Monday, December 20, 2010

My Holiday Wish

Happy Holidays Everyone! No matter what holiday you celebrate, I'm wishing you peace and good cheer!

During this holiday season, I'm hoping my friends and family will join me to raise $500 for the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund. It's a great cause that works for equality, economic justice and civil rights for all.  If you are on Facebook you can donate here.  If you don't use Facebook, you can donate by credit card on our website.  Or you can write out a check to the "Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund" and mail it to

PA NOW Education Fund
P.O. Box 68
Bellefonte, PA 16823

I chose Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund because we can never stop working to make sure that women and children have a stable foundation on which to build their lives.

Please consider giving to my Holiday Wish, and together we can make the world a better place. If you can't afford to donate, I'd really appreciate if you'd share this page with your friends.

Thanks so much!  And HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 
-Joanne

P.S. Again here's where you can donate:
Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund
P.O. Box 68
Bellefonte, PA 16823-0068

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Letter to Governor-Elect Tom Corbett to Prevent 43,000 Pennsylvanians from Losing Their Health Insurance

AdultBasic is the state's health care insurance program for low-income working adults who do not have employer-based health insurance and can not afford the cost of individual private insurance.  This program is funded by a combination of tobacco settlement funds and an agreed-upon assessment of the four Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans in Pennsylvania. 

The negotiated assessment between Pennsylvania's executive branch and the Blues was supposed to last through June 2011, but the Blues are now indicating that the funds will no longer be available after February 28, 2011.  As a result the state is warning recepients of AdultBasic that their health insurance may be ending at the end of February unless Governor-elect Corbett negotiates a new deal with the Blues.  Here's the warning about the problem that is posted on the Pennsyvania Insurance Department website:
ALERT: adultBasic coverage may expire February 2011.


The adultBasic insurance program does not have funding to provide coverage to enrollees beyond February 28, 2011. The program had hoped to secure enough funding to provide coverage through June 2011. That has not occurred. It is possible that additional funding will become available but none has been identified.


That means that adultBasic enrollees and those on the waitlist who have been paying for the coverage will not have coverage beyond February 28, 2011. People with adultBasic coverage who have health services scheduled beyond February 2011 should discuss with their health care providers whether any of the health services scheduled after February 28, 2011 could be appropriately rescheduled to be provided before their adultBasic coverage ends.


Enrollees should watch their mail. If no further funding is identified, coverage termination notices will be sent out in January 2011. Insurance company contractors would have no further information at this time. Any updates about the funding for adultBasic will be posted on the Insurance Department’s website....
As a result of this problem, Pennsylvania NOW, along with more than 200 other Pennsylvania organizations and concerned residents have signed a letter calling on Governor-elect Tom Corbett to preserve health coverage for the 43,000 Pennsylvanians enrolled in the state's adultBasic program.  The letter was created by the PA Budget and Policy Center and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network and was sent to Governor-elect Corbett on December 7. Here's the letter:

December 7, 2010

Hon. Tom Corbett, Governor-elect
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
200 North Third St. 3rd Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Dear Governor-elect Corbett:


We write to draw your attention to an urgent problem facing your incoming administration. As you know, the adultBasic insurance program, which provides affordable health insurance to 43,000 Pennsylvanians, was slated to receive interim funding through June 2011. That funding, an extension of the negotiated Community Health Reinvestment Agreements (CHR) with the Commonwealth’s four Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans, has fallen short of the negotiated commitment, leaving the program in danger of running out of funds as soon as February.

Without swift action, tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians will find themselves without affordable health care. Moreover, these Pennsylvanians will have as little as 30 days to make alternative insurance arrangements. This is clearly unacceptable.

You have said your goal is to preserve insurance for 90% of Pennsylvanians who have it. We urge you to keep this pledge and take action to preserve insurance coverage for adultBasic participants.


We ask that you call together the representatives of the Blue Cross plans to secure their commitment to funding the program at the current enrollment levels through June. In addition, we would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss options to preserve adultBasic through 2014.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you to resolve this urgent and important problem.


Sincerely,




Sharon Ward, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Antoinette Kraus, Pennsylvania Health Access Network


Elsie Tarr, AARP, Mifflinburg
Barbara Dively, Acquired Brain Injury Network of Pennsylvania Inc., Lansdale
Lucille Prater Holliday, President, ACTION United of Pennsylvania
Fred Jones, Action United, Philadelphia
Larry Rubin, Adults with Developmental Disabilities, Jenkintown
Dianne Oswald, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Cheltenham
John Turchi, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia
Margaret Nicholson, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia
Alicia Colon, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia
John Kelly, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia
Dan Keating, Brain Injury Association of PA, Downingtown
Craig Stevens, Black and White Reunion, Pittsburgh
Becca Raley, Carlisle Area Health and Wellness Foundation, Carlisle
Larry Rankin, MD, Carlisle Area Health and Wellness Foundation, Carlisle
Janet Filante, Childspace Cooperative Development Inc., Philadelphia
Rev. Thomas Reeder, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Williamsport
Susan Moore, Community Action Association of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg
Elisabeth Foringer, Community Health Clinic of Butler County, Butler
Jonathan Stein, Community Legal Services Inc., Philadelphia
Richard Weishaupt, Community Legal Services Inc., Philadelphia
Beth Heeb, Consumer Health Coalition, Pittsburgh
Alicia Dallago, Board Member, Crisis Center North, Pittsburgh
Jean Searle, Disability Rights Network, Philadelphia
Carol Horowitz, Managing Attorney, Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania
Cheryl Feldman, District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, Philadelphia
Latanya Sanders, District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, Philadelphia
Susan B. Thomas, District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, Philadelphia
Dora Martinez-Armstrong, Early Head Start, Philadelphia
Mary Ann Bentz, FLOC - For Love Of Children, Lower Bucks County, Morrisville
Elaine Jones, Chair, Gettysburg Area Democracy for America
Lorretta Reed, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
Carey Morgan, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, Philadelphia
Peter Javsicas, Green Party, Philadelphia
Mary McMahon, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, Yardley
Kristy Adams, HAVIN (Helping All Victims In Need), Kittanning
Suzanne Cohen, Health Federation of Philadelphia, Philadelphia
Lynne Powell, Horizon House, Chester
Dave Wooledge, Housing Support Team Leader, Mental Health Association of Northwest Pennsylvania
Kristian Smith, Impact Systems Inc., West Chester
Thomas Slater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Penn Hills
David Toomey, Jessica and Friends Community, York
Jay Spector, JEVS Human Services, Philadelphia
Iris Vazquez, Jewish Employment Vocational Services – JEVS Human Services, Philadelphia
Lisa Morgan, Jewish Family Service, Wilkes-Barre
Rochelle Jackson, Just Harvest, Pittsburgh
Susan Clauser, Keystone Opportunity Center, Souderton
Michael Morrill, Keystone Progress, Harrisburg
Wanda Mata, LC Government Center, Allentown
Vivienne Spector, League of Women Voters of Abington-Cheltenham-Jenkintown
Andrew Winiarczyk, Liberty Books, Williamsport
Amy Reumann, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania, Harrisburg
Letty Thall, Maternity Care Coalition, Philadelphia
Mary Jane Morrison, Maternity Care Coalition, Wayne
Andy McPhee, Maternity Care Coalition, Warrington
Brenda Lee, President and CEO, Mental Health America Allegheny County, Pittsburgh
William Grove, Mental Health Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Erie
Carla Tomes, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Scott Geryk, RN, BSN, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Norristown
Gertrude and Roger Gobbel, Mohler Center, Palmyra
Sharon Miller, Monroe County AAA, Stroudsburg
Gretchen Heacock, MossRehab - Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia
Wilma Dorman, Occupational Therapy Resources, Inc., Plymouth Meeting
Dolores Magro, PA Breast Cancer Coalition, Clifton Heights
Diana L. Ames, PA Coalition to End Homelessness, Erie
Laval Miller-Wilson, PA Health Law Project, Philadelphia
Andrea Imperatore, PA Public Health Association, Wyndmoor
Rev. Charles Mercer, Pastor Emeritus, Picture Rocks Baptist Church, Picture Rocks
Rev. Robert A. Wilson, Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh
Carol Goertzel, PathWays PA, Holmes
Marc Stier, Penn Action,
Jane Keller, Pennsdale Friends' Meeting, Pennsdale
Jean Friday, President, Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans
Denise Cressman, Pennsylvania Home-based Child Care Providers Association, Danville
Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Pennsylvania NOW Inc. [emphasis added]
Thomas DeWall, Pennsylvania Psychological Association, Harrisburg
Ellen Tierney, Pennsylvania TASH, Pittsburgh
John Dodds, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Philadelphia
Gloria Gilman, Philly Neighborhood Networks, Philadelphia
Robert C. Settle Jr., SEIU/PSSU 668, Lancaster
Karen Snider, Susquehanna Consulting & Financial Group, Harrisburg
Linda Herr, The Learning Center, Williamsport
Teresa Wilkes, UCP South Central, New Oxford
Stephen Drachler, United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania, Harrisburg
Donna Burkharrt, United Methodist Women, Erie
Dana Bauer, United Way of Westmoreland County, Greensburg
Joyce Blackburn, Washington Communities MH/MR, Washington
Maryrose Myrtetus, Women Against Abuse, Philadelphia
Jodi Hirsh, Executive Director, National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section
Richard Chevrefils, State Director, AARP Pennsylvania
Michael Drohan, Board President, Thomas Merton Center
Joe Delale, Co-Chair, Pittsburgh Labor and Religion Coalition
Father Jack O'Malley, Association of Pittsburgh Priests
Barney Oursler, Executive Director, Pittsburgh UNITED
Father Garrett Dorsey, Administrator, St. Ursula Parish, Allison Park
James McCue, Hazelwood Initiative
Laurie Barnett-Levine, Westmoreland County Mental Health America
Katharine Fitzgerald Bulova, Pittsburgh Caregiver Support Network
Ken Regal, Co-Director, Just Harvest
Ray Landis, AARP PA
Rev/ Dr. Randy Bush, East Liberty Presbyterian Church
Rev. Gretchen Hulse, New Hope
Keri Harmicar, Northside Leadership Conference
Christine Michaels, Nami Southwestern PA
Stanley Holbrook, Three Rivers Center for Independent Living
Cynthia Salter, Program Director, Birth Circle
Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel, Executive Director, Aleph Institute
Joe Angelelli, PA State Director, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute
Al Condeluci, Executive Director, Pittsburgh United Cerebral Palsy/Class
Mary Herbert, MS, MPH, Clinical Director and Thuy Bui, MD, Medical Director, Birmingham Free Clinic
Rev. David Keller, South Avenue United Methodist Church
Joyce Kane, Cybertery Pittsburgh
Antonio Lodico, Co-Coordinator, Mon Valley Unemployed Committee
Bruce Smith, Executive Director, United Way of Beaver County
Rachel Kallem, President, PA Youth Leadership Network
Guinevere Gregory and Joan Bradley, Pittsburgh District United Methodist Women
Rev. Ron Hoellein, St. Paul's United Methodist Church
Andrea Fox, MD, Medical Director, Squirrel Hill Health Center

