Governor Urges Women To Make Their Voices Heard

July 8, 2019- Governor Edwards speaks with supporters at the opening of his New Orleans campaign office, at 1516 Thalia Street. Photo Courtesy John Bel For Louisiana

In a Zoom call this morning with women leaders around the state, Governor John Bel Edwards told attendees that now was the time to show their support for three specific bills in his legislative package. “We obviously have a lot of work to do. I appreciate the level of coordination this year. Hopefully it will make a difference,” said Edwards.

Edwards first spoke about the importance of SB 215, by Senator Regina Barrow, which provides for reasonable accommodations for employees who become temporarily disabled due to certain medical conditions. “This bill will achieve better outcomes for mothers and babies,” he explained. Although the legislation did draw some concerns from business interests who asked for some better definitions and time parameters, Edwards thought all those conversations were reasonable and that issues could be resolved. 

He urged that the legislation move forward. “Women should have the right to sit more frequently and have time for bathroom breaks. It would go a long way to help women.” The legislation also calls for a place other than a bathroom stall be provided for the purpose of expressing milk. 

Barrow said that her legislation would make our families more whole and sustainable. Seventy percent of women of child bearing age work.” This bill will create better beginnings and brighter outcomes,” she explained. 

Edwards also supports HB 245 by Representative Barbara Carpenter which would address Louisiana’s gender gap. “Louisiana is #2 in the country in terms of the gender gap. We want to get rid of it or at least narrow it,” Edwards explained. Ending pay secrecy would allow women to have open discussions on wages without the fear or repercussions from their employer. It would also prohibit the use of wage history in screening applicants. HB 245 cleared Committee yesterday and will be debated soon by the full House. 

“Opponents presume falsely that the legislation will lead to lots of litigation. More common sense is needed here. Everyone should be offended by the gender gap and the number of women and their families that it hurts,” Edwards concluded.   

“This legislation is about transparency. It’s no secret that women are paid less than men. Women have struggled and families have struggled during Covid,” said Carpenter. Women should not be retaliated against for discussing wages. “This is just the beginning of this issue. We are talking about this from now on to ensure women are not at the bottom of the barrel,” she said. 

Pending in the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee is HB 439 by state Representative Candace Newell. This legislation would do away with mandated pre-dispute arbitration agreements for claims of workplace sexual harassment. 

“There should not be a clause in employment contract that employees must arbitrate sexual harassment claims. Victims of sexual harassment should have their day in court. It’s about fairness,” said Edwards.  

Edwards also asked the women on the call to speak out against HB 578 by Representative Beryl Amedee. The legislation requires that any woman who chooses to undergo a series of two pills to trigger a chemically-induced abortion must be notified to suggest that a counter-acting drug is available if she wishes to reverse her decision. Physicians would be forced to provide a disclosure to patients after the first pill is administered. The state Health Department would also have to make abortion reversal information available online.

“The Health & Welfare Committee passed this legislation yesterday which would require verbatim notice. This is not a pro-life issue. This is about science, medicine and women’s health,” Edwards explained.  

Though Amedee describes the legislation as a “simple consumer protection bill,” state health department officials like Dr. Joe Kanter believe that the use of progesterone to reverse a medically-induced abortion is experimental at best. The clinical trial that attempted to test the safety of progesterone was stopped early because several women had a severe negative reaction to the drug.  

New Orleans State Rep. Jason Hughes voted against the legislation in committee.     

Edwards was pleased to be meeting with President Joe Biden today. “We need help with infrastructure and hurricane relief. We’ve been praying for better roads and bridges. I am excited to be getting the opportunity to speak with him.”  

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