President Obama's decision to require private health insurance to cover contraception at no cost has prompted a predictable firestorm of criticism from the religious right. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a leading anti-abortion Democrat, has joined the fray ― against birth control.
“I have strongly supported efforts to provide greater access to contraception,” according to a statement from Sen. Casey. “I believe, just as strongly, that religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities should not be compelled by our Federal government to purchase insurance policies that violate their religious and moral convictions.”
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation that will require abortion clinics to spend millions of dollars on renovations that are not medically necessary or shut down, and the Senate is expected to follow suit today before breaking for the holidays. The transparent bid to drive abortion clinics out of business would require them to meet the standards of “ambulatory surgical facilities” that perform far more complicated and risky operations.
No medical association supports the legislation and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes it. This bill is unambiguously about the political movement to criminalize abortion.
Last week, City Paper published a story about Harriett Spencer, an African-American woman and a Philadelphia Prisons System employee who claims that she has been a victim of gender discrimination under Commissioner Louis Giorla.
Now, CP has found, another African-American woman in the Prisons System alleges that she, too, has been a victim of gender discrimination under Giorla.
Her name is Joyce Brown Adams, and her claims are remarkably similar to Spencer's. In 2009, the Prisons System was on the hunt for a new deputy commissioner, the second-highest ranking official in that department, and Adams thought she was the woman for the job: She has a bachelor's and a master's degree, she says, and had nearly 30 years of experience in the city's prisons, moving from social worker to employment counselor to her current job as warden.
But Adams, who spoke through her lawyer Nancy Ezold, didn't get the job. Instead, a man named Clyde Gainey did — who, according to Adams, does not have a degree. (A Prisons System spokeswoman and Gainey declined to confirm or deny this.) Adams sees this as the city flouting its own rules: According to the Prisons System's documents, the "minimum acceptable training and experience" for a deputy commissioner is a graduate degree in a relevant field, or a bachelor's degree accompanied by workplace experience.
Adams says the city also didn't formally announce the opening of the deputy commissioner position, even though she expressed interest to Giorla.
So in 2009, Adams filed a charge with both the Pa. Human Relations Commission and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (By state law, you must do this before filing suit.) Adams and the Prisons System are still in negotiations, but Ezold says it is possible she will file a lawsuit soon.
Prison spokeswoman Shawn Hawes declined to comment for this article.
Spencer, the Prisons exmployee who City Paper wrote about last week, filed suit against the city in February for gender discrimination — and she also alleges that she was never able to apply for the deputy commissioner position. And she claims that Gainey doesn't have a degree — whereas she has a bachelor's, master's and law degree, as well as more than 30 years of experience in the Prisons System.
"It's amazing to me that these highly qualified women that are also highly experienced are not getting the position, and are not even getting considered," says Ezold. "It makes no sense."
Ezold also notes that, until a few weeks ago, Adams was a warden at the Philadelphia Detention Center — but then, "without asking her opinion," was reassigned to Riverside Correctional Facility, an all-women's jail. Though this was not a demotion and wasn't accompanied by a pay cut, Ezold argues that it could be construed as retribution for her charge.
In a press release last month, the Prisons System announced that two other women were being promoted to the position of warden, and that Adams, "who has led the Detention Center for the past two years, will take over at the women's jail." In the release, Girola says, "We were fortunate to promote these experienced and talented women to warden."
At today's hearing on the renewal of SugarHouse's license, Kenneth Trujillo, a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board member, called the casino's relative lack of diversity among its employees and suppliers "very disappointing."
Only 7.8 percent of SugarHouse's budget spent on suppliers went to minority- or women-owned businesses in the first quarter of 2011. Out of SugarHouse's 1,008 jobs, 36 percent are held by women and 33 percent by minorities. Trujillo wonered how this could be in a city that is mostly comprised of minorities, not whites, and which also has more women than men.
The minority and women representation "seems like it's off," Trujillo said.
When Trujillo asked Planning Commission chairman Alan Greenberger if the city was doing anything to make SugarHouse more diverse, he said, "We're aware of these lower numbers" and suggested that they could improve in the future.
Joe Martin, SugarHouse's director of procurement and supplier diversity, said SugarHouse has reached out to groups like the African American Chamber of Commerce and Women's Business Enterprise National Council, and will continue to do so. He added that improving diversity is "pretty much a passion of mine."
SugarHouse spokeswoman Leigh Whitaker said, "Our statistics are much more favorable than any company I've worked for." She added that of SugarHouse's eight vice presidents, six were women and one was a minority.
