black sign with a flag at the top. Underneath the flag are the words, "Democracy is Dissent."

What to Do This Week of Jan 8, 2017: Actions for Democrats, Independents, & Republicans of Conscience

black sign with a flag at the top. Underneath the flag are the words,

Democracy is Dissent. A statement declaring that we have a 1st Amendment constitutional right “of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress.”

As promised, I am once again reblogging Jennifer Hofman’s weekly “To Do” list.  This week’s actions focus on more Cabinet-level nominees. These include

  • Ben Carson for Health and Human Development
  • General John Kelly for Homeland Security
  • Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry for Energy
  • Wilbur Ross for Commerce
  • General James Mattis for Defense
  • Mike Pompeo for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

After making your calls, read the links at the end of the blog to see the good news she lists.  As a teaser, here’s some of the good news she includes:

  • President Obama bans drilling in the Atlantic and the Artic Oceans (for as long as this can last under the new administration).
  • Several senators introduces legislation that would ban discriminatory registries.
  • Charles Feeney, the “James Bond of Philanthropy” gives the last $7,000,000 of his multi-billion dollar fortune to Cornell University to support students doing community service. Other donations over the years have spanned the fields of education, human rights, peace, scientific research, and public health
  • and more…

So read on, make your calls, and enjoy the good news.

What to Do This Week of Jan 8, 2017

Actions for Democrats, Independents, & Republicans of Conscience

The intention of this weekly document is to make clear suggestions for action backed with well-considered research. Although these actions are intended to be helpful, they are still subject to human error. Please do your own research!

If you’d like to subscribe to this weekly action list, please go here:

http://jenniferhofmann.com/home/weekly-action-checklist-democrats-independents-republicans-conscience/

The most important thing this week: Senate confirmation hearings

This is a second dense action list in a row, but I promise you a ton of good news at the end as your reward.

In yet another unprecedented action, most of djt’s cabinet appointment hearings are stacked together starting Tuesday this week. Some will have hearings without a completed ethics review from the Office of Government Ethics. Even if you don’t think this is evasive and creepy, this schedule will make it hard for the OGE, the press, and the American public to understand who the new cabinet leaders are and assess their conflicts of interest.

What you can do is put pressure on the Senate committees so they know we’re paying attention.Yes, making calls can be stressful, but it’s working. Staffers are telling us they’re hearing from lots of people. Never underestimate the power of your voice.

Edited: If you oppose djt skipping the ethics process for the first time in four decades, go to Wall of Us for very clear instructions on how to protest this creepiness.

Here’s their link (and I suggest following them too!) Today (Sunday) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said no votes would be permitted until ethics paperwork is filed. It is good new, however, depending on when they’re filed, it doesn’t allow committees review the materials before hearings (the way Obama’s administration did eight years ago).

Your voice matters

For each cabinet appointee you feel is unfit to serve, take two specific actions:

  1. Tell the Senate committee chair (Republican) you oppose the nominee.
  2. Tell the Senate ranking member (Democrat) you oppose the nominee.
  3. Optional: Call your own two senators to oppose–especially if you are a Republican.

Note: Do leave a message if you get voicemail or call after hours/weekend.

Make the calls

  1. Oppose Housing and Urban Development Secretary appointee, Ben Carson.

Committee: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Call: Chair Richard Shelby 202-224-5744

Call: Ranking member Sherrod Brown 202-224-2315 (may be full?)

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in his role as the Chair/ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. I would like him to know I oppose Ben Carson for HUD Secretary. I’m concerned about Carson’s lack of experience and opposition to this department. (source)

  1. Oppose Homeland Security Secretary appointee, Gen. John Kelly.

Committee: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Call: Chair Ron Johnson 202-224-5323

Call: Incoming ranking member Claire McKaskill 202-224-6154

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in his/her role as the Chair/ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. I would like him/her to know I oppose General John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security. Not because he is unqualified, but I oppose militarizing the US cabinet. (source source)

  1. Oppose Environmental Protection Agency appointee, Scott Pruitt.

Committee: Senate Environment and Public Works

Call: Chair John Barrasso 202-224-6441

Call: Incoming ranking member Tom Carper 202-224-2441

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in his role as the Chair/ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. I would like him to know I oppose Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator. I’m concerned about his climate denial, anti-EPA lawsuit, and ties to the energy industry. (source)

  1. Oppose Energy Secretary appointee, Rick Perry.

Committee: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Call: Chair Lisa Murkowski 202-224-6665

Call: Ranking member Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in her role as the Chair/ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee. I would like her to know I oppose Rick Perry for Energy Secretary. I’m concerned about his ties to oil, climate denial, and history of opposition to this agency. (source)

Only three more! You can do it!

