A third round of bills was introduced this month as part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health. Members of the bipartisan Women's Health Caucus discussed these initiatives at a press conference May 11th. You can follow discussions about the Agenda and its successes through the hashtag #PA4WomensHealth. Additionally, look to the campaign's website for updates here. If you are part of an organization that would like to join the campaign, please visit the site for more information.
The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health is a series of bills that will increase healthcare and reproductive rights for women in Pennsylvania. The PA state congress has recently been voting in accordance with anti-choice sentiment, making strong advocacy by pro-choice supporters more important than ever! Since Planned Parenthood understands the value of raising the pro-choice voices throughout the state, we want Pennsylvanian voters to help us move the Agenda along.
How can you help? Plan an event in your neighborhood to show your friends, family, colleagues and community leaders that the Agenda is important.
This might sound like a lot of work, but Planned Parenthood is here to help you plan (all puns intended) every step! We will be offering free trainings throughout the state to help supporters learn what kind of events to plan and what information to discuss. We highly encourage interested allies to come to these trainings so they have a clear vision of the importance of the Agenda. We understand that individual supporters know their community better than an advocacy network does. Remember, you will be able to more effectively motivate and engage your peers. With these events, we hope to spread the word about the PA Women’s Health Agenda and encourage voters to show their representatives that we want this legislation passed!
The attacks on women’s reproductive healthcare in this state have to end – help us work for real improvements and protections for women and their families in PA!
Use #PA4WomensHealth to keep up to date on breaking news and the Agenda discussion!
Visit the website of your local Planned Parenthood branch or look below for more information! RSVP here.
Delaware County Training
Thursday, 6/5 from 5:30-7 at the Media-Upper Providence Free Library
1 E Front St in Media
Montgomery County Training
Tuesday, 6/3 from 5:30-7PM at the Wissahickon Valley Public Library
650 Skippack Pike in Blue Bell
Philadelphia County Training
Monday, 6/9 from 5:30-7PM at PPSP's Center City office
1144 Locust St. in Philadelphia
Chester County Training
Wednesday, 6/4 from 5:30-7PM at PPSP's West Chester office
8 S. Wayne St. in West Chester
Lunchtime Webinar (for those who can't make the above dates/times!)
Wednesday, 6/11 from 12-1PM via webinar (log-in details to follow)
Click here for an overview of the PA Agenda for Women’s Health!
By Janice Arellano, Larry Frankel Legislative Fellow, ACLU of
“The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion, but on the right to
privacy and reproductive control.” –Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Apr. 1974
The reflection and celebration of women’s advancement in the United States is
not only attributed to the progress on Capitol Hill, but also in the arts,
education, media, and popular culture. Women are dominating the discourse and
driving critical messages of respecting women’s decisions with their bodies and
stories both in popular media and in our everyday lives. Some of the people I
have recently admired outside of the political or legal spheres in this regard
are Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Sheryl Sandberg, Lupita Nyong’o, and, dare I say,
House of Cards’ character Claire Underwood.
