salaries. The decision overturned a lower-court ruling and was appealed. Deborah Rhode of the Stanford Law School pointed out that this decision “perpetuate[s] the discrimination” because it “allow[s] prior discriminatory salary setting to justify future ones.”

Today, the eleven members of the 9th Circuit Court unanimously ruled that employers cannot use previous salaries to justify higher payment for men than for women. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote the majority opinion before he died last month at the age of 87. The case concerned a starting salary for Aileen Rizo, a math consultant with the Fresno County Office of Education, who was paid less than all her male colleagues. The decision applies to the nine states of the 9th Circuit Court.

Although April 10 is Equal Pay Day for all women, dates vary for different ethnic groups when compared to white non-Hispanic men:

  • Asian-American Women: February 22, 2018 ($.87)
  • White Women: April 17, 2018 ($.79)
  • Black Women: August 7, 2018 ($.63)
  • Native American Women: September 27, 2018 ($.57)
  • Latinas: November 1, 2018 ($.54)

People who refuse to believe in the existence of the gender pay gap spread these myths:

  1. Myth: Women choose lower-paying work. Women are consistently told that they cannot do as well in male-dominated fields such as finance and technology. As career fields have a higher percentage of female entering them, the salaries drop because male-centric jobs are more prestigious. For example, biology and design were higher paying when more males were employed in these fields, whereas computing paid less in early years because early programmers were women. The trend then reversed for all these fields—computing became more lucrative when men dominated, and biology and design paid less with more women.
  2. Myth: Women choose to work fewer hours and select more part-time work than men do. Again, this is not a choice because the U.S. lacks federally mandated family leave, and child care is prohibitively expensive. With salaries higher for men, households with one worker keep the woman at home. Gender biases also allow men to leave home to work, leaving women to care for the children.
  3. Myth: Women choose jobs with flexibility over high pay so they can care for families. Female-dominated workplaces—care work, primary education, and clerical—have far less flextime than other workplace.
  4. Myth: More women are getting college degrees than men, so the gap will close on its own. Women continue to select college majors with lower-paying jobs. At the current rate, the closure of the gender pay gap may not occur for another 200 years.

Take-home pay is not the only problem from the gender pay gap. The discrimination leads to trickle-down financial disadvantages causing income inequality and financial insecurity:

  1. The retirement savings gap: Women save about half ($45,614) as much as men ($90,189), and only 52 percent of women have retirement savings’ accounts such as a 401K, compared to 71 percent of men.
  2. The student debt gap: Although women have less student debt, they are less equipped to deal with this debt; 28 percent of women see their loans a “not at all manageable” compared to less than half this percentage for men at 13 percent.
  3. The financial literacy gap: Men are taught far more about managing their finance, and parents think that sons have a better understanding of their money’s value than their daughters.
  4. The work time gap: Women are twice as likely as men to have part-time jobs which fail to offer such benefits as health care, retirement investment, and transit support. Women’s expenditures are more than those for men without these advantages. Again, women are left at home to care for the children because of the myth that they have more skill in this area than men.
  5. The homeownership gap: Homes owned by men are worth more than those owned by women, and male-owned homes appreciate more. Times reported that “homes owned by single men on average are valued 10 percent higher than those of single women, and that the value of their homes have appreciated by 16 percent more than those of their female counterparts.” Women, especially those of color, are also far more likely to be targeted by predatory lenders. “In 2005, women were 30 to 46 percent more likely to receive subprime mortgage loans than men. Black women were a staggering 256 percent more likely to receive subprime loans than white men,” according to Salon.

The gender pay gap doesn’t need to exist. A new Iceland law requires employers to pay women the same as men. All public and private employers with 25 or more employees must obtain government certification of equal pay policies or face fines. The legislation was supported by Iceland’s center-right ruling party and the opposition.  The 2017 Global Gender Pay Report shows that Iceland has the most gender equality of any country in term of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

The United States ranks 49th in gender equality, ahead of Kazakhstan but behind Uganda. The United States ranks 96th in political empowerment of women, behind Nepal, Algeria and Pakistan.

A major difference between the United States and Iceland is also the female participation in Iceland’s federal government. Almost 50 percent of Iceland’s parliament is female. Women make up just 19 percent of the U.S. Congress.

Iceland is smart in this legislation: equal pay can help a country’s economy. Equal pay for women can increase the GDP, adding women in senior management roles and corporate boards can boost companies return on assets, and raising women’s wage can cut the poverty rate for both working women and their children in half if women earn as much as men. The U.S. economy could add $512.6 billion in wage and salary income, equivalent to 2.8 percent of 2016 GDP.  Lifting women out of poverty would vastly decrease the need for costs in the nation’s the safety net.

Statistics surrounding U.S. pay will be unknown in the future, however, after Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) eliminated the requirement for large companies to report wages by race and gender. In Iceland, all pay data will be made public for transparency.

Conservatives claim that the 1963 Equal Pay Act covers all problems with the gender gap in salaries. Yet among the caveat for “equal” pay is “a differential based on any other factor other than sex.” This one was used when the three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court ruled last year that past salaries could be used to pay women less.

A consistent argument against the Paycheck Fairness Act in the United States is that men make more money because they work harder and their jobs are “riskier.” That came from GOP state Rep. Will Infantine in New Hampshire. He added, “[Men] don’t mind working nights and weekends. They don’t mind working overtime, or outdoors in the elements.” As if that wasn’t enough, he said that “men are more motivated by money than women are.” That was in 2014. The state house gave “preliminary approval to the Paycheck Equity Act,” and the law took effect in 2015. Infantine is no longer in the state legislature.