Trujillo also asked for data on the percentage of minority- and women-owned businesses that provide professional services to SugarHouse, like consulting or legal services, as well the percentage of the casino's upper-level positions that are filled by women and minorities. Whitaker said she would provide that data to the Gaming Control Board at a later time.
A highly controversial state bill that would regulate abortion clinics just got one step closer to becoming law.
Today, state Sen. Pat Vance's bill — which was written in the wake of West Philly abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell — passed, 38-12. Originally, pro-choice advocates generally supported Vance's bill, which would create a licensing system and allow people to make anonymous complaints about abortion providers.
But that changed last week, when the state Senate amended the bill, making it look much more like a controversial House bill penned by state Rep. Matt Baker. Both bills would require that most of the state's abortion clinics be regulated like outpatient surgery centers. Pro-choice advocates say that this would lead to unnecessary regulations and costs, which could force all state clinics to close down, and in turn force more women to go to illegal providers like Gosnell.
Essentially, they say, it's an anti-abortion bill in disguise.
But supporters of the bills argue that they are simply following the recommendations of the District Attorney's grand jurys report on Gosnell. (However, D.A. Seth Williams wrote in a letter to Baker that his bill "goes beyond the scope of the grand jury report.")
Sen. Bob Mensch, who penned the amendment to Vance's bill, says it is "necessary to cure the systemic deficiencies present in the current regulatory scheme," which led to Gosnell's clinic not being inspected for 17 years.
The ACLU's Andy Hoover argued, conversely, “The Arkansas legislature failed to pass a similar bill this session. Gosnell didn’t have a clinic in Arkansas. Why were they even considering a bill like this? The fact is that this initiative is right out of the playbook of those who believe that the government should make healthcare decisions for women.”
Vance's bill now must be approved by the state House. Likewise, Baker's bill, which passed in May, also must be approved by the state Senate. Though both bills would require that most abortion clinics be regulated like outpatient surgery centers, there are a few differences between them — leading some to speculate that neither will pass before summer recess.
Meanwhile, people who are closely watching the bills have this to look forward to: Yesterday, the state Senate voted to have an independent committee complete a study on how much the outpatient regulations would cost abortion clinics. The Women's Law Project estimates that it could cost each clinic up to $1 million, and raise the price of each abortion by as much as $1,000.
The study must be finished 90 days after the bill becomes law.
Yesterday, the state Senate passed an amendment to an abortion bill that women's advocates and pro-choice activists say would lead to nothing less than a public health "catastrophe" if it became law. But supporters of the amendment say that it would protect women seeking abortions.
It would require that most abortion clinics be regulated as outpatient surgery centers. The author of the amendment, Sen. Bob Mensch (R), says that this is "necessary to cure the systemic deficiencies present in the current regulatory scheme."
But pro-choice advocates say that this amendment is an anti-abortion Trojan horse, which could close every abortion clinic in the state because of its supposedly unnecessary — and unnecessarily costly — regulations. They would require, among other things, that operating rooms be at least 400 square feet, and that a nurse always be on duty, even when abortions aren't taking place.
Mensch's amendment is to a bill authored by state Sen. Pat Vance, which would regulate abortion clinics. But why is abortion legislation being introduced in the first place?
The story of this amendment — and the intense controversy that surrounds it, which City Paper has covered extensively — begins with the West Philly abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
In early 2011, the District Attorney charged him with the murder of seven babies and one woman, and news spread quickly about his allegedly squalid clinic. Almost immediately, state legislators scrambled to make legislation that would prevent another Gosnell. After all, the D.A.'s grand jury report laid much blame on the state's health department, because it hadn't inspected Gosnell's clinic for 17 years — or any other Pennsylvania clinic for that matter, apparently due to "political reasons."
Two bills advanced: one penned by state Rep. Matt Baker and the aforementioned one by Vance. Baker's bill, which has passed in the House, would require that most abortion clinics be regulated like outpatient surgical centers, just like Mensch's amendment.
Baker, an anti-abortion Republican, insists that the bill is not a Trojan horse, telling CP earlier this year, "Many strict pro-life people believe we should shut all the clinics down. That's not what this bill does."
Pro-choice advocates called Vance's bill, which would create a new licensing system and allow for anonymous complaints about abortion clinics, "way better" than Baker's — until Mensch's amendment passed yesterday, that is. They argue that the amendment's "unnecessary" regulations would drive up the cost of abortions and possibly close down all state clinics, thus pushing more women to go to illegal providers like Gosnell.
“If you wanted to invent the perfect plan for driving more women to seek out cheap, illegal, unsafe practitioners, the Mensch amendment would be that plan,” said Sue Frietsche of the Women's Law Project in a statement.
Interestingly, Mensch's amendment received bipartisan support with a 31-18 vote — and bipartisan opposition. Now, Vance's amended bill must go before the full Senate for a vote.
Since both Baker's and Vance's bills still haven't went before the opposite chamber for a vote, it's possible that this battle won't be over before the state legislature's summer recess. Frietsche says she wouldn't mind if legislators had more time to ponder the bills: "The more carefully they're studied," she says, "the more the flaws become obvious."
Support is building in the state Senate for Rep. Matt Baker's very controversial House bill regulating abortion clinics. Baker says the bill would protect women against another Kermit Gosnell, the notorious abortion doctor charged with eight counts of murder — but pro-choice advocates argue that it's an anti-abortion bill in disguise that would only end up creating more Gosnells.
Baker's bill passed in the House last week, 148-43. But the question remains: Will it survive in the more moderate Senate? That chamber currently has another post-Gosnell bill in the works, written by Sen. Pat Vance, which is very different from Baker's — and which pro-choice advocates have called "way better" than Baker's piece of legislation.
At least one Senator has now made his support known for Baker's bill: Sen. Bob Mensch, of Bucks County, has introduced an amendment to Vance's bill that would, in short, make it a lot like Baker's legislation. (You can read the amendment here.) Both bills would hold abortion clinics to the same standards as outpatient surgical centers, which require that operating rooms be at least 400 square feet and a nurse always be on duty, among other things.
Pro-choice advocates say these regulations are unnecessary — and unnecessarily costly — and could lead to every clinic in thes state shutting down. In turn, women would turn to more illegal providers like Gosnell, these advocates say. Baker, however, says the regulations would save lives.
The Senate is expected to vote on Vance's bill — and Mensch's amendment — next week.
A highly controversial abortion bill penned by state Rep. Matt Baker just passed in the House, 148-43. For background, read here.
City Paper is awaiting a statement from Baker.
Meanwhile, the Women's Law Project released a statement just now saying that Baker's bill will lead to a "public health catastrophe" and "Gosnell-style illegal abortion practices arising all over Pennsylvania." The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania also released one, arguing that under the bill, "poor women and those who live in rural areas will not have access to care and will be more likely to turn to a disreputable doctor like Gosnell.”
UPDATE: Baker has released a statement, which says that, "Simply put, under House Bill 574 the state’s abortion industry would not be exempt from commonsense safety standards that apply to other ambulatory surgery centers," adding that his bill "was created in direct response to the outcome of a grand jury presentment regarding atrocities" found at Gosnell's clinic.
Yesterday, a ferocious debate went down at the state House that suggests that it might be hard for lawmakers to pass any bill written in the wake of Kermit Gosnell — the Philly abortion doctor who's been charged with murdering seven babies and one woman.
Currently, two bills are gaining steam that would regulate abortion clinics in order to prevent another Gosnell. The state Health Department has been widely blamed because it failed to inspect Gosnell's clinic for 17 years, supposedly for "political reasons" — and these bills also strive to deal with that.
But the two bills are very different from each other: One was penned by Rep. Matt Baker, which he says came directly from the grand jury's report on Gosnell, but that women's health advocates say is an anti-abortion "Trojan horse" that could shut down every clinic in the state. It has passed committee, and is expected to go up for a final vote today.
The other bill, penned by state Sen. Pat Vance, has been called "way better" by women's health advocates. It would guarantee regular inspections and allow patients to make anonymous complaints about abortion providers to the state's Health Department. (In the past, the agency has refused to take such complaints.) It has also passed committee.
Yesterday, the state House debated proposed amendments to Baker's bill — including one by state Rep. Chris Ross that would make Baker's legislation much more like Vance's.
But Ross' amendment was defeated, 68-130. Does that indicate that the House and Senate will be unable to agree on a bill to prevent another Gosnell? The two bills are very different, and neither house seems ready to budge — at least not yet.
Baker's bill is being debated by the state House right now, and is expected to get a full vote today.
Also, FYI, I live-tweeted yesterday's whole darn debate. Click below for some highlights:
The state House is currently debating state Rep. Matt Baker's highly controversial abortion bill, which women's health advocates have claimed is an anti-abortion "Trojan horse," which might close down every abortion clinic in state because of allegedly unnecessary regulations. It was written in the wake of Kermit Gosnell.
For a good show, watch the state House debate on the bill here.
They are currently discussing amendments to the bill. Sources tell City Paper that one such amendment would change the language in order to make Baker's bill more like one written by Sen. Pat Vance, which women's health advocates have called "way better."
UPDATE: I'll be live-tweeting the debate. Follow along @hollyotterbein!
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