Lawmakers have been playing politics with women’s health in Pennsylvania, and it shows in our poor ranking across key indicators of women’s health and economic security in state-by-state surveys, year after year.
In 2013, advocates in Pennsylvania joined forces to create the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health. Today, the PA Campaign is a successful, growing collaboration of approximately 60 local, state, and national organizations calling for evidence-based policies to improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania.
Our priorities are informed by our shared understanding that improving women’s health is not possible without economic security, which is not possible without reproductive freedom.
In 2017, we hosted 12 Community Conversations on Women’s Health across the Commonwealth in order to do what so many members of the Pennsylvania Legislature will not: We listened to women.
Our 2018 priorities are based on those conversations, expert policy analysis of loopholes in Pennsylvania state policy and laws, and the recommendations of public health experts. We are fighting the growing, insidious problem of government interference in the doctor-patient relationship; calling for equal access to the full range of reproductive healthcare including abortion; and advocating for common-sense, basic protections for women in the workplace, such as fixing Pennsylvania’s broken equal pay law, and addressing pregnancy discrimination.
The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health developed a legislative roadmap that will, if implemented, improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania.
We currently support these initiatives (you can download a printable one-page summary of the Campaign priorities here):
Workplace accommodations for pregnant women (HB1583)
In some parts of Pennsylvania, pregnant workers can be fired for requesting to keep an extra bottle of water at their work station. The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions unless those accommodations would cause a business an undue hardship.
Workplace accommodations for nursing mothers (HB1685)
Pennsylvania families are not meeting breastfeeding goals set by public health experts. Public health experts recommend increasing breastfeeding rates to reduce infant mortality, among other benefits. The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space and break time for employees who need to express breast milk unless those accommodations would cause a small business undue hardship.
Equal Pay (HB1243)
Pennsylvania women lag further behind most other states in closing the gender pay gap, in part because Pennsylvania’s state Equal Pay Act has been been updated since 1967, when it was amended to apply to fewer people. This bill closes loopholes in the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act, bans employer reliance on prior pay, and prohibits employers from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for sharing wage information.
Protecting doctor-patient trust (HB1636)
Pennsylvania has an opportunity to lead the country in the effort to fight the rising tide of political interference into the exam room. The Patient Trust Act protects patients by prohibiting government directives that require medical providers to give patients medically inaccurate information.
Raise the Minimum Wage/One Fair Wage
Pennsylvania’s minimum wage of $.7.25 per hour is the lowest allowed by federal law, enabling businesses in Pennsylvania to pay workers far less than their counterparts in neighboring states. The Campaign supports legislation that raises the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour and requires one fair wage for all by eliminating the subminimum wage, or “tipped wage.”
More than 70,000 female veterans call Pennsylvania home, yet we have so far failed to strategically address their unique health needs, including Military Sexual Trauma, a specific type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder common among female veterans due to the high incidence of sexual violence in the military. This bill establishes a Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care to study the unique health issues facing women veterans.
Cell Phone Contract Termination for DV Victims (HB1632)
Financial barriers are a serious obstacle for people who want to otherwise leave abusive relationships and homes, and leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. Sharing a cell phone bill can keep a victim tethered to an abuser, who can use the records to surveil victims. This legislation enables domestic-violence survivors to cancel cell phone contracts tethered to their abuser without paying early termination fees, and allows primary account holders to remove an abuser’s name without a fee. It also requires the phone company to provide a DV survivor with a new phone number if documentation is provided
Lease Termination for DV, Sexual assault and Stalking victims
Financial barriers are a serious obstacle for people who want to otherwise leave abusive relationships and homes, and leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. This legislation seeks to relieve one such obstacle by allowing for early termination of a rental lease (with 30 days’ notice) if the tenant is a victim of DV, sexual assault and/or stalking. Also allows victims to request that the landlord change the locks within three days at tenant’s expense.
Despite the ubiquity of #MeToo conversations about sexual harassment in the workplace, Pennsylvania fails to provide equal protections for employees of small businesses. This bill extends state sexual harassment protection to apply to employees working at businesses with three or fewer people.
Safe Campuses Act (HB962)
This bill requires colleges and universities to educate students, staff and officials about the risks of sexual assault (SA) and intimate partner violence (IPV), and requires colleges and universities to submit annual reports on SA and IPV on campus.
Ensuring fair pensions for widows of state and municipal employees
This legislation requires that a public employee obtain spousal consent for any benefit payment structure that does not provide at least a 50 percent survivor benefit to the employee’s surviving spouse.
Protecting Patients & Abortion Providers from Violence (SB385)
Targeted harassment of abortion providers has risen dramatically since 2016. Healthcare facilities that provide abortion care in Pennsylvania have long been targeted by anti-abortion extremists. This bill prohibits the use of physical force or obstruction or threat of physical force or obstruction to intentionally intimidate, interfere or injure any person who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing reproductive health services.