It is the year 2014, and there is much to commemorate during this Women’s
History Month. Various pieces of legislation have been enacted over the past few
decades, namely the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of
1979, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Violence Against Women Act
of 1994, and the break time for nursing mothers provision of the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. However, at the state level,
particularly in Pennsylvania, there seems to be a need for a women’s rights
refresher course for many state legislators. This can be a month to look back in
reverence, or, for many women, it can also be a time to look ahead with
As the third Frankel Fellow for the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the first female
to serve in that capacity, it has been quite an experience reading proposed
bills from a woman’s standpoint and learning how often this viewpoint is
undercut, even inside our state’s capitol. Just in the past few weeks, during
Women’s History Month, I have witnessed one piece of legislation that was
heading in the right direction for women’s rights but has recently been
sidetracked by an amendment. Without going beyond the scope of this article,
that bill (HB 1796) was meant to protect domestic violence victims, who are
predominantly women, from municipal ordinances that penalize individuals who
make too many emergency calls to law enforcement. It was a laudable piece of
legislation, but an amendment was recently added that would ban local workplace
leave policies designed to protect many crime victims puts HB 1796’s passage in
Proposed legislation: An adoptee given access to original birth
certificate without birth mother’s consent
This past Tuesday, I observed a hearing on House Bill 162 before the
Pennsylvania Senate Committee on Youth and Aging. This bill considers an adult
adoptee’s right to access his or her original birth certificate/record without
the birth parent’s consent. In most cases, the birth parent likely listed on the
certificate is the birth mother. The sponsor of the bill provided very
compelling testimony demonstrating the need to know his mother’s name, where he
was born, and any medical and genealogical information critical to his complete
history and confirming his identity. An adoptee and adoptive mothers testified
as well. Throughout the hearing, all I could think about was whose consent,
body, and privacy was kept silent. I wondered how the women who want to keep
their anonymity to preserve their well-being and also to move past a very
difficult, emotional, and personal moment to place a child for adoption would
think of this bill.
A representative from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference testified that
many women choose to place their children for adoption because the baby was
conceived through a violent act, such as rape, incest, or other exploitative
This proposed legislation would significantly undermine the privacy rights of
the mother and possibly bring about a history that a woman wants to keep in the
past. Pennsylvania law already respects the importance of an adult adoptee’s
access to the medical, genealogical, and social history of their birth parents,
information that is helpful to understanding many aspects of a person’s future
health and social decisions.
HB 162 would create true conflicts between the adoptee’s need to know his or
her biological parents and the biological parents’ desire for privacy. Allowing
the release of identifying information without the consent of the parties
involved would alter past jurisprudence and interpretations of existing adoption
confidentiality statutes and the intentions of legislators who created such
1796 | ACLUPA HB 1796
162 | ACLUPA HB 126
Catholic Conference page
on HB 162
For far too long, advocates for women’s health have been on the defensive in Pennsylvania – fighting back against a slew of politically motivated attacks aimed at limiting access to health care for women and their families. Because of this, a coalition of organizations got together to share ideas for a package of bills that would truly help improve the lives of women and their families.
The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health was born from this effort, pro-woman state legislative agenda kicked off on December 11, 2013 by the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania legislature. The PA Agenda for Women’s Health is a clear, detailed blueprint for a better life for our sisters and daughters and mothers and friends.
Thusfar, the bills in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health include:
More bills will be introduced next month, as the Agenda continues to grow. Help us spread the word! Share this blogpost, call your legislators and ask them to support the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health, write letters to the editor, and follow #PA4WomensHealth on Twitter!
By Pennsylvania State Representative Dan B. Frankel
As a legislator who supports reproductive rights, the anniversary
of Roe v. Wade is always bitter sweet. On the one hand, I’m reminded of the
heroic efforts of men and women to stop the practice of dangerous, back-alley,
black market abortion by making certain that all women in the United States
could access safe, legal abortion from qualified, law-abiding providers.
On the other hand, I’m a lawmaker.
More specifically, I’m a lawmaker in Pennsylvania, a state
considered “hostile” to abortion rights by the Guttmacher Institute, an
independent think tank focusing on reproductive health
So, I actually don’t need to see the alarming graphs and charts
showing a spike in legislation designed to limit access to safe legal abortion
over the past few years to know that we’ve got a problem -- because many of
those bills cross my desk.
In fact, Pennsylvania legislators alone took more than 55 votes
on limiting access to abortion in one year – 2011. Compare that to 13 votes in
the decade previous.
And perhaps the most frustrating, ironic part of this discussion
is that those seeking to limit reproductive rights are doing so in the name of
After all, Roe v. Wade, in affirming a woman’s right to abortion,
was a civil rights victory for people thinking about law. But for all those
medical care providers taking care of women injured in illegal abortions, it was
a victory for women’s health.
Ironic, too, because it’s not as though women don’t have real
health problems we should be addressing.