Kathi Boyle, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
Donna Burkhart, President, and Gail Grey, Western PA Conference for United Methodist Women
Rev. Jeff Conn, First United Methodist Church, Canonsburg
Brenda Lee, Allegheny County Mental Health America
Rev. Ed Myers, Freeport United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Debra Rogosky, Falls Creek United Methodist Church
Democracy for America, Pittsburgh
La Comunidad Hispana Community Center, Kennett Square
Montgomery County Democracy for America
John Ascenzi, Philadelphia
Linda Baker (Parent of a disabled adult), Bloomsburg
Eve Barnett, Philadelphia
Rachel Baron, Pittsburgh
Dr. Jill Bartoli, Carlisle
Bette Begleiter, Philadelphia
Laurie Bernstein, Swarthmore
Jo Ellen Bowman, Kittanning
Dona Carter, New Providence
Julie Cecchini, Pittsburgh
James Centner, Pittsburgh
Esther Chung, Swarthmore
Guadalupe Cintron, Norristown
Grace Coleman, Pittsburgh
Larry Coleman, Harrisburg
Paul Coleman, Lewisburg
Beth Crofutt, Apollo
Cheryl Dougan (Parent of child with severe disabilities), Bethlehem
Edward Engelfried, Philadelphia
Evelyn Eskin, Philadelphia
Linda Esposito, McMurray
Frank Esposito, Finleyville
Eduardo Esquivel, Philadelphia
Madeline Frith, Philadelphia
Tom Gemmill, Lancaster
Gaynell Gillespie, Philadelphia
Janet Golden, Bala Cynwyd
Marjorie Goldman, Bala Cynwyd
Mary R. Green, Philadelphia
Michael Gross, Hughesville
Christine Haas, Pittsburgh
Dennis Hill, Manheim
Andrew Holup, Grindstone
Meredith Huffman, Malvern
Patricia Hunter, Easton
Fred Jones, Philadelphia
Trieste Kennedy (Parent of young adult with a disability), Allentown
Megan Kiesel, Philadelphia
Anita Kulick, Dresher
Nicole Leapheart, Philadelphia
Marcia Lehman, Ambridge
Mary Catherine Lowery, Norristown
Paul Lubold, Pittsburgh
Cathy Markey, Philadelphia
Colleen McCauley, Philadelphia
Charlie McNutt, Mechanicsburg
Bonnie Mease, Lebanon
Maria Muzzie, Carnegie
Regina Oboler, Jeffersonville
Michael Ostroski, Upland
Valerie Owes, Philadelphia
Denise Patterson, Monroeville
Jenny Perez, Philadelphia
Deborah Ravacon, Fort Washington
Jay Roach, New Castle
Pamela Rockwell, Royersford
Mary Rossi, West Chester
Ed Schoenedck, Johnstown
David Schogel, Philadelphia
Dorene Schutz, Wilkes-Barre
Mervin Shaffer, New Cumberland
Roger Shipley, Professor Emeritus of Art, Lycoming College
Donya Smith, Brownsville
Anne Smith, Ambler
Timothy Snyder (Farmer), Slippery Rock
Kristen Sontag, Pittsburgh
Sue Spencer, Philadelphia
Christine Stone, Pittsburgh
Jeannine Stuart, Malvern
Keith Vanderlin, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design/Photography, Penn College of Technology
Felice Wiener, Wynnewood
Katee Yorke, Media
Elisa Zaehringer, Bethlehem
Kim Marie Zubritsky, Greensburg

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CC:
Brian Nutt
Leslie Gromis-Baker
Tom Paese
David Simon
Hon. Donald White
Hon. Michael Stack
Hon. Anthony DeLuca
Hon. Nicholas Micozzi





 



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What’s Next for Pennsylvania: A Public Forum on the Health and Well-Being of Women and Families

Hosted by Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern PA, a project of WOMEN’S WAY, and WHYY

Please join Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania and WHYY for a critical dialogue with your elected officials on women’s health care needs as the health care reform law is implemented in Pennsylvania.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010 from 5:30 - 8:00 PM
Networking: 5:30 - 6:00 PM
Program: 6:00 - 8:00 PM

WHYY’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons
150 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA

* Light refreshments will be served*


All state legislators, including newly elected legislators, from Southeastern Pennsylvania as well as the Governor-Elect have been invited to speak and answer questions from the audience. You will have the chance to hear directly from those making important decisions about what to expect in the coming years as this important law is implemented.

Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania is a coalition led by WOMEN’S WAY which was formed to ensure that women’s concerns were addressed during the health care reform process. The coalition includes both Bucks County NOW and Philadelphia NOW. Our coalition advocates for health care reform implementation policies that support the full range of comprehensive reproductive health care services for women. While women gained many wonderful benefits under the new health care reform law, they also lost and have the potential to loose even more benefits, especially reproductive health care rights.

