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.