Legislation passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that could block insurance coverage of abortion care in insurance exchanges has set off a wave of reaction.
House Bill 818 would prohibit health insurers from providing coverage for abortions in the plans they will sell in the health insurance exchange that allows people with federal subsidies to buy coverage starting Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act. The legislation would allow an insurance company to cover an abortion only if a woman was a victim of rape or incest, or if she was in immediate risk of death.
Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, said proponents of this bill continue to mislead the legislature and the public by characterizing the debate as centered on taxpayer funding of abortion.
“Nothing can be further from the truth. House Bill 818 bans the purchase of insurance coverage of abortion with private dollars, end of story,” Stevens said.
House Bill 818 is headed to the senate. Earlier this month, a senate committee passed a similar bill, Senate Bill 3, which is currently on the Senate calendar.
“If the advocates and elected officials pushing these bills would be forthcoming with their ultimate goal – to eliminate safe access to abortion services at any turn and any cost, we could at least have an honest debate. Instead the effort to pass this bill after five full years has been consistently cloaked in mistruths so as to confuse the legislature into submission,” said Stevens.
“Even more shocking is that this bill is so ideological and blindsighted as to refuse to give women with serious health problems like cancer any consideration. Thus, is the bill becomes law, even in tragic cases where the women’s health is in serious jeopardy, the cost of the abortion procedure, which often takes place in a hospital, would be paid for entirely by the family.”
The House approved House Bill 818 on April 23 by a vote of 144-53. The legislation now heads to the state Senate for its consideration.
Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said the House acted to ensure that no tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
“House Bill 818 extends current state law, nothing more or less, to the health care exchanges in Pennsylvania,” Turzai said in a statement.
“Regulating the use of public funds for abortion services to maintain consistency between federal law and state law is part of being the stewards of Pennsylvania’s tax dollars.”
State Rep. Cherelle L. Parker (D-Phila) voted against the proposed legislation.
“There is no exception for the health of the mother in this legislation,” Parker said in a press release.
“There is no exception for a woman’s constitutional right to choose her own reproductive care using her own money. There is no excuse for this bad piece of public policy.”
According to Parker, the bill disproportionately affects lower income women who may have no alternative but to purchase their insurance through the health exchange, because they would not be able to afford coverage outside the exchange and would not be able to pay out of pocket.”
Parker said that while supporters of the bill claim that women could purchase abortion coverage outside the health exchange, there is little evidence to suggest that such coverage would be available to them, especially at an affordable rate.
Parker said she is disturbed by the majority of lawmakers who continue to try to chip away at settled law by making it more costly or nearly impossible for women to exercise their reproductive rights, rather than working on the issues Pennsylvanians want addressed.
“Transportation, jobs, education; these are the issues that our constituents want us to work on and find solutions to,” Parker said.
“They are not calling on us to tell them how to spend their own money or limit their choices in health care.”
Under the ACA, the Nelson provision allows states to determine whether or not abortion coverage will be offered in plans sold through the state insurance exchange.
A new report indicates that businesses owned by women are making major strides in job creation.
The 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, indicates that women-owned businesses trail only publicly traded firms in U.S. job creation since 2007. The report estimates that they added 175,000 net jobs, versus a national net decline of 569,000 jobs among all privately held firms during that time period.
“The report underlines the important role women-owned firms have played throughout the economic recovery,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN.
“Women-owned businesses have been net job creators since 2007, a distinction shared only by large, publicly traded companies.”
This marked the third year that American Express OPEN commissioned a report on women’s entrepreneurship.
“One of the key stories to report this year is that over the last 16 years firms owned by women of color have gone from one in every six women-owned firms to one in every three,” said report author, Julie Weeks.
Weeks said the rising number of women in entrepreneurship can be attributed to various factors, other then women being downsized from their jobs.
“I think there’s a much higher growth in levels of education among women of ethnicities and more managerial experience. When you have the experience of hiring and firing people and managing programs then you are much more confident in starting a business. So it’s really kind of the next wave of advancement for women of color professionally,” Weeks said.
According to the report, over the past 16 years, the number of firms owned by women of color (African American, Latina, Asian American, Native American/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander) has increased 156 percent to 2,677,770. The number of all women-owned firms grew by 59 percent in the same time period.
