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Carol E. Tracy Honored by the American Society of Criminology

Tracy accepts the President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice on 25thAnniversary of Leading the Women’s Law Project

picture of Carol Tracy

This past Friday evening, the Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy accepted the prestigious President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice from the American Society of Criminology at their annual conference in Washington, DC. By coincidence, the ceremony takes place on Tracy’s 25th anniversary leading the Women’s Law Project, the only public interest legal center devoted to the rights of women and girls in Pennsylvania.

Previous award recipients include Congressman John Lewis (2013) and renowned journalist Linda Greenhouse (2011). Read full article here.

Final Day: 25 Reasons to Give $25 to the Women's Law Project

Friday, November 20th, marked Carol Tracy’s 25th anniversary as Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. In case you missed it, we celebrated last week by posting 25 reasons to be grateful for Carol and the WLP. You can still celebrate with us by supporting this important work. Contributing to the Women’s Law Project is an investment in a better future for women and giirls. You can read the full 25 Reasons to Give $25 to WLP here.

Action Alert: Help Prevent Domestic Violence Homicides in Pennsylvania

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. Read full post here.

Philadelphia Establishes Office to Investigate Wage Theft

Wage theft–the illegal refusal to pay, or the underpayment, of wages due—often happens in hidden, incremental ways that add up to big numbers. It can take many forms, including asking employees to work off the clock, paying workers less than minimum wage, or misclassifying employees to avoid paying benefits or overtime.

A startling report on wage theft in Pennsylvania recently published by the Social Justice Lawyering Clinic at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law revealed widespread wage theft throughout Pennsylvania. By the end of this week, 400,000 Pennsylvanians will have been illegally deprived of between $19 million and $32 million due to wage theft. Read full article here.

WLP at the PA Governor's Residence to Discuss Campus Rape Crisis

The documentary The Hunting Ground explores the crisis of sexual assault on campus while profiling the transformation of students as they evolve from victims to survivors to empowered activists. The film is also a chilling indictment of the widespread failure of college administrators to adequately respond to allegations of rape on campus.

It is not an easy film for college administrators to watch. But yesterday, representatives of 33 Pennsylvania colleges and universities sat together and watched The Hunting Groundin a special screening and panel presentation at the Governor’s Residence, hosted by Pennsylvania Commission for Women, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Read more here and see The Hunting Ground trailer.

In Case You Missed It: October at the Women's Law Project

We know you are busy and as you’ll read, so are we, so we’re bringing back our monthly wrap-up posts to make it easier for you to keep up with everything going on at The Women’s Law Project. Read more here.

New PA Bill Attacks Birth Control & Cancer Screenings for Women

We all know by now that a favorite tactic of anti-choice advocates is to unload a torrent of misinformation into the public discourse, and then hope to get what Katha Pollitt calls “the muddled middle” to wonder how much of their accusations could actually be true.

[Sign a petition against defunding Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania here.]

While a reasonable person should, ideally, be able to assume that a serious politician won’t spew false information that can be easily fact-checked, the sad fact of the matter is a reasonable person can make no such assumption. Two recent high-profile examples of this chicanery are presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s bizarre assertions about the content of the debunked Planned Parenthood sting videos during a recent debate, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz pointing to a “misleading and ethically wrong” chart that he apparently didn’t know was created by an anti-abortion group, causing him to fumble his attempt at a gotcha moment while grilling Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Read more here.

The Alliance and the Road Ahead

There are only five state-based legal non-profits in the country that focus on advancing women’s and LGBT rights, and the Women’s Law Project is one of them. The other four organizations are Legal Voice (Washington state), Gender Justice (Upper Midwest),Southwest Women’s Law Center (New Mexico), and California Women’s Law Center.

The fight for our rights has always been on the ground and in the states, though thecoordinated campaign of state-level legislative attacks on abortion access that has dominated the landscape, and headlines, in the last few years has made that reality abundantly clear. Read more here.

New Report: Politics in the Exam Room, a Growing Threat

The most insidious way American politicians attempt to influence the behavior of private citizens is by quietly passing laws that legislate doctor-patient communications, going so far as to force doctors to lie to patients.

