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.