Speaking With One Voice

International Women’s Day 2017 by Louise McLeod, BCWAC Jobs & Education Coordinator

Women the world over celebrate International Women’s Day (#WomensDay) every year on March 8 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. UN Women declared “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” as the global theme for 2017.

Only 50% of working age women are represented in the labor force globally. An overwhelming majority of these working women do informal work and represent lower-paid, lower-skilled occupations with little or no social protections. Add to that the extra burden of unpaid work such as care-giving and domestic work that has little or no value or applied credit in the economy. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. This is too long to wait. So around the world, International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity for ground breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women. Achieving gender equality in the world of work is of paramount importance if we are to have sustainable development.

Lasting change in achieving economic equity for women starts at the grassroots level. Here is what you, as an individual can do to help:

1. Support organizations supporting women

2. Work with businesses that are working towards closing the pay gap.

3. Advocate for political empowerment of women

4. Volunteer in your community to create better opportunities for women and girls.

5. Declare bold actions and purposeful action that you can do to help advance the gender agenda. Follow the #BeBoldForChange campaign on Twitter.

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975. International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

#IWD2017 #BeBoldForChange #WomensDay #BeBoldForChange

- Sources: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-womens-day#sthash.97hRmJIH.dpuf

https://www.commbank.com.au/guidance/business/iwd-2017–5-steps-toward-gender-equality-201702.html

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Resources#leaders

Wrong Legislative Priorities in PA by Peggy Walsh

The PA senate finally passed a bill swiftly, one week from start to finish:  SB3.  The PA senate voted to approve SB3, among the most restrictive abortion bills in the country,  mostly along party lines.

Amazing!  Our state senate that cannot pass a budget, that has been unable to pass sensible gun reform bills out of the judiciary committee, passed this law without any public hearings or medical testimony in the blink of an eye.  They rejected a sensible request to refer the bill to Health and Human Services and another to hear from the medical community before voting.  Why the haste?  Why the refusal to get information or data from experts?

As you ponder the answer to this question, consider some interesting points about this bill, its proponents, and its targets:

SB3 bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies, contains no exception for rape or incest, and criminalizes doctors for performing the medically accepted D and E procedure. It ignores Roe v. Wade which stipulates that states may ban abortions, but only after the fetus can survive independently.

Less than 1.2 percent of abortions in PA are performed after the 20th week of pregnancy.  The vast majority of these occur because severe fetal, often fatal anomalies, are discovered at the 20-week ultrasound.

SB 3 would force women to carry unviable fetuses for months, condemn them to still-births, or births with no chance of survival. SB3 would endanger women’s future reproductive chances and immediate safety by insisting that more dangerous methods be used to terminate the pregnancy.

In passing the bill from the Judiciary Committee, Senator Greenleaf reasoned that there is “significant” medical evidence that fetuses can be viable before 24 weeks.   Medical experts disagree. We cannot, however, check the source of Senator Greenleaf’s information.   Senator Brooks, the Republican woman who introduced the bill, refused to publicly name her medical sources at the full senate hearing and the senate refused to wait for medical testimony.

If only our legislators cared as much about stopping toddlers from finding firearms that are unsafely secured and about women being shot  by domestic abusers or about providing equitable and adequate funding for our children’s education!   But, let’s be honest, a woman at the most painful and vulnerable moment of her life is a much easier target.

Peggy Walsh

 

Going Backward on Maternity Coverage Would Be Disastrous for Women’s Health by Debra L. Ness

FEBRUARY 21, 2017 | Reprinted from the blog of the NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR WOMEN AND FAMILIES (http://www.nationalpartnership.org/blog)

It was the kind of answer that sent chills down the spines of those of us who care about women’s health. At her confirmation hearing last week, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said she thinks it should once again be optional for health plans to cover maternity care. Responding to a question from Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) of the Senate Finance Committee, Seema Verma indicated that she considers it acceptable for health plans to exclude maternity and newborn coverage — a significant shift from the guaranteed coverage that millions of families enjoy today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Verma has been nominated to head the federal agency that insures 100 million people through Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the health insurance marketplaces established by the ACA. For her to suggest that health plans should be able to discriminate by excluding coverage for a basic, essential women’s health service is alarming.

In the chaotic environment created by congressional Republicans — who are rushing to repeal the ACA without offering any clear, coherent plan to replace it — Verma’s comment is an ominous signal about what lies ahead if ACA opponents prevail.

Making coverage for maternity care optional could mean a return to the days when nearly nine in ten individual health plans sold in the individual market (88 percent) failed to cover maternity care. That meant even women and families with insurance faced exorbitant medical bills because their plans failed to cover maternity and newborn care, which are essential to the health and wellbeing of women and children. Moreover, prior to the ACA, even plans that covered maternity care offered that coverage at rates that were far from affordable: Many plans on the individual market required separate maternity deductibles that were sometimes as high as $10,000 per year, insurance riders exceeding $12,000 per year, and/or waiting periods of one to two years before maternity coverage kicked in. Needless to say, these plans were so expensive that many women who needed maternity coverage could not afford it.

Equally concerning is that Verma’s answer signals hostility to the ACA’s essential health benefits (EHB) provision – a primary reason the ACA has been the greatest advance for women’s health in a generation and a significant contributor to establishing a national standard of coverage. This provision ensures access to a defined set of benefits that includes coverage for maternity care, and also for preventive services, prescription drugs, mental health services and more. It was a landmark and meaningful advance for all consumers and for women in particular.

The ACA — and its EHB provision — corrected longstanding, persistent and discriminatory gaps in health coverage. We must not go back to the future on this. What Verma proposed, making maternity and newborn coverage optional once again, would be a major, costly setback for women, for children and for our nation’s health.