  1. Oppose Commerce Secretary appointee, Wilbur Ross.

Committee: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Call: Chair John Thune 202-224-2321

Call: Ranking member Bill Nelson 202-224-5274

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in his role as the Chair/ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee. I would like him to know I oppose Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary. I’m concerned about his deep financial ties to Russia. (source)

  1. Oppose Defense Secretary nominee, Gen. James Mattis.

Committee: Senate Armed Services

Call: Chair John McCain 202-224-2235

Call: Ranking member Jack Reed 202-224-4642

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in his role as the Chair/ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I would like him to know I oppose General James Mattis for Secretary of Homeland Security. He may be qualified, but we at a dangerous precedent when militarizing civilian cabinet posts. (source source)

  1. Oppose CIA Director appointment, Mike Pompeo.

Committee: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Call: Chair Richard Burr 202-224-3154

Call: Vice chair Mark Warner 202-224-2023

Script: I am calling Sen ____ in his role as the chair/vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I would like him to know I oppose Mike Pompeo for CIA director. I’m concerned about someone who supports government surveillance, torture, and religious oppression leading this vital agency. (source)

Still have time?

Last week’s email had seven additional cabinet appointees to oppose–some of whom will have a hearing this week. If you haven’t yet called to oppose them, here’s the link to last week’s document.

Good news

You did it! Here’s your reward: news of actual humans being kind, supporting each other, and standing up for what’s right. We are still a fantastic, diverse country (in case you needed a reminder).

  1. Some Rockettes choose to sit out on inauguration (story from Rolling Stone)
  2. Vermont governor pardons 192 non-violent marijuana convictions (story from NYT)
  3. A&E cancels plans for Escaping the KKK documentary (story from WaPo)
  4. Obama vaporizes anti-Muslim NSEERS program (story from Vox)
  5. A bunch of awesome senators introduce legislation blocking discriminatory registries (press release)
  6. Obama bans drilling in Arctic and Atlantic oceans (story from The Guardian)
  7. Adorable reaction of bystander to lesbian wedding proposal (from HuffPo)
  8. Billionaire donates the last of his fortune to charity (story from NYT)
  9. This will make you tear up. There are GOOD people in the world. (from newsner)

TOLD you there was good news!

Final action

  • Please share any or all content in this message today (no attribution needed).
  • Tweet: Oppose djt’s cabinet appointments before hearings start Tues! Deets:
  • Facebook: Cabinet hearings start on Tuesday and this list makes it easy to oppose them. Take action today!

Housekeeping

  • If you’d like to subscribe to this weekly message, please visit this link.
  • To see archives of What To Do checklists, click here (and scroll to the bottom)
  • If you’d like to contribute, click here.

We’re stronger together!

 

NOW's Keep abortion legal round

Oppose the Most Restrictive Abortion Ban in Country

Keep Abortion Legal NOW Round

Oppose the PA Abortion Ban

Pennsylvania is poised to pass what is seen as the most restrictive abortion ban law in the country.  The House has already passed HB 1948 and has sent it to the Senate. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed strictly along party lines. It has the most extreme restrictions placed on abortion in the country. A vote by the full state Senate is expected as early as this Wednesday, July 13. Please call your PA State Senator and tell her/him to OPPOSE House Bill 1948.

SUMMARY OF HOUSE BILL 1948
House Bill 1948, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren), decreases the gestational limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. It also bans Dilation and Evacuation abortions at any gestational age unless necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or prevent the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman. There is no exception for rape, incest or fetal anomaly

TALKING POINTS

  1. My name is __________________ and I am a constituent from [your city]. I would like Senator________________________ to oppose HB 1948 that would restrict a woman’s access to abortion care services in an extreme and harmful way.
  2. All women should have access to a full range of health care options, including abortion care services, and live their lives free from violence and reproductive coercion.
  3. Every pregnancy is different and protecting women’s health and safety is paramount. I ask Sen. __________________ to stand with the women of this Commonwealth and vote “No” on HB 1948.
  4. More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade recognized a woman’s constitutional right to decide whether to continue or end a pregnancy prior to viability.  This ban is clearly unconstitutional and will cost taxpayers for the state to litigate a law that is unenforceable.  It also constitutionally violates the most recent Supreme Court decision as noted in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurring opinion in the June 2016 WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. HELLERSTEDT case: 

Justice Ginsburg dismissed Texas’s argument about its interest in protecting “the health of women who experience complications from abortions,” by countering that “complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous.” She recites a laundry list of studies of how safe abortion is, and then she delivers the message: “So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 [and PA’s proposed HB 1948] that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 921, cannot survive judicial inspection.”

You can find your representatives by clicking here. Once you are on the page you may enter your address and your elected officials and their contact information will appear.

Meme that says "Even with the Supreme Court's Decision, Reproductive freedom is in a sorry situation in the US. Poor Women don't have a choice (Justice Ginsburg).." Then is says, 9 states tried to ban abortion in 2016; in the past 5 years, states have enacted nearly 300 laws restricting abortions; over 30 million women live near a shuttered clinic; and in red and blue states, nearly 15 clinics were shut down in the last five years [with] only 21 clinics opened."

Don’t Add Pennsylvania to the States that are Banning Abortions.

Don’t let Pennsylvania become the most restrictive state for abortion access in the country. Call your legislator TODAY!

(Thanks to the Pennsylvania Reproductive Health Coalition and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence for providing part of this information).

