What do Pennsylvania women and families need? Talk about it Thursday

The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health is hosting a community conversation in Millvale.

The 2017 Pittsburgh Women's March is pictured.

The 2017 Pittsburgh Women's March is pictured.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

Women’s health isn’t just about caring for the body.

It encompasses family well-being, childcare, equal pay, discrimination and more.

Women are invited to discuss those issues and more Thursday at a community conversation in Millvale hosted by the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health. The thrust of the event is two-fold, according to Joanna Bouldin, special projects coordinator for the Women’s Law Project. Policy, legal and medical experts will “provide some framing information and context” about women’s issues nationally, on the state level and locally. At the same time, organizers want to “create a space for women and families to talk about what they need,” she said.

Courtesy Pennsylvania Campaign for Women's Health

The event is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a coalition of more than 55 groups including the Women’s Law Project that are “working to support legislation to address issues that affect women and families,” Bouldin said.

Those issues include equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, nursing workers and overall “creating equity in Pa.,” Bouldin said, adding that the state “gets a terrible grade” on those subjects. “There’s a clear need that women’s voices need to be part of the solution.”

Bouldin was talking about the Cs and Ds Pennsylvania earned from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on employment and earning, reproductive rights and work and family.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 2.03.15 PM
Via The Institute for Women’s Policy Research
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Via The Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 2.03.04 PM
Via The Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health seeks to correct these deficiencies through an agenda with legislative priorities including:

  • House Bill 1583, which would provide accommodations for pregnant workers. Local co-sponsors include Dom Costa, Dan Frankel and Jake Wheatley.
  • Amending the Equal Pay Act, which has not been updated since the 1960s. HB 1243 is co-sponsored by Dom Costa, Dan Deasy, Tony DeLuca, Dan Frankel, Dan Miller, Harry Readshaw and Jake Wheatley.
  • A yet-to-be-introduced bill to provide workplace accommodations for nursing mothers. Local co-sponsors of last session’s version of the bill, HB 1100, included Dom Costa, Dan Deasy, Dan Frankel, William Kortz, Joseph F. Markosek, Dan Miller, Adam Ravenstahl and Harry Readshaw.

It’s up to the members of the Pa. House and Senate Women’s Health caucuses to introduce bills that align with the campaign’s agenda. Pittsburgh’s Frankel, co-chair of the House caucus, said a number of bills are being circulated at this time, but the group is holding off on most of the reintroductions until the budget is completed.

Frankel plans to reintroduce his Patient Trust Act, which would prevent state legislators or Pa.’s governor from requiring medical professionals to dispense information that isn’t “medically accurate or appropriate for the patient.” The bill runs counter to “a trend across the country and in Pennsylvania that has had legislators insert themselves in the middle of a conversation between a health care provider and a patient,” the representative said.

Frankel points to a Florida law (struck down by a federal court this year) that forbid physicians from asking about firearms in a patient’s home. There are also laws across the country that require medical professionals to consult people seeking abortions using a mandated script that has “no basis in medical facts,” he said.

“We want to make sure that these efforts aren’t replicated,” he said.

Legislative efforts will be just one part of the conversation Thursday, according to Bouldin. It’s also an opportunity to learn what women in communities like Etna, Millvale and Sharpsburg need and to “amplify their voices” so elected officials can respond.

“A fundamental thing to remember,” Bouldin said, is that when “women succeed so do families and whole communities.”