With the proliferation of laws intruding into the exam room, you can’t be sure your doctor is giving you medically accurate advice. It’s a growing problem.

Across the country, politicians have been passing laws and regulations that either coerce doctors to mislead their patients or alternatively, gag them from having truthful conversations about their patient’s health. Read more here.

Scenes from PA's Hearing on Pregnant & Nursing Worker Discrimination

Amal Bass at Hearing

Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney at hearing.

The two-hour public meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania House Committee on Labor & Industry last Thursday went well, particularly for the way the conversation revealed the opposition’s lack of a convincing argument against closing the gaps in workplace protections for pregnant and nursing workers in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Legislature is currently considering two bills. You can learn more about these bills here.

Doctors Shouldn’t Be Forced to Lie to Patients

Across the country, politicians have been quietly passing laws and regulations that either coerce doctors to mislead their patients—and in some cases, outright lie—or alternatively, gag them from having truthful conversations about their patient’s health. Politicians have even used legislation to coerce doctors into performing medically-unnecessary procedures—such as is the case with bills that mandate transvaginal ultrasounds before performing an abortion. Read more here.

Op-Ed: On Pope Francis, Economic Justice & Reproductive Rights

Pope Francis has come to the United States to preach about economic justice amid an unprecedented attack on reproductive rights.

Anti-choice advocates no longer simply try  to criminalize abortion. Now, most legislative attacks are part of a strategy that relies on steadily implementing incremental restrictions with the goal of reserving safe and legal abortion as a luxury of the rich.

Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol Tracy and Kate Michelman, co-chair of WomenVote PA, wrote about this connection on the even of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia.

Good News in Horrific "Rape Bait" Case

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of the female plaintiff who was raped as an eighth grader by a male student in an Alabama middle school in the case Hill v. Madison County School Board.

The young woman can now proceed to trial with her claim that Sparkman Middle School’s response to her reports of sexual harassment led to her being violently raped in a bathroom by a male student with a known history of violence and sexual misconduct. Read more about the Rape Bait Case here.

WLP Attorney Tara Pfeifer Recognized by American Bar Association

Tara Pfeifer picture
WLP Staff Attorney Tara Pfeifer testifying before Pittsburgh City Council.

Tara Pfeifer, staff attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office, was recently recognized by the American Bar Association for her service to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

Pfeifer is Vice-Chair of the Allegheny County Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee and also a member of the Young Lawyers Division Diversity Committee. In the latter capacity, earlier this year she organized a forum on marriage equality featuring ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak. Read more here.

Victory! Pittsburgh Passes Earned Paid Sick Days

In staying true to its goal of being the “Most Livable City,” Pittsburgh passed the Paid Sick Days Act this afternoon, providing approximately 50,000 Pittsburgh workers the ability to earn paid sick days.

The victory in Pittsburgh comes on the heels of a similar ordinance passed in Philadelphia.

Women’s Law Project is proud to have been part of the unified effort to pass earned paid sick day legislation in both cities.  Specifically, we were sure to inform lawmakers the ways that a lack of access to paid sick leave disproportionately affects women, who are often both primary breadwinners and caretakers of their families. Read more here.

WLP Executive Director Carol Tracy Addresses Failed Planned Parenthood Sting

Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy recently spoke out about the misleadingly edited videos published by the ironically named fake organization “Center for Medical Progress” on The Rick Smith Show. Amid a whirlwind of media about the videos, Smith asked Tracy to provide an overview of the situation. Read more here.

WLP Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson Honored as Trailblazer

Terry Fromson Terry L. Fromson, managing attorney of the Women’s Law Project, has been chosen to receive a prestigious 20/20 Vision Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence. Marking its 20th anniversary, the Commission created the 20/20 Vision Award to honor 20 lawyers who have played key roles in improving societal response to domestic and sexual violence. Fromson will be honored along with Vice President Joe Biden, who introduced the Violence Against Women Act in 1990, Senator Patrick Leahy, and other visionary leaders from across the country. Read full story.