Equal Pay Day 2016: Lack of Progress Continues

Since I started this blog in December 2012, I have annually written about pay equity during April on Pay Equity Day (2013, 2014, and 2015).  That day is today. As in past years, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, will be distributing flyers educating the public about the economic inequality in women’s pay.  We’re letting people know that we continue to have a lack of progress in eliminating pay inequity.  Here’s the information we would like the public to know.

April 12, 2016

This date symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.  FYI, this is 2 days less than 2015, 4 days more than 2014, 3 days less than in 2013 and 1 day less than in 2011 when Ni-Ta-Nee NOW started tracking this date! Tuesday, April 12, 2016 is the day on which women’s wages overall catch up with men’s wages from the previous year.  It is also the day when white women’s wages catch up with men’s wages.  But most women of color take much longer to achieve equity.

The Wage Gap

2016 Weekly Wage Gap

A Nationwide View of the Gap in Pay for Women by Gender and Ethnicity

The commonly used measure to determine the wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women as a whole earned just 81 percent of what men earned in 2015 (IWPR, 2016).  In the past ten years (2006 to 2015), the weekly gender wage gap narrowed by just 0.3 percentage points, compared with 6.0 percentage points in the previous ten years (1996 to 2005). At the current rate, it will be 2059 before women achieve wage parity. This lack of progress needs to be turned around and soon!

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 95 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81 percent of white men’s average income, African-American women (67 percent), and Hispanic women (62 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men (IWPR, 2016).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $430,480 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career (NWLC, 2016). Differences in the wage gap are due more than just the types of jobs men and women work.  Part of the problem is due to gendered, sex-segregated jobs where women are paid less (often at minimum wage levels & for jobs that require the same level of skills, knowledge & abilities) as well as to a lack of paid sick days, paid family leave, fair scheduling, and pay transparency protections in these female-dominated occupations (Center for American Progress, 2015).

Wage Gap in Pennsylvania

The wage gap is even worse in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 27th (tied with IL, ME, WI, NE, & TX) among the states (AAUW, 2016). The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2015 was $39,905 compared to men’s $50,412 or 79% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 21% .

Centre County is part of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District (CD).  Women in the 5th CD earn    $33,616 compared to the $44,578 that men earn or 75.4% of what a man earns. We rank 13 out of 18 in the state in terms of the wage gap.  This is a wage gap of 24.6%. Philadelphia’s 1st CD fairs better than the rest of the state with a gap of just 3.7% (AAUW, 2016).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $420,280 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career. For Asian-American women, it’s $394,760; for African-Americans, it’s $661,840; for Native American women, it’s $804,680; & for Hispanic women, it’s $918,120 (NWLC, 2016).

What Can You Or I Do About this Inequity?

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union at your place of work, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28. Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser. All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the PA Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg. Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

You should also check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. You can also file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span). If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination office if you live in another state to determine if your state allows such local ordinances and if such an ordinance exists in your community.

You Can Also Advocate for Changes in the Law

There are bills before Congress and in state legislatures that deal with some of the issues affecting wage inequity.  If you want to advocate at the federal level, you can find your US Representative and your US Senators’ contact information at https://www.congress.gov/members.  To find the contact information for your state legislators, go to http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ and fill in your mailing address and hit the “locate” button; your legislators’ picture, addresses, and phone and fax numbers can be found when you click on her/his name .  It some cases, this website will also provide a list of bills your legislator has sponsored so that you can see if one or more of them support pay equity.

Here are the issues you should consider advocating for.  Since I live in Pennsylvania, I’m listing both Federal and Pennsylvania-specific bills.  For bills specific to your state, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures website to find and go to your state’s website.  You will then be able to search for bill on pay equity, paycheck fairness, minimum wage, sick leave, etc. to see if there is a bill or law in your state addressing these issues. If not, then contact your legislators/public officials and ask them to sponsor such bills.

  • Raise both the regular and the minimum wages. At the federal level, there are several bills addressing this issue.  They include HR 4508 —The Fair Wage Act , HR 2150 and S 1150 — Raise the Wage Act, and HR 3164 & S 1832 —Pay Workers a Living Wage Act.
  • Pass paid sick leave legislation. At the federal level, check out HR 932 and S 497 — the Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • In Pennsylvania, check out  HB 624 — the  Pennsylvania aid Sick Leave Act and SB 221 — the Employee Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • In some states, this type of legislation can be done at the municipal level.  Currently four states (Connecticut in 2011, California in 2013, Massachusetts in 2014, and Oregon in 2015) and the District of Columbia (2008) as well as 18 cities and communities have implemented paid sick leave.  These 18 cities (with year of passage) are:
      • California: San Francisco (2006), Oakland (2014), and Emeryville (2015)
      • Maryland: Montgomery County (2015)
      • New Jersey: Jersey City (2013), Newark, Passaic, Paterson, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton (all in 2014), and Bloomfield (2015)
      • New York: New York City (2013)
      • Oregon: Portland (2013)
      • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (2015)
      • Washington: Seattle (2011) and Tacoma (2015)
  • Create laws that make payment of wages fairer by eliminating pay secrecy rules & pay discrimination. Types of paycheck fairness rules include limiting occupational requirements to bona fide occupational factors like education, skills, and experience, prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their salaries, and denies employers the ability to require employees to sign a contract or waiver prohibiting them from disclosing information about the employee’s wages. The federal bills that focus on this issue are HR 1619 and S 862, both of which are entitled the Paycheck Fairness Act. The National Women’s Law Center has several good articles on paycheck fairness, including why women need more wage protections and information on how the Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act.
meme detailing the hypocrisy of the majority of the PA House of Representatives taking 9+ months to pass a budget but just 3 days to move a anti-abortion law to the floor for a final vote.