Women can also be destructive to decreasing the gender pay gap:

  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), now a candidate for Senate, said that women “don’t want” equal pay laws.
  • Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) said it is “condescending” towards women to work on policies intended to prevent wage discrimination.
  • Phyllis Schlafly, before her death, wanted the pay gap to be larger so that women could find a “suitable mate.”
  • Kirsten Kukowski, RNC Press Secretary in 2014, could think of any policies her party could support to improve pay equity.
  • Cari Christman, head of Texas PAC RedState Women, said that women were too “busy” to find a solution to the gender pay gap.
  • Beth Cubriel, the 2014 executive director of the Texas GOP, said that women needed to become “better negotiators” if they want equal pay.
  • Fox network’s Martha MacCallum declared, “Many women get paid exactly what they’re worth.”

GOP men are equally dismissive. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wanted to know what gender pay fairness would do for men, and Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, called the debate “nonsense.”

Many people on the far right are even questioning women’s right to vote.

  • White supremacist leader Richard Spencer said that women voting in U.S. elections isn’t “a great thing.”
  • Casey Fisher, a Davis County (UT) GOP precinct chairman, called voting rights for a “grave mistake.”
  • Davis County GOP chairwoman Teena Horlacher, Fisher’s colleague, defended him by saying that Fisher was following the beliefs of the Founding Fathers.
  • Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore co-authored a textbook that was critical of the women’s suffrage movement.
  • Ann Coulter also opposes women’s right to vote, but her net worth was almost $9 million in 2016.

Imagine the gender pay gap if women couldn’t even vote. Happy Equal Pay Day!

Is Donald Trump’s Cabinet Anti-Woman?

Central Oregon Coast NOW

anti-women Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald J. Trump’s campaign was dogged by accusations of misogyny. Now his cabinet is shaping up to be one of the most hostile in recent memory to issues affecting women, advocacy groups for women say. Tax credits for child care and the prospect of paid maternity leave are exceptions to a host of positions that could result in new restrictions on abortion and less access to contraception, limits on health care that disproportionately affect women and minorities and curbs on funding for domestic violence, as well as slowing the momentum toward raising the minimum wage or making progress on equal pay.

Consider their positions on these issues.

Domestic violence

Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s selection for attorney general; Tom Price, chosen for Health and Human Services secretary; and Mike Pompeo, the pick for C.I.A. director, all voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, which funds…

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The Women’s Movement Is for Everyone

Feminism is for Everyone

Credit: Art Crimes on Flickr, under Creative Commons

This is Women’s History Month.  And today is International Women’s Day.

In celebration of these two events, Women’s eNews Commentator Mary S. Hartman wrote an article entitled “This Women’s Movement, Now, Is for Everyone | Womens eNews.”

In this article, she links Betty Friedan’s views on the early days of the National Organization for Women and the Feminist movement to today’s movements and actions.

In her 2002 interview with Hartman, Friedan was asked what she envisioned the women’s movement to look like mid-century.  She said,

Well, I hope that by then our focus will not long have to be on women as such, or women vis a vis men… [that] we will have achieved what at the moment we seem to be achieving — real equality between women and men.

Friedan then went on to say that we needed “something larger,” namely a “people’s movement” with “diverse leaders of both sexes acting together and championing not just women’s rights but civil rights, unions, youth movements and more.”

I believe we are moving in that direction with coalitions, with the Occupy and Ferguson movements, and with people coming together on social media to raise our collective voices for civil rights.

What do you think? Read Hartman’s article and then comment.

Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!

Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health: Phase Two

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

On June 3, I gave an update on the second roll-out of bills associated with the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. At the time, I did not have the bill numbers associated with each of these new bills nor did I have the information on where they were sent to. Now I do. Here’s that information.

Phase Two

Curbing Political Interference in Providers’ Medical Decisions:

H.B. 2303 will soon be introduced by Rep. Dan Frankel (D—Allegheny) to protect the doctor-patient relationship from directives to practice care in a manner that is not in accordance with standards of care. Senator Mike Stack (D—Philadelphia) has agreed to introduce the Senate version of this bill

Identifying gaps in health care for women veterans:

S.R. 262 has been introduced by Senator LeAnna Washington (D—Philadelphia and Montgomery) establishing a 17-member Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care that will study health care issues unique to women veterans, along with the quality of and access to care for women veterans. It is currently in the Senate VETERANS AFFAIRS AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS Committee. The House version is sponsored by Representatives Pam DeLissio (D—Philadelphia an Montgomery) and Kevin Schreiber (D-York); their co-sponsorship memo is currently being circulated, but no bill number has yet been assigned.

Fighting deep poverty among women with children:

There are three different bills designed to address this issue.

    1. S.R. 62 has been introduced by Senator Chuck McIIhinney (R—Bucks). This resolution “directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study approaches to family work support programs which will increase income, keep families working and mitigate the circumstance referred to as the cliff effect.  This effect occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for various programs that allow them to work such as child care assistance, transportation, food stamps and free and reduced school lunches.  The phenomenon often creates disincentives for poor families to achieve self-sufficiency.” It was sent to the Senate Aging and Youth Committee for review. On June 10, this committee unanimously voted in support of the bill and the bill is now waiting for the next review by the full Senate.
    2. H.B. 2305 will soon be introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D—Montgomery). It will increase the monthly Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits for women in need. This bill will increase the maximum TANF grant amount to 50% of the Federal Poverty Level and would allow annual adjustments to be made based on revisions to this index of poverty.
    3. H.B. 2306 will soon be introduced by Rep. Michelle Brownlee (D—Philadelphia). It will increase in the TANF Earned Income Disregard from 50% to 75% to encourage individuals to work by acknowledging that working families have unique expenses that take up a large percentage of their take home pay. This increase would help offset the additional taxes, transportation, clothing, and child care co-pays associate with working. The current disregard level is not enough to offset these additional costs.  A Senate version to be introduced by Senator Judy Schwank (D—Berks) is circulating a co-sponsorship memo to introduce this same legislation in the Senate; a bill number has yet to be assigned.