Any recent studies on longevity or health disparities keep
highlighting a disturbing fact – for what seems like the first time in US
history, some women are living shorter lives than their mothers. And in many
counties – including many rural counties in Pennsylvania – women are dying at a
rate that’s higher than we would expect.
That begs the question: What does legislation that would truly
benefit women’s health look like?
My colleagues, members of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus,
have worked with community advocates to create a package of bills designed to
address the real issues real women are facing right now – the Pennsylvania
Agenda for Women’s Health.
We’re tackling the real core of what helps people lead better,
healthier lives: economic security, access to health care, and safety.
Our legislative package reflects all of those concerns –making
sure that women get paid fairly for their work, for starters. Also, making sure
employers accommodate their pregnant employees so that they don’t injure
themselves or their pregnancies on the job. Ensuring that women aren’t penalized
for seeking help for law enforcement in cases of domestic violence. And of
course, making sure that women can access a full range of health care –primary
care, cancer screening, and safe legal abortion.
I myself will be introducing legislation that will address a
concern across the country. In some states legislators have forced abortion
providers to read scripts with false information, or provide unnecessary
medical procedures, in order to influence a woman when she’s most
Women’s health cannot be defined by one simple procedure or one
complicated decision. Women want legislators to promote legislation that treats
them as whole people; people who should be living, longer, healthier lives.
The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health does just that.
Link to video:
February is National Condom Month. Better yet, February 14 - 21 is National Condom Week. Originally starting at the University of California-Berkley, the message for National Condom Week has remained the same throughout the years. National Condom Week helps provide educational information -especially in colleges and high schools. National Condom Week uses humorous slogans like, "don’t be silly, wrap your willy," and "no glove no love," to catch the attention of young people.
During National Condom Week - and always - Planned Parenthood urges sexually active individuals to speak to their partners about the importance of using protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Talking about protection can be a difficult subject for some partners - that’s why designers like Alexander Wang, Rebecca Minkoff, and Isaac Mizrahi teamed up to create Proper Attire.
Proper Attire is a "must have" accessory designed with women in mind. The idea behind these chic and fashionable condoms is to help ensure women with being comfortable purchasing and carrying condoms. With chic, fashion-forward packaging, Proper Attire condoms are designed to appeal to women’s sense of style in order to give them courage to take charge of their own sexual health and safety.
Proper Attire has been very successful - with more than 21 million sold annually - and are available for purchase at Planned Parenthood health centers or online. Proceeds of Proper Attire condom sales benefit Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
National Condom Week is a great reminder to have a conversation with your partner about condoms before engaging in sexual activity. Many men and women say they find sex more enjoyable when protected because they do not have to worry about unintended pregnancies or sexual transmitted infections.
Every year Planned Parenthood health centers provide nearly three million women, men, and teens worldwide with health services, and well over one million with educational sessions to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies.
Happy National Condom Week!
We are winning the battle for hearts and minds. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, the highest level of support since polls began tracking it in 1989. The increased support comes primarily from Democrats—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—with a slight increase in support from Republicans.
However, although the polling data are encouraging to supporters of abortion rights, the Republicans do not seem to have gotten the message. According to John Boehner, Ending Abortion Is 'One Of Our Most Fundamental Goals This Year' and those states governed by Republican majorities continue to chip away at abortion rights.
In 1973 after the Roe decision, I thought the battle had been won. How wrong I was. When I went to a pro-choice demonstration in DC in the early 90’s, I couldn’t quite believe that we were still fighting this battle. But I was heartened to see so many young women there and thought that soon this would be settled and we wouldn't be wasting our energy fighting for this basic right. Wrong again.
When I dragged myself to DC for the 2004 March for Women’s Lives I began to worry that I might be fighting this battle until my dying day. The Republican War on Women which dominated debate in the 2012 election was further evidence that the battle is far from over. The backlash grows more vicious each year—perhaps the virulence of the opposition is related to their growing realization that they are losing.