Hypocrisy: Abortion Ban More Important than the PA State Budget

With dangerous proposals like House Bill 1948, Pennsylvania politicians are once again inserting themselves in the most private and personal medical decisions best left between a woman and her doctor.

This bill would ban abortion at 20 weeks and ban one of the most common types of abortion procedures. Almost 99% of abortions take place before 21 weeks, but when a woman seeks a later abortion it’s often n very complex circumstances. Yet anti-abortion access legislators in Harrisburg want to make this private and personal medical decision for women & families in Pennsylvania by passing HB 1948.

It took this same legislature over 280 days to pass the 2015-2016 budget, yet it only took THREE DAYS to introduce (April 1) and send (April 4) this bill to the full House for a floor vote. The debate and final vote in the PA House of Representatives is expected as early as Tuesday, April 12.

The Hypocrisy? 3  days to make war on women’s bodies. 9+ months to pass state budget funding critical government safety programs, education, and the general running of state and local services!

meme detailing the hypocrisy of the majority of the PA House of Representatives taking 9+ months to pass a budget but just 3 days to move a anti-abortion law to the floor for a final vote.

The Hypocrisy of the PA Legislature

What’s wrong with this picture? If it were to become law, HB 1948 would create one of the most restrictive, harmful, and unconstitutional abortion bans in the United States. It would change the states abortion ban from 24 weeks (that’s the edge of viability) to 20 weeks.

It would also outlaw the safest form of 2nd trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). According to a statement released by ACOG, “these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients.”

Although relatively rare, 2nd trimester abortions done in a safe and timely manner are necessary. Here’s one woman’s story. As Julie says in this video, “This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with the choices my husband and I needed to make.”

And here’s another story. This one is from Evelyn, who says, “It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Whether or not to have an abortion is a decision that should always be made between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her god.”

As you can see from these two women who were willing to come forward with their personal stories, it’s clear that lawmakers should not interfere with personal medical decisions. A woman considering an abortion is already facing challenging circumstances. We’re not in her shoes. We should not deny her the ability to make a decision in consultation with those she trusts. And no matter how we feel about abortion, we can all agree that a woman’s health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions. Lawmakers are not medical experts and this is not an area where lawmakers should be intruding.

HB 1948 also places women at risk by ignoring individual circumstances and health needs. Her health and safety is paramount. Providers and their patients may determine later abortion care is the best medical option for a variety of reasons. HB 1948 would take the decision out of the hands of patients and their trusted medical care providers and put it in the hands of politicians. This would endanger women and jeopardize safe, legal abortion care.

These types of attacks are aimed at criminalizing abortion and attack women’s constitutional rights. 20-week bans are unconstitutional and a clear attempt to erode Roe v. Wade at the expense of women’s health. In fact, 20-week ban proponents are outspoken about their goal to challenge the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. Eliminating access to safe, constitutional and legal abortion services is a war on women from legislators attempting to impose their morality and narrow view of religious

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade also recognized that different moral and religious traditions have differing views on abortion. Protecting a woman’s ability to make her own decision about ending a pregnancy is critical to respecting her religious freedom. It is unjust for lawmakers to privilege the views of those who oppose abortion and seek to impose those beliefs on everyone, as doing so would directly block a woman’s ability to make her own faith-informed decision on this personal matter.

Bottom Line: While a majority of abortions in the United States occur in the first trimester, it is important that a woman, her family, and her doctor have every medical option available whenever she needs it. Laws banning later abortion would take that deeply personal decision away.

If you are part of the majority of voters who opposes these bans, contact your legislator today and urge them to oppose HB 1948.

 

Action Alert: Help Prevent Domestic Violence Homicides in Pennsylvania

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

Stop Violence Against Women NOW

Women's Law Project Blog

We need you to take one minute to help hold domestic abusers accountable.

Strangulation is the single most accurate predictor of a future domestic violence homicide. In fact, one widely accepted study indicates that strangulation domestic-violence victims are 800% more likely to be killed by their intimate partner during a future assault.

Last year, 141 Pennsylvanians were killed by domestic violence.

Historically, strangulation has been difficult to prosecute. Sometimes victims don’t show visible injuries, though in many cases, their esophagus swells later and they suffocate to death. Experts also recognize that strangulation is a uniquely terrifying form of physical abuse and psychological control used by domestic abusers.

