Friday, May 20, 2011

Action Alert: Two Anti-Choice Bills Up for Vote on Monday May 23 in PA Senate

We have just been advised that the Pennsylvania Senate is scheduled to vote on two abortion-related measures on MONDAY AFTERNOON, MAY 23rd.
The first bill is SB 3 which would ban abortion coverage in any health care plan in the new health care exchanges created with the new Federal health care law. The second bill is SB 732. It would license abortion providers, create a consumer complaint system, and provide for unannounced Department of Health inspections prior to licensing and in response to any reported serious events.
Please contact your state Senator and tell him/her to vote NO on both SB 3 and SB 732. The message for each bill is slightly different. You can find your Senator's contact information at See below for details.
Messages to Give to Your Senator on SB 3
SB 3: This bill would ban abortion coverage in the insurance exchange to be set up by 2014 as part of health care reform, even if the insured pays for a separate policy with her own money. You can review our previous blogs on this bill here, here, and here. There are two sets of messages to tell your Senator:

SUPPORT the following amendments to Senate Bill 3

  1. Complying with Federal Health Care Law Amendment:
Insurance coverage for abortion may be purchased through the health insurance exchange using private funds pursuant to the funding and segregation rules set forth in Section 1303 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  1. Insurance Choice Amendment:
An insurance plan shall neither be required to provide nor prohibited from providing insurance coverage for abortion services.

  1. Health Exception Amendment:
In cases in which the woman became pregnant through an act of rape or incest, or where, in the good faith judgment of the physician, an abortion is medically necessary for reasons other than rape or incest.
Message 2:
VOTE NO on SB 3; Women need insurance coverage of abortions. Senate Bill 3 would:
  • Prohibit any insurance company that contracts with the health care exchange from providing coverage for abortion services
  • Prohibit this coverage except in cases of death or rape or incest that has been personally reported
  • Prohibit a woman from using her own private money to purchase abortion coverage, though this separation is mandated by the Nelson amendment to the federal health care reform law – the Affordable Care Act.
Messages to Give to Your Senator on SB 732

SB 732: This bill would license abortion providers, create a consumer complaint system, and provide for unannounced Department of Health inspections prior to licensing and in response to any reported serious events. We have major concerns about the harassment potential SB 732 presents. It may be made even worse if Senator Mensch gets his way and  amends the bill to require abortion providers upgrade to ambulatory surgical facility standards; this amendment, just like HB 574, if passed, will likely cause most of our 20 free-standing clinics to close, curtail the services they provide, and/or increase the cost of a procedure beyond many women's reach.

VOTE NO on Mensch Amendment TO SB 732.
VOTE No on SB 732 due to its potential to harass clinics and invade women's right to privacy.

And finally, here is the overall message for both SB 3 and SB 732

Pennsylvania law should support the provision of safe, legal abortion and not stigmatize the procedure and push it into the hands of illegal, dangerous practitioners who threaten and endanger women’s lives and health. The situation in the Gosnell clinic happened because the PA Department of Health was not enforcing existing regulations. If we want to avoid more “clinics of horror” like the one in Philadelphia, then we need to urge our senators not to support these unreasonable proposals that will in turn hurt women rather than help them.

Allow women to continue their full reproductive health care coverage (NO on SB 3) and oppose onerous additional regulations that could send women to unsafe and unregulated or out-of-state providers (NO on SB 732).

Congratulations to PA NOW PAC Endorsed Candidates

Congratulations to the PA NOW PAC endorsed candidates for elected office who won their primary races on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.  We encourage the individuals who did not make it to the general election to consider running again in the future.  Thanks for running and speaking out for equality.

Here's the list of the PA NOW PAC endorsed candidates who will appear on the November General Election ballot.  Additional endorsements will likely occur in other races over the summer.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
Kathryn Boockvar (D)

Allegheny County
County Executive
Rich Fitzgerald (D)
Wilkinsburg Borough Council, 1st Ward
Paige Trice (D)

Bucks County 
Commissioners (vote for two)
Det Ansinn (D)
Diane Marseglia (D)

Dauphin County
Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court
Rogette Harris (D)

Lancaster County
Manheim Township Commissioner
Doreen Kreiner (D)

Montgomery County
Clerk of Courts
Ann Thornburg Weiss (D)
Diane B. Morgan (D)
Recorder of Deeds
Linda M. Hee (D)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It's Raining NOW! Spend the Surplus. Fund Needed State Programs.