The report found that the growth in the number of African American owned firms is up 258 percent from 1997 to 2013.
Growth in employment (85 percent) and revenues (168 percent) women-owned firms topped growth rates of all women-owned firms (10 percent and 63 percent respectively) by wide margins.
Weeks said that Pennsylvania ranks 31st overall in terms of growth of number of women-owned firms, revenue and employment.
“Philadelphia ranks 11th out of the top 25 metropolitan areas for women-owned firms, so the metropolitan area is doing better than the state as a whole,” she pointed out.
The metropolitan areas with the highest combined economic clout for women owned firms are, San Antonio, Texas; Portland, Ore.; Houston, Texas; Riverside, Calif. and Washington, D.C.
Despite recent economic challenges, women-owned firms have maintained a steady pace of growth, higher than the national average.
The report estimated that there are more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.3 million in revenues and employing 7.8 million people.
According to the report, the fastest growth in the number of firms over the past 11 years have been in education services (up from 113 percent), administration and waste services (up 58 percent), health care and social assistance (up 45 percent) and transportation and warehousing (up 40 percent).
The report is based on data from the United States Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. The report was prepared for American Express OPEN by Womenable, a research, program and policy development consultancy whose mission is to improve the environment for women-owned businesses worldwide. American Express OPEN is a leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States.
Helen Divers, a retired educator, died Wednesday, April 24, 2013.
She was born to the late Willie Sanders and Louise China (Sanders) Pringle in Sumter County, S.C.
At an early age, she joined the Hopewell Baptist Church in Sumter where she faithfully served in the Gospel Choir.
Divers was educated in the public schools of Sumter County. In 1964, she moved to Baltimore,where she joined the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. She was a member of the Sunday school and the youth choir.
She attended Coppin State University in Baltimore and obtained her bachelor’s degree in teacher education. She taught at the Barclay Elementary School in Baltimore.
Divers later migrated to Philadelphia and joined the First Corinthian Baptist Church, where she was an active with the scholarship committee, a member of Sunday school and a board member of the First Corinthian Community Center.
She was employed as an educator with the Chester Upland School District, where she taught in middle school prior to her retirement. She had 25 years of teaching service and was a certified educator in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
“Helen was one of the nicest people one would ever hope to know. She is also a very serious and no-nonsense person that would go out of her way for everyone,” her family said.
“Helen believed that “right is right” and “wrong is wrong” and “if you are not sure what is right, then ask the question.”
Her family said her mantra was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Divers was actively involved in community and civic service.
She was a Democratic candidate for both clerk of Quarter Sessions and Traffic Court judge.
Divers was the planning/community organizer of the 12th Police District and one of the organizing members of the district’s South -East-West Block Captains Committee. She was a member of numerous organizations including the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, NAACP, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Cops and Citizens for Justice, Los Hermanos, Inc., the Southwest Truancy Epic Stakeholder Team of Pennsylvania and the African American Museum of Art.
Divers was the founder and president of the 954 Garden Homes Civic Association Thomas Ave. Town Watch Group and served as the chairwoman of the 12th Police District Open House of Southwest Pride Day and the Town Watch consultant for the district.
She was a supporting member of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement) and the Guardian Civic League.
Divers received numerous awards recognizing her work in the education field and law enforcement. On Oct. 15, 2004, she received the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Citizens Volunteer Services of Community Crime Prevention. She was appointed an honorary deputy police commissioner by former Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. She was also selected to the Cambridge Who’s Who Among Executive and Professional Women for 2006-2007.
Divers loved to travel, and would take cruises each year with members of her church family.
Along with education and community service, she was an avid gardener, and could make anything grow, friends said. Her family said if she was not working within the community, one would always see her in her garden or in the community gardens in the neighborhood.
In addition to her parents, Divers was preceded in death by her stepfather, James Pringle, and son, William James Divers.