In the last ten years, in response to a growing awareness of strangulation as a predictor of preventable homicides, at least 35 states have passed statutes to enhance victim safety and offender accountability.

Rep. Becky Corbin (R-Chester) has introduced a similar bill (

View original post 305 more words

The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan

Are you frustrated with your insurance plan? Have you, or someone you love, been denied coverage? Well here in Pennsylvania, we have new universal health care bill that has been introduced to improve upon the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and provide access to healthcare for ALL Pennsylvania residents.

The bill — HB 1688 — was introduced into the PA House of Representatives on Monday, November 9, 2015 and sent to the House Health Committee for review and mark-up. The prime sponsor is Rep. Pam DeLissio.  Here’s what she says about this new legislation:

I am introducing legislation to establish the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan. 

Similar legislation has been introduced on at least 3 occasions in the House over the past 7 years.

This legislation sets out a blueprint of bold steps that will result in a healthier citizenry at a lower cost with no co-pays, deductibles or premiums or concern about networks and with the freedom and flexibility to choose their health care providers. 

This legislation is possible because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows states the option to innovate with their own health care plan as long as the proposed plan is more economical and efficient.

This proposed legislation meets that criteria.  This option for the states to innovate becomes available in 2017. 

This legislation improves upon our current health care delivery system in many ways.  First and foremost, it preserves the private practice of medicine and the right of patients to choose their healthcare providers.

Briefly, the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan is a system in which the Pennsylvania Health Care Agency administers a plan that ensures the cost-effective delivery of covered services that range from catastrophic care to wellness and preventative care. 

Health Care Providers would have autonomy over patient care.

The program will be supported by the savings realized from replacing today’s less than efficient, often profit-oriented, multiple payer system with a streamlined Pennsylvania Health Care Trust Fund.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Trust Fund will be funded by a 10% employer tax paid on payroll and a 3% personal income tax.

Using our respective Caucuses as an example, we would save millions in health insurance costs if we were to pay an amount equal to 10% of our payroll.

A benefit to Plan participants is knowing definitively their healthcare cost exposure for the year. 

Graphic display of the details of the PA Health Care Plan as presented by Rep DeLissio to her colleagues in her Co-Sponsorship Memo.

Graphic display of the details of the PA Health Care Plan as presented by Rep DeLissio to her colleagues that she included with her Co-Sponsorship Memo.

And here is a summary HB 1688 (thanks to Healthcare for All PA for reviewing and summarizing the The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan). It…

  • Covers all Pennsylvania residents
  • Gives citizens the freedom and flexibility to choose their health care provider while at the same time preserving the private practice of medicine:
    • Allows free choice of providers, including specialists, without pre-approvals or referral
    • Provides comprehensive coverage
    • Give health care providers autonomy over patient care.
  • Doesn’t exclude or limit coverage due to preexisting conditions
  • Creates cost savings for citizens, businesses, municipalities and school districts:
    • Eliminates co-payments, deductibles, point-of-service and networks
    • Eliminates premiums. They are replaced by a 3% tax on adjusted gross income and Businesses will pay a 10% tax on payroll, (most businesses pay far more for employee health benefits, which will be eliminated under this Plan).
    • Benefits businesses by lowering costs for Worker’s Comp, Vehicle Insurance and Liability Insurance due to removal of medical component.
    • Removes retiree healthcare costs from businesses, municipalities and school districts
    • Creates this cost savings by replacing our less than efficient, confusing multi-payer system with a streamlined single-payer system.
  • Covers all of the following, but is not limited to:
    • All medically necessary inpatient and outpatient care and treatment, both primary and secondary
    • Emergency services
    • Emergency and other medically necessary transport to covered health services
    • Rehabilitation services, including speech, occupational, physical and massage therapy
    • Inpatient and outpatient mental health services and substance abuse treatment
    • Hospice care
    • Prescription drugs and prescribed medical nutrition
    • Vision care, aids and equipment
    • Hearing care, hearing aids and equipment
    • Diagnostic medical tests, including laboratory tests and imaging procedures
    • Medical supplies and prescribed medical equipment
    • Immunizations, preventive care, health maintenance care and screening
    • Dental care
    • Home health care services
    • Chiropractic and massage therapy
    • Complementary and alternative medical procedures that have been shown by the National Institute of Health’s Division of Complementary and Alternative Medicine to be safe and effective for possible inclusion as covered benefits
    • Long-term care for those unable to care for themselves independently, including assisted and skilled care

Currently there are four cosponsors of the bill — Rep Pam DeLissio, Rep W. Curtis Thomas, Rep Patrick J. Harkins, and Rep Mark Rozzi. But we need more co-sponsors and citizen calls for passage of this bill.  So we need your help.

Join us and act now! Contact your state representative now and urge them to support the ‘Pennsylvania Health Care Plan legislation’, this new and innovative health care plan will cover ALL Pennsylvania residents.  Find your representative by clicking on this link. Then call, write, and visit your Representative to ask her/him to cosponsor and support an improvement in our health care system here in Pennsylvania.