Ensuring widows of state and municipal employees get fair pensions:

There are two different bills designed to address this issue. These bills require that a public employee select a retirement plan payment structure that provides no less than a fifty percent (50%) survivor annuity to the employee’s surviving spouse. These bills would bring spouses of public employees the same survivor protections that all other employees currently have. This is necessary since the federal Retirement Equity Act of 1984 does not cover employees of the state, local municipalities, or public schools. These bills mirror the spousal protections provided in federal law. Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D—Bucks) is circulating the co-sponsorship memo in the House for H.B. 2307 and H.B.2308. Senator Vincent Hughes (D—Montgomery and Philadelphia) is circulating the co-sponsorship memo in the Senate to introduce similar legislation in the chamber.

Protecting all employees against sexual harassment:

H.B. 2300 has been introduced by Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-LeHigh) to amend the PA Human Relations Act to extend the prohibition on sexual harassment to all employers in the state. Currently law only affects employers with four or more employees. This bill is currently in the House LABOR AND INDUSTRY Committee.

Taking Action on the PA Agenda for Women’s Health

Ni-Ta-Nee NOW logo of a woman successfully scaling Nittany Mountain and working for equality

Ni-Ta-Nee NOW logo

And FYI, my local chapter of the National Organization for Women — Ni-Ta-Nee NOW — will be circulating a petition in support of this Agenda at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College, PA on July 10-12, 2014. Our table will be located in front of Freeze Thaw Cycles, 109 S Allen St, State College, PA 16801 from 10 am to 8 pm each day. Please drop by, learn more about this Agenda, sign the petition, register to vote, and join NOW.

Fearless Feminist Awards

On Friday evening, April 25, 2014, Pennsylvania NOW, Inc. gave out their first six “Fearless Feminist Awards” in Pittsburgh. The awardees were given at a party to honor

3 Great NOW Leaders

2 Courageous State Legislators

1 Amazing Community Leader

[To] GO! and help Pennsylvania Women

 

Caryn Hunt, President of Pennsylvania NOW released the following statement as part of the awards ceremony:

The Pennsylvania State Chapter of the National Organization for Women (PA NOW) welcomes you to our Fearless Feminists Awards Ceremony and Fundraiser!

Tonight we hone six “Fearless Feminist” leaders for their vision, courage, and outspoken advocacy for women’s rights. As Chair of the House Women Heath Caucus, Representative Dan Frankel spearheaded the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a package of bills that seeks to broadly and comprehensively address women’s health concerns in the Commonwealth.

picture of Rep. Dan Frankel

Representative Dan Frankel after receiving his Fearless Feminist Award

Representative Erin Molchany is a proud member of the Women’s Health Caucus and recently introduced, along with Representative Brian Sims of Philadelphia, a pay equity bill in the House that would close longstanding loopholes in existing laws, and end pay secrecy.

Picture of Jeanne Clark and Rep. Erin Molchany

Jeanne Clark presenting Fearless Feminist Award to Representative Erin Molchany

Local activist and nationally recognized reproductive rights leader La’Tasha Mayes founded and developed New Voices Pittsburgh to advocate for women and girls of color in Pittsburgh and beyond.

Picture of La'Tasha Mayes

La’Tasha Mayes thanking PA NOW for Fearless Feminist Award

And Pennsylvania NOW has long benefitted from the contributions of Pamela Macklin, former PA NOW Treasurer, and long-time East End NOW co-President; Joanne Tosti-Vasey, past PA NOW President, current Executive Board member, and Mid-Atlantic Representative to the National NOW Board; and Phyllis Wetherby, First Pittsburgh NOW Chapter President, who has worked for over 45 years to build the organization.

Picture of Pamela Macklin

Pamela Macklin thanking PA NOW for her Fearless Feminist Award

Picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey

Joanne Tosti-Vasey thanking NOW for her Fearless Feminist Award

picture of Phyllis Wetherby

Phyllis Wetherby thanking PA NOW for her Fearless Feminist Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting the work of these people, developing feminist leadership, whether in the Capitol of Harrisburg or the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, is what Pennsylvania NOW is all about. Your support helps us fund our programs to educate and inform and to bring women into full and equal participation in their community and their government. Find out more about Pennsylvania NOW on our website at PennsylvaniaNOW.org.

Thank You!

I would like to thank Pennsylvania NOW for granting me one of these awards and for holding this fundraiser.

picture of the 6 Fearless Feminist Award trophies

The Fearless Feminist Awards

It is a great honor to have stood beside the other five awardees. Congratulations to every one of you.

This award has a special meaning for me as it comes from friends and colleagues with whom I have worked with over the past twenty years. Being able to advocate for equality and fairness is my passion, vocation, and avocation. The support of my friends and family in this work means a great deal to me. Thank you everyone.

Roe v Wade Anniversary: Pro-Active Legislative Agendas

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the US Supreme Court that says that women have a constitutional right of access to safe abortion services throughout the country.  Since 1973, the right-wing has been pushing back and chipping away at this right. These attacks over the decades have expanded beyond access to abortion and now include all areas of family planning and access to women’s health care. As a result, women’s rights and reproductive justice advocates have been on the defense in an attempt to ensure that all women of reproductive age have full access to all forms of reproductive health.

For a very long time, conservatively controlled legislatures have narrowly focused on restricting women’s access to abortion and reproductive health services. We need a pro-active legislative agenda at the national and state levels to counter this chipping away of our basic rights.  And this is starting to occur.

It’s something we need to focus on, spread the word about, and celebrate on this 41st anniversary of the Roe decision.

