Action Alert – House Judiciary to Hold First ERA Hearing in 36 Years

April 29, 2019

For the first time in nearly four decades, the House Judiciary Committee will hold an official hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). You can join NOW leadership and members and show your support at this exciting event, which exemplifies the growing momentum behind finally ratifying the ERA in the Constitution!

The hearing will be held Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at 10:00 a.m and will be available via livestream at the Judiciary website. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, you can also attend in person in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. (The Rayburn House Office Building is located at Independence Ave. and S. Capitol Street St. SW. The closest metro stop is Capitol South. More location details are available here.)

We advise activists to arrive early as the room will likely be crowded. The hearing room doors will be open at 9:00 a.m. and the Rayburn building opens up at 7:00 a.m. People will be able to line up outside of the hearing room ahead of the hearing. Some activists will be wearing all white in solidarity and ERA pins and stickers are encouraged.

Witnesses testifying in support of the ERA will include constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan, Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman and actress and activist Patricia Arquette.

With only one state left for ratification, our work is more important than ever. Please join us on Tuesday either online or in person and show your support for the ERA!

White Pony Express Free General Store Boutique

Contra Costa NOW Board Advisor, Erika Maslan (2nd from right) volunteering at the White Pony Express Free General Store Boutique.

For more info on White Pony Express, click the link below.

Donald Trump’s Abortion “Gag Rule” Won’t Silence Us

Statement by National NOW President Toni Van Pelt


February 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump hates free speech – particularly when it comes to women’s health – and his administration has issued its long-awaited rule that bars groups that provide abortion care or abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds. Defunding providers and denying girls and women access to information about legal medical options has been a top priority of opponents of women’s reproductive health care.

This “gag rule” prevents medical professionals from talking to their patients about health care options, including safe, legal abortions – forcing health care providers to choose medical malpractice or lose funding. It is designed to prop up faith-based, science-denying “family planning centers” otherwise known as crisis pregnancy centers, that lie to women about abortion.

The “gag rule” is a first step towards the religious right’s goal of repealing Roe v. Wade. Safe and accessible health care – including access to abortion – is a human right. This is a sneak attack on the Constitution, which the Supreme Court has ruled protects abortion rights—and a direct attack on women’s health care providers, especially Planned Parenthood. They are at risk of losing the critical funding they need to provide services to more than a million people who are the most vulnerable since they are part of our nation’s uninsured and low-income communities.

NOW supports the court challenges that will be filed to block this rule, and we stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide front-line reproductive care to women.

Donald Trump can’t stop the truth from being told, and he can’t silence us from speaking out. The “gag rule” must be overturned.

Justice Delayed

Statement by National NOW President Toni Van Pelt


February 21, 2019

WASHINGTON – Today, Virginia Republicans are on the wrong side of history, demonstrating a refusal to stand up for equality for women. The Virginia House of Delegates refused to allow a vote by the full House which killed the decades long effort in Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Votes to fast-track a floor vote on ratification were blocked by a Republican procedural maneuver designed to thwart the will of the people, with recent polls showing an overwhelming 81% who support ratification of the ERA.

One GOP delegate said supporting a rule to bring about a vote would “let the chaos of Washington into our state government.” But nothing could be farther from the truth.

For too long, generations of women have endured a system that pays them less, values them less, respects them less and treats them as second-class citizens. With their actions, Virginia Republicans have shown they are against equality, against women’s rights, and in favor of enshrining sex discrimination into our laws.

This November, they will face the consequences for standing in the way of progress for women not only in Virginia but across the country, as women push to ratify the correction to a flaw in our Constitution that should have been remedied long ago.

This has to stop – and it will.

We are disappointed in the failure of the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates, but proud beyond measure of the activists and supportive legislators who made ratifying the ERA a priority. Their energy, enthusiasm and dedication will only be renewed by this experience, and when voters head to the ballot boxes this November, they will remember who was on the right side of history, and who voted to hold women back.

Celebrating The Life and Work of Bernice Sandler

Celebrating The Life and Work of Bernice Sandler

Statement by Toni Van Pelt, President of NOW

January 9, 2019

WASHINGTON – Bernice Sandler, who passed away January 5 at her home in Washington, D.C., was widely known as the “Godmother of Title IX.” After earning a doctorate at the University of Maryland in 1969, she applied for one of seven teaching positions in her department but was told that she wouldn’t be considered for any of them.

“Let’s face it,” a male colleague told her. “You come on too strong for a woman.” When she applied for another position, the researcher in charge of hiring said he didn’t hire women because they stayed home too often to care for sick children. Later, an employment agency dismissed her as “just a housewife who went back to school.”