Then share this blog with your family, friends, and business colleagues so that they too can call for this change.

Thanks!

Helping Reduce Rape Culture: Two Legislative Ideas

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

What we need to do to reduce/eliminate sexual assault, stalking, and harassment in our community.

I live close Penn State University where the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity’s online cyber bullying activities using Facebook to show explicit pictures of nude and/or inebriated women occurred. As a result of this action and the now ongoing investigations by both Penn State University and the State College Police, Erin Matson’s idea of reducing the legal age for alcohol consumption might be something that states might want to consider. I don’t know where I stand on this, but Erin does make a decent argument here.

Drinking age is a state, not a federal issue. So, if the drinking age were to be lowered, it would have to go through the state legislatures and be signed into law. Just like when the drinking age was raised back in the 1980’s.

To some extent, the same is true for any law that might be enacted to deal with online cyber-bullying and stalking, often known as revenge porn. If interstate commerce is involved in the bullying and stalking, federal law can and has been created (see here and here). If not, then this issue has to be dealt with at the state level.

States across the country have recently enacted or are considering bills to punish perpetrators of revenge porn and online cyber bullying or stalking. Here in Pennsylvania, legislators passed a “revenge porn” bill known as the “UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGE AND DAMAGES IN ACTIONS FOR UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGE Act;” it became law on September 8, 2014. It however does not cover online bullying outside of dating or marriage relationships since the law restricts coverage to a victim who is a “current or former sexual or intimate partner.” This law makes the non-consensual dissemination of such images a misdemeanor offense.

I understand that the PA legislature may now revisit this bill to expand the law to cover such types of bullying activities outside of an intimate relationship as a result of the KDR incident. When they do, I would recommend that they expand the law to all forms of cyber bullying and stalking in addition to any non-consensual dissemination of such images. This would include severe harassment and bullying threats that place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.

This proposal would, I believe, help create a state-based law similar to federal law (18 U.S.C. 875 and 18 U.S.C. 2261a) that “ makes it a federal crime to transmit threats of bodily injury in interstate commerce and criminalizes the use of electronic communication to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”

Finally, there will be a Congressional hearing on on-line cyber-bullying and stalking on April 15. This hearing is being set up by Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) with the assistance of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This hearing will focus on concerns about gender violence in all forms of social media. I’ll post a comment here once I find out where and at what time the hearing will be held.

Throwing Gun Safety Away in PA

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

Stop Violence Against Women NOW

I received an email late last night from CeaseFirePA  regarding pending legislation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Here’s the main part of that email regarding two bills designed to reduce gun safety within the state:

There has been a MAJOR development in our state House that is designed to seriously undermine our safety as Pennsylvanians. IT IS UP TO YOU TO ACT TODAY.

Our state House Judiciary Committee just released a surprise agenda for… March 18 and it’s a doozy. The legislators controlled by the gun lobby are trying to railroad five firearms related bills-at least two of which are extremely dangerous for Pennsylvania-through the legislature without giving the public time to weigh in on them. These dangerous Bills are:

-HB 921, which would eliminate Pennsylvania’s background check system (PICS)–a system that our state police swear by and that contains thousands of records, particularly mental health records and records of PFAs [Protection from Abuse orders]/domestic abuse, that are not included in the National Instant Check System (NICS);

-HB 2011, which would-for the first time EVER in Pennsylvania history-allow a special interest group (in this case, the gun lobby and groups like the NRA) and the interest group’s entire membership base special, automatic standing to sue towns and cities because the group does not like the ordinances that these towns have passed to increase the safety of their citizens, even when the ordinance has not been enforced against any member of that group.

—Rob Conroy, CeaseFirePA, Western PA Regional Director

Based on the Gun Safety resolution that both Pennsylvania NOW and National NOW passed, respectively, in January and February 2013, Pennsylvania NOW decided to oppose both of these bills.  [FYI for disclosure purposes, I serve on both of these organizations’ boards — as a member of the Executive Committee for Pennsylvania NOW and as a member representing the Mid-Atlantic Region on the National NOW Board of Directors]. For more information on this NOW policy, go to the end of this blog to see the text of the resolution passed on February 25, 2013 by the National NOW Board of Directors calling for Sensible Gun Safety Legislation; this policy passed following the many concerns raised by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  My very first blog on this site was written the day of these shootings.)

Why Pennsylvania NOW Opposes these Bills

Pennsylvania NOW opposes HB 921 that eliminates PA’s background check for gun sales and increases the threat of gun violence to victims of domestic violence who have or want to seek out a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order.

Pennsylvania NOW also opposes HB 2011 since it allows special interest groups without legal standing to sue to overturn any local ordinance they don’t like.  This second bill could overturn not only local gun-related ordinances, but also other ordinances such as local anti-discrimination ordinances that have added marital status, familial status, family responsibilities, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation to the list of protected classes in preventing discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Status of these Bills

The members of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee met at 10 am this morning.  I talked to Rep. Thomas Caltagirone’s (D-PA 127) office (he’s the Minority Chair of the House Judiciary Committee).  The woman I talked to said that his entire staff (except herself) was in the Committee meeting and she had no idea as to whether or not these bills had been voted on.  At 2 pm today, I checked the General Assembly’s website.  As of that time, nothing had been posted regarding a committee vote on these bills.