Advocates for reproductive justice have had some success in 2013 in their pushback on our back reproductive and healthcare rights.  For example, Texas Senator Wendy Davis, with the assistance of thousands of advocates crowding the capital successfully delayed the passage of an onerous anti-abortion law. And the city of Albuquerque voted down an anti-abortion referendum.

Legislatures too have started to pushback.  And that’s what I’d like to focus on today. Two states so far have decided to take a pro-active stance – New York and Pennsylvania.

New York

Last year, New York State decided to fight back with their “9 Point Plan for Women’s Equality.”  This plan, known as the Women’s Equality Act covers nine broad areas of concern:

  1. Safeguarding Reproductive Health by a) codifying the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, b) ensuring that women can obtain a safe, legal abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy; c) ensuring that physicians won’t be prosecuted for providing this care; and d) retaining the provisions in current law that would prosecute those who harm women;
  2. Ending Pregnancy Discrimination by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace;
  3. Fighting Human Trafficking by a) creating an “affirmative” defense of being trafficked when a person is charged with prostitution, b) increasing penalties for both sex and labor trafficking, c) creating the ability for victims of trafficking to take civil action against their perpetrator, and d) creating some new criminal offenses in increasing level of severity for some forms of trafficking;
  4. Supporting Domestic Violence Victims by creating a pilot program to allow victims of domestic violence to testify remotely against the alleged perpetrator of violence when requesting a protection from abuse order;
  5. Creating Fair Access to Housing by adding source of income and status as a domestic violence victim to the state’s anti-discrimination law;
  6. Ending Familial Status Discrimination in Employment by adding protections in the state’s anti-discrimination law for employees who have children 18 years or younger residing in the home;
  7. Allowing Payment of Attorney Fees by granting litigants who win a sex discrimination case the ability to receive attorney fees as part of the settlement;
  8. Improving the Sexual Harassment Law by expanding the prohibition on sexual harassment in the workplace to employers with fewer than four employees so that all places of employment are covered; and
  9. Securing Equal Pay by a) closing a loophole in New York’s law that allows employers to justify lower wages for women, b) outlawing wage secrecy policies, and c) increasing damages to prevailing litigants for up to 300% of unpaid wages.

In June 2013, Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act was blocked in the NY State Senate because there were enough right-wing legislators who decided to quash the bill due to a provision in the package bolstering access to abortions. However, advocates have not given up. Governor Cuomo has renewed his commitment to passage of the Women’s Equality Act and advocates in New York State are gearing up for another run for successful passage of this bill.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania legislators recognized this positive effort from our sister state to the north.  In September 2013, a group of Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle formed a new legislative caucus to proactively focus on women’s health and equity.  It is called the Women’s Health Caucus. This bi-partisan caucus is co-chaired by Representative Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny and Senators Judy Schwank, D-Berks and Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

Rather than the narrow efforts commonly seen in Pennsylvania General Assembly to restrict women’s access to reproductive health programs, the Women’s Health Caucus was formed to redirect legislation towards a woman’s health equity agenda. This broad, proactive agenda covers reproductive health, women’s economic security, and women’s safety.

To celebrate the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I decided to summarize the bills that have both been introduced and those that are in the works for introduction later this year that focus on some portion of women’s reproductive health and focus on some of the other bills at a later date. This is a work in progress by the Women’s Health Caucus and as such, there may be more bills in process that I don’t yet know about.  The ones discussed here are the health-related bills that have been introduced or have been discussed as potential bills by the Caucus.

Bills in Pennsylvania Legislature to Honestly Address Women’s Needs

As I stated in a blog in September reporting on the first meeting of the Caucus, the Women’s Health Agenda package of bills can be divided into three groups—reproductive health issues, women’s safety, and economic sustainability.  The focus here today is on the bills associated with reproductive health.

On December 11, 2013, the Women’s Health Caucus introduced the first seven bills in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.  Four of the seven bills announced that day focus on some aspect of women and children’s health.  Three of these bills have been introduced and are currently in committee in at least one, if not both, Houses.  The fourth bill is still being circulated for co-sponsors in both the House and Senate.

Healthcare-Related Bills that Have Been Introduced and are in Committee

Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers

This legislation requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for employees who need to express breast milk. It fixes two main loopholes that are present in federal law under the Affordable Care Act. It would apply to all employees, including those that are exempt from federal overtime provisions. It also requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for mothers to express milk beyond one year after birth. This legislation mirrors the federal provision that exempts small employers from these requirements if these requirements present an undue hardship on the employer. Representative Mary Jo Daley is the prime sponsor of this bill in the House of Representatives.  It was officially introduced H.B. 1895 on December 12, 2013 with 22 co-sponsors and is awaiting first review in the House Labor and Industry Committee.  There is not a companion Senate bill yet.

Representative Daley describes this workplace need for nursing mothers:

“Study after study makes it abundantly clear – both mothers and children benefit from breast milk. For most babies, especially premature babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula and helps fight against disease. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk help protect babies from illness. For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of health problems such as diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and postpartum depression. Moreover, breastfeeding mothers miss fewer days from work because their infants are sick less often.

Currently, approximately two dozen states have laws on the books relating to expressing milk in the workplace. Sadly, Pennsylvania does not. The only applicable law on breastfeeding that applies to employers in the Commonwealth is the Affordable Care Act’s amendment to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This federal law requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for non-exempt employees to express milk for up to one year after the birth of a child. However, exempt employees include those that are on salary (exempt from federal overtime provisions), often in managerial positions.”

