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Opinion: Bipartisan Pa. Agenda Improves Women's Health Through Policy Changes

January 27, 2015 — The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health -- "an ongoing, pro-choice campaign that addresses women's equality, safety and economic stability" -- is shaped around policy measures that embrace an "inclusive definition of women's health [that] recognizes that women and their families cannot be healthy if they are financially insecure, physically unsafe, or otherwise subjected to gender bias and discrimination," Amal Bass of the Women's Law Project writes in the Pennsylvania Legal Intelligencer.

The agenda, launched about a year ago by the state Legislature's bipartisan Women's Health Caucus, has already resulted in some policy changes on issues related to domestic violence, privacy and consent, and assistance for working families, Bass explains.

The "bleak reality" of gender discrimination and bias "for far too many women results in a range of health impacts, from stress and psychological trauma to chronic physiological conditions, the effects of which are further compounded by inadequate access to health insurance and nutritious food," Bass continues.

'Key Bills' for Pa. in 2015

Looking ahead to this year's session, Bass describes "four key bills" that were not enacted last session and "either have been or will be reintroduced in the coming months."

One bill, the state Patient Trust Act, "would address the politicization of women's health care by preventing such efforts as the imposition of medically unsubstantiated counseling that links abortion to breast cancer," she writes.

Meanwhile, proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Law (PL 1953) would "strengthen" the statute by "tightening the employer's 'factor other than sex' defense [and] eliminating the pay secrecy obstacle that prevents women from finding out if they are being paid differently."

Another measure addressing issues in the workplace, the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, "would require covered employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to employees for needs related to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition."

Further, the state Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act, if enacted, "would provide all employees with break time and a private, sanitary space to pump" breast milk if such an accommodation "does not impose an 'undue hardship' on employers with fewer than 50 employees," Bass writes.

In conclusion, Bass writes that these measures, as well as others in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health, "will improve women's lives economically and personally, impacting their health and welfare" (Bass, Pennsylvania Legal Intelligencer, 1/26).