Come out and let legislators know what is important to YOU as they move forward in implementing health care reform!

For questions or additional information about the event, please contact Kate Scully at kscully@pathways.com.

Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania c/o WOMEN’S WAY, 123 South Broad Street, Suite 1399 * Philadelphia, PA 19109 * 215-985-3322 * f: 215-985-3369 * rfoley@womensway.org

Raising Women's Voices Coalition Members include: African Family Health Organization * Black Women’s Health Alliance * Bucks County National Organization for Women * ACLU of Pennsylvania- Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project * Cherry Hill Women’s Center * Coalition of Labor Union Women * Family Planning Council * Health Care for America Now * HepTREC * League of Women Voters of Philadelphia * Lutheran Settlement House * Maternal and Child Health Consortium in Chester County * Maternity Care Coalition * Medical Students for Choice * Nancy’s House * Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Omega Omega Chapter. * PathWays PA * Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO * Philadelphia National Organization for Women * Philadelphia Nurse Family Partnership * Philadelphia Women’s Center * Planned Parenthood Bucks County * Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania * Women’s Law Project * Women’s Medical Fund * WOMEN’S WAY

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Still Time to Call and Protect Social Security

The Fiscal Commission has delayed their vote on the debt reduction plan that currently contains several ways to gut Social Security.  Their plan includes raising the retirement age to 69, cutting the annual COLA (Cost-of-Living-Allowance), and cutting benefits overall for middle-income earners by 17% to 36%.

The Strengthen Social Security Campaign - the national coalition working to protect Social Security that Pennsylvania NOW is part of - sent out a notice this morning extending the time to call the US Senate due to this delay.  Here's the message:
We slammed the phones on Capitol Hill yesterday [November 30] thanks to your help. In fact, we overloaded the Capitol Switchboard and the phones went down.
Tens of thousands delivered the message: Hands Off Our Social Security! Members of Congress even called our offices and those of our allies to say that they were hearing the calls loud and clear.
The Fiscal Commission was supposed to vote today on a plan to slash Social Security benefits. But they’re still trying to round up the votes. The vote is now scheduled for Friday.
So you have time to call your U.S. Senators TODAY [December 1] and THURSDAY [December 2] to make your voice heard. Please call 1-866-529-7630 now.
We know many of you called yesterday but could not get through to the offices because the switchboards were jammed. So please try again TODAY.
Call 1-866-529-7630 right now. There will be less phone traffic today, which should allow you to get through.
We can beat these guys. That’s why we will continue fighting all week against the Fiscal Commission. They released their new proposal for slashing Social Security benefits this morning. Once again it disregards the will of the American people. Their plan will raise the retirement age to 69, cut the annual COLA, and cut benefits overall for middle-income earners by 17% to 36%.

We’ll send you a wrap-up on all your great work on Friday. Call your senators right now at 1-866-529-7630.


Thanks for taking action,


The Strengthen Social Security Campaign Team
www.strengthensocialsecurity.org
PS: Call your Senators and invite your friends to call, too. The number is 1-866-529-7630
.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reminder: Tuesday November 30 is Call-In Day to Protect Social Security


Join us tomorrow, Nov. 30, in a National Call Congress Day to fight Social Security cuts! Thanks to those of you who have already pledged to call. It's not too late to commit to participating in this important event.


Call your Senators tomorrow (Tuesday) at 1-866-529-7630, toll-free. The operator will identify your senators by asking for your zip code. Call BOTH of your senators if you have time.  It only takes a minute each. If you only have time for one phone call and you live in Pennsylvania, ask for Senator Bob Casey.  If you have time to make both calls, ask for Senator Casey first.  Then call back through the toll-free number one more time and ask for Senator Arlen Specter.

If you're having trouble getting through on the toll-free number, you can look up your senators' direct lines on National NOW's website.

Here's a sample script:

Hello, my name is [give name].  I am a constituent in [name of your state] and my address is [give your address]. I am calling Senator [Last Name] to urge [her or him] to say no to Social Security benefit cuts. As a women's rights supporter, I am particularly concerned about the millions of women who depend upon Social Security as a person with a disability, as a widow caring for minor children, or as a retiree or spouse of a retiree. Due to unequal pay, time spent out of the workforce for caregiving, and having little to no savings, pensions or investments, women disproportionately rely on Social Security. Please don't cut benefits in any way, including by raising the retirement age. Thank you for your time
Background:

The co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform have proposed increasing the retirement age to 69 (making us work longer), deeply cutting benefits for middle-class workers and reducing annual Cost of Living Adjustments. We need your help to stop them!

Social Security is a promise that must not be broken -- we work hard and our payroll taxes pay for it. It belongs to our children, our parents, our neighbors and us. Throughout their lives, women on average are paid less then men, and they often work at part-time jobs or take extended leave from the workforce for raising children and other forms of caregiving. As a result, women are less likely to have pensions, investments or life savings, so they stand to lose the most if these cuts are made.

Help ensure that Social Security will be there, keeping middle-class women out of poverty and not forcing them to work until they are nearly 70.

If you haven't yet, please sign the "Count on Me" pledge at the National NOW website promising to participate in the National Call Congress Day on Nov. 30. Then, forward this blog/e-mail and tell your friends, family and co-workers to add their voices, too. You can also invite your friends to make calls through the Strengthen Social Security Facebook events page. Don't let politicians cut OUR Social Security.

For additional information and talking points, see our blog on November 19, 2010 titled "Ten Reasons the Social Security Proposal of the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs Should be DOA."

Please TAKE ACTION  and then DONATE
We'd really appreciate it and so will all those who depend on Social Security.
Thank you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

On behalf of Pennsylvania NOW and the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund, we hope you have a bountiful and Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy this holiday season with your friends and family and enjoy whatever type of meal you decide to "carve up."

While giving thanks, we also hope you will consider sharing your concerns and thoughts with those who use Social Security to support their families.  Remember that Tuesday, November 30th is National call-in day to or US Senators to not "carve up" Social Security.  I blogged earlier this week about this call-in day.  Information about the action was summarized in the blog entitled "You Can Count on Me! Tell Congress: Don’t Carve Up Social Security."  And talking points about the proposal to cut Social Security by the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs is located in the blog entitled "Ten Reasons the Social Security Proposal of the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs Should be DOA." 

We need your voice to be heard this Thanksgiving! Click here to take the Strengthen Social Security Coalition's “Count on Me” pledge to add your voice on Tuesday, November 30 and TELL CONGRESS – DON’T CUT OUR SOCIAL SECURITY! Once you sign up, you will receive a reminder to call in.