Ensuring access to health care facilities:

This legislation creates a 15-foot buffer zone around health care facilities where picketing, patrolling or demonstrating that blocks patients’ access to the facilities would be banned. H.B. 1891, sponsored by Representative Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, was introduced into the House with 23 co-sponsors on December 12, 2013 and is currently awaiting review in the House Health Committee.  S.B. 1208, sponsored by Senator Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, was introduced into the Senate with 8 co-sponsors on January 16, 2014 and is currently awaiting review in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Representative Bradford describes his bill this way:

“Safe and unfettered access to health care facilities should be the right of all Pennsylvania women seeking medical counseling and treatment.  Accordingly, I plan to introduce a bill prohibiting a person from interfering with a person’s right to seek medical services by knowingly patrolling, picketing, or demonstrating in a very limited zone extending fifteen feet from a health care facility, or driveway or parking facility.

Please know this legislation is not intended to limit the free speech rights of any individual.  Other states including Colorado and Massachusetts, and some municipalities such as Pittsburgh have instituted “buffer zone laws.”  These laws were not imposed on a whim; they were a response to increasing threats, confrontation and even deadly violence. It is important to note that buffer zones have been credited, in part, with toning down volatile instances and confrontations.”

Senator Farnese, using his own experience as a clinic escort, describes the legislation he has introduced:

“This legislation will provide safe access to essential health care services when patients are seeking family planning and reproductive health services.  Often, patients seeking services at a healthcare facility are verbally and physically harassed and intimidated.  Having had experience as an escort for women into health care facilities, I have seen first-hand the potential for violent confrontations between patients and demonstrators.

This legislation will be carefully crafted to ensure that patients have unimpeded access to medical services while still protecting First Amendment rights to communicate a message.  In order to ensure both parties’ rights and safety are maintained, this legislation will provide clear guidance regarding restricted entry zones around entrances and driveways of medical facilities.

Currently, Pennsylvania has no such statewide buffer zone.  Two municipalities, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, have enacted buffer zone ordinances.  Providing for a content-neutral buffer zone at all medical facilities in Pennsylvania will promote the health and welfare of those who visit those facilities for services while maintaining protection for those individuals who would voice their constitutionally protected speech outside such a facility.”

Increased eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings:

This legislation allows women between ages of 30 and 65 to apply and qualify for the state Healthy Woman Program. H.B. 1900, sponsored by Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Philadelphia/Delaware, was introduced on January 2, 2014 and is awaiting review in the House Human Services Committee.  There is not a companion Senate bill yet.

Representative Donatucci describes the need for greater access to breast and cervical cancer screening:

“The statistics surrounding breast and cervical cancers are truly alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, 206,966 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and 40,996 women died from the disease.  Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and is one of the most deadly. While the risk of contracting breast cancer increases with age, large numbers of young women face the reality of this disease every year. With regards to cervical cancer, the disease is often not diagnosed because of missed opportunities for screening, early diagnosis, and treatment. All women are at risk for the disease, but it is most common in women over the age of 30. Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

Act 74 established a program to support breast and cervical cancer screening services to low-income, underinsured, and uninsured women 40 to 49 years of age through DoH’s Healthy Woman Program. Before the implementation of Act 74, the program only had sufficient federal funding to provide these screening services to women ages 50 to 64. Today, the program is funded through a combination of department funds and through a grant DoH receives from CDC. My legislation will increase access to these important health screenings [by lowering the age of initial access to women.  This would] allow women between the ages of 30 and 65 to qualify for the Healthy Woman Program if they meet all other applicable requirements. The statistics show that these types of cancer are not confined to women of a particular age. As such, screening qualifications should be expanded in this state to reflect this reality. The money we spend on screening today saves thousands in treatment costs down the road.”

Co-Sponsorship Memo Being Circulated

Workplace accommodations for pregnant women:

This legislation requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the employer’s operations. Two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate were announced on December 11, 2013.  H.B. 1892 is sponsored by Representative Mark Painter, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1209 is sponsored by Senator Matt Smith, D-Allegheny. Both bills are currently being circulated for co-sponsors.

Senator Smith’s co-sponsorship memo summarizes his bill (S.B. 1209) this way:

“Currently, federal law protects women from being fired or otherwise discriminated against due to pregnancy; however it does not require employers to provide pregnant women with certain necessary and temporary accommodations to ensure their health and safety during pregnancy. My legislation would bridge this gap.

Three-quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at the same time during their careers, and my legislation would ensure that they can balance each part of their life in a way that is safe and practical for all parties involved.”

Representative Painter has named his version of this legislation The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  His co-sponsorship memo describes HB 1892 this way:

“This year marks the 35th anniversary of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).  The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or similar related medical conditions.

Today, unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem.

In the majority of cases, the accommodations women need are minor, such as permission to sit periodically, the ability to carry a water bottle, or help lifting heavy objects.  Those women who continue working without having these medically-advised accommodations risk their health and increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications.

Pregnancy discrimination causes significant and long-term harm to women and their families well beyond pregnancy, to include the loss of health benefits, job seniority, and wages.  These losses also contribute to measurable long-term gender-based pay differences.

The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would make it unlawful for a covered entity to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.”

Other Women’s Healthcare Bills in Pennsylvania that Are Being Discussed but Have Not Yet Been Introduced

As I mentioned in my blog at the end of September when the Women’s Health Agenda Caucus first met, there are a total of at least 24 bills that are/will be part of the “Agenda for Women’s Health.”  At least two of these bills are directly related to Reproductive Justice and Health. They were not part of the original roll-out, but are somewhere in the process of being written and/or circulated for co-sponsorship. I do not know when these bills will be introduced.

  • Inmate Shackling: Strengthen pregnant inmate shackling law (Act 45 of 2010) to cover the entire pregnancy and a reasonable postpartum period for mother-child bonding and to eliminate the tasering of any incarcerated woman known to be pregnant.
  • Medical Professional Conscientious Right to Refuse to Deliver Medically Inaccurate Information: Protect physician-patient relationships from political intrusion.

