Saturday, December 31, 2011

Passing the Torch

Once again, thank you everyone for your support of Pennsylvania NOW.  Tomorrow, January 1, Pennsylvania NOW will be “passing the torch” to new statewide leadership.  The new leaders (and their email addresses) are:
The phone number for Pennsylvania NOW – (814) 280-8571 – will remain the same. The new main office mailing address is:

 Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.; Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund; and PA NOW PAC
 P.O. Box 4
Fort Washington, PA 19034-0004

The Treasurer’s Office address will remain the same:

Treasurer’s Office
Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.; Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund; and PA NOW PAC
PO Box 8614
Wilkinsburg, PA 15221-8614

I have served as the President of Pennsylvania NOW and the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund as well as the Chair of the PA NOW PAC since January 1, 2006.  And I served as Treasurer for the 12 years before that.  I am now moving over to an at-large member position on the Executive Committee and will continue my advocacy as a volunteer leader. 

I would like to thank everyone who has worked with me over the years including former Presidents Barbara DiTullio and Kathy Wilson as well as my current executive committee, some of who are continuing in leadership and others that are stepping done tonight.  They are:

  • Vice-President Kathleen Wilson
  • Treasurer Pamela Macklin (who is continuing as Treasurer)
  • Secretary Mary Kay Peterson
  • At-Large Member Michele Hamilton (who is continuing in this capacity)
  • At-Large Member Jasmin Rakestraw who had to step down earlier this year
  • At-Large Member Helene Ratner (who is the new Vice President)
  • At-Large Member Susan Woodland (who is continuing in this capacity)

I would also like to thank everyone both here in Pennsylvania and throughout the country whom I have worked with over the last 18 years.  Some of you are NOW members and leaders.  Others are advocates for equality either individually or as representatives of other organizations.  And others are elected officials that I have had the great pleasure of working with to improve the lives of people here in Pennsylvania.  You have all made the job a great pleasure.

My passion and concern for equality for all, especially for women and their families, is and will be on-going. 

At this point I’m not sure where will I will end up. I am job hunting. So if you know of anything you think I might be good at, let me know.  My email address is

If you want to continue corresponding with me by mail, the address is

Joanne Tosti-Vasey
PO Box 68
Bellefonte, PA 16823-0068

Thank you everyone.  And have a wonderful New Year!

Happy New Year and Thanks for Your Support: Summary of Accomplishments

Happy New Year!  Today is my (Joanne Tosti-Vasey’s) last day as President of the Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.; the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund; and the Pennsylvania NOW PAC.   I really have appreciated your support over the 18 years of my tenure as both President and Treasurer of NOW here in PA. 

As part of passing the torch to our new President, Julia Ramsey, I’d first like to summarize the past  six years.  I will post the new leadership information in a second post.

We have done some awesome, successful work over the last few years. 

1.       We pressured Penn State University to change their policies towards all forms of campus violence.  In 2006, as a result of this pressure, PSU did create a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of domestic and relationship violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campus.  However this policy hit some rather bumpy spots, particularly within the Athletics department.  As of result of the allegations of child sexual abuse against former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky in November 2011, we have once again weighed in on calling for the University to fully investigate these allegations, to review policies and reporting methods of campus violence, and to include all forms of campus violence in both the investigation and upgrading of policies and reporting.  You can read the most recent joint National NOW/PA NOW statement here as well as a copy of the letter to the PSU Board of Trustees detailing both the history of our involvement in this issue and our call for a broader, full investigation into all forms of campus violence. It is time to make sure that NO form of campus violence – sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking – is ever again tolerated. Against any child. Against any adult. Anywhere, including at Penn State.

2.       After a high school senior posted an online tabloid in 2006 discussing the breast and hip sizes, sexual proclivities, and sexual diseases of 26 female students, Pennsylvania NOW worked with a parent of one of these young women and with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to force the Mt. Lebanon School District to conduct sexual harassment training, to set up meetings with the parents of the girls that were harassed to provide input on how to change the policies surrounding sexual harassment, and we worked with the college where the boy matriculated (along with six of the women who were harassed) that resulted in a 4-year stay-away order.  The superintendent and high school principal also lost their jobs as a result of their failure to properly handle this case of sexual harassment.

3.       In collaboration with many women’s organization, we worked with the City of Pittsburgh to craft a zero-tolerance, police-perpetrated domestic violence ordinance in 2007.  This ordinance was created after three police officers who had current or prior histories of domestic violence were promoted.Su

4.       We worked with Philadelphia NOW, the PA Prison Society, and Senator Daylin Leach to pass the 2010 state law that prohibits shackling of incarcerated pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters who are incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout the state.  And in Centre County, I advocated for even stronger protections in the Centre County Correctional Facility than are provided in the state law. As a result of this advocacy, any pregnant woman incarcerated in Centre County at any point in her pregnancy will not only not be shackled, but she also will not be tasered.  For details on what this 2010 law and Centre County Prison Board policy do, read a summary in one of our earlier blogs. 

5.       We provided testimony to the PA’s Independent Regulatory Review Board on the 2007 proposed regulations for sexual assault services in emergency rooms.  As a result of this testimony as well as testimony from the Women’s Law Project, Planned Parenthood, and the PA Commission for Women, hospitals must post signs if they refuse to provide emergency contraception to rape victims and must provide them with transportation to another facility where they can receive EC if they want it.  If a hospital refuses to provide EC, they are placed on a PA Deptartment of Health online list of hospitals denying full sexual assault services.  Prior to the new regulations going into effect, about two-thirds of hospitals in PA did NOT provide EC in the ER.  Now only 11 hospitals in the state refuse to provide EC in the ER.

6.       We worked with State College Borough in 2007 and 2011 to create one of the most comprehensive sets of anti-discrimination ordinances in the country.  The employment ordinance includes marital status, familial status, family responsibilities (protections for people who need to take care of or are assumed to be taking care of another adult family member), gender identity, and sexual orientation in addition to the state-level protections.  The fair housing and public accommodations ordinance includes marital status, familial status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and legal sources of income in addition to the state-level protections.  Also in 2011, we helped to fine-tune State College’s proposed inclusionary (affordable) housing ordinance to reduce the number of forms of identification from 5 to 2 for lower income people to apply for inclusionary housing units.  This ordinance also provides the ability for domestic partners to apply for this housing if they have registered with the borough’s Domestic Partnership Registration that was also initiated this year.

7.       We worked with Allegheny County Council in 2009 to pass a county-wide anti-discrimination ordinance that includes marital status, familial status, gender identity, and sexual orientation (but no family responsibilities protections) in addition to the state-level protections in employment, housing and public accommodations.  Also got them to include source of income in housing.

8.       In Spring 2009, we protested the make-up of Governor Rendell’s Stimulus Oversight Committee. Initially, this committee only had 1 woman, 1 person of color, and only people who lived in Allegheny County and southeastern PA.  A coalition of women’s organizations and people of color organizations asked to have the committee expanded to add women, people of color and people from other sections of the state.  We were only partially successful; 1 more woman and 1 more person of color were added to the committee.

9.       We gave written testimony on August 30, 2011 to the House State Government Committee opposing Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s “National Security Begins at Home” anti-immigration bills.  PA NOW focused on the effects of these bills on children in low-income families and on victims of domestic violence and sexual assault (including women who have been trafficked).  As a result, there are some decent amendments being proposed to these really bad bills that we will continue to oppose.

10.   I co-authored through the National NOW Foundation and the NOW Disability Rights ad-hoc Committee an article entitled “Reproductive Health Justice for Women with Disabilities” in the 2011 Center for Women’s Policy Studies Barbara Faye Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities.  I also co-authored the Pennsylvania Commission for Women’s “Status of Women in Pennsylvania” reports in 2004 and 2009 that were distributed to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Governor Rendell, and to the public. Unfortunately, since Governor Tom Corbett shut down the all four advocacy commissions (the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian American Affairs, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs) on July 1, 2011 and the Commission’s website was taken offline. As a result, none of their reports or publications are available for public access.

