Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

The Pennsylvania State House has a Women's Health Caucus, and today that caucus announced a series of bills which form the Pennsylvania Agenda for Womens' Health.  The list of legislation is available on Rep. Dan Frankel's website (and pasted below).  Only one of the bills (HB 1796) is available on the state's legislation website so I can't read the actual bills and comment on them.

I also can't find a list of legislators on the caucus, other than piecemeal notes about individual members (the state site lists standing committees but not caucuses).

However, there was a flurry of press releases about the agenda.  You will find excerpts from some of them below.

Summary of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health (from Rep. Frankel's site):

  • Workplace accommodations for pregnant women: H.B. 1892, sponsored by Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1209, sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith, D-Allegheny. This legislation would require a covered employer to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the employer's operations.
  • Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers: H.B. 1895, sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery; Senate introduction pending. This legislation would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space for employees who need to express breast milk. It would fix two main loopholes in federal law. It would apply to all employees, including those that are exempt from federal overtime provisions. Secondly, it would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space for mothers to express milk beyond one year after birth. The legislation mirrors the federal provision that exempts small employers from these requirements if they would present an undue hardship to the employer.
  • Ensuring access to health care facilities: H.B. 1891, sponsored by Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1208, sponsored by Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Phila. This legislation would create 15-foot buffer zones around health care facilities where picketing, patrolling or demonstrating that blocks patients' access to the facilities would be banned. Some cities such as Pittsburgh and some states such as Colorado and Massachusetts have passed such laws already.
  • Pay equity legislation: H.B. 1890, sponsored by Reps. Erin Molchany, D-Allegheny, and Brian Sims, D-Phila.; and S.B. 1212, sponsored by Sens. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, and Anthony Williams, D-Phila. This legislation would clarify and update the legal standards for pay-equity lawsuits.
  • Increased eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings: H.B. 1900, sponsored by Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware; Senate introduction pending. This legislation would allow women between ages of 30 and 65 to qualify for the state Healthy Woman Program if they meet all other applicable requirements.
  • Equitable protections for domestic violence victims: H.B. 1796, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery; Senate introduction pending. This legislation would ban municipal ordinances that penalize crime victims for calling for help.
  • Stop intimate partner harassment (ban "revenge by invasion of privacy"): sponsored by Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks; and S.B. 1167, sponsored by Schwank. This legislation would ban publishing any photo or video identifying another person, who is naked or engaging in a sexual act, without that person’s consent.

This comment is from State Rep. Mark Painter:

State Rep. Mark Painter has introduced legislation that would establish the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
 Under Painter's bill, it would be unlawful for a covered employer to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.
 Painter said this year marks the 35th anniversary of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or similar related medical conditions.
 "Today, unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. In the majority of cases, the accommodations women need are minor, such as permission to sit periodically, the ability to carry a water bottle, or help lifting heavy objects. Those women who continue working without having these medically advised accommodations risk their health and increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications," said Painter, D-Montgomery.
 "Pregnancy discrimination causes significant and long-term harm to women and their families well beyond pregnancy, to include the loss of health benefits, job seniority, and wages. These losses also contribute to measurable long-term gender-based pay differences."

From our friends at the Womens Law Project:

 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, strengthening the equal pay law and 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.”  

from our friends at the Family Planning Council:

 Family Planning Council released the following statement of support in response to the announcement of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health earlier today by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania State Legislature. 
 “We applaud the Women’s Health Caucus for tackling these important issues and proactively pursuing positive legislation to advance women’s health in Pennsylvania.  As a public health organization committed to providing a safety-net for women, it is refreshing to see this whole body approach to women’s health.  Pennsylvania families are stronger and more stable when women are healthy and adequately protected by Pennsylvania laws, and this package is a major step in the right direction.
We understand and have seen the far-reaching implications of not having these protections in place already - ranging from lower wages to lack of access to adequate accommodations for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  As Pennsylvania’s HealthyWoman Program (HWP) provider in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we also know how critical early detection is to surviving breast or cervical cancer and we fully support increased eligibility for these programs.
After the recent onslaught of attacks on women’s health, Family Planning Council is proud to support a proactive agenda that actually protects women and aims to improve the health and well-being of women and families in Pennsylvania.”      

No comments: