Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Terry O'Neill on Bill Moyer's Journal

Terry O'Neill, National NOW President was interviewed by Bill Moyers for the Bill Moyers Journal on March 25.  She spoke about both the good and bad of the new health insurance law.

FYI, I refuse to call this new law "Health Care Reform" until we have true reform and get the for-profits out of our health care. The "Reform" needs to be Reformed!

The video is about 18 minutes long.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Federal Health Insurance Bill "Comes with Tragic Setback for Women's Rights"

Here's NOW's take on the bill that just passed the House with a 219-212 vote.

Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women's Rights

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill
March 21, 2010

As a longtime proponent of health care reform, I truly wish that the National Organization for Women could join in celebrating the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It pains me to have to stand against what many see as a major achievement. But feminist, progressive principles are in direct conflict with many of the compromises built into and tacked onto this legislation.

The health care reform bill passed by Congress today offers a number of good solutions to our nation's critical health care problems, but it also fails in many important respects. After a full year of controversy and compromise, the result is a highly flawed, diminished piece of legislation that continues reliance on a failing, profit-driven private insurance system and rewards those who have been abusive of their customers. With more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths annually and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies each year due to medical bills, this bill is only a timid first step toward meaningful reform.

Fact: The bill contains a sweeping anti-abortion provision. Contrary to the talking points circulated by congressional leaders, the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion. It imposes a bizarre requirement on insurance plan enrollees who buy coverage through the health insurance exchanges to write two monthly checks (one for an abortion care rider and one for all other health care). Even employers will have to write two separate checks for each of their employees requesting the abortion rider.

This burdensome, elaborate system must be eliminated. It is there because the Catholic bishops and extremist abortion rights opponents know that it will result in greatly restricting access to abortion care, currently one of the most common medical procedures for women.

Fact: President Obama made an eleventh-hour agreement to issue an executive order lending the weight of his office to the anti-abortion measures included in the bill. This move was designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion. This executive order helps to cement the misconception that the Hyde Amendment is settled law rather than what it really is -- an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. It also sends the outrageous message that it is acceptable to negotiate health care reform on the backs of women.

Fact: The bill permits age-rating, the practice of imposing higher premiums on older people. This practice has a disproportionate impact on women, whose incomes and savings are lower due to a lifetime of systematic wage discrimination.

Fact: The bill also permits gender-rating, the practice of charging women higher premiums simply because they are women. Some are under the mistaken impression that gender-rating has been prohibited, but that is only true in the individual and small-group markets. Larger group plans (more than 100 employees) sold through the exchanges will be permitted to discriminate against women -- having an especially harmful impact in workplaces where women predominate.

We know why those gender- and age-rating provisions are in the bill: because insurers insisted on them, as they will generate billions of dollars in profits for the companies. Such discriminatory rating must be completely eliminated.

Fact: The bill imposes harsh restrictions on the ability of immigrants to access health care, imposing a 5-year waiting period on permanent, legal residents before they are eligible for assistance such as Medicaid, and prohibiting undocumented workers even to use their own money to purchase health insurance through an exchange. These provisions are counterproductive in terms of controlling health care costs; they are there because of ugly anti-immigrant sentiment, and must be eliminated.

Fact: The bill covers only 32 million of the 47 million uninsured in this country, does not contain a meaningful public option and provides no pathway to a single payer system like Medicare for all. Democratic negotiators crumpled before powerful business interests and right-wing extremists, and until they get a spine there will be no true competition to help rein in costs.

The bottom line is that everyone -- citizen and non-citizen, undocumented immigrant and visitor -- has a fundamental human right to health care. This right has been denied in the U.S. for far too long, while the rest of the industrialized world moved ahead to assure universal and affordable care for their people.

We call upon President Obama and elected officials in both houses to commit to a process of steady improvement of our health care system that will result in true reform with universal coverage, realistically affordable rates and no discrimination. We still have a lot of work to do before we can genuinely celebrate.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116; cell 202-641-1906
Copyright 1995-2009, All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-commercial use. National Organization for Women
(This is reprinted from

Women thrown under the bus

This afternoon at 4 pm, Bart Stupak announced that he had made a deal with President Obama to deny women access to reporductve health care abortion services through an Executive Order that will be signed when Obama signs the health insurance (not health care) reform bill.  Here's National NOW's President's statement on this decision by mostly white men to control the lives, bodies, and health of women.