11.   We monitored and lobbied in Harrisburg on all forms of legislation dealing with women’s economic justice, budget and taxation, education, health care, immigration, human trafficking and ending racism, lesbian rights, reproductive justice, shackling of incarcerated women and children, violence against women, and voting rights. Summaries of some, but not all of these bills can be found in our Legislative Reports that appear in our semi-annual Pennsylvania NOW Times. Copies of these newsletters for 2010 and 2011 can be seen by clicking on each of the PNT links at this blog on the upper left side of the page.  We have done this advocacy as a single organization as well as in coalition with

a.       Pennsylvanians for Choice on issues related to reproductive justice, fighting the new PA TRAP law, and opposing restrictions on abortion access in general and in the new health care law);

b.      Value All Families, led by Equality Advocates  and the PA ACLU, to support  expanded statewide hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to both laws and to oppose multiple attempts to create discrimination in the PA Constitution by defining marriage as “the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized;”

c.       Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers to oppose legislation that would unconstitutionally give public funds to private and parochial schools though giving vouchers to parents to pay for their children’s private education;

d.      Health Care for All PA to advocate for passage of single-payer health care.

e.      Better Choices for PA to advocate, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, that lawmakers close tax loopholes and end special interest tax breaks before making deep cuts to schools and literacy programs, colleges, the environment, health care, and services for women; and

f.        Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition to oppose anti-immigrant bills that threaten the lives of anyone, especially women and children, who look like they might be undocumented.

12.   We also attended and participated in monitoring tension, acts of bias, and potential hate crimes as a member of the Pennsylvania Tension Task Force.  The Task Force is headed by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police.  In both 2003 and in 2009 we also made presentations before the Task Force on Pennsylvania NOW’s history and on gender-based hate crimes.

We also have had some setbacks.  The most recent one was last week’s passage and signing into law Pennsylvania’s new TRAP – Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers law. We will work in coalition with Pennsylvanians for Choice to stop this undue burden law from going into effect.  We are still fighting more potential attacks on marriage equality, school vouchers, immigration, voting rights and access, reproductive justice and healthcare.

We will continue educating the public about women’s rights and equality through the Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund.  We will continue our advocacy through Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.  And we will work to replace enough members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to once again have a legislature that is concerned about and works for the betterment of all people’s lives and not just that of corporations.

It’s been a great six years.  Thank you all and

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pennsylvania NOW Outraged at Passage and Signing of Pennsylvania's New Anti-Abortion TRAP Law

This afternoon, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett signed into law SB 732. This is a TRAP law; it is not a law that will protect women's lives. As described by the Center for Reproductive Rights:

"TRAP" (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws single out the medical practices of doctors who provide abortions, and impose on them requirements that are different and more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices. For example, such regulations [including the law just enacted here in Pennsylvania]… require that abortions be performed in far more sophisticated and expensive facilities than are necessary to ensure the provision of safe procedures. Compliance with these physical plant requirements [will] require extensive renovations or be physically impossible in existing facilities. TRAP laws [including this new Pennsylvania law]… allow unannounced state inspections, even when patients are present. These excessive and unnecessary government regulations – an ever-growing trend among state legislatures – increase the cost and scarcity of abortion services, harming women's health and inhibiting their reproductive choices.  

Make no mistake:  This bill is not about patient safety, it’s about politics.

The people behind these regulations want to shut down high quality reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood.  It’s part of their intent to make all abortion care illegal in this state, no exceptions.  This law will force abortion providers to have the same construction guidelines as outpatient surgery centers. These changes will force safe providers to either close their doors or pass the enormous increase in cost on to patients.

The new law is supported only by organizations opposed to legal abortion. No physicians, nurses, or others in the medical field were consulted in the drafting of the law. In fact, leading health rights groups and doctors overwhelming oppose and have vocally spoken out against this new, politically-motivated law.  These groups include the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Association of Social Workers, the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and dozens of doctors from across the state.