Fortunately, there is a generation of young feminists out there ready to fight for reproductive rights. I don’t think young women are going to meekly stand by and accept the loss of hard fought rights. But women in my generation thought at one time that we had spared them the necessity of that fight.
Many young feminists are growing impatient with establishment feminist organizations, and what they see as second wave feminists’ reluctance to pass the torch, According to a recent Time Magazine article, 32 year old Erin Matson, 32, was elected vice president of NOW in 2009 but recently resigned:
"When you want to build a jet pack, sometimes that means you have to leave the bicycle factory," she says. Matson says she is considering starting a new organization to specifically target young people. "A number of young women are just saying, 'To hell with it, I'm just going to lead,'" she says. "It's easier for young women to exercise leadership right now than before we had this[internet] technology."The time has come for a younger generation to assume leadership of the pro-choice movement. NARAL’s Nancy Keenan realizes this and announced she will step down in 2013. According to Time, “she said she hoped a younger person could replace her. ‘They're chomping at the bit to have their opportunity,’ she says.” It’s time.
Thank you to Karen for participating in our 40th Anniversary Roe v. Wade Blog Carnival. Reposted from Karen's blog at:
By Gwen Emmons
Please note: this was posted on the ACLU blog on January 22, 2013, the actual anniversary of Roe v. Wade and no edits have been made.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic Supreme Court decision recognizing that women have the right to choose abortion. While lawmakers and pundits have twisted themselves into knots analyzing the impact and significance of the decision, for generations of people, the meaning of Roe is quite clear: It is the key to securing women’s place as equals in society.
For 10 years, Linn Duvall Harwell could only guess as to why her mother died so suddenly in 1929. But when she found out that her mother, Clara Bell Duvall, died of an illegal abortion, Linn instantly understood. “She loved her children…She was desperate because she wanted to care for them beautifully,” she told thePhiladelphia Daily News in 1986. While Linn understood the sacrifice her mother made, she knew it was a senseless loss.
Linn held many jobs in her life, but the one nearest and dearest to her was pro-choice activist – as a member of NARAL Pro-Choice Americ a, the National Organization of Women and the founder of the Clara Bell Duvall Education Fund (now the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania). In a letter addressed to Representative Karen Ritter in 1990 Linn wrote, “The last thing a woman wants to consider when faced with an unwanted pregnancy is some bureaucrat sitting in an office in Harrisburg or a robed judge in a courtroom…. No woman can make advances in a career without the protection of her reproductive rights.” It’s chilling to think that those words are just as true today as they were in 1990.
Linn wasn’t the only person fighting for reproductive rights. As a college student in 1970, Peter Goldberger smuggled a friend to a secret location in Delaware, where she could obtain an abortion. “I knew it was civil disobedience, but I don't think I considered any part of it other than doing the right thing for a friend in trouble,” he recalled. “It was the right thing to do because it is what she had decided.” It was only last week that he realized that, had he been caught, he would have faced up to five years in jail.
Later as a law student at Yale, Goldberger thought back to that night as he sat in classes and watched his colleagues on the frontlines of public interest law. When Roe was decided in the second semester of his first year of law school, he reflected that the decision itself wasn’t a “gigantic event” on campus. But for him, it was monumental. “The freedom to make that choice…is critical to women’s ability to succeed and be on an equal plane.” He added that he had always thought that – but seeing it codified was another thing.
Jumping forward to today, we see a national climate that is as hostile as ever to reproductive justice. But we also see a debate that has become more nuanced and more diverse than in previous decades. “Women born after Roe v. Wade – known as millennials -- see ‘choice’ as more complex than their predecessors,” says Alanna Tievsky, born a decade after Roe v. Wade. “So many of our fundamental rights are under attack – we can no longer narrowly focus only on access to abortion.”