President Obama Breaks Faith with Women

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill
March 21, 2010

The National Organization for Women is incensed that President Barack Obama agreed today to issue an executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion. Through this order, the president has announced he will lend the weight of his office and the entire executive branch to the anti-abortion measures included in the Senate bill, which the House is now prepared to pass.

President Obama campaigned as a pro-choice president, but his actions today suggest that his commitment to reproductive health care is shaky at best. Contrary to language in the draft of the executive order and repeated assertions in the news, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law -- it is an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. NOW has a longstanding objection to Hyde and, in fact, was looking forward to working with this president and Congress to bring an end to these restrictions. We see now that we have our work cut out for us far beyond what we ever anticipated. The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn't disagree more.
We need to give Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts their pink slips.  They need to be fired for crafting the Stupak-Pitts amendment.  This is the amendment that was in the House version of the bill that that resulted in today's Executive Order announcement in order to get the anti-choice Representatives to vote for the bill.  With this so-called compromise, women have now been thrown under the bus and into the back alleys.

You can help do that.  The National NOW PAC has endorsed Connie Saltonstall against Bart Stupak in his  primary in Michigan because of his anti-choice zealotry. The NOW PAC also endorsed Lois Herr against Joe Pitts here in Pennsylvania for similar reasons. You can donate to their campaigns at  (Saltonstall) and at (Herr).

Lois Herr (PA-16)$

Connie Saltonstall (MI-01)$

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Anti-Shackling Bill Passes in the PA Senate

It now goes to the Pennsylvania House Representatives.
Here's an email from Dee Johnson, Philadelphia NOW member and Communications Manager at the Pennsylvania Prison Society that announces passage of the bill.

Our anti-shackling bill just passed unanimously in the Senate; now onto the House! Woohoo! Following is the vote history of the Shackling Ban bill:

Dee Johnson
Communications Manager/Managing Editor
Pennsylvania Prison Society
245 North Broad Street
Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215.564.6005, ext. 112
215.564.7926 (Fax)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Three Bills for Women on the Ides of March

Monday, March 15, 2010 was the Ides of March 2010.  And it was a good day for women!

Eating Disorders to be Addressed in New Legislation

On Friday, March 12, Senator Daylin Leach's office contacted me and asked if I'd come to Harrisburg and support a bill that would mandate insurance coverage of recommended treatment for individuals with eating disorders.  This bill, like the law mandating coverage of mammograms, would stop insurance companies from limiting coverage to solely stabelizing the woman's weight.  It would allow women the time to have the full medical and psycholigical treatment necessary for the woman to effectively deal with not only the physical issues but also the underlying issues surrounding her disorder.

So at 11 am yesterday, I attended a press conference in the Capital Rotunda on SB 1138 to increase awareness and show support for this legislation that would require insurance companies to cover non-hospital residential care for eating disorder patients, thereby allowing doctors and patients the ability to choose the best treatment plans for the individual patient.

You can read the latest version of this bill on the PA General Assembly website.

Marital and Familial Status Protections in Employment

Following a short lunch, I had a meeting with Representative Michael Carroll.  He is the prime sponsor of HB 2245, the newest incarnation of a bill that would add marital and familal status protections to the employment section of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.  This is Pennsylvania's anti-discrimination law.  The bill passed out of the State House Government Committee on Monday, March 8, 2010 and is now in the House Appropriations Committee. 

I met with him to ask about next steps and to request that the General Assembly expand the definition of family status to include family responsibilities across the life span.  As currently defined in this bill, an individual would be protected from discrimination in employment based either on their marital status (married, single, separated) or because they have children under the age of 18 living in the home.  However, if they are perceived to be responsible for the care of another adult family member (such as a spouse, parent, aunt, adult child, etc) and are denied employment or treated disparately at work, then there are no protections.  Expanding the family status definition to include these family responsibilities would eliminate this form of family-based discrimination and, as with flex-time, make for a better family-friendly work environment.  These protections should also increase the committment and productivity of workers at their workplace by reducing the work-family stress associated with work environments that don't recognize family responsibilities.