Finally, do you do your holiday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving? This year, you can help Pennsylvania NOW turn "Black Friday" golden -- with a donation to support our work to stop Congress from cutting Social Security benefits.  If you prefer to make a tax-deductible contribution, you can donate here to help make for a golden "Black Friday" for the PA NOW Education Fund as well as for yourself.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

In sisterhood,

Joanne Tosti-Vasey
President
Pennsylvania NOW, Inc. and Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund
P.O. Box 68
Bellefonte, PA 16823

P.S.  If you prefer to write a check to make your golden "Black Friday" donation to either PA NOW or the PA NOW Ed Fund, just write out the check to whichever organization you want to donate to and mail the check to the above address.  Remember, you get a tax deduction by donating to the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund and you get direct funding for our advocacy work, but no tax deduction, when you donate to Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ten Reasons the Social Security Proposal of the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs Should be DOA

The Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs’ Social Security proposal:


  1. Deeply cuts the benefits of middle-class families. Benefits for retirees, survivors and disabled workers will be cut between 17% and 36% for young people entering the workforce today, affecting those earning an average of $43,000 (17%) to $107,000 (36%) a year over their working lives, according to the Social Security Chief Actuary. The proposed cuts would apply to retirees, disabled workers and their families, children who have lost parents, and widows and widowers.
  2. Closes Social Security’s long-range funding gap primarily by cutting already low benefits, rather than by raising taxes on those who can most afford to pay. Ninety-two percent of Social Security’s long-range funding gap is closed by cutting promised benefits. Instead, this gap could be closed, as most Americans want, by requiring those employees (and their employers) who make more than $107,000 a year to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages, as the rest of us do who earn less.
  3. Raises the retirement age to 69. This is a 13% benefit cut on top of the 13% cut already made when the retirement age was increased from 65 to 67, according to the Social Security Administration.
  4. Raises the early retirement age to 64. Most Americans claim Social Security benefits before age 64, even though the benefits are currently reduced by as much as 25% when they do so. That’s usually because they work in physically demanding jobs, have health problems, or can no longer find work. Raising the early retirement age will shut them out of the system when they are most vulnerable, potentially forcing them to seek disability benefits or welfare. 
  5. Discriminates against lower-wage workers by raising the retirement age. Upper-income Americans are living longer. But in recent years the life expectancy of lower-income men has increased only slightly and the life expectancy of lower-income women declined. In effect, the proposal says to lower wage workers that they must work longer because the rich are living longer!
  6. Reduces the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries. The proposal would reduce the purchasing power of benefits by 3.7% after 10 years of receiving benefits and by 6.5% after 20 years, according to the Social Security Chief Actuary.
  7. Hurts current retirees, contrary to promises made by the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs. The change in the COLA calculation would affect all beneficiaries, not just retirees, starting in 2012.  If anything, the COLA should be increased because it does not adequately take account of skyrocketing medical costs, which hit seniors and people with disabilities hardest.
  8. Breaks faith with our nation’s veterans and service members. Forty-three percent of veterans receive Social Security. They or their families will see their Social Security disability benefits cut deeply if they are seriously injured in combat, their survivors’ benefits cut substantially if they die in combat, and their retirement benefits cut significantly just like all other Americans.
  9. Harms our grandchildren the most. The younger a person is the deeper the cuts because of the increase in the retirement age and the changes in the benefit formula.
  10. Breaks Social Security’s promise with Americans. Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to the program. The proposal breaks that promise.

Click here for a more detailed analysis of the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs’ proposal.

You Can Count on Me! Tell Congress: Don’t Carve Up Social Security

YOU CAN COUNT ON ME!


Tell Congress: Don’t Carve Up Social Security

The Co-Chairs of the National Fiscal Commission have proposed carving up Social Security like a Thanksgiving turkey. They want to increase the retirement age to 69 – making us work longer, deeply cut benefits for middle-class workers and reduce annual Cost of Living Adjustments. We need your help to stop them!

Join Pennsylvania NOW, the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, and thousands of Americans in a National Call Congress Day on Tuesday, November 30—CAN WE COUNT ON YOU?

We need your voice to be heard! Click here to take the Strengthen Social Security Coalition's “Count on Me” pledge to add your voice on Tuesday, November 30 and TELL CONGRESS – DON’T CUT OUR SOCIAL SECURITY!

Social Security is a promise that must not be broken—we’ve worked hard for it and paid taxes for it. It belongs to our children, our parents, our neighbors and ourselves.


ACT NOW! Your voice needs to be heard. Click here to take the  Strengthen Social Security Coalition's “Count on Me” pledge to join the National Call Congress Day on Tuesday, November 30.

Call your United States Senators and your Representative. Tell them not to cut Social Security. Help ensure that your Social Security will be there for your children and your grandchildren.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pennsylvania NOW's Letter to US Senate Judiciary Committee on CEDAW

The following is the letter I just sent to the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law in strong support of the international Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  It will be delivered to the subcommittee by the National Women's Law Center as part of a package of testimonial letters and petitions to the members of the subcommittee during a public hearing to be held on CEDAW this Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 224 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.  The members of this committee are Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Committee Members Russ Feingold (D-WI), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Al Franken (D-MN), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), and John Cornyn (R-TX).

For information on how you can send your own statement to the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, see my previous blog on November 13, 2010.  It is titled CEDAW Hearing Scheduled. Your Action is Needed.
11/15/2010
• • •


Re: Ratification of CEDAW without disabling Restrictions, Understandings, and Declarations (RUDs) or any further delay.


Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


Dear Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Coburn, and Members of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law:


On behalf of the over 13,000 contributing and dues-paying members of the National Organization for Women here in Pennsylvania, we are writing to you today to express our strong support for ratifying the international Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).


We thank the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law for convening this hearing and turning its attention to CEDAW. CEDAW was first proposed 35 years ago and was written with the assistance of the US Government. Yet we have yet to ratify this critical treaty that affirms the fundamental principles of human rights and equality for women around the world, including here in the United States. CEDAW has been ratified by 186 countries, including all other industrialized nations, with the exception of the United States. In fact, the United States is one of only seven United Nation-member countries that has not ratified this critical human rights treaty. The other six member countries are Iran, Somalia, Sudan and three small Pacific Island nations. It is long past time for the US to ratify this treaty.


Promoting and protecting human rights is fundamental to America's core values. Under the leadership of Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, the U.S. ratified similar treaties on genocide, torture, race, and civil and political rights.


While progress has been made in advancing women’s rights in recent decades, women continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty, sexual and domestic violence and lack of access to basic health care and equal education. In countries where CEDAW has been ratified, it has made significant improvement to the status of women. U.S. ratification of CEDAW would lend weight to the treaty and solidify our status as a leader in the global human rights committee.


In this age of globalization, the fate of our nation is more closely intertwined with that of the rest of the world than ever before. The United States can enhance our longstanding role as a global leader for women’s rights and human rights if we engage with the community of nations that has ratified CEDAW in determining how best to achieve progress for women and girls.


Attached to this letter are the signatures of 515 people who signed our petition supporting the US ratification of CEDAW without disabling Restrictions, Understandings and Declarations (RUDs) or any further delay. A total of 334 of these signatures were collected online through Facebook at our Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund cause site. These signatures represent people from four countries (India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States). Within the United States, we collected these online signatures from people living in 33 different states. The remaining 181 signatures were gathered at a Ni-Ta-Nee NOW (the local chapter of NOW in Centre County, PA) tabling event at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts held in State College, Pennsylvania in July.


Thank you again for holding these hearings. Show your support for women in Pennsylvania, the United States, and around the world by showing your support for CEDAW.


Please send this treaty to the floor of the Senate with a message of strong support for ratification of CEDAW without disabling Restrictions, Understandings and Declarations (RUDs). Please ratify CEDAW without any further delay.


Thank you.


Sincerely,
Joanne L. Tosti-Vasey, Ph.D.
President
Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

CEDAW Hearing Scheduled. Your Action is Needed.

CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) will, after a hiatus of eight years, finally receive another hearing in the US Senate.  Passage by the US has been pending for 35 years.

The US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law will be holding a hearing this coming Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 2 p.m. in the Dirsken Senate Office Building, Room 226. This will be the first hearing on CEDAW since 2002 and the first time ever that the Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on a human rights treaty. The hearing is open to the public.

We would like to see the room filled with supporters of CEDAW, so if you can make it to Washington, DC for this important hearing to show your support, please do so. If you will be attending, please notify Erica Swanson at the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights so that she can get a count of supporters and have a sticker for you to wear in the room; that way, the Senators will know you are supporting the treaty. Her email address is swanson@civilrights.org.

Note, if you can't make it to the hearing, you can listen in.  Just go the this page at 2 pm on Thursday, November 18, 2010 and click on the "Webcast" button.

You may also submit testimony to the subcommittee. I will be submitting testimony on behalf of PA NOW along with the signatures of 515 people who signed on this summer through our Facebook Causes page as well as a printed petition we distributed at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College in July.