WLP Files Amicus Brief in Pittsburgh Buffer Zone 3rd Circuit Appeal

After federal courts repeatedly upheld Pittsburgh’s 15-foot clinic buffer zone ordinance, opponents of legal abortion are still fighting to knock it down. The fight in Pittsburgh is an important one, with implications for the safety of patients and providers across the country. Read full story. See amicus brief.

Fair Pay for Pennsylvania Women Requires a Fair Minimum Wage

Minimum wage workers in Pennsylvania—mostly women—cannot support themselves and their families on earnings of just $7.25 per hour, or the tipped minimum cash wage of $2.83 per hour. Raise the Wage PA and the PA Campaign for Women’s Health support proposed legislation that would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour, raise the tipped minimum wage to at least 70 percent of the minimum wage, index these wages to keep up with inflation, and increase penalties for employers who fail to pay workers the wages they are due. Increasing the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage are key steps toward fair pay for women in Pennsylvania. See full fact sheet here.

Marriage Equality

This morning’s Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional marks a victory for love. I can hear the chants outside my window, see it on the faces of my co-workers and feel it in my bones.

When Pennsylvania became the 19th state where same-sex couples could legally marry last year, the federal judge that overturned our state ban wrote that “we are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.” Read more here.

HB 1112 Amended: Victory for Female Athletes in PA!

We recently warned you about House Bill 1112, and asked you to take action on behalf of female athletes in Pennsylvania. We’re happy to report that your voices were heard, and the problem has been resolved.

The bill’s stated purpose is to identify unnecessary, burdensome or redundant regulations governing data collection in schools, and then eliminate them. While that sounds reasonable, we noticed that the bill could have been used as a backdoor repeal of a very good law called the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. You can read more here.

You Are Being Heard: Vote on HB222 Postpone - But We Remain Concerned

On June 5th, we sent you an alert to inform you about a bill that would, if passed, punish women in recovery from drug addiction by withholding food from their families.

In short, House Bill 222 would impose a lifetime ban on benefits for people convicted of felony drug crimes. The ban is not just immoral, it’s ineffective as a deterrent. Prosecutors say refusing to give people in recovery the support to get back on their feet—and in many cases, the ability to support their children while doing so–only increases the likelihood of criminal behavior.

HB 222 also disproportionately affects women. Read more here.

11 "Revenge Porn" Cases in First Six Months of PA's New Law

A law criminalizing a type of digital harassment known as “revenge porn,” an initiative of the Agenda for Women’s Health, passed into law last year. A new analysis by The Tribune-Review reveals that in the first six months the law has been on the books, 11 cases are already underway.

“I don’t know that I want to say I’m encouraged, but I do feel vindicated,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus. Schwank championed the legislation last year. Read more...

WLP Announces the Campaign for Women's Health

Women’s Law Project is proud to announce founding membership in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a new statewide coalition formed to change the conversation about women’s health care in Pennsylvania.

For years now in Harrisburg, the phrase ‘women’s health’ has been code for restricting access to safe and legal abortion for poor and working women. The result of substituting sound public health policy for buzzword politics is clear: Pennsylvania consistently ranks abysmally low for women’s health and economic security across all indicators. Read more here. Also check out our Legislative Action page.

Report: Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage in PA

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

As the Pennsylvania Legislature considers bills to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10, a new report breaks down the big-picture and local benefits of hiking the minimum wage.

Currently, minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25, the lowest amount allowed by federal law since 2009.

Read more here.

If You Don’t Want to Wait Until 2072 For Equal Pay in PA

April 14 is Equal Pay Day.

Why do we need a whole day to draw attention to the problem—and possible solutions—to gender-based wage discrimination? Because if we do nothing other than wait, Pennsylvania women will not earn equal pay until the year 2072. Read more here.

What Young v. UPS Means for Pregnancy Discrimination in PA

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion yesterday in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service. At issue is whether or not the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.

In short, the news is good for women. The Supreme Court pushed the case back to a lower court, giving Peggy Young another chance to prove that the company discriminated against her. "We think it's a big win for Peggy Young,” said Samuel Bagenstos, Young's lawyer at the Supreme Court. “We think it's a big win for pregnant workers around the country.” Read more...