Pennsylvania NOW and the Better Choices for PA will hold a rally at 12 p.m. on Thursday, May 12 to call on lawmakers to 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.  The message: Don't put the surplus aside in the "Rainy Day Fund."  It's ALREADY raining

Centre County residents could be significantly impacted by deep state budget cuts to education, the environment, health services and such county services as emergency shelters, child-abuse prevention, and meals on wheels.

Media coverage is welcome!

Jasmine Rakestraw, Co-President, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW (Emcee)
Michele Hamilton, Co-President, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW
Dr. Mary DuPuis, Mid-State Literacy Council
Gary Thornbloom, Group Leader, Sierra Club, Moshannon Group
Brian Griffith, Superintendent, Penns Valley School District
Kelly Hastings, Superintendent, Keystone Central School District
Representative of Pennsylvania State Education Association

State College Borough Building, Room 222
243 South Allen Street
State College, PA

The rally is being sponsored by Better Choices for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania NOW

Friday, May 6, 2011

PA House State Government Committee Voting to Deny Voting Rights to People without Photo IDs

The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee Chairman Darryl Metcalfe is expected to hear and vote on HB 934 on Monday morning, May 9, 2011 at 10:00 am. This bill is a dangerous piece of legislation advancing in the state House that will lead to voter suppression if enacted, so it is critical that you take action TODAY!

If enacted, this bill would require every Pennsylvania voter to provide a valid state- or federally-issued photo ID every time he or she goes to the polls:
  1. It will create major problems for citizens who are not drivers and who therefore do not have drivers' licenses - domestic violence victims and survivors, senior citizens, urban-dwellers who use public transit, people of color, young people, people with disabilities, etc.
  2. The PA County Commissioners' Association has testified that they've seen no evidence of a problem of voter impersonation at the polls.
  3. Additionally, based on similar laws implemented in other states, HB 934 will cost PA taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
Your voice needs to be heard NOW!  Please contact the members of the State House Government Committee and tell them to vote NO on this unnecessary, discriminatory, and expensive bill. 

Here are the members of the State House Government Committee and their email addresses:
We are encouraging concerned citizens to email these members of the House State Government Committee to ask all members of the Committee to vote NO.  If you are a constituent of one of these members, please include that information in your letter.

FYI, here is the letter that Pennsylvania NOW sent to the entire State House Government Committee this afternoon upon hearing of the impending vote.  You can create your own email and may use the information in our letter to craft your own.

Letter to Members of the PA State House Government Committee, May 6, 2011

On behalf of the approximately 14,000 dues paying members and contributors to the National Organization for Women in Pennsylvania, I am writing to you today to strongly urge you to vote NO on HB 934 that would mandate individuals bring valid state- or federally-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot.  If passed, this law would disenfranchise thousands of people otherwise legally eligible to vote from making their democratic choice for their representatives and their opinions known on any ballot initiative. Individuals who would be disenfranchised would include, but would not be limited to:

1.    Domestic violence victims who have fled their homes without any form of identification
2.    People with disabilities who are unable to obtain a photo identification either because they are home bound (but could otherwise do an absentee ballot) or because they do not have the money or means to travel to a state location to obtain a photo identification
3.    People of color who for whatever reason do not have photo identification.  Many live in urban areas, do not own cars, and work near home without a need for transportation.  Thus they would not otherwise need this form of identification.
4.    Senior citizens and individuals living in urban or suburban areas who do not have access to public transportation.  This lack of access could be because they are home bound or because they don’t have the money or means to travel to a state-based photo-processing center  to obtain a photo identification.
5.    People who live in rural areas without any means of transportation-public or private-to obtain a state or federally-issued photo id.
6.    People who at or near the time of election have experienced a disaster (such as a home fire where all personal items have perished or a community disaster such as occurred with Hurricane Katrina or the tornadoes throughout the South last week). These individuals may no longer have any identification and no time available to obtain the photo id in order to vote.