So on this 41st anniversary of Roe, I will celebrate this day by reiterating a statement I made on December 11, 2013:

“The ideas for change in this package of bills come from real-life stories of women. They include calls to service agencies, cries for help on hot lines, requests for advocacy, and lots of research to back up the anecdotal stories. As advocates, we realize there are other areas of concern, but believe the Women’s Health Caucuses’ agenda items are a great start.”

Thanks to everyone who is working for these two pro-active women’s health agendas. Thanks to the advocates across the country who have taken the momentum to stand up for our lives. And have a great Roe v. Wade Day as we go on the offense for women’s health and lives.

Corbett’s at It Again

This time, Corbett is attacking LGBT couples

“Just Close Your Eyes”

Last year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly was considering passage of a transvaginal ultrasound bill to force women to have an unnecessary ultrasound in advance of going to an abortion clinic if they want to terminate their pregnancy. This bill would have required pregnant women to have the intrusive vaginal ultrasound with a video screen pointed at then and then would have required them to carry that report to the clinic the next day along with a signed form indicating that they had the procedure done.  This report would also have to be placed in their medical record despite the fact that this procedure was not medically necessary.

When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was asked if this was a bill that burdened women, he said that the women who didn’t want the procedure could “Just close their eyes.”

Here’s a clip of that comment (the commentary and the comment start at 02:39 minutes into this video):

This time he says, “I think a much better analogy would have been  brother and sister…”

Now this week, he’s attacking loving gay couples who want to marry just like their heterosexual friends do.  On Friday he responded to another reporter’s question.  He appeared on a Harrisburg TV station program called “Ask the Governor.”  The reporter asked him to comment on the legal argument that his lawyers are proceeding with in a case to stop Montgomery County’s Register of Wills from issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians who want to get married in Pennsylvania.

The legal brief compares same-sex marriage to allowing 12-year old children to get married.  His response, just a bit longer than the “Just close your eyes” comment from last year, is just as offensive.  The reporter said to him, “comparing gay marriage to the union of 12-year olds … you called inappropriate.” Corbett responded:

“It was an inappropriate analogy. I think a much better analogy would have been  brother and sister, don’t you? ”

Here’s a clip of this comment:

He later, as with last year’s comment, apologized, saying this time that it’s just a “legal” argument since marrying a 12-year old or having an incestuous marriage, or marrying a person of the same-sex are all illegal.

This is the guy who thinks he represents the Commonwealth?!!?  Women as well as men? I don’t think so! All gays and lesbian couples as well as any heterosexual couple that wants to get married?!!? I don’t think so!

Inappropriate, Offensive, Insensitive, and Hateful

Both of these statements are offensive, insensitive, and hateful.  And, yes just as Corbett later stated they are both inappropriate.  Yet he continues to attack – women, gays, immigrants, etc.  For a sampling of these attacks by Governor Corbett (as well by the Pennsylvania legislature), check out my blog posting earlier this entitled “War on Women in PA: At Least a 20-Year Happening.”

The apologies are not enough.  Corbett has to go.  He needs to be a 1-term Governor in Pennsylvania – something that hasn’t happened since the PA Constitution was amended in 1968 to allow a Governor to succeed himself (or herself, which might change if we ever elect a female governor) with a second term.

The Alternatives (So Far)

We know that Tom Corbett will be the Republican candidate for PA Governor in 2014.  We don’t know who the Democratic (or any other party) candidate will be on the November ballot.  Right now there are at least eight Democrats running: John Hanger, Jo Ellen Litz, Rob McCord, Katy McGinty, Max Myers, Ed Pawlowski, Allyson Schwartz, and Tom Wolf have officially announced and Rep. H. Scott Conklin, Senator Mike Stack, and former Auditor General Jack Wagner are considering a run. We need information on these alternatives.

So I started looking for blogs or commentary on alternatives to Tom Corbett.  So far, there is only one that is not party-based that I could find.  It is written by Cindy Purvis, Treasurer of Healthcare for All PA.  Her blog is titled “Race for PA Governor” and focuses on single-payer healthcare reform.  So check out her blog.

After the fall elections, there should be more websites up that can provide more complete information on the stances of candidates across a wide spectrum of issues, including women’s rights, reproductive justice, marriage equality, and other LGBTQ issues.  One of the best, in my opinion is Project Vote Smart.  Right now there is nothing on any race being held in 2014, but check back later.

Meanwhile, you can let your outrage be known. Contact Tom Corbett by email or phone at 717-787-2500.  Tell him that his wars on women and the LGBT community must stop.  Let him hear your outrage.  Maybe he might reconsider some of his views and actions towards the citizens of Pennsylvania.  I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Pennsylvania’s Proposed Women’s Health Agenda

Kate Michelman

Kate Michelman discussing strategy with women’s health care advocates and members of the General Assembly Health Care Agenda Caucus.

Yesterday (Monday, September 30, 2013), I attended a two-hour meeting with Pennsylvania’s House and Senate members of the joint Women’s Health Agenda Caucus led by Representative Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh. Some of the advocacy groups attending the meeting included the Women’s Law Project (WLP), Women Vote PA, and members of the Pennsylvanians for Choice coalition including Pennsylvania NOW whom I represented.

For a very long time Pennsylvania has focused on restricting women’s access to abortion services – currently accounting for over 1270 pages of legislation and regulations in the state.  This wrong-headed approach to health assumes that women’s sole need is to protect them from safe, legal access to decent abortion care services.  In other words, the state has wrong-headedly been crafting laws and regulations to deny access to abortion, sending more and more women to the back alleys similar to the Gosnell clinic and ignoring the broader issues of women’s health equity.