Pennsylvania NOW, in coordination with the Pennsylvanians For Choice Coalition, will evaluate the law and determine our next steps in opposing this law so at to help ensure that women across the state have access to locally available, safe, and legal abortion and reproductive health services despite this horrendous TRAP law.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Once Again: Call Governor Corbett and Tell Him to VETO SB 732.

The PA Senate just concurred with the House on Senate Bill 732.  The vote was 32 yeas and 18 nays.  That's not enough yea votes to override a veto by Governor Corbett. 

As stated in our previous post earlier today, this is the bill that could shut down ALL 22 stand-alone abortion clinics here in Pennsylvania. 

Senate Bill 732 will force abortion providers to have the same construction guidelines as outpatient surgery centers. These changes have nothing to do with the safety of women and will force safe providers to either close their doors or pass the enormous increase in cost on to patients. This will cause a public health crisis in Pennsylvania.

Governor Corbett is our last chance to protect women's lives from back-alley, unsafe abortions.  If he vetos this bill, then it goes back to both houses for a veto override vote.  There were enough NO votes in the PA Senate to stop this bill from becoming law. 


Please call Mr. Corbett at 717-787-2500 and give him the following message: First tell him your name and that you are a constituent. Then say (in your own words) that you:
 Appreciate his moderate approach to abortion regulation thus far, but you are very concerned with Senate Bill 732 and the impact it will have on access to safe and legal abortion in Pennsylvania. Ask him to oppose  and VETO SB 732 and any effort to shut down abortion providers in the state.

Urgent - Tell Governor Corbett to VETO SB 732

Last night, the PA House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed SB 732. This is the bill that could shut down ALL 22 stand-alone abortion clinics here in Pennsylvania. It now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.  The Senate Rules Committee has scheduled a full floor vote for this afternoon, Wednesday December 14.  This bill threatening women's lives could be on Governor Corbett's desk by tonight! 

Please call the Governor TODAY and urge him to veto SB 732, and remind him that advocates for victims of domestic violence and rape vehemently oppose the bill as being devastating and dangerous for victims who require safe, legal health services. We do not ask this of you in vain; we know that the Governor pays attention to Pennsylvania voters and that these calls – both in quantity and quality – get through to him.

If you make one call this year to an elected official, let this be the call you make.

Call Governor Tom Corbett TODAY at 717-787-2500. It may take a few tries to get through as the lines are busy.
Your Message (in your own words): I’m calling to urge Governor Corbett to stop Senate Bill 732 from becoming law. Both the domestic violence and rape crisis organizations in Pennsylvania oppose Senate Bill 732 as dangerous and unnecessary. There is not a single medical group in support. On behalf of the victims, PLEASE stop this political attack on access to safe medical care.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NOW Urges Penn State to Allow Former FBI Director to Lead a Broader, "Fully Independent" Investigation

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill and Pennsylvania NOW President Joanne Tosti-Vasey

Last week, in the wake of the recent appalling Penn State University child sexual assault allegations, the leaders of the National Organization for Women and Pennsylvania NOW called on Penn State University to expand the composition and goals of the committee tasked with investigating these allegations. We specifically called for an independent committee to investigate these allegations, to review policies and reporting methods across the board at Penn State and to include all forms of campus violence within its scope.

Yesterday, Ron Frazier, a member of the PSU Board of Trustees and Chair of the PSU Special Investigative Committee, announced that the committee has hired Louis J. Freeh, former FBI director, to lead the independent investigation. Mr. Freeh stated that he has been assured that his investigation will be "fully independent" and that it will focus on any incident that interacts with the university dealing with "these types" of incidents, including cases of adult sexual assault. Mr. Freeh also stated that he would be looking into the "governance, controls, procedures and leadership" at the university to improve the climate of safety at the university and that his team of investigators includes former FBI agents, assistant U.S. attorneys, pedophile investigators and compliance investigators.