Based on the make-up of the Judiciary Committee, we suspect that both bills will be voted out if they haven’t already been.  So all members of the legislature need to be contacted to tell them to vote no on both bills when they come to the floor.

Be/Become an Activist for Gun Safety

We don’t need to throw away our gun safety laws.  We need, instead, to make sure gun safety rules are in place to protect our loved ones.

So, please take time to contact your legislator.  Here’s where to find your legislator’s contact info. Tell him/her to vote NO on HB 921 and HB 2011 to protect the lives of our loved ones from unsafe gun sales and preemption of local ordinances that improve our local communities.

Addendum

CALL FOR SENSIBLE GUN SAFETY LEGISLATION

WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women (NOW) “[E]nvision[s] a world where non‑violence is the established order”; and

WHEREAS, we, along with the rest of the nation, have witnessed in horror and, with deep sadness, the most recent massacre on December 14, 2012, by an individual with assault weapons, of his mother first, then innocent children and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; and

WHEREAS, this horrific incident is the latest in a string of recent, shocking gun attacks, all of which have been perpetrated by individuals with assault weapons and which have mostly targeted women and children around the country, including at:

  • a shopping mall in Portland, Oregon in December 2012;
  • the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012;
  • a shopping mall in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was grievously injured, and where other casualties included the death of 9-year old Christina Taylor-Green; and
  • an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in October 2006 where 5 young girls were slaughtered and 5 more girls were seriously injured after the shooter released the boys and the adults; and

WHEREAS, according to the Congressional Research Services, there were more than 310 million firearms in private ownership in the United States in 2009, and another 5.2 million are manufactured annually and another 3.2 million imported annually, and according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 30,000 people in the US are killed each year by firearms, and the vast majority of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed with handguns by intimate partners rather than by strangers; and

WHEREAS, we respect the rights conferred under the Second Amendment but believe that the right to bear arms does not mean that assault weapons—which are designed solely to kill people—should be sold to members of the public; and

WHEREAS, as President Obama said in Newtown, “These tragedies must end;”

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NOW calls upon our federal- and state-level elected representatives to protect and defend our children, our communities and our nation from further gun violence by immediately implementing sensible gun safety  legislation, including:

  • Reinstituting the ban on assault weapons that was in effect prior to 2004; and
  • Banning the sale, transfer, transportation and possession of large clips of ammunition containing more than 10 bullets; and
  • Closing the “Gun Show Loophole” which allows individuals to purchase guns without a background check; and
  • Appointing a permanent position as Director of Tobacco & Fire Arms Department; and
  • Retaining the results of all Federal background checks for five years; and
  • Requiring universal background checks, including checks  for domestic violence for the purchase of any legal weapon; and
  • Creating a national gun registry that will allow law enforcement to track weapons; and
  • Requiring devices be added to weapons which would limit the use of any privately-owned gun to the registered owner; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW encourages our chapters and members to:

  • Lobby their elected officials for effective legislation to end gun violence, with the NOW Action Center providing educational information to assist in such efforts; and
  • Contact entertainment providers and their sponsors to ask that they do not manufacture or sponsor video games, movies, television shows or music that glorify gratuitous violence; and
  • Lobby and/or protest professional organizations in the entertainment industry that honor exceptionally violent content; and
  • Advocate for programs and their funding in schools to teach tolerance and conflict resolution; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that NOW endorses actions advocating for solutions to end gun violence when it can be done in accordance with NOW’s Coalition Guidelines.

—Passed by the National NOW Board of Directors, February 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health Initial Roll-Out

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

On December 11, the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Health Agenda Caucuses rolled out the first set of bills that are part of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Agenda.  The Agenda was spearheaded by Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks and Montgomery). These legislators were assisted by several of their colleagues, including  Representatives Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery), Tina Davis (D-Bucks), Maria Donatucci (D-Delaware and Philadelphia), Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny), Mark Painter (D-Montgomery), and Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) made the announcement of the roll-out. They announced that this first set of bills would soon be going to committee.

Video Statements

During the media advisory session, several of the Representatives were videotaped by the Pennsylvania House.  Here are those videos:

Representative Dan Frankel Announcing the Roll-Out of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Representative Brian Sims and Erin Molchany Introducing the Pay Equity Bill

Representative Sims spoke first:

Then Representative Molchany followed up with additional information:

Representative Tina Davis Introducing Digital Intimate Partner Violence Bill.

This bill would “make revenge acts that include pictures of partners who are naked or involved in sexual acts illegal.”

Representative Mark Painter Introducing Employment Discrimination Protections for Pregnant Women Bill

Representative Mary Jo Daley Introducing Bill to Require Sanitary Conditions in the Workplace for Breastfeeding Women

Representative Maria Donatucci Introducing Bill to Expand Access to Cervical Cancer Screenings

Advocates Support the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Standing next to the legislators were representatives of many different advocacy groups who stood in support of this agenda.  The Women’s Law Project was the lead organization in working with the legislators to help create this agenda.  Pennsylvania NOW was also there.  None of the organizations present spoke at the press conference but did deliver their Statements of Support to the media.  Here are the statements from these two organizations.