Women’s concerns about their health are broadly based in bias based on gender. Terry L. Fromson, Amal Bass, Carol E. Tracy, Susan Frietsche of the Women’s Law Project  created a report entitled Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women in 2012.  The WLP is Pennsylvania’s feminist legal organization that engages in litigation, advocacy, and education to ensure women’s equality and treatment in Pennsylvania. This report set the context for yesterday’s meeting.  The WLP framed the health care agenda as follows in this report and in the meeting this morning:

The legal and social status of American women has changed dramatically in the last fifty years. Half a century ago, it was legal to segregate jobs by sex, to refuse to hire or promote on the basis of a person’s sex, to fire women who became pregnant, and to limit the number of women admitted to professional schools such as law and medicine. Sexual and domestic violence were hidden from public view and public policy. Abortion was illegal and the birth control pill was not yet on the market. Today, women have taken their place in the working world and educational opportunities for women have expanded exponentially. Sexual and domestic violence are recognized as crimes and some resources are available to its victims. Abortion is legal and birth control is available.

Despite these advances, deeply embedded cultural biases and stereotypes about women’s place in society continue to impede women’s equal participation in society. In our homes and communities women are subjected to violence, poverty, and the burden of care taking responsibilities. In the workplace, women are paid less than men for the same work, remain concentrated in stereotypically female low-paying occupations, are subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and care giving, and are denied advancement to managerial and higher paying positions. In school, young women are denied their fair share of sports opportunities and are sexually harassed and violated. Women are denied essential reproductive health care and subjected to discrimination in access to insurance coverage. Women pay more than men for the same coverage, and pregnancy is a preexisting condition that often denies pregnant women access to insurance coverage and therefore maternity care.  Access to abortion has been limited by burdensome legislative requirements, and providers and patients have been terrorized by an increasingly violent opposition. Attacks on access to contraceptive services have grown.

While many laws have been adopted to eliminate sex discrimination at work and at school, gaps persist that must be filled and enforcement needs to be strengthened. This is particularly true in Pennsylvania. While some Pennsylvania cities have outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of care-giving responsibilities and provide other accommodations for women who work, the Pennsylvania legislature has failed to adopt a statewide prohibition on discrimination on the basis of caregiver status or to provide family leave for caregivers. In Pennsylvania, the law permits insurers to price the cost of health insurance higher for women than for men, resulting in women paying more for individual health insurance policies and small employers paying more for health insurance for a predominantly female workforce. Pennsylvania’s sexual assault laws have for the most part eliminated discriminatory provisions, but the myths and stereotypes that continue to infect the criminal justice system hinder the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. The health care perspective on domestic violence and sexual assault is far too limited. Sexual assault is treated as a health care matter primarily in the immediate aftermath of a rape, even though the physical and emotional health consequences can be long lasting. Although a number of health care providers recognize that domestic violence is also a health issue, screening for domestic violence in health care settings is not universal. Poverty, which disproportionately impacts women, exacerbates the impact of sex bias in all of these realms….

Pennsylvania, with 6.5 million women, has consistently been found deficient in national studies on women’s health care measures. In their 2010 health report card, the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health & Science University placed Pennsylvania 32 among the 50 states and graded it unsatisfactory with respect to the status of women’s health….

To alleviate women’s health problems, it is necessary to eliminate adverse experiences — discrimination and bias — early in life and throughout life — and to improve access to health care, with an emphasis on care essential to women (pp. x-xii).

Representative Frankel heard this call to refocus the legislature from attacking women’s reproductive health to focusing — just like New York state’s “10 Point Plan for Women’s Equality” — on redirecting legislation in the General Assembly towards a women’s health equity agenda. So yesterday, almost 20 legislators from both houses attended a meeting with advocates seeking to improve women’s lives and health through a broad review and revision of Pennsylvania law.  The agenda covers reproductive health, women’s economic security, and women’s safety.

The ideas for change come from real-life stories of women in the state.  Calls to service agencies. Cries for help on hot lines. Requests for advocacy. And of course lots of research to back up the anecdotal stories.  The 24 suggested changes to Pennsylvania law that were presented are in areas where either no legislation has been introduced or where legislation to improve the bias are lagging or need to be revisited.  We, as advocates, understand that there are other areas of concern, but believe these health care agenda items are a good start.

Some of these ideas are conceptual at this point. Some have some preliminary model wording for new legislation, and some are already in the works.  Here’s the agenda:

Protect and Expand Women’s Reproductive Health Rights

  1. Pregnancy Accommodations:  Require employers to provide accommodations to pregnant employees with temporary pregnancy-related conditions to allow workers to remain employed throughout their pregnancies while imposing minimal burdens on employers.
  2. Support for Breastfeeding Mothers in the Workplace: Require all employers to provide compensated break time and a private, sanitary (not a bathroom) for all employees who need to express milk.
  3. Buffer Zones:  Enact a statewide reproductive health care clinic buffer zone statute to protect safe access to essential health care.
  4. Inmate Shackling: Strengthen pregnant inmate shackling law (Act 45 of 2010) to cover the entire pregnancy and a reasonable post-partum period for mother-child bonding and to eliminate the tasering of any woman known to be pregnant.
  5. Medical Professional Conscientious Right to Refuse to Deliver Medically Inaccurate Information: Protect physician-patient relationships from political intrusion.