We understand that HBHB 934. Given the current economy, we do not believe lawmakers should be creating a new multi-million dollar program to fix a “problem” that doesn't exist. The County Commissioners' Association has testified that there is no evidence of any problem with fraudulent voting and that they oppose this type of legislation as counties will be stuck with additional administrative expenses.

Please vote no on this unnecessary, discriminatory, and expensive bill in committee.
Please let me know how you intend to vote.

Thank you.

Joanne L. Tosti-Vasey, Ph.D
Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.
P.O. Box 68
Bellefonte, PA 16823-0068
Phone: (814) 280-8571
Fax: (814) 355-3057

Thursday, May 5, 2011

HOUSE BILL 574: The WRONG Response for Abortion Services Care

We have been told that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will likely start debate and possibly vote on the passage of House Bill 574 on Monday, May 9, 2011. This bill, if passed would regulate Pennsylvania’s freestanding abortion providers as ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF) in addition to regulating these clinics under Pennsylvania’s current Abortion Control Act.
As we stated in the blog on this bill a month ago, this is the wrong response to what allegedly happened at Gosnell’s clinic in Philadelphia. Instead of preventing another Gosnell “house of horrors,” this bill will hurt women.
·         It will not improve patient safety;
·         It will force safe providers to close;
·         It will increase the cost of an abortion by as much as $1,000;
·         It will force women to seek care in other states or from marginal or illegal practitioners;
·         It will create two overlapping sets of regulations that are in conflict with each other and in violation of the Abortion Control Act; and
·         It will have the harshest impact on the poor and rural women of Pennsylvania.
It’s now time for you to call, write, and/or email your Pennsylvania State Representative.  Contact information for your legislator can be found here.  Tell your legislator that this bill is wrong, will put more women in danger, and will likely shut down the safe providers.
And here are the talking points from Pennsylvanians for Choice you can use when you make this contact. FYI, Pennsylvanians for Choice is a coalition of organizations supporting full reproductive rights for women in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania NOW is part of this coalition.

The purpose of abortion regulation should be to make women safe, not to close safe providers. House Bill 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. Abortion is the only medical procedure with its own set of burdensome state regulations. Instead of improving patient care, HB574 will make it difficult or impossible for good safe providers to continue to provide care – opening the door for a disastrous public health crisis.
Women need accessible care and better enforcement of existing regulations, not additional, unnecessary regulations. HB 574 will force providers to alter their facilities and staffing in ways that will make their delivery of services expensive or impossible. Women in Pennsylvania need better access to affordable, high quality health care, not politically-motivated barriers.
If HB 574 is enacted,
Ø  Abortion providers would be required to increase the size of their procedure rooms by 3 or 4 times their current size. 
Ø  Providers would be required to employ a full-time registered nurse (RN) even when abortion procedures are not being performed.  Under current law, an RN or licensed practical nurse (LPN) must be on duty when abortions are performed.  HB 574 requires the presence of an RN anytime patients are present, requiring clinics to employ an additional staff position full-time on days when the clinic provides routine gynecological exams and family planning services. 
These are just two of multiple ways that HB 574 would create difficulties in delivery of services to patients.  The costs of HB 574 for a single health center would be hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no proven benefit to patients.
HB 574 will lead to more financial hurdles to abortion care for patients.  The increased costs of complying with HB 574 will likely result in higher fees for abortion services.  Some women who are not able to afford safe abortion care seek out substandard providers or are forced to delay their abortions, thereby increasing medical risk.  This legislation may double current medical fees and therefore make safe abortion care inaccessible to many women.
Rural and low-income women will have even less access to safe abortion care.  Only 22% of PA counties have an abortion provider. The enactment of HB 574 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 facilities in Pennsylvania are currently subject to extensive regulations.   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.  Safe, high-quality abortion care currently exists in Pennsylvania at freestanding facilities that abide by all current regulations. These facilities were praised in the Gosnell grand jury report for their excellent medical care and safety protocols and stated to be “more stringent and more protective of women's safety than the abortion regulations in Pennsylvania." Regulations that genuinely protect the health and safety of patients are critical, however politically motivated barriers to service put more women at risk.
Please take action Today!  Call, write, fax, and email your legislator. Tell your Representative that this bill is wrong, that it will put more women's lives in danger, and that it will likely shut down the safe providers. Thank you!