Bernice Sandler then embarked on a lifelong mission to change the culture of sex discrimination on college campuses. She spent decades documenting, investigating and working to change the arbitrary limits and sexist standards that held women back academically and professionally. Her work led to the passage in 1972 of Title IX, the landmark legislation that banned sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.

Bernice Sandler was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013, when she was lauded for her efforts that led to the first federal investigation of sex discrimination on campuses.

Bernice Sandler was an inspiration to countless women who were inspired by her example and empowered by her accomplishments. She will be missed, but never forgotten.


Cyntoia Brown


Cyntoia Brown’s Clemency Doesn’t End Her Pursuit Of Justice


Statement by Toni Van Pelt, President of NOW


January 7, 2019

WASHINGTON – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s decision to grant full clemency to Cyntoia Brown was the right thing to do, but it doesn’t erase the injustice she endured. The criminalization of the trauma she suffered as a victim of sex trafficking and abuse is reprehensible and unacceptable.

Cyntoia Brown was 16 when she was trafficked to a man who hit her, choked her, and dragged her across the floor. When she thought he was reaching for a gun, the teenager shot her abuser. For this action, she was tried as an adult, then convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison – with the possibility of parole only after serving 51 years behind bars.

Tennessee’s parole board gave the governor a split recommendation, with some on the panel recommending early release and others suggesting she stay in prison until she was 69 years old. Questions need to be asked about the state of justice in Tennessee, and how the legal system fails victims of abuse and trafficking like Cyntoia Brown.

Because of a PBS documentary and vocal support from high-profile celebrities who rallied to her cause, Cyntoia Brown’s case received plenty of attention in the public spotlight. However, countless other young women languish in prisons for similar reasons, without the benefit of superstar endorsement.

Cyntoia Brown completed her GED and got a college degree while in prison, and she has said she hopes to start a nonprofit to pursue social justice issues. Her dedication to this cause is inspiring, and her voice and experience will have a tremendous impact.

NOW applauds Gov. Haslam for listening to our demands – along with the demands of thousands of other advocates – to award Cyntoia Brown a full commutation. However, this story of injustice does not end in August when Cyntoia walks out of prison.  The National Organization for Women, the people of Tennessee, and concerned citizens everywhere need to demand an end to the criminalization of trauma, especially towards women and girls of color. Only when we see an end to sex trafficking and violence against women and girls will justice be served.

Chapter Election Results

Chapter elections were held Saturday, December 15, 2018.

The 2019 officers are:

President:  Katia Senff
Vice President:  Jeanette Cole
VP-Action:  Nancy Bocanegra
VP-Membership:  Karen Severud
Treasurer: Kathy DeFabio
State Board Rep.:  Jeanette Cole
Event Coordinators:  Phyllis Bratt and Lauren Babb
Secretary:  Open
Board Advisor:  As past president, Erika Maslan is Board Advisor for 2019

Congratulations to all!

The Empowering Internet Safety Guide for Women

Have you ever been harassed in the street? Received a crass message on a dating app? Had a coworker make a comment about your appearance that just didn’t sit right?

You’re not alone.

With the #MeToo movement, it’s easy to log onto Twitter or Facebook and see just how many women are victims of sexual harassment. Whether in person or online, women everywhere have experienced it in one way or another. And with all the new ways the internet has opened avenues of communication, online harassment is more prevalent than ever.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, most online abuse takes place on social media. Although men are also subject to online harassment – which includes name calling, derision, and physical threats – the study found that online, women are more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual harassment.

In addition, more than half of women ages 18-29 report having been sent sexually explicit images without their consent.

This number is only growing, and while 70% of women believe online harassment to be a major problem, not many know how to prevent it.

Women are often targeted simply because they are women. Attacks are often sexualized or misogynistic, and rhetoric tends to focus on their bodies and sexual violence. This is both physically and emotionally damaging, and women are often intimidated into silence, preferring to disengage rather than put themselves at risk.

However, there are ways we can protect ourselves.

This guide was written with the intention of empowering women to navigate the internet without fear. We discuss common occurrences in which women are subject to harassment in their daily lives – on social media, at work, while dating, and more – and give tips and advice on how women can take control.

It is important for us to note that some of the advice given here encourages anonymity, rather than risking being targeted. While this may seem to run counter to the idea of encouraging self-expression, we believe that every woman should be empowered to make that choice for herself.

Our job is to give you the tools you need to do that.