The formal deadline for receiving statements on your support of CEDAW is one week after the hearing. You should address these to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, 224 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510. The fax number for the Majority members of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law office is 202-228-4461 and the phone number is 202-224-6884. The phone number for the Minority members of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law office is 202-224-5972 (there is NO fax number listed for the minority committee members on the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee website.

Members of the the Subcommittee include:

MAJORITY MEMBERS:
Dick Durbin (D-IL) Chair
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
Ted Kaufman (D-DE)

MINORITY MEMBERS:
Tom Coburn (R-OK) Ranking Member
Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC)
John Cornyn (R-TX)

Thank you for your support. Now lets push for full passage without any reservations or restrictions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Two More Seeds and One More Weed

Just a quick update to the blog posting I made two days ago.

We now have results of the three "Too Close to Call"  races.  We planted two seeds and had another weed pop up.

There has been one more weed that has appeared after absentee ballots were counted in Chester County.  Barbara McIllvaine Smith (D-156) lost her seat once all of the absentee ballots were counted.  She conceded the race to Dan Truitt (R) this morning.  We will sorely miss Barbara in the legislature.  She was one of the most progressive, caring, and transparent Representatives in the state.  We wish her well and hope she can plant more seeds of her refreshing vision in her future endeavors.

On the up side, we also planted two more seeds for progress and equality.  Our newest winners are both in the PA House of Representatives.  They are Steve Santarsiero (D) who currently represents the 31st HD (part of Bucks County) and Tina Davis (D) who will be the new Representative from the 141st HD (also part of Bucks County).  We welcome Steve's return to the General Assembly and look forward to the work that Tina will do as the newest member of the legislature.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Planting Seeds in the Weeds of the Fall Elections

The General Election was held on November 2, 2010. We unfortunately lost many of the races that we had targeted, including that of the PA Senate Seat, which was won by Pat Toomey (R). Of the 22 targeted races, we won 5, lost 14, and 3 more are TOO CLOSE TO CALL!

What does this mean? More Tea Party legislators who oppose fairness and equality for women, people of color, immigrants, and lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered people. More efforts by a new, conservatively-empowered majority in both the Federal and State House of Representatives. Attempts at both the state and federal level to overturn health care reform for everyone and reverse reproductive rights for women. And we’ll see continued, if not even greater gridlock, on passing legislation that creates holes in our safety net here in PA and across the country.

That means that at least for the next two, if not more years, our garden of rights may become filled with weeds. Cracks in our canopy of safety are likely to appear. And we will need to plant more seeds in our efforts to ensure that the fruit of our work isn’t pulled out of this garden.

Meanwhile, Here’s How Our Candidates Faired

The following lists all of the races that we targeted and lets you know how each of our candidates faired in their individual races.

National NOW/PAC

U.S. Senate
  • JOE SESTAK (D) Lost
U.S. Congress
  • BOB BRADY (D) 1st CD WON. RETURNS TO CONGRESS
  • CHAKA FATTAH (D) 2nd CD WON. RETURNS TO CONGRESS
  • ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D) 13th CD WON. RETURNS TO CONGRESS
  • MANAN TREVEDI (D) 6th CD Lost
  • BRYAN LENTZ (D) 7th CD Lost
  • LOIS HERR (D) 16th CD Lost
  • DAN CONNOLLY (D) 18th CD Lost

Pennsylvania NOW PAC


The Pennsylvania NOW PAC makes endorsements for all statewide and local races. The PA NOW PAC has two levels of approval for candidates. "Endorsement" is the highest level of approval and is given only to those candidates who support all of our issues and will take a leadership position on those issues if elected. "Support" is given to those candidates who are good on most of our issues but have a problem with one or two; we believe that these candidates are significantly better than their opposition. “Endorsed” candidates names are CAPITALIZED and BOLDED. Candidates receiving “Support” have their names printed in upper and lower-case letters. The results of these races are as follows:

Pennsylvania Senate Endorsed Candidates
  • RUTH DAMSKER (D) 12th SD Lost
  • BILL WALLACE (D) 24th SD Lost 

Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Endorsed: 
  • PHYLLIS MUNDY (D) 120th HD WON! RETURNS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • BABETTE JOSEPHS (D) 182nd HD WON! RETURNS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • STEVE SANTARSIARO (D) 31st HD TOO CLOSE TO CALL! Steve is leading by 189 votes as of 11:30 am November 3; they need to count the absentee ballots before declaring a winner.
  • TINA DAVIS (D) 141st HD TOO CLOSE TO CALL! Tina is leading by 241 votes as of 11:30 am November 3; they need to count the 500 +/- absentee ballots before declaring a winner.
  • BARBARA MCILLVAINE SMITH 156TH HD TOO CLOSE TO CALL! Barbara is trailing by 214 votes as of 11:30 am November 3. Barb hasn’t yet conceded. Hopefully she’ll pull this one out just like she did in the squeaker in 2006 when she won by 28 votes upon a recount.
  • GERALD PRICE (D) 4th HD Lost
  • SHARON BROWN (D) 28th HD Lost
  • GERALD E. POLICOFF (D) 41st HD Lost
  • JO ELLEN BOWMAN (D) 60th HD Lost
  • TREY CASIMIR (D) 85th HD Lost

Supported:

  • Angela West (D) 87th HD Lost
  • Mark Painter (D) 146th HD Lost
  • Andrea Baptiste (D) 150th HD Lost

Even with These Large Loses (Weeds) and Limited Wins (Planted Seeds), We Can’t and Won’t Turn Back

We must continue to fight and stand up for our rights. Terry O’Neill, National President of NOW, put it this way in an article that appeared in the Huffington Post on November 2:
Throughout the history of the women's movement in this country, our progress has often been painfully slow. I've lost count of the number of women who have told me how frustrated they are when the changes they voted for mysteriously stall out in the legislative process, or are compromised away too quickly. I've felt that frustration myself over the past couple years….This is one of those times, when we must reach deep into ourselves and return again to the struggle for equality and justice.
We will continue to monitor attacks on women’s rights. We will continue to work for economic justice. We will continue to work towards ending discrimination no matter your gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity. We will continue to advocate for ending violence against women and children.

So, “Don’t Agonize! Organize!”

Plant and grow our seeds of Equality for All
  • Join NOW
  • Get active in your local NOW Chapter; if there isn’t a local chapter in your area, start one! Email us at panow@panow.org or call us at 814-280-2571 to find out how to contact or start a local NOW chapter in your community.
  • Make a donation (or a recurring monthly donation) to NOW! If you want to make a recurring donation, email our Treasurer, Pamela Macklin at pmacfish@aol.com.  She'll send you the necessary paperwork to turn a one-time donation into a monthly donation.
  • Write letters to the editor about the issues that concern you.
  • And tell your federal and state legislators that you will be watching their federal-level or state-level votes.

We’ll continue to advocate for you. And with your advocacy, our efforts eventually will bear fruit. Thank you!







Monday, October 4, 2010

Feminist Voting – One Woman’s Opinion By Jeanne Clark

Like most active feminists, I regard voting as a serious responsibility. I know that elections have consequences and that electing the wrong people to public office can have either good or very, very bad consequences for women.

Sometimes voting is easier than others. When candidates apply for and receive the endorsement of Pennsylvania NOW PAC or National NOW PAC, I know I can vote for those candidates with my whole heart and soul, knowing the candidate will not only be a vote for women’s rights, but will be an advocate for women’s rights as well.

That’s why I am so delighted that Joe Sestak is on the ballot for U.S. Senator. This election, I will proudly cast my vote for Joe. Joe will fight for women’s lives and women’s rights in the Senate and will be a great champion for us. And we have many great candidates running in Congressional Districts and for the General Assembly across the state who have the PAC endorsements. So feminists can vote for those candidates with no qualms.

But in too many races, we have no perfect endorsed candidate. One of those races is the race for Governor. Both candidates are opposed to abortion and have previously received the endorsement of the antiabortion forces. On the surface, this looks like a choice between a rock and hard place.