NOW believes that this is a good start to our call for a broader, independent investigation if --and only if-- Mr. Freeh is "fully independent" as he stated.  However, questions have been raised about his independence and these questions must be completely answered. 

We call on Mr. Freeh to include in his investigation all forms of campus violence, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Unless PSU's systematic climate of indifference, particularly within Athletics, is comprehensively reviewed and changed, we believe that these types of appalling acts will continue to be hidden and will not end.  We also believe that, in addition to attorneys and law enforcement experts, the investigative team needs to include experts and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence against both children and adults. Mr. Freeh and his committee must take their experiences and suggestions seriously.  

Mr. Freeh has set up a hotline to his risk management firm at 855-290-3382 and for individuals with any knowledge about any incident or policy, or the PSU climate to contact him.

NOW activists will be closely monitoring the investigation in the hope that it will be truly independent, comprehensive in scope and aimed squarely at achieving -- at long last -- full enforcement of the school's 2006 zero-tolerance policy.

For further information, contact: Joanne Tosti-Vasey (Pennsylvania NOW) Phone: (814) 280-8571 OR Latoya Veal (National NOW)  w. 202-628-8669, ext. 116; c. 301-660-3447

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two News Reports Call for an Independent Investigation into PSU Sex Abuse Scandal

There were two articles in the news today about the lack of independence and transparency in the Penn State University Board of Trustees investigation into the allegations of child sexual assault. 

The first call for independence is in The Nation. It includes my full statement in response to Dave Zirin’s article of November 15, 2011 entitled “The World Joe Paterno Made."  In that article, Dave Zirin quoted something I said in 2006.  Here's what he wrote:

The signs of this malignancy did not emerge overnight. Looking backward, there are moments that speak of the scandals to come. In 2003, less than one year after Paterno was told that Sandusky was raping children, he allowed a player accused of rape to suit up and play in a bowl game. Widespread criticism of this move was ignored. In 2006, Penn State’s Orange Bowl opponent Florida State, sent home linebacker A.J. Nicholson, after accusations of sexual assault. Paterno’s response, in light of recent events, is jaw-dropping. He said, “There’s so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do? Geez. I hope—thank God they don’t knock on my door because I’d refer them to a couple of other rooms.” Joanne Tosti-Vasey, president of Pennsylvania’s National Organization for Women in Pennsylvania, was not amused. With chilling unintentional prescience, Tosti-Vasey responded, “Allegations of sexual assault should never be taken lightly. Making light of sexual assault sends the message that rape is something to be expected and accepted.”
Mr. Zirin and I corresponded last night after this article was posted.  This morning, he posted my full statement regarding NOW's current call for an expanded, independent review as part of his blog.

The second call for independence is made by the editors of the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News.  They don’t ask for an expanded review, but do call for independence.  And one of the people they mention as a better leader for the committee (rather than a PSU Board of Trustee member) is Barbara Hafer, former Commonwealth of PA Treasurer and Auditor General as well as a former, long-time NOW member. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Make the PSU Investigative Committee Independent; Broaden Scope to Include ALL Forms of Campus Violence

Pennsylvania NOW leaders and our membership, like the PSU Board of Trustees and the rest of the country, are “outraged by the horrifying details contained in the Grand Jury Report.” We too have felt betrayed by these acts.  However considering the long history of the Athletics Department, role models within Athletics, and the PSU Administration in minimizing reports of campus-related violence on adult women, we are not completely surprised that an alleged cover-up of child sexual assault has also occurred.

Since 1994, both the local NOW chapter in Centre County, PA and the state chapter of NOW have pressured the University to review to all forms of campus violence against women and to more specifically look at the ways to break down the wall of immunity that has historically and currently appears to exist between the Athletic Department and the rest of the University. 

These earlier incidences involved Joe Paterno making insensitive remarks about domestic violence and sexual assault that were shrugged off as jokes by individuals, the Athletic Department, and the PSU administration; allowing a football player to play in a bowl game AFTER he was suspended for two semesters for an alleged rape; and the PSU administration weighing in on a rape case to have the sentence of a former Penn State wrestler placed at a minimal 6-month stay in the county jail. 