    Improve Women’s Economic Security

  6. TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) Grant Amount: Increase TANF cash assistance grant levels.
  7. TANF Asset Limit: Increase the TANF eligibility asset limit to encourage saving and financial independence.
  8. Earned Income Disregard: Increase the earned income disregard and apply it to applicants as well as recipients.  FYI, the earned income disregard allows very-low income workers to continue receiving TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid if they make 50% or less of the poverty level.  This proposed legislation would raise this “disregard” level to 75% and would apply to applicants as well as recipients.
  9. Childcare Works Waiting List: Eliminate the childcare works waiting list.
  10. TANF Pre-Application Job Search: Eliminate or modify the TANF pre-application job search requirements.
  11. Minimum Wage: Increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00/hour.
  12. Gender Wage Gap: Strengthen Pennsylvania law to eliminate the 24% gender wage gap by prohibiting retaliation against employees for discussing wages (“pay secrecy”) and closing the “factor other than sex” defense to apply only to bona fide business-related factors.
  13. Family Responsibilities Employment Discrimination: Prohibit family responsibilities discrimination in employment by amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to prohibit family status discrimination in employment pursuant to an expanded definition of familial status to encompass the true scope of familial responsibilities shouldered by employees.
  14. Paid Family and Sick Leave: Require all employers to provide employees with paid family and sick leave
  15. Spousal Pension Benefits: Require spousal consent when a retiring state employee chooses how his or her pension benefits should be paid consistent with federal law protecting each spouse from his or her spouse’s selection of a pension benefit in all privately-sponsored pension plans and laws adopted by other states.
  16. Domestic Worker Protection: Amend Pennsylvania anti-discrimination laws to provide domestic workers protection from employment discrimination
  17. Sexual Harassment: Extend the prohibition on sexual harassment in employment to all employers, even small employers.

    Protect Women’s Personal Safety

  18. Paid Leave for Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking Victims: Require employers to provide paid leave to obtain assistance for and pursue legal protection against domestic and sexual violence and stalking.
  19. Housing Discrimination: Prohibit private and public housing discrimination against domestic violence victims.
  20. Civil Orders of Protection for Sexual Violence and Stalking Victims: Authorize courts to issue civil orders of protection for sex crime and stalking victims.
  21. Absolute Privilege for Student Victims: Protect victims/witnesses of sexual assault who testify in school grievance proceedings from being sued by their harassers.
  22. Human Trafficking: Strengthen Pennsylvania’s criminal statute on human trafficking.
  23. Veterans’ Real Estate Tax Exemption: Amend Pennsylvania law to provide veterans real estate tax exemption for veterans suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to sexual victimization during service and appoint women representatives to the House and Senate Committees on Veteran Affairs and to the Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission.
  24. Voting Reform: Reform voting rules to provide online registration, same day in person registration, early voting, including early in person voting on weekends.

These ideas will be discussed in continuing meetings between members of the General Assembly’s Health Care Agenda Caucus and advocates for women’s equality.  I’ll post more on these issues as this legislative program becomes better defined.

Montana and Pennsylvania NOW File Judicial Conduct Complaint Against Judge G. Todd Baugh

Today (September 24) at noon MDT, Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW delivered a complaint to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission calling for the removal of Judge G. Todd Baugh and requesting that the Montana Court System require mandatory sexual-assault training of all judicial employees.

This complaint was created over the last 3 weeks or so by Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW, with the assistance of the Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum.  Marian Bradley, President of MT NOW and I, in my capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of PA NOW worked very closely with Lynn Hecht Schafran, Director of Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program and Carol Tracy, Executive Director; Susan Frietsche, Senior Attorney; and Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney at the Women’s Law Project.  These four women assisted us in crafting the legal wording for this complaint.  We thank them their knowledge and assistance.

We would also like to thank We are Ultra Violet and Fitzgibbon Media for their participation in this effort.  We are so grateful to Ultra Violet for their work in gathering signatures for their petition and sharing those names with us and for the time, energy and unending support they have given us. And our thanks to Fitzgibbon Media for their help with scheduling media, press releases and all things media related.

The complaint focuses on Judge G. Todd Baugh’s judicial mishandling of a highly publicized rape case, his statements blaming the victim, and his failure to follow state law in sentencing Stacey Rambold who plead guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent of a 14-year old Hispanic girl who later died from suicide.

In the complaint, we present the background of the case, a summary of Judge G. Todd Baugh’s misconduct, cite the portions of the judicial rules of conduct that were violated, and cite thousands of witnesses.  These witnesses include more than 250,000 people around the world who are calling for either a resignation or removal of Judge Baugh (see here, here, here, and here for the wordings of the four on-line petitions), media reports from two prominent journalists (here and here), and 350 sexual assault survivors who signed a letter calling for the removal of Judge Baugh.  The complaint was delivered to the Commission with copies of the signatures of the petition signers, the letter from the sexual assault survivors, and links to the two news articles condemning Judge Baugh’s actions.

The following is a copy of the complaint that we filed:

Judicial Standards Commission State of Montana COMPLAINT Re: Judge G. Todd Baugh filed September 24, 2013 by Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW

Marian Bradley standing next to the boxes of signed petitions calling for the removal of Judge G. Todd Baugh from the bench.

Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW speaking at the delivery of the NOW complaint to the MT Judicial Standards Commission.

Note that under Montana state law, once a complaint is filed, all proceedings remain confidential unless the matter is referred to the Montana Supreme Court for potential judicial disciplinary action.  So unless the state’s Supreme Court becomes involved, the public will not know the results of our complaint.  But meanwhile you can see what we are demanding.

And a last-minute addition. On Monday afternoon, September 23, Marian Bradley talked to the Montana Attorney General’s office (Tim Fox-R is the AG). She asked about the possibility of NOW filing an amicus brief to the Montana Supreme Court in relation to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Baugh’s sentence in the Rambold case. They informed her that anyone is free to seek permission to file such a brief and then directed her to the office of the Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court for more information on that process.

So stay tuned….

ALICE PAUL – CRUSADER FOR WOMEN – JANUARY 11 BIRTHDAY

In honor of Women’s Equality Day (August 26). Alice Paul spearheaded the final long-time nationwide effort to get the 19th amendment to the US Constitution passed. And once that occurred in 1920, she wrote the Equal Rights Amendment; yet, almost a century later, it has yet to become part of the US Constitution. It’s time for women to achieve full legal equality.