Indeed, the battle is no longer just about safe, legal abortion – it’s defending the right to contraception, to maternal leave, to bodily integrity. It’s about honoring the rights of women and men whose lives may not look like ours – and valuing their voices in the conversation. And it’s about remaining constantly vigilant in a political climate that is slowly but surely chipping away at Roe and the full spectrum of reproductive choices we depend upon.” The legacy of millennial women will be reframing the debate around abortion to a dialogue that is more encompassing, more diverse, and more in tune with the needs of women and men, at every stage of their reproductive lives,” argues Gwen Emmons, a millennial and a reproductive justice activist. “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”
Unfortunately for millennial activists in this field, it’s challenging to get a toehold in the leadership structure of the ‘old school’ abortion rights organizations. “Despite the fact that young reproductive activists are working in these organizations, losing sleep on the campaign trail, or manning the phones at abortion hotlines, previous generations argue that we ‘lack passion for abortion rights,’” says Emmons. “If we’re to be the next guardians of reproductive choice, things have got to change.” Tievsky notes the numerous strategies this generation has been using to combat the onslaught of anti-women’s health legislation locally and nationally. “A difference in strategies does not make us less passionate than Peter,” she argues. “A belief in a broader vision of what choice is does not mean we cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Linn.” But that is the opinion of too many leaders in the choice movement.
Roe has had a profound impact on the fight for women’s equality. Each generation has reacted to the continued attacks on women’s health with their own brand of activism. For Linn Duvall Harwell, it was to volunteer and speak out at every opportunity she could. For Peter Goldberger, it was to do the right thing – even if it was illegal. And for Alanna Tievsky and Gwen Emmons, it’s to question the strategies and direction of previous generations – and plot a new course for the future. As we look ahead to another 40 years of Roe (and beyond!), the goal must not only be to defend this monumental decision – it must be to nurture, inspire, and trust the next generation of activists who will be protecting it.
Thank you to Gwen & the ACLU for participating in our Roe v. Wage Blog Carnival. Check out more information about them at: http://aclupa.blogspot.com/2013/01/roe-at-40-looking-backward-looking.html
"Never did I imagine that this fundamental, logical, and progressive ruling
By Sarah Robinson
It has been 40 years since the Supreme Court decision in favor of women’s health in the monumental Roe
v. Wade case from 1973. I feel fortunate that my entire life, this decision has protected my right to legal and safe abortion, should I ever need to consider that option. My attitude is forever grateful for the women and men activists who fought to ensure this right to American women. Never did I imagine that this fundamental, logical, and progressive ruling could be challenged- or worse- overturned in our modern society. If anyone told me those activists endured the fight in vain, I would react with disbelief. That is, until about two years ago.
Currently, in the national and statewide political arena, some politicians have irrationally taken an opposing position against women and their bodies, in direct contrast to the requests of their constituents. Not to mention, in blatant substitution or disregard for dire, undecided issues like the housing market or unemployment. How did our country get here? How long can we allow the government to take us back in time?
I suppose we as citizens are partially to blame. We have let politicians use us as pawns; where wombs become the battleground. Cunningly, market generated labels like pro-choice and pro-life have boxed-in and polarized
otherwise open minded voters. Laws cloaked with the false intent for “patient safety” or movements to define “personhood” have made us lose sight of the basics of the decision in Roe. It is a question of privacy and dignity.
It is undeniable: the decision to have an abortion is not black and white. And yet, in the current political climate we are asked to make it so. It is entirely unreasonable to render one country, or even one state, capable of conforming to a single set of acceptable and unacceptable choices. That’s why I really like the new campaign from Planned Parenthood called “Not in Her Shoes.” The video helps explain how complex any given situation regarding abortion or parenthood can be. The campaign invites advocates and voters to develop a fresh perspective by shedding the old pro-this and anti-that labels.
