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HARRISBURG, PA − March 8, 2021 − Chairs, members, and advocates of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus (WHC) gathered today to share their legislative agenda for the 2021-2022 Legislative session. Chairs of the caucus, Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Montgomery, Delaware), Representative Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) and Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Narberth) were joined by Sara Jann, Director of Policy & Advocacy of Maternity Care Coalition and Tara Murtha, Director of Strategic Communications at the Women’s Law Project. Together, the chairs and advocates shared their legislative priorities and their mission to work together with the caucus, advocates, and other elected officials to push policy and legislation to support women – cis, trans, and femme-identifying individuals – and family health in Pennsylvania. 

The Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of legislators partnering with interest groups and advocacy organizations to develop and implement legislation and social policy that protects and respects women’s health, including the right to make private, personal medical decisions.

As a caucus, our legislative priorities for the current legislative session fall into four categories.

  1. Maternal & Childcare including Medicaid expansion and affordable childcare.
  2. Workplace Justice including fair wages and workplace accommodations.
  3. Dignity for Incarcerated Women including access to feminine hygiene products and prohibiting shackling of pregnant women.
  4. Healthcare including increasing access to reproductive health coverage including abortion care and access to tele-health.

As a caucus, we are committed to advocating for legislation that will actively support all femme-identifying people in leading healthy, just, and happy lives, with access to the rights they deserve. This means taking into consideration the ways in which systemic barriers and policy decisions have affected women of color, trans-women, and all women across the Commonwealth. 

“The Women’s Health Caucus will continue to raise these issues; we will continue to advocate for the women and families of Pennsylvania. We will continue to recognize and acknowledge that black and brown women have been disproportionately hurt by policies that leave women behind,” said Representative Daley. “We will continue to stand up for our mothers, daughters, nieces, and girlfriends of all ages, of all colors and of all gender identities. “

Today’s conference happily coincided with International Women’s Day. The theme of today’s celebration is #ChoosetoChallenge, a perfect time to challenge the PA General Assembly to stand with us in prioritizing women’s health this legislative session.

“As we recognize Women’s History Month and International Women’s day the health and well-being of Pennsylvania’s women couldn’t be more relevant,” said Representative Cephas. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created new struggles, but it has also exacerbated challenges that have existed for far too long. I will continue using my role in the PA Women’s Health Caucus to create policies and pass legislation to improve the quality of life and quality of care for women and families across the commonwealth including my proposals to restore dignity to incarcerated women, combat maternal mortality, and increase access to affordable childcare.”

This sentiment was echoed by fellow legislators. Throughout the press conference, our members shared their excitement in celebrating International Women’s Day. 

“Today, on International Women’s Day, the Women’s Health caucus reaffirmed its commitment to Pennsylvania’s women – ciswomen, transwomen, and femme-identifying individuals,” said Senator Cappelletti. “We will continue this conversation and advocacy, as we fight for bold change that will help everyone in the Commonwealth. Our support extends beyond our districts and our goal is to create a more just and equitable society for women and families.”

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how hard the crisis has hit women, especially women of color. Many of these challenges have illustrated themselves in ways that exacerbated existing inequalities and showed how damaged our systems are when it comes to women’s health. 

“Mothers are, in many ways, bearing the brunt of this pandemic. The impact of which has been determined by systemic inequities that were in place long before this crisis arrived at our door. This year, MCC, along with our partners, is prioritizing mothers by advocating for equitable maternal health policies,” said Sara Jann, Director of Policy & Advocacy at Maternity Care Coalition

Our agenda prioritizes mothers and working women, expressly focusing on maternal health and access to affordable, quality healthcare as a way to save women’s lives in Pennsylvania.  

“How many pregnant Pennsylvanians have to unnecessarily die to warrant the attention of “pro-life” leadership? It is unbelievable that even during a pandemic, as a new report shows that more Pennsylvanians than ever are dying of pregnancy-related conditions, our House Health leadership has prioritized legislation that medical experts say would increase maternal mortality,” said Tara Murtha, Director of Strategic Communications at Women’s Law Project.  “The Women’s Law Project proudly supports the evidence-based policies championed by the Women’s Health Caucus, and calls on legislative leadership to protect, rather than politicize, pregnant Pennsylvanians by advancing these bills.”

“The Women’s Health Caucus recognizes that women’s health is truly integral and directly related to Pennsylvania’s economic health, and that change can be brought about by introducing carefully thought-out proposals based on actual need and evidence,” Schwank said. “Our policy initiatives can literally save women’s lives by reducing the maternal mortality rate – an issue that predominately affects women of color. Lowering that rate is as easy as simply expanding health care coverage. If saving women’s lives wasn’t enough, every life saved translates into dollars saved by taxpayers,” said Senator Schwank.“Another major focus of the WHC is supporting and expanding quality childcare options, which is a critical component of our state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The caucus will continue to work on these goals through the legislative session and advocate for women across Pennsylvania through their legislative action and daily work. 

Stay up to date with our members and what the caucus is doing to advocate for this agenda by following us on social media and checking our website. Check out our website and what we are up to here: Check out our Twitter here.  Check out our Facebook here. You can watch the full press conference here.