Over these past 17 years—due partially to our initial involvement and concern about this wall of indifference—there have been some, but not enough, efforts to address this issue campus-wide. But other than ordering that no suspended player can play sports at Penn State, nothing as far as we can see has been done to break down this wall between Athletics and the rest of the University for acts of violence against another person.

Earlier this week the Penn State Board of Trustees announced that they would be appointing an “independent” committee that includes “counsel and investigative teams” to investigate these allegations of child sexual assault.  Yesterday, when the Board announced the members of this committee, they stated, “The complete committee membership will be determined and announced in the near future and is expected to be composed of a majority of Board of Trustee members with representatives from each of the board's constituencies as well as representatives of the Penn State community including faculty, students and alumni.” 

This statement, in our opinion, shows that there is little if no independence in this review. All of the investigative committee members that are to be appointed are Trustee members, current members of the University community, or alumni.  There are no experts on sexual assault or domestic violence, or stalking.  There are no survivors. And there are no members of the larger community – whether that be local here in Centre County or more broadly across the communities in Pennsylvania where the other Penn State University Campuses are located.

On Monday after the news broke of the alleged child sexual assaults, Pennsylvania NOW contacted the University President and the Board of Trustees. Since the child sexual assault issue appears to be part of a broader problem of indifference to sexual assault, relationship violence, sexual harassment, and stalking, we have asked them to broaden their review to all forms of campus violence and to more specifically look at the ways to break down the wall of immunity that has historically and currently appears to exist between the Athletic Department and the rest of the University. 
After finding out that the committee is unlikely to truly be independent, we contacted Trustee members Kenneth Frazier, JD, President of Merck and Company and Ron Tomalis, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education. They have been appointed as Chair and Vice-Chair of the newly appointed investigative review committee; we have asked them to:
  • Appoint people to this committee that will make it a truly independent investigative review board. An effective independent investigative committee must, at minimum, include experts in the field of sexual assault and domestic violence, survivors of abuse, and others not associated with Penn State.
  • Broaden the review to include all forms of campus violence – sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, and stalking – of both children and adults;
  • Broaden the review to 1) include ways to break down the wall of immunity between the Athletic Department and the rest of the University, and 2) review policies, programs, and reporting mechanisms across the University and within the Athletic Department on all forms of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Press Release: PSU Must Immediately Address the Full Range of Sexual Assault Issues on Campus and in the Athletics Department

Earlier today, Pennsylvania NOW sent a letter of concern to Penn State University President Graham Spanier and Chair of the Board of Trustees Steve Garban. 

We are greatly concerned and appalled about the allegations of child sexual abuse against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the apparent lack of appropriate follow-through to notify law enforcement in a timely manner as required by law, and the alleged perjury to the Grand Jury resulting from this lack of follow-through indicating a possible cover-up of what occurred. We are calling on Spanier and the Board of Trustees as the corporate stewards of PSU to take immediate and far-reaching actions to ensure that Penn State students, staff and the families in the surrounding community never have to see this kind of behavior and resulting exposé ever again. 

We are pleased that the Penn State Board of Trustees met last night and took appropriate action by accepting both Tim Curley’s and Gary Schultz’s request to step down from their current positions at the University. But we are concerned about Dr. Spanier’s statement of November 5 giving unconditional support for both of these men.

Our youth deserve better custodians of their lives while at the University.  Everyone attending, working at, or participating in programs and activities at Penn State also deserve an environment free of violence.  Therefore we are asking the Administration and the Board of Trustees to follow through on the Board’s plan to conduct an independent review of the University’s policies and procedures related to the protection of children; review with administrators police reporting protocols; publicize the findings of the independent review; review with administrators police reporting protocols; and enhance educational programming around such topics. As part of this process and to further advance the zero tolerance policy made in 2006, we have requested that the Board:

1. Broaden the review to include all policies surrounding sexual assault, domestic and dating violence,  and stalking of both children and adults;

2. Broaden the review to include ways to break down this wall of immunity between the Athletic Department and the rest of the University, and to review policies and programs across the University and within the Athletic Department on all forms of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking.