But a little involvement in the political process and talking to friends, as well as my own history, makes this decision actually pretty easy.

Because even though Dan Onorato says he is personally opposed to abortion, he has pledged that he will support the law, and oppose any more encroachment on our right to choose birth control and abortion. He has also promised not to use his appointment power to advance the antiabortion cause.

He made these promises to my friend Barbara Hafer, former state Treasurer and state Auditor General. He made the promises when he asked Barbara for her support for his first race for Allegheny County Executive and reiterated the same promises when he asked for her support for Governor.

So, how good is the promise? While there are no guarantees, Dan Onorato has kept his promise through his service as Allegheny County Executive. And with Barbara’s agreement to go public on the promise, it’s certainly not a secret – there are lots of us to keep his feet to the fire.

And Dan has become less conservative on social issues – if it didn’t sound so paternalistic, I would say he’s grown. He proudly signed the county legislation to create a county human relations commission which includes sexual orientation as a class protected from discrimination, and he appointed an LGBT attorney as chair. He is, I believe, listening and learning from the feminists around him.

So my decision to vote for Dan Onorato for governor turns out to be pretty easy.

And as to the rest of the ballot, that’s pretty easy this time, too. Because, in my forty years of voting, I’ve watched one party go from mild hostility to women rights to actually incorporating women rights into the basic DNA of the party beliefs, and the other party become the nation’s biggest opponent to women’s rights. I’ve seen the first women Speaker of the House incorporate feminist beliefs into the structure of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the current U.S. Secretary of State make women’s rights a basic, human right in our foreign policy and dealings with other nations – and I’ve seen the other party demonize those women for sport, and do everything they can to keep sexism alive.

As a public relations professional, I once represented the National Republican Coalition for Choice, and loved it. Those wonderful women warriors for women’s lives have now, by and large, been run out of the Republican Party.

I spent years of my life trying to start a new national political party – the 21st Century Party – which would have feminism and equality as bedrock principles and would require that the party nominate and support women in equal numbers to men. But after the Republicans were able to steal the presidential election from Al Gore, with clear evidence that well-meaning women and men inadvertently helped by voting for third party candidates with no hope of winning, I realized that the stakes are way too high to throw a vote away for a cause. Real women suffered as a result.

So – for the first time in my life I’m voting straight Democratic, with no office omitted. I invite other NOW members to join me.

- FYI, Jeanne Clark is a member of NOW and President of Squirrel Hill NOW in Pittsburgh, PA.  She also regularly blogs for Ms. Magazine at http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/author/jeanneclark/.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fall Pennsylvania NOW Times and Voters' Guide

The Pennsylvania NOW Times Fall issue is now available online.  The newsletter includes:
  • Our Voters' Guide
  • Legislative Updates - what passed and what didn't during the 2009-2010 Pennsylvania General Assembly session.
  • Unshackeled - story about Pennsylvania outlawing the shackling of incarcerated pregant women.
  • Anti-Abortion Bill Condemned - article about a bill introduced by Senator Don White that would outlaw abortion coverage, even when medically necessary, in the new health care insurance exchanges.
  • Police Failure to Investigate Rape - story about what happens when police fail to properly investigate allegations of rape.
  • Chapter Exchange

Friday, October 1, 2010

Statewide Coalition Condemns Proposed Abortion Ban Restricting Women's Access to Reproductive Health Coverage in Pennsylania

The following press release was sent to media throughout Pennsylvania on September 30, 2010 by Pennsylvanians for Choice. Pennsylvanians for Choice is a coalition of pro-choice organizations and their allies whose mission is to protect and enhance reproductive health care for all Pennsylvanians. Member organizations include: Pennsylvania NOW, Inc., the Women’s Law Project, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, WOMEN’S WAY, the Women’s Medical Fund, and CHOICE.
Pittsburgh, PA: Today Pennsylvanians for Choice, a statewide coalition of pro-choice organizations, denounced proposed legislation that would severely restrict access to abortion care in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 1399, introduced by Senator Don White (R-11) would ban private insurance plans sold in Pennsylvania’s state exchange, created under health care reform, from covering even medically necessary abortion procedures.
“Today, most private insurance plans cover abortion care,” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project. “Senator White’s proposal would leave women worse off than they were before health care reform began.” Under Senator White’s bill, no abortion plan that contracts with the state exchange would be permitted to cover abortion except in the narrowest circumstances.


With an estimated 80% of private insurance plans currently covering abortion procedures, coalition spokespeople said that a ban of this magnitude would have a devastating effect on Pennsylvania women.


"Aside from having some of the oldest and most stringent abortion laws in the nation, Pennsylvania, like every other state, is bound by the Nelson abortion provision to the federal health care law,” said Sari Stevens, Executive Director of the Harrisburg-based Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. Under the Nelson abortion provision, any health insurance plan that contracts with the exchange is required to implement a complex system of segregation to ensure no federal funds are used for abortion coverage - including the collection of two separate payments from the beneficiary, one for abortion coverage and one for all other health care coverage.

“Poll after poll shows that Pennsylvanians are not interested in reopening the debate around abortion. I urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to follow the lead of their constituents and support measures to prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place,” added Stevens. The insurance exchanges, slated to be available for enrollment in 2014, will serve those who do not have access to employer-based health plans including the unemployed and small business employees.


The proposed ban would deny insurance plans participating in the exchange from covering abortion care except in cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or where the life of the woman is in danger. Frietsche pointed out that “in the Medicaid context, Pennsylvania courts have already ruled that it’s unconstitutional to make rape survivors jump through the kind of insulting and burdensome hoops this bill would create.” The bill would require rape survivors to “personally” report the crime and identify the assailant, if known, within 72 hours in order for their health insurance to cover an abortion procedure.


“The White bill is a throwback to the days when society blamed rape victims for somehow being responsible for the violence that was done to them,” Frietsche commented. “Pennsylvania lawmakers really should have moved beyond these gender stereotypes by now.”


“Instead of denying Pennsylvania women access to fundamental reproductive health care services, politicians should be working to protect and advance women’s health,” concluded Rebecca Foley of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit WOMEN’S WAY. “This proposed ban will leave many Pennsylvania women without coverage for safe, legal, and critical care.”
###

Monday, September 20, 2010

Action Alert: Virginia Governor Denies Teresa Lewis' Petition for Clemency

Virginia's Governor McDonnell denied Teresa Lewis' petition for clemency on September 17, 2010. Without your help, Teresa will die on September 23, 2010.


The time is NOW to take further action to save Teresa’s life. We are not giving up. Let Governor McDonnell know that he must reconsider his unjust and inhumane decision. Click on this button, which will take you directly to Governor McDonnell’s web page for receiving emails:

You may include your own text for your message to Governor McDonnell, or you may wish to include the following message:

Governor McDonnell, your decision to deny clemency completely ignores the fact that Teresa Lewis is borderline mentally retarded and had a dependent personality disorder, and that a life sentence was given to the man who has repeatedly stated that HE was the mastermind and that “The only reason I had sex with [Teresa] was for the money [and] to get her to ‘fall in love’ with me so she would give me the insurance money. . . . She was exactly what I was looking for.” Killing Teresa now, when this man was allowed to live, is so unfair and unjust that it cannot be permitted.
Or if you prefer: Call the Governor’s Office at 804-786-2211 and register your disapproval of his decision. Demand that Teresa be permitted to live.