Encouraging Workforce Participation (Increased TANF Earned Income Disregard)
This bill encourages workforce participation amongst TANF recipients by increasing the amount of income that can be disregarded for purposes of benefit calculation from 50 percent to 75 percent.
Fighting HIV/Require Insurance Coverage of PEP/PrEP (HB1107)
Requires private insurance companies to cover Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) HIV medication.
Protecting Pennsylvanians with Pre-existing Conditions (SB958)
More than 2 million Pennsylvanians have a pre-existing condition that could prevent them from obtaining affordable health insurance if this provision of the Affordable Healthcare Act is repealed. This legislation prohibits health insurance companies from using an individual’s pre-existing medical conditions to deny or exclude coverage under a health insurance policy.
Right-sizing Regulations Governing Healthcare Facilities Providing Abortion Care (SB210)
This legislation repeals Act 122, which required abortion providers in Pennsylvania to comply regulations designed for “Ambulatory Surgical Facilities,” despite being medically unnecessary.
Promote Contraception Access
Contraception is basic healthcare. This legislation requires contraception coverage without prior authorization, co-payment, coinsurance and dispensing requirements.
Community Diaper Bank (HB1815)
According to 2014 government data, families in the lowest-income quintile of diaper buyers spend nearly 14 percent of their after-tax income on diapers, a basic need for babies that cannot be met with safety net programs. This legislation establishes a grant program expand access to clean diapers for infants, children, and incontinent adults.
Improving Quality of Life for Nursing Home Residents (HB300)
This bill increases the personal needs allowance deduction for Medical Assistance-eligible individuals living in nursing facilities from $45 to $65 per month.
Reduce Domestic Violence homicides (SB501)
In 2016, 102 Pennsylvanians were killed in domestic violence incidents, including 56 women and 46 men. Of those, 57 were shot. This bill removes third-party safekeeping for DV defendants ordered by a court to relinquish firearms, weapons and ammunition and strengthens existing surrender policy requiring convicted abusers to surrender within 24 hours of certain convictions.
Comprehensive Sex Education (HB1615)
Comprehensive sex education is correlated with fewer unintended pregnancies and delayed sexual initiation, among other public health benefits. This legislation requires age-appropriate, comprehensive, evidence-based sexual health education at schools across the Commonwealth.
Task force on campus Intimate Partner Violence & Sexual Assault (HB1633)
this bill requires a task force to assess intimate partner violence among Pennsylvania college students by holding public hearings and publishing a report with findings and recommendations.
Sexual harassment is a serious problem for students at all educational levels. At least 1 in 4 middle-school students say they’ve experienced unwanted verbal or physical sexual harassment on school grounds, often in the hallway or even in the classroom. This legislation requires schools to establish anti-violence and anti-harassment policy.
Affirmative Consent on Campus (HB1921)
This bill requires Pennsylvania’s post-secondary institutions to adopt affirmative consent standards for responding to allegations of sexual violence.
Protecting Sexual Abuse Survivors (SB871)
This legislation requires higher education institutions to provide amnesty in disciplinary policies for violations of drug or alcohol rules for a victim (or other witness) when disclosed in the course of good faith reporting of assault or stalking.
Victory! These Agenda bills were passed into law:
Equitable protections for domestic violence victims
The case of Lakisha Briggs revealed a horrifying reality that landlords were leveraging “nuisance” ordinances to routinely evict domestic violence victims for calling 911 for help. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), made that practice illegal. It was signed into law as Act 200 on October 31, 2014.
Stop intimate partner harassment (“revenge porn” law)
It is now a crime in Pennsylvania to non-consensually post sexually explicit or nude photos of a former partner on the internet. HB 1901, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery), was signed into law on July 9, 2014 as Act 115.
A “Cliff Effect” Study
The “cliff effect” refers to a vicious cycle when a working parent earns just enough to lose eligibility for the very programs that allow her to work, such as child care assistance. S.R. 62, sponsored by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), is a resolution to study this effect. The resolution was approved on June 28, 2014.
Pennsylvania routinely earns abysmal rankings for the status of women’s health. Most recently, a national analysis conducted the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranked Pennsylvania 31st for women’s health & well-being, 31st for reproductive rights, and 23rd for employment & earnings. The PA Agenda for Women’s Health is a clear, detailed blueprint for a better life for women across the Commonwealth.
The PA Campaign for Women’s Health is a brand-new coalition of citizens and advocates supporting the Agenda as part of a broader campaign to improve the health and economic security of women in Pennsylvania.
Both the Agenda and the Campaign have been well-received across the state, including coverage in the WHYY Newsworks, the Philadelphia Inquirer, WESA Pittsburgh, The Patriot-News and the National Partnership.
Download a one-page overview of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health 2018 legislative priorities here. Follow our progress by liking us on Facebook. For more information or to inquire about joining the Campaign, email PA4WomensHealth@gmail.com.