3. Consider, as part of enhanced educational programming, bringing in outside training from people within the sports field who are respected by Athletics who may be more accepted by athletic staff and coaches (we initially suggested this in 2006, but as far as we know, this has never happened);

4. Create a protocol or policy that ensures that individuals are not retaliated against when they report allegations of abuse to authorities as required by law or university policy.  As the New York Times reported, The chronology of events laid out by the state attorney general’s office includes multiple episodes that seem to suggest a failure by a variety of Penn State officials or employees to act emphatically, whether out of fear, incompetence or, perhaps, self-interest.  As with sexual harassment, fear often results in stifling someone from speaking out; and

5. Fully enforce the 2006 zero tolerance policy, up to and including, separation and/or permanent resignation of individuals from the University who participate in, condone, or cover up this form of behavior through either their action or inaction. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ties That Bind: Our Health, Our Families, Our Future

Members of First Pittsburgh NOW (National Organization for Women), South Hills NOW and East End NOW joined with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network in Wilkinsburg last week to send a message to Sen. Pat Toomey to "Keep Pennsylvania Covered."   This YouTube video shows the quilt squares they made and tells why each person wants Senator Tommey to keep the "Super Committee's" hands off of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As PHAN says on their website about the quilt,

"...a new Congressional 'Super Committee' is charged with reducing the nation's deficit by $1.5 trillion. While some on the committee favor a balanced, responsible approach that includes both revenue increases and spending reductions, others, like our own Senator Pat Toomey, are looking at a cuts-only, 'slash and burn' approach that could jeopardized the health and well being of thousands of senior, kids and people with disabilities here in PA who rely on Medicare and Medicaid [as well as Social Security] to maintain their health and dignity...

The Super Committee must vote on its plan by Nov. 23rd, before sending it on to Congress for a vote in late December."
That's why we need to act now, before the Super Committee votes. You too can tell Senator Toomey at his website to leave our health care and Social Security alone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Loving Your Body Throughout Life

Today, October 19, 2011, the National Organization for Women Foundation, NOW members, college and high school students, and many other men and women around the country celebrate the 14th annual Love Your Body Day. The National NOW Foundation created Love Your Body Day 14 years ago to have women of all sizes, colors, ages, and abilities to come together to celebrate and promote a positive body image.  Whether you are a size 2, 12, 22, a S, M, L, or XXL; whether you are white or a person of color; whether you are 4 or 44 or 84 years old; and whether you walk or roll, be proud of who you are and be healthy.

My mother, Martha B. Tosti, died three weeks ago.  Over her 84 year life span she had many looks – all different and all beautiful.  When she was young, she was thin and wore her hair in curls.  As a young mother, she decided that “fussing” with her hair was too much of a hassle and for over 50 years wore her hair in a short “pixie" style haircut.  At times she weighed as little as 100 pounds (or less) and at others she weighed over 200 pounds.  She also developed/acquired, like many women, several different disabilities as she aged. 
Her body changed throughout these 84 years, yet she remained a woman who could be and was celebrated for who she was.  Celebrated as a person rather than a body type that, through the use society’s unrealistic ideals of women’s bodies, might have been hailed at times and excoriated at others.  She stood up for her kids.  She made sure there was food on the table and nice clothes on everyone’s back.  When money was tight, she figured out how to stretch the dimes to make ends meet.  She intervened for her kids.  And when things were not going in a way she thought they should be, she would – often in quite colorful language – let you know what she thought.  She was a feisty woman who had her faults and her strengths.  Her body took her through all of this until the very end.  And we loved her regardless of her size, shape, clothing, or haircut.
That’s partially what Love Your Body Day is all about.  Body image is all about believing in yourself regardless of what you look like.  Because each and every woman is – as the 2011 Love Your Body poster says – “a masterpiece.” My mother enjoyed looking “good” but looking “good” was not so much a societal definition as a self-definition.  As it should be for everyone.    