(Note: Teresa's lawyer has made this request for assistance via email at noon on Monday, September 20 asking us to email and post this action alert to the PA NOW website).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Poverty and Health Insurance

On September 16th, the US Census Bureau released their newest report entitled Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009It paints a dark picture of women's and children's economic and health.  Here are a few highlights from the report:

Income Highlights
  • We now have the largest number of people living in poverty in the United States since we started measuring poverty levels.  That's 43.56 million people or 14.3% of the entire US population. 
  • Pennsylvania is better off than much of the rest of the country - our poverty rate stood at 11.1%.
  • More adult women (13.9%) than adult men (10.5%) are living in poverty.
  • The rate of poverty increased in all types of families - married couples, female-only headed households, and male-only headed households.
  • Over one-third of single-mother families (38.5%) are living in poverty - the highest level since 1998.
  • Women continue to earn only 77% on average of what men are earning.
Health Care Highlights
  • Data on the number of people with health care insurance was first collected in 1987.This is the first year that the number of people with health insurance decreased.
  • 16.7% or 50.7 million people in the US went without health insurance last year.
  • Significant increases in uninsured people occurred across all races except for people of Asian descent.
  • The percentage of people covered by employer-based health insurance decreased to 63.9% of the population - the lowest level since 1987 when this data was first collected.
  • The percentage of people covered by the government health insurance programs increased to 30.6% -this include Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran's Health Care, Military Health Care, and the Children's Health Insurance programs.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has also put together 2-page summary of poverty and health insurance in Pennsylvania culled from Census Bureau data. We are doing slightly better than the rest of the country. But not much. Eleven percent of Pennsylvanians currently live in poverty and 12.4% of Pennsylvanians are uninsured. Like like the rest of the country, these numbers are still too high.

These numbers may have been even more dismal if we hadn't had the safety net built of the federal stimulus initiatives aimed at low-income earners and the extension of unemployment benefits.  According to a story aired today on NPR, these two programs alone "are credited with helping keep 3.3 million people out of poverty." 

These programs should be continued. And more can be done.  Congress needs to:

  1. Remove the tax cuts on families with incomes over $250,000. This will add more money to the budget so that we can infuse more funds into programs for the middle and lower income levels.  It will also help reduce the burden-producing debt of the current economy.
  2. Pass of the Paycheck Fairness Act.  It passed the House last year and is still awaiting a vote in the US Senate.  This Act will help reduce gender-based wage discrimination and allow women to be paid equitably. Implementation of this will will, over the long haul, reduce the wage gap between men and women.  
  3. Oppose Senator Mitch McConnell's proposed bill to eliminate the earned income tax credit for low income families.
  4. Allow states to create single-payer health care plans.  Pennsylvania's proposed plan, for example, would result in all people in the state receiving health care at an affordable level.  Everyone in.  Nobody out. If you are unemployed and living in poverty, you would still get health care. Details about this plan can be found here.
Please take action.  Contact your Senator's and let them know that we need to deal with these economic issues NOW.  We need to reduce the income inequities and make sure that all our families have a sustainable income.  These are first steps.  Let's make this happen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Women's Equality Day, the ERA and CEDAW

August 26, 2010 was the 90th anniversary of women receiving the constitutional right to vote in the United States.  It is now known as Women's Equality Day. Today, women have more opportunities than ever before. For many, the right to vote is equated with full equality for women.  However that is only one step in the process. 

As Terry O'Neill, National President of NOW states, "When history books and the media celebrate women's successful fight for the right to vote, they often imply that women now have constitutional equality. The fact is, sex discrimination against women is not unconstitutional, and statues prohibiting it have no constitutional foundation. It is time to write women into the Constitution by ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment."

In the United States, we need to pass and include the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) in the US Constitition.  We can start by calling on our representatives at the state and federal level to advance the ERA. Women can do their part by voting in 2010. We must vote for candidates who believe that equality is a basic human right -- candidates who believe in reproductive freedom, who support equal rights for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered people, who are dedicated to eliminating racism and violence, who promote economic justice, and who believe that women must be included in the U.S. Constitution.

And we can do the same for women throughout the world by urging the US Senate to ratify the 30-year-old UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, commonly known as CEDAW.  The US helped draft this treaty.  It has been ratified by 185 countries, including all industrialized nations, with the exception of the United States. While progress has been made in advancing women’s rights in recent decades, women continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty, sexual and domestic violence and lack of access to basic health care and equal education. In countries where CEDAW has been ratified, it has made significant improvement to the status of women. U.S. ratification of CEDAW would lend weight to the treaty and solidify our status as a leader in the global human rights committee. U.S. ratification would lend weight to the treaty and the principle that human rights of women are universal across all cultures, nations and religions and worthy of being guaranteed through international human rights standards.


So in that vein, the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund has been gathering signatures through Facebook Causes to ratify CEDAW. The petition will be sent to President Obama and the Senate petitioning that they "support human rights by prioritizing and passing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) without restrictions or reservations."  As of the end of the day of Women's Equality Day, 180 people from 21 states had signed the petition in the last month.   We'd like to thank all of the signees.  And if you haven't signed the petition and are on Facebook, go to our Cause page at http://www.causes.com/causes/316675 to add your name.  If you are not on Facebook, you can sign a similar petition at the National NOW ACtion Center at http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5996/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1364.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

August 8 is my birthday. Please help celebrate!


Tomorrow August 8th is my birthday! Instead of asking for gifts, I’ve created a Birthday Wish where you can share stories, photos, and donate to the cause Pennsylvania NOW, something I really care about. Check it out!

Why I Care About NOW and Women's Equality

I joined NOW in 1979 because I couldn't get my boss to pay me a fair wage (I was paid 59% of what a man that graduated with me was paid). In 1989, NOW helped save my life by intervening in a health insurance dispute that was preventing me from having a bone marrow transplant. I continue to have a passion for equality for all, including for women and children. Current issues like shackling pregnant women in prison or cutting funds for critical women's and children's programs that occured here in Pennsylvania for a second year in a row makes my blood boil. We need funds to help get the word out when these kinds of things are happening. Will you help?

Please help make this a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY for me by making a tax-deductible donation to the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund. Thank you!
OR
If you are not on Facebook or prefer to make the donation by check rather than credit card, you can send your check or credit card donation to us at Pennsylvania NOW, P.O. Box 68, Bellefonte, PA 16823. A pledge form for this purpose is attached at th end of this blog.

If you want to make a tax deductible donation, make the check out to the “Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund.” If you don't need the tax deduction, then you can make the check out to “Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.” Either way helps.

Put "Joanne's Birthday Wish" in the check memo line so that we know that you are helping make my wish come true.

Thanks so much! I'm so lucky to have such awesome friends and fellow activists for equality.
-Joanne Tosti-Vasey, President, Pennsylvania NOW, Inc. and Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund

PA NOW Pledge Form


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Women's Equality Day, CEDAW, and Facebook

Women's Equality Day is August 26 in the United States.  It was instituted in 1971 by Bella Abzug.  It commemorates the passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution that grants the right to vote to women.  We also use this day to commemorate other achievements and efforts to achieve equality for women.  Like the passage of Title IX that helps insure equitable access to education for girls or the inclusion of gender in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was reconfirmed with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  It is a day to honor women's rights.

We believe that women’s rights are human rights.  What better way to honor that history than to urge the United States Senate to ratify CEDAW -- the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.  CEDAW is the most comprehensive international agreement on the basic human rights of women and girls.

Ratifying CEDAW would lend weight to the treaty and the principle that human rights of women are universal across all cultures, nations and religions and worthy of being guaranteed through international human rights standards.  Until the U.S. ratifies CEDAW, it can neither credibly demand that others live up to their obligations under the treaty, nor that it is a leader in the global human rights community.

CEDAW has been ratified by 185 countries, including all industrialized nations, with the exception of the United States. While progress has been made in advancing women’s rights in recent decades, women continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty, sexual and domestic violence and lack of access to basic health care and equal education. In countries where CEDAW has been ratified, it has made significant improvement to the status of women. U.S. ratification of CEDAW would lend weight to the treaty and solidify our status as a leader in the global human rights committee.

So in honor of Women's Equality Day, the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund has created an online Facebook petition urging the US Senate to ratify CEDAW without restrictions or reservations.

If you have a Facebook account, you can sign the petition (and add your “Cause” supporting this action). This petition drive ends on August 26, 2010—Women’s Equality Day. The signatures will be sent to the National NOW Action Center to be added to the signatures they are delivering to the US Senate and to President Obama.