She is survived by her daughters, Chantay Divers, Terria Cheatham and Alissa Cheatham, of Philadelphia; stepdaughter, Lisa Cheatham of Philadelphia; three sons, Alvin Price Divers Jr. (Meski), Jamal Cheatham and Limac Cheatham, all of Philadelphia; eight sisters, Alberta “Bird” Dwivedi of Ellicott City, Md., Lois Alexander (Gary) of Catonsville, Md., Yvonne Renee Cotton (Min. John) of Windsor Mill, Md., Jean Curtis (Samuel) and Rosa Martin (Larenzo) of Sumter, S.C.; Betty Scott of Philadelphia, Linda Newton (Atwood) of District Heights, Md., Belva Cork (Larry) of Bowie, Md; brothers, Harry Pringle of Baltimore, Willie Sanders Jr. (Jennifer) of Columbia, S.C. and John Sanders of Atlanta, and sister-in-law, Audrey Hill of Baltimore.
She is also survived by her aunts, Mary Tandy of Newark, N.J., Bernice Brown of Hamlett, N.C, Geneva Green of Sumter, S.C., Lessie M. China of Rembert, S.C.; three godsisters, Susie Hart (Arthur) of Baltimore and Virginia Joint (Ernest) and Vivian Wilson (Percy), both of Philadelphia; godbrother, Edward Bivins of Chicago; grandchildren, Naomi Louise Divers and Kasim Divers of Philadelphia; longtime friend, Samuel Bivins; stepbrothers, Anthony and Kenny Pringle of Baltimore, stepsisters, Lucy Pringle and Alvester Cooper of Baltimore, friend Robert Snead and other relatives and friends.
The first viewing will be held May 1 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Francis Funeral Home, 5201 Whitby Ave. The second viewing will be held May 2 at 9 a.m. at First Corinthian Baptist Church, 5101 Pine St. Services will follow at 11 a.m. Burial is in Woodlawn Cemetery in Baltimore.
Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. has responded to the controversy surrounding Rev. Kevin Johnson’s invitation to speak during the college’s baccalaureate service.
The controversy began after Johnson wrote an op-ed article in the April 14 edition of the Tribune that was critical of President Barack Obama’s lack of African American appointees in his cabinet.
Johnson, who is the senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, had been invited to be the sole baccalaureate speaker May 18 at his alma mater. After Johnson’s article appeared, Wilson contacted Johnson by phone and stated that the article was “untimely” given that Obama is Morehouse’s 2013 commencement speaker. He amended his decision to have Johnson appear as the sole speaker and opted to add two more baccalaureate speakers. Johnson refused the offer on the grounds that it was a departure from the college’s tradition of having one baccalaureate speaker and all initial representations made to him.
Last Friday, Citizens for Change, a group of prominent Morehouse alumni, decried Wilson’s decision to amend his invitation to Johnson. They called for Wilson to honor his original invitation to have Johnson appear as the sole baccalaureate speaker.
“The idea that Dr. Johnson’s views disqualify him as a candidate to deliver the Morehouse baccalaureate address is quite disturbing. The views expressed in the article in question are consistent with views he has expressed in his monthly columns and national media appearances. If the goal here is to subject potential speakers to an ideological litmus test as a precondition for speaking during this historic weekend at Morehouse, the college administration should have done its due diligence in thoroughly vetting the potential speaker in advance of extending the invitation, ” Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md. said in a release.
“Dr. Johnson represents the best of the Morehouse tradition and the best of engaged political support of President Obama, even if at times critical of the president. Whether one agrees with Johnson or not, the coalition of Obama supporters consists of people with varying viewpoints, and of varying points of agreement and disagreement with the Obama Administration. Punishing the expression of political dissent is the wrong message to send young African-American men charged with being global citizens in a diverse world.”
Wilson addressed the issue in an open letter to the Morehouse community.
“In brief, I extended an invitation to a distinguished alumnus to speak at our upcoming baccalaureate service. I subsequently made a decision to adjust the format of the baccalaureate program and opted for a more creative, multi-speaker approach that is used by many leading institutions. This sharing of the stage comports with the spirit of upholding democratic ideals, including freedom of speech and expression, and is entirely consistent with the spirit of camaraderie that Morehouse holds dear,” Wilson wrote.
“As president, I believe this is in the best interest of the college. In this instance, I decided to ask this invited speaker to share the baccalaureate stage with two other speakers so as to reflect a broader and more inclusive range of viewpoints.”
Wilson said his decision was wrongly construed by some as an effort to “disinvite” Johnson.