We hope this guide encourages women everywhere to defend and protect themselves, and to stand up to sexual harassment, both on and off the web.

To review the full guide, click on this link:


Equal Rights Belong in the Constitution

Posted to Politics June 28, 2018 by Toni Van Pelt

Are we one state away from full constitutional equality for women?

Ninety-five years after the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress, women are still not granted equal rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Donald Trump and his enablers feed on the resentment they can incite toward anyone who can be looked down on as “other.” The administration’s most recent actions to separate refugee children from their parents and use them as hostages to advance Trump’s political agenda undermine not only the rule of law but also our most basic humanitarian principles and common decency. Differences are scorned, diversity is rejected, beliefs are disrespected. History is rewritten and facts are denied. Acts of violence are condoned in the name of perpetuating an exclusionary, discriminatory white patriarchy.

At the heart of all this hatred is opposition to one of the most fundamental tenets of our democracy — equality. There are not two sides to this debate — either you are for equality or you are against it. And if you believe in equality, you must commit to its defense, no matter what.

That’s why I am rededicating myself to a cause that’s more vital, and more urgent, than ever: the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Women are still not guaranteed equal rights under the U.S. Constitution. The National Organization for Women has made ratifying the ERA a top priority because equality in pay, job opportunities, political structure, health care (including reproductive health care), and education — in particular for women of color, women with disabilities and the LGBTQIA+ community — will remain an elusive dream without a guarantee in the U.S. Constitution.

The ERA would codify reproductive rights in the Constitution and greatly support low-income women who are the first to lose access to affordable birth control when family planning services are reduced.

As we push for gender equity, the gender/race pay gap remains one of the most glaring and measurable examples of inequality. Not only do women make less than men overall, but when disaggregated by race, the gap grows even further.

The ERA would create a precedent for enduring and enforceable legislation that addresses the intersections of pay discrimination. Without constitutional protections, women will continue to face lifelong consequences of gender discrimination in the workplace.

It’s unconscionable that the U.S. Constitution fails to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender. Fixing these flaws is not only proper, it is essential to the continuation of our democracy. Our Constitution is not set in stone. It’s a living document that must reflect our core values and principles.

The failure of the framers to include women in our nation’s founding documents is a constitutional mistake that has long demanded correction. Now, with actions taken by state legislatures in Nevada and Illinois to ratify the ERA, the amendment is one state short of the 38 needed to make the ERA part of the Constitution. NOW supports an intersectional interpretation of the ERA that uplifts the needs of all women including immigrant women, low-income women, women of color, women with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

The progress we have made — and must continue to make — toward women’s equality can be lost at any time because those advances depend on legislation that can be (and has been) weakened or repealed by Congress. Given the current political climate, this is more of a concern than ever.

In an interview with Vox,  Carol Robles-Roman, co-president of the ERA Coalition, reminds us, “The ERA has had momentum, and the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, the messaging of both, really showed that we need an ERA.  People are realizing that women don’t have constitutional equality.”

Beyond the overwhelming need for the ERA from a legal and constitutional point of view, the campaign to achieve full ratification is a vital organizing and social justice movement as well. The next election will be a referendum on our most basic principles and values.

The suffragette leader Alice Paul, who drafted the original ERA in 1923,  once said, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”

I agree — and that’s why I’m working to make the ERA a part of the Constitution.  As long as there are men in positions of power who keep women down, we need an explicit guarantee of equality in the Constitution. Nothing else will do.

About the Author

Toni Van Pelt

Toni Van Pelt is the president of the National Organization for Women.

Illinois Passes The ERA

Illinois Passes the ERA,

Bringing Women One Step

Closer to Constitutional


Statement from NOW President Toni Van Pelt

May 31, 2018

After 36 years, the Illinois House has finally moved to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, bringing us one step closer to constitutional equality.

NOW salutes the hard work of Illinois NOW and its partners’ relentless efforts to pass the ERA.

The #MeToo movement has underscored the importance of strong legal protections for women’s rights, and our resolve to secure these Constitutional guarantees is unwavering. The hard-fought battle in Illinois shows that women are determined to win.

We know our work is not done and we will continue our efforts to help ratify the amendment in the remaining states. Not only will we work to urge our representatives to continue the fight for equality for women, but we will make sure the candidates we elect share our commitment to this cause.

Illinois has finally voted to put itself on the right side of history. There’s still more to be done to correct this shameful failure of our Constitution. But today, NOW activists celebrate our victory in Illinois and tomorrow we will continue the fight in Virginia and the remaining states.

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