So take a moment, sign the petition, and spread the word in honor of Women's Equality Day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Online Fundraiser for the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund

I am President of Pennsylvania NOW and the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund. My birthday is on August 8th. The best birthday gift would be additional funds to help with our work for equality, economic justice, civil rights for all, and ending violence against women in Pennsylvania.

To celebrate, I am doing an online fundraiser for the Education Fund.

Why is this important to me?  It's both personal and political.

Why I Care About This Cause


I joined NOW in 1979 because I couldn't get my boss to pay me a fair wage (I was paid 59% of what a man that graduated with me was paid).

In 1989, NOW helped save my life by intervening in a health insurance dispute that was preventing me from having a bone marrow transplant.

I continue to have a passion for equality for all, including for women and children. Current issues like shackling pregnant women in prison or cutting funds for critical women's and children's programs that occurred here in Pennsylvania for a second year in a row makes my blood boil.

We need funds to help get the word out when these kinds of things are happening.

Will You Help?

So please check out my Birthday Wish at http://birthdays.causes.com/wishes/2934, spread the word, and make a donation if you can.

OR, if you prefer to make the donation by check rather than credit card, you can email your check to us at Pennsylvania NOW, P.O. Box 68, Bellefonte, PA 16823.

For a tax deduction, make the check out to the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund. If you don't need the tax deduction, then you can make the check out to Pennsylvania NOW, Inc. Either way helps.

Put "Joanne's Birthday Wish" in the memo line so that we know that you are helping make my wish come true. 


Thanks so much! I'm so lucky to have such awesome friends and fellow activists for equality.

Joanne Tosti-Vasey



Thursday, July 22, 2010

The First Women’s Rights Convention lives on in spirit

The following article in the Examiner is a good quick summary of the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848.

The First Women’s Rights Convention lives on in spirit

NOW is part the "spirit" mentioned at the end of the article. This statement is referring to the five chapters in Allegheny County:
First Pittsburgh NOW pwetherby@aol.com
East End NOW pmacfish@aol.com
North Hills NOW sylkip@comcast.net
South Hills NOW flogaskill@verizon.net
Squirrel Hill NOW jeannekcc@aol.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund to Participate in Governor's Conference for Women

This year's annual PA Governor's Conference for Women will be held October 14, 2010 at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA.  The PA NOW Education Fund (our educational outreach arm of NOW) will have an exhibit table at the conference.  Please come by and see us.

Meanwhile, here's some information on the conference speakers along with a link to register.

Keynotes announced for 10-14 PA Governor’s Conference for Women



The dynamic keynote lineup for the 7th annual Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women, October 14 in Pittsburgh includes: 



—Ellen Alemany, chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial Group, Inc. and RBS Americas. In 2009, Forbes magazine named her one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

—Eve Ensler, playwright, performer and activist, is the author of the highly successful play, “The Vagina Monologues” and creator of V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.


—Mae Jemison, M.D., blasted into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992 as the world’s first woman of color to go into space. She also founded and chairs The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence.


—Tory Johnson, founder of Women For Hire and workplace contributor on ABC’s “Good Morning America


**Register with a friend for $250!




Individual tickets are $135, and tables of ten are $1250—an incredible value for companies looking to provide professional and personal development for employees. 




Learn more and REGISTER at http://pagovernorsconferenceforwomen.org

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dan Connelly Endorsed by National NOW PAC

The Pennsylvania NOW PAC just received word that Dan Connelly (D) has received the full endorsement of the National NOW PAC.  He is running for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. This brings us to seven federal candidates who have received the national endorsement for the fall election.  This includes 6 Congressional candidates and 1 US Senate candidate.  And here they are with links to their websites:

US Senate

Joe Sestak http://joesestak.com/

US House of Representatives

Bob Brady PA-1 http://bobbrady.us/
Chaka Fattah PA-2 http://chakafattah.com/
Manan Trivedi PA-6 http://www.trivediforcongress.com/
Bryan Lentz PA-7 http://votelentz.com/
Lois Herr PA-16 www.herr2010.com/
Dan Connelly PA-18 http://voteconnolly.com/

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shackling and Tasering of Incarcerated Pregnant Women in Pennsylvania and Centre County: New Changes in State Law and County Policy

New State Law

On March 17, 2010, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed SB 1074 that prohibits the shackling of pregnant women except in "extraordinary circumstances" in the second or third trimester of pregnancy and immediately postpartum.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives then followed by unanimously passing the bill on June 29, 2010.  And Governor Rendell signed the bill into law on July 2, 2010.  This new law goes into effect statewide on August 31, 2010. 

The new law states:
1. [A] correctional institution shall not apply restraints to a prisoner or detainee known to be pregnant during any stage of labor, any pregnancy-related medical distress, any period of delivery, any period of postpartum,...or transport to a medical facility as a result of any of the preceding conditions or transport to a medical facility after the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy.


(2) Paragraph (1) shall not bar reasonable restraint provided the correctional institution staff assigned to the prisoner or detainee makes an individualized determination that the prisoner or detainee presents a substantial risk of imminent flight or some other extraordinary medical or security circumstance dictates that the prisoner or detainee be restrained to ensure the safety and security of the prisoner or detainee, the staff of the correctional institution or medical facility, other prisoners or detainees or the public.
If an "extraordinary circumstance" occurs that results in restraint of the pregnant woman, the prison must NOT leave the inmate unattended so that these restraints can be removed immediately should the removal become "medically necessary."  It also requires that the "least restrictive" type of restraint be used should this become necessary.  And the correctional facility must then report this incidence of restraint in a report to the PA Department of Public Welfare.  County jails must include these incidences in their "County Extraordinary Occurrence Monthly Report" to the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare.
 
New Centre County Policy
 
Meanwhile, the Centre County Prison Board has been working on this issue since January when Pennsylvania NOW called upon the Board and the Warden to compassionately use their power to not shackle a woman who went into labor two days after we received a call from the woman's mother about this situation.  The warden agreed and the woman was not shackled during her labor and delivery. 
 
Five days later at their monthly prison board meeting, the Prison Board agreed to add this issue to the review of their entire "Inmate Transport"  policy.  Today at 8:25 am, the Prison Board unanimously passed their revised "Inmate Transport" policy. 
 
The newly revised  policy, which goes into effect immediately, covers the protocol for transporting inmates incarcerated at the Centre County Correctional Center.  This policy is designed to "ensure the security and safety of inmates, officers, and the community during the course of inmate transports."  This includes how prisoners are handled when they are transported by the prison and by ambulance as well as what happens when they are take to a doctor's office or hospital.

This new policy follows the new state law and goes several steps further.  The first difference is that any pregnant woman - no matter age of gestation - is covered. The second difference is that, unlike the new state law, the Shift Commander, not the correctional officer,  makes the determination if an extraordinary situation allowing limited shackling is present and will be allowed.. Third, only handcuffs are allowed if restraint is required.  Forth, under no circumstance will a pregnant woman ever be tasered!  In fact, correctional officers are not allowed to carry a taser if the inmate is pregnant. And finally, if only one correctional officer is assigned for the transportation of the pregnant female inmate, that officer must be a woman.  If two officers are assigned, the second one can be either male or female.

Pennsylvania NOW would like to thank the General Assembly and Governor Rendell for passage of this new, compassionate law.  We also thank the Centre County Prison Board for taking the issue of tasering and shackling pregnant women seriously and creating an even stronger policy on shackling and for completely prohibiting the tasering of all pregnant women. 

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU ALL!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Please vote for the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund at Chase Community Giving

Chase Community Giving on Facebook is giving away LOTS of money. You can help decide which 200 local charities share $5 million in donations from Chase. Start voting for your favorites on June 15 and show us what matters most to you - and your community. It's a new Way Forward for giving.


I just voted for Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund to win $250k on Chase Community Giving! #chasegiving http://bit.ly/9XPK4s. Pls vote for us.