Women’s Law Project

This statement is currently posted on the Women’s Law Project Legislative Action page and is repeated here just in case the URL is moved:

Women’s Law Project Commends Groundbreaking State Legislative Initiative
To Improve Women’s Health

Harrisburg, PA – The Women’s Law Project and its civic engagement action arm, WomenVote PA, commend the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, as it unveils the first phase of a comprehensive Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. Led by Representative Dan Frankel and Senators Judy Schwank and Chuck McIlhinney, the Caucus is taking a proactive, positive approach to helping women by addressing a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality.

Each component of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health arises out of the struggles of real women in Pennsylvania. The first phase of the agenda includes legislation protecting pregnant women in the workplace, filling gaps in protection for nursing mothers at work, ensuring that women’s health centers are safe and accessible, prohibiting wage secrecy, extending health screenings to more women, stopping intimate partner harassment, and ensuring that domestic violence victims are not punished for contacting law enforcement.

“Although we’ve made progress over the years, it’s a well-documented fact that women’s health and well-being are still not a priority in Pennsylvania,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “This legislation will address real problems that real women have every day, solutions as simple as enabling a pregnant woman to carry a water bottle during her shift and ensuring that women earn the same amount as a man doing the same job. This legislation is the beginning of a full-scale effort by the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus focused on leveling that playing field for good.”

“This new legislative focus on real women’s real health needs is long overdue,” said Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office. “For far too long, the Pennsylvania legislature has obsessively focused on restricting women’s access to reproductive health care. That is not what women want or need. We want sensible laws that improve the lives of women, not more roadblocks to women’s health.”

Kate Michelman, renowned feminist and co-chair of WomenVote PA, stated, “Rather than helping women achieve the equality they deserve, the Pennsylvania legislature has spent unprecedented time and energy on creating barriers to contraception and abortion.” She continued, “We can’t afford to continue to be one of the worst states in the nation for women,” citing a recent report assigning Pennsylvania a “C-” grade, and ranking the Commonwealth 28th out of the 50 states in its treatment of women. “The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health has the potential to change that, and it deserves the support of every person in this state.”

For more details on the proposed legislation, please visit our web site in the coming weeks for updates, as well as visiting the WomenVote PA web site.

WomenVote PA is the non-partisan action arm of the Women’s Law Project. For more information go to www.womenvotepa.org

Pennsylvania NOW

This statement was crafted by Caryn Hunt, President-Elect; Susan Woodland, Secretary-Elect and current  At-Large Member of the Executive Committee, and myself.

Pennsylvania NOW Supports the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

HARRISBURG, December 11, 2013—The Pennsylvania state chapter of the National Organization for Women (PA NOW) applauds the work of the House and Senate Women’s Health Caucuses as they roll out a comprehensive plan to address the real issues affecting Pennsylvania women today. Spearheaded by Representative Dan Frankel, Senator Judy Schwank and Senator Chuck McIlhinney in conjunction with the Women’s Law Project, and then developed by a broad coalition of Pennsylvania advocacy organizations that work on behalf of women every day, it is based on years of experience about what women want and need to stay healthy. This Agenda goes a long way to redressing entrenched inequities for women in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania Republicans, like their counterparts in other state legislatures, have obsessed about women’s reproductive rights and have waged a non-stop campaign to control them from the capital, rolling back not just access to safe, legal abortion, but also the sense that women are full citizens entitled to a government and society that also works for them,” said Pennsylvania NOW President-Elect Caryn Hunt. “This agenda provides an antidote to the shallow, rhetorical policy-making of those in the General Assembly who have led the calls for women’s restrictions and called it concern for women’s health. It’s refreshing to see so many bills introduced that will genuinely help women, and that together provide a much truer portrait of the needs women want their representatives to address.”

These first bills address a variety of concerns for women: pregnancy accommodation is a common sense step to ensure that pregnant women are treated not as liabilities, but as persons with a temporary need for reasonable accommodations in the workplace; the bill to provide at 15-foot buffer zone around entrances to health clinics is a necessity in our state to make sure women seeking reproductive healthcare are able to access it in an orderly and safe manner; bills targeting “pay secrecy” and the “factor other than sex” loophole will help to end practices that for too long have enabled employers to pay women less than men for the same work. Other bills fill gaps in existing protections for nursing mothers, victims of intimate partner harassment and of domestic violence.

“The ideas for change in this package of bills come from real-life stories of women,” added Joanne Tosti-Vasey, President Emerita and Lobbyist for Pennsylvania NOW. “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.”

Pennsylvania NOW has high hopes for the Women’s Health Agenda. Finally, the concerns and needs of Pennsylvania are being honestly addressed by their representatives, rather than attacked and abridged.

I will report on more of these bills as they are announced.

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.