Judge Upholds Pittsburgh Buffer Zone

By Tara Murtha

A federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of a 15-foot buffer zone ordinance that protects health care facilities in Pittsburgh. The decision is the first federal ruling on the constitutionality of a clinic buffer zone sinceMcCullen v. Coakleythe Supreme Court case decided last June. Read more...

King v. Burwell: What’s at stake for women in PA?

On March 4th, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the latest attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act.

King v. Burwell is a lawsuit brought by Virginia residents who ultimately hope to strip premium tax credits, also called a subsidy, from people who buy their health insurance through one of the 37 states with federally run exchanges.

Pennsylvania is one such state.

PA Trying to Kill Philadelphia's Paid Earned Sick Days

Last month, Philadelphia became the twentieth city to pass earned sick day legislation.

Today, Pennsylvania lawmakers moved to undo that victory by not only banning every other municipality across the state from mandating earned paid sick leave, but adding an amendment to SB333 specifying the law, if implemented, would retroactively take effect January 1.

Philadelphia passed its ordinance on February 12.

WLP Attorneys: Penn Professors Are Wrong

by Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy, Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson and Staff Attorney Amal Bass, lawyers with extensive experience working with Title IX, the civil law that prohibits discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, have written an open letter responding to University of Pennsylvania professors’ criticism of their school’s new system for adjudicating sexual assault complaints.
Read more here.

Bad Bill Alert: "Admitting Privileges" Coming to PA

Admitting privilege legislation is the latest trick deployed nationally by opponents of abortion rights to shrink the (already inadequate) number of abortion providers. That’s why it’s been all over the news for months.

Recently, we learned the admitting privilege controversy is coming to Pennsylvania.

The bill will be co-sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp. You may recall Rapp, a member of the Susan B. Anthony National Pro-life Caucus, as a sponsor of Pennsylvania’s mandatory ultrasound bill--an idea ridiculed by professional medical associations. (Then former Governor Corbett advised women endure the medically unnecessary procedure by just closing their eyes, and the entire country wondered what was wrong with Pennsylvania.) The other sponsor is Rep. Bryan Barbin, the Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania House Pro-Life Caucus. Read full blog here. Please help by contacting your state representative now.

Philadelphia Passes Paid Earned Sick Days Bill

Blog by Tara Murtha

We did it! Philadelphia is now the 20th  jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee certain workers the ability to earn paid sick days.

The measure has been passed by City Council twice before, so it’s easy to say the third time’s a charm. But this success is, of course, is the result of a full-court press by advocates who refused to give up. As Ellen Bravo of Family Values at Work wrote earlier today, “This third time has nothing to do with charm and everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.” See full article.

VICTORY! Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Eviction Heads to Governor's Desk

We asked for your help, you gave it. We heard about all the phone calls and emails. Now, together, we achieved a huge victory for the rights of domestic violence survivors in Pennsylvania, who can no longer be legally evicted from their homes for calling authorities for help when they need it. Read more about HB 1796!

Gender Equality Wrestling Case Nominated for the International Gender Justice Uncovered Award

The Women’s Law Project and Flaster/Greenberg PC are honored by the nomination of the Beattie v. Line Mountain School District lawsuit for the annual Gender Justice Uncovered Awards. The awards, sponsored by the Women’s Link Worldwide (WLW), draws attention to the state of gender equality around the globe by highlighting legal decisions or statements made in the context of a legal process by judges, prosecutors and others, which have positive or negative impact on gender equality around the globe. See more information.

WLP Files Title IX Complaints Against PA State System Universities

On April 17th, the Women’s Law Project filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education against nine members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE),ask ing OCR to address the historical and ongoing failure of these universities to provide equal athletic opportunity to their female students. The nine universities are Bloomsburg, Cheyney, Clarion, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, and Shippensburg.
See letter to counsel for PSSHE. See Full Press Release.


Equal Pay Today Button

50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act
Equal Pay Today!

Fifteen national and state-based women’s rights legal organizations are marking the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the launch of the Equal Pay Today! Campaign. Read more about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign and what you can do.