Representative Carroll felt this would strengthen the bill and agreed to offer this idea as an amendment to the the bill when it comes up again in the Appropriations Committee hearing.  However, at this point he does not know when that hearing will be held.

The WorkLife Law Center at University of California Hastings College of Law contains detailed background information on this form of legislation.  Their home page for this issue is at

You can read the latest version of this bill on the PA General Assembly website.  Note that this version (HB 2245, PN 3182) does NOT contain the proposed amendment that Representative Carroll and I discussed.

Anti-Shackling Bill Moves Another Step Towards Passage

Finally, before returning home, I sat in on the Senate Appropriations Hearing.  SB 1074 was the last item on their agenda.  This is the bill that prohibits correctional facilities within the state from shackling pregnant women during labor and delivery.

Like in the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, there were some technical amendments made to the bill.  And then without any discussion, the bill was unanimously passed.

Senator Leach, the prime sponsor of this bill, said that the Senate is expected to place the bill on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday and will then vote for final passage.  It will then go to the PA House of Representatives for their review.

You can read the latest version of this bill on the PA General Assembly website.

It was a GREAT day!

Three bills - access to treatment for eating disorders, prohibiting family-based employment discrimination, and prohibiting the shackling of pregnant women.  Maybe the Ides of March will change the tide for women in Pennsylvania!  Yea!

Friday, March 5, 2010

. Joe Sestak For US Senate: National NOW PAC Endorsement Announcement by Joanne Tosti-Vasey, President Of Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.

This is the speech I gave in Pittsburgh today announcing that the National NOW PAC has endorsed Joe Sestak for the US Senate.

As the President of Pennsylvania’s National Organization for Women, I am pleased to support the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee’s endorsement of Joe Sestak as a candidate for the United States’ Senate from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Sestak currently serves in the United States House of Representatives for southeastern Pennsylvania and is a strong advocate for equality in our nation’s capital. The NOW/PAC was proud to endorse Mr. Sestak the past two times he ran for United States Representative and is very excited to stand by his side during his campaign for the United States Senate.

Mr. Sestak is a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and full rights and privileges for all civil marriages. He has previously voted against the ban on gay marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell while in the House.

In regards to abortion, Mr. Sestak is pro-choice, opposes parental notification and supports Medicaid coverage for abortions. We applaud his courage when, on November 7, 2009, he was one of only five Representatives from Pennsylvania to vote against the restrictive Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the Health Care Reform bill.

Mr. Sestak also supports safe, accurate and appropriate sex education to encourage healthy behavior in a truthful manner. He co-sponsored many bills that support women’s health from the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act to the Mammogram and MRI Availability Act of 2009.

Mr. Sestak supports allowing for paid and unpaid leave for victims of domestic violence and for increasng the resources available to these women.

In the business sector, Mr. Sestak supports small business lending programs for women and strongly opposes wage-based sex discrimination. In the House he was an original co-sponsor for the Paycheck Fairness Act as well as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act has passed in the House but has yet to be passed in the Senate.  The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill that President Obama signed into law after his inauguration in January 2009. Sestak has also voted in favor of the SBA Women’s Business Programs Act and introduced multiple bills supporting women entrepreneurs.

The National Organization for Women Political Action Committee is proud and excited to endorse such a strong candidate for the United States Senate and I am proud to support that endorsement. He ha s been a leader in the struggle to achieve full equality for women and girls and we are looking forward to working with him both in this campaign and then in the US Senate.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Press Conference regarding Joe Sestak for US Senate

I will be participating in a press conference on Friday, March 5, 2010 regarding Joe Sestak for the US. Senate.

Who: Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Phyllis Wetherby, Kathleen Wilson, and others
What: Press Conference
Where:  4326 Butler St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201
When: Noon, Friday March 5, 2010

I'll post my speech on Friday.  :-)