The bottom line is this: abortion is never a goal. It is a deep, complex decision that most Americans agree a woman must determine for herself with the support of her family and physician. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, who do provide abortion services, also offer countless family planning, contraceptive, and educational services as well. Arguably, Planned Parenthood does more than any other organization to prevent unintended pregnancies, thus drastically decreasing the need for abortions. The ruling from Roe v. Wade simply determines that abortion remains a safe and legal option should a situation arise within the first 3 months of pregnancy. Without access and rights, consider the options:
have an unwanted child and all it entails, or endure an illegal operation, risking fertility and life. Let’s get real. It is evident women will have abortions whether they are legal or not. Legality keeps abortion safe. When something is legal we as a society and legislature are able to regulate it.
Personally, having access to safe and legal abortions gives me the power to construct and determine my life as I see fit. It reinforces my dignity as a woman and leaves me responsible and trusted with important life decisions. Think of it this way: in the not so distant past, a woman could potentially have almost 10 pregnancies to full term before the age of thirty.
Reproductive justice has freed women from the constructs and roles of traditional femininity. I can be a mother, or not; an astronaut or perhaps even a lawmaker. Needless to say, I couldn’t imagine how dramatically different my
life would be without that cornerstone decision 40 years ago.
Thanks to Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a legal, medical procedure. It is a personal and complex decision that should be left up to a woman and her doctor! Individual women have endured unbelievable ridicule and criticism from complete strangers for too long. Now, the threats have got to end.
We have had enough!
Thank you to Sarah for participating in our 40th Anniversary Roe v. Wade Blog Carnival.
As we gear up for a new year in Congress, we want to highlight two recent declarations of support for increased access to contraceptive services.
In late November, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists joined the American Academy of Pediatrics in publicly supporting expanded access to contraception. Both groups, which together represent thousands of medical professionals, have agreed that improving access to contraception should be a high priority in the United States. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists specifically advocated for the ability to sell birth control over the counter without a prescription, while the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that women – and minors – should have prescriptions for emergency contraception in advance, making it more effective.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right to privacy not only allows an adult access to obtain contraceptives, but that this right also extends to include minors. We certainly hope that the medical community’s public support for contraception will encourage our legislators to draft bills that will turn these recommendations into actual policy.
Contrary to “abstinence-only” ideologues, the proper use of contraception does help sexually active people to remain disease free, as well as avoid unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the nation’s leading sexual health research organization, young people generally begin having sex at age 17, but only marry around their mid-20s. During this decade-long period when they engage in sex, contraception plays a key role in preserving good sexual and reproductive health. It is time our legislators across the nation recognize this fact.
Right now, though, young people ages 15 to 24 carry a disproportionate burden of new STDs diagnosed each year. Meanwhile, women ages 18 to 24 report higher rates of unintended pregnancy compared to the rest of the female population. We can address this reproductive health crisis effectively by expanding access to contraception. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consistently reported the benefits of condom use in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancy – in fact, when properly used, condoms have a .02% failure rate. Still, no method of birth control is perfect. However, expanding access to contraception enables women to take greater control of their own reproductive health.
The United States medical community is not alone in acknowledging and promoting this empowerment. On a global level, the United Nations has gone one step further by declaring that access to contraception is a human right. The UN reports that contraceptive options provide women with an opportunity to space pregnancies and plan their families more successfully with greater certainty. The World Health Organization echoes these same recommendations. It is known that family planning, possible through proper use of contraception, “has a direct impact on a woman’s health and well-being,” specifically because it “represents an opportunity for women for enhanced education and participation in public life.”
By giving women and men the tools they need to control their reproductive health we can create a stronger society that helps all individuals reach their full potential. True reproductive freedom rests on the ability to obtain the services necessary for maintaining good sexual health, and those services include access to contraceptive options.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the UN have all expressed support for this expansion of reproductive freedom – but we need your help to make sure that it remains on the legislative agenda. You can start by taking some time to determine which method of contraception works best for you. You can also use your social media networks to educate others about the importance of expanding access to contraception.
Most importantly, though, you should contact your representatives to advocate this issue further by reminding them that the larger effort to enhance reproductive healthcare is still a priority.