PS. The Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund will have an exhibit table at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at the Philadelphia Convention Center.  We will be located at booth number 242 in the Exhibit Hall.  If you are coming to this conference, please drop by.  We will have copies of the current and many of the past Love Your Body Day Campaign posters at the table.

- Joanne Tosti-Vasey, President, Pennsylvania NOW Education Fund

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Action Alert: TRAP Bill Vote Expected TODAY!

The PA House is expected to vote on SB 732 TODAY! This is Pennsylvania's Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (TRAP) bill that will likely shut down many of the 22 stand-alone abortion / reproductive health clinics in Pennsylvania.
We've Had Enough!
Please call your representative this morning and tell him/her to vote NO on SB 732. You can locate your legislator’s contact info at
SB 732 passed out of the House Health Committee in the early summer after being amended to look exactly like HB 574 which had earlier passed the House. All of the Senate language from the original bill was stripped out, and the content of HB 574 was substituted. Therefore, SB 732 now applies to all surgical abortion procedures, even very early ones. It is not limited to abortions after nine weeks. SB 732/HB 574 would regulate Pennsylvania’s freestanding abortion providers as ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF), subject to both the ambulatory surgical facility regulations and the ambulatory gynecological surgery in hospitals and clinics regulations. Instead of preventing another atrocity like the Gosnell “house of horrors,”this bill will hurt women.
Senate Bill 732 (SB 732)
SB 732 would force free-standing abortion providers to be regulated as Ambulatory Surgical Facilities (ASF) which require burdensome and unnecessary structural and staffing changes.
SB 732 could cause a public health crisis by making abortion care in Pennsylvania inaccessible.
· ASF regulations could cause the cost of an abortion to rise significantly and could force providers to close their doors.
· Women need safe, reputable providers to trust when seeking an abortion.
More information about HB 574 and SB 732:
· These bills will increase the financial hurdles to abortion care for patients. Women will not be able to afford safe abortion care and may seek out a substandard illegal provider or be forced to delay their abortions while they try to raise money to pay for higher-cost procedures. The increased costs of complying with these bills will be passed along to patients. Many patients struggle to pay $350 for an early abortion procedure. With increased regulation and increased fees, the cost may double and therefore become inaccessible to many women.
· Poor women and rural women will have even less access to safe abortion care. Only 22% of PA counties have an abortion provider. The enactment of either bill would force some of these providers to close. Women who need abortions will then leave the state where Pennsylvania can no longer regulate their safety.
· Abortion providers are already well-regulated. Current law provides for required equipment and medical supplies, hospital transfer agreements for emergency services, equipment required for anesthesia, clinical staff licensing requirements, mandatory counseling and informed consent requirements, laboratory and pathology requirements, required blood tests specific to abortion care, extensive reporting requirements for each abortion, parental consent requirements, abortion facility requirements, and complications reporting. Women don’t need more regulations. They need accessible care and better enforcement of existing regulations.
More detail and talking points can be found in the pdf file from Pennsylvanians for Choice (PFC)which is located at our We've Had Enough website. PFC, fyi, is the statewide reproductive rights coalition working to ensure full reproductive justice and rights for women here in Pennsylvania.
Thanks for making the call. Again here’s the link to find your legislator’s contact info - Make that call today and tell your Representative to vote NO on SB 732.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


A Workshop Sponsored by Pennsylvania NOW

·       Learn cutting-edge messages that work in hateful times

·       Connect with like-minded progressives

·       Help develop our fight-back strategy around budget cuts

Saturday October 22nd

1 PM - 3 PM

First Floor Community Room
211 S. Allen St.
State College, PA 16801

(parking available in library lot)

Special presentation by the Pennsylvania Budget and
Policy Center on what’s ahead for 2012 in Harrisburg.

Please RSVP by Oct. 12th to Michele Hamilton: or (814) 235-5095

Debate in Harrisburg on School Vouchers - October 26, 2011

School Voucher Forum Harrisburg 10-26-11