“He was not disinvited, but rather declined to participate in the format. Worse yet, this decision has led to allegations of censorship, which of course has no place in any viable academic institution. These allegations are fundamentally deleterious and are undeserved,” he wrote.
“In brief, this matter is not and has never been about censorship. Nor has it anything to do with stifling or limiting ‘prophetic voices,’ disturbing the ‘King legacy,’ or deviating from any of the proud traditions of the College.”
When asked to respond to Wilson’s letter, Johnson told the Tribune that he has no response at this time.
After two years of federal oversight, the Philadelphia Housing Authority has reverted back to local control.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Sandra B. Henriquez presented a declaration to the city releasing the agency from federal control during PHA’s board meeting held Friday afternoon.
“It’s a new day for PHA. We’re looking to the future with excitement and seizing every opportunity that comes our way. We’re not looking back. We’re not looking to the past with regret and disappointment anymore, we’re looking forward,” said PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah.
Since March 2011, PHA has been under HUD control with Estelle B. Richman, senior advisor to the HUD secretary, serving as the sole member of the board.
Richman has been replaced by nine new members, who were appointed by Mayor Michael A. Nutter and approved by City Council.
“I take pride and pleasure in having this opportunity to leave this agency with the team we have in place,” and Richman.
“The time has come for HUD to step aside and allow this agency to continue the progress in has made independent of the federal government.”
The new nine-member board is chaired by Lynette Brown-Sow, vice president of marketing and communications for Community College of Philadelphia.
Brown-Sow says it’s important for the new board members to listen to the concerns of PHA residents.
“I think that the key thing is being able to work together and make decisions on how to move the housing authority forward and how to help people have the best kind of quality housing that they can have and also have services that can help them move their lives forward,” said Brown-Sow.
Board members include Leslie D. Callahan, pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in North Philadelphia; the Rev. Bonnie Camarda, director of partnerships for the Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware; Nelson A. Diaz, a former city solicitor, Common Pleas Court judge, and general counsel for HUD who currently serves as a partner at Dilworth Paxson, LLP and Shellie R. Jackson, a PHA resident who lives at Hill Creek Apartments in Northeast Philadelphia.
The other members are attorney Joan Markman, the city’s chief integrity officer and a former assistant United States attorney; attorney Kenneth A. Murphy, a partner and vice-chair of the products liability and Mass Tort Practice Group at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP; Vernell Tate, a PHA resident and president of the Spring Garden Resident Council and Herbert Wetzel, the executive director of Housing and Community Development for City Council.
The new board has a challenging road ahead. Last month, the housing agency announced that it would have to cut more than 80 jobs due to cuts in federal funding.
“There are a number of issues that the new board will be tasked with almost immediately. There’s the financial positioning of the agency. We’ve suffered a $32 million sequestration funding reduction. We also have over 140,000 people waiting for housing, so the expectation is that we will work collectively to bring on line additional public housing units,” said Jeremiah.
Under a law passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly last year, the number of board members was increased from five to nine, with the mayor nominating all commissioners, subject to approval by the City Council.
“Now with PHA’s return to local control, the city of Philadelphia has the opportunity to better coordinate housing policy, related investment decisions and neighborhood revitalization in a transparent and coherent manner that involves all housing agencies and stakeholders for the benefit of the people who live in PHA housing and all Philadelphians,” Nutter said in a press release.
“Equally important, the re-establishment of local control with a new governance structure means real accountability. The authority in all its actions is responsible to the mayor who, in turn, is answerable to the voters. This significant reform could not have been achieved without the strong support of the Philadelphia City Council, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania Senate and Gov. (Tom) Corbett. Under PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah’s leadership, PHA has instituted strong internal controls and now with a talented board of commissioners prepared to carry out its duties, a new era of accountability responsibility and transparency begins that will benefit PHA residents and staff and all Philadelphians.”
Over the last two years, PHA has put in place stricter internal controls, a stronger management structure and a robust audit and compliance department. The agency also has a fully functional Human Resources and Office of General Counsel.
PHA meetings will now be held every third Thursday of the month. The next board meeting is May 16 at 3 p.m.
PHA serves about 80,000 residents of Philadelphia.