Louisiana Women Demand Justice, Equity and Equality from Legislature:

MEDIA ADVISORY

Contact: Michelle Erenberg

merenberg@liftlouisiana.org

504-451-8489

 

Louisiana Women Demand Justice, Equity and Equality from Legislature:

April 11 “Day of Justice for Louisiana Women” at state capitol

 

BATON ROUGE—Louisiana consistently ranks as one of the worst places in the United States to be a woman and a mother, particularly a working mother, and the state’s women are fed up. Even though women are the majority of the state’s population, they are under represented in the male-dominated Louisiana legislature, and often lawmakers craft policy that affect women and their families without their direct input.

This has to stop, and on April 11, more than 20 women’s organizations will travel to Baton Rouge to confront and demand justice, equity and equality from their elected officials. They are holding a press conference at the Capitol Park Welcome Center, 702 N River Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, on Wednesday, April 11 at 11:15 am.

Prior to and following the press conference, the advocates will be making their voices heard with legislators at various committee hearings and in the Capitol Rotunda, and hosting a forum with social justice leaders and legislators to discuss the proposed bills that affect women.

The regular legislative session is now underway, and there are a number of proposed bills that could improve women and children’s lives across the state by increasing economic security, allowing for better health care, reforming criminal justice, and reducing gun violence.

Louisiana is one of only five states that has failed to set a minimum wage above the federally-mandated $7.25 an hour despite its disastrous effects on women and children:

  • 278,000 households in Louisiana are headed by women, and 104,572 family households earn incomes that fall below the poverty level

  • 7 in 10 working Louisiana women make minimum wage

  • 300,000 Louisiana children have at least one parent who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.

“State Senator Troy Carter’s bill (Senate Bill 162) would raise the minimum wage in 2019 to $8 and hour, and a year later to $8.50,” says Janice Long, a member of Step Up Louisiana. “This would have been an acceptable start for lifting the low wage workers up from poverty and giving them encouragement for a brighter tomorrow. Unfortunately, the state Senate killed the bill, and that reinforces why women, who are disproportionately affected by the minimum wage, need to demand better results from government.”

In the area of criminal justice reform, state Representative Patricia Haynes Smith’s HB 264 would allow primary caretakers who have been convicted of a crime, to avoid incarceration with alternative sentencing. Studies show that keeping the family intact is critical for ensuring better outcomes for kids.

“Last year, the state passed a slate of criminal justice reform policies, but none of them specifically addressed the unique needs of incarcerated women,” says Syrita Steib-Martin, executive director of Operation Restoration. “With more than 2,000 women in prisons and jails in the state, it’s past time to tackle the issues that are affecting their families. Keeping mothers with their children has to be our number one priority. We know that parents would be better off serving their sentences while caring for their children outside of prison."

The lack of sexual education is another main issue for Louisiana women that the state legislature has failed to address. As Lift Louisiana’s executive director Michelle Erenberg puts it, part of the problem is the legislature’s reluctance to admit sex education is far more effective than ignorance.

“Over half of pregnancies in Louisiana are unplanned, and youth have some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy,” says Erenberg. “Arming young people with the information they need to make better decisions about their health is imperative because we want our girls to stay in school, which they are less likely to do if they are pregnant or parenting. Lawmakers can’t have it both ways. We can’t prevent women from choosing to end a pregnancy and prevent them from having access to the information and health care they need to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place.”

Victoria Coy, executive director for Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition, has long stood at the forefront for reforming the state’s lax gun laws. She points out that there are a number of bills in the current session—including a bill that closes the possession loophole for domestic violence offenders, the repeal of the preemption law, which would allow municipalities to pass more protective gun laws without state law superseding them—that could save lives.

Coy says that Louisiana legislators, who don’t recognize women’s voting power, do so at their own risk.

“We deserve better from our elected officials. And if our lawmakers won't protect Louisiana women, then it will be Louisiana women who vote them out of office,” Coy says.  
 

Sponsored by

Feminist Majority Foundation

Lift Louisiana

National Council of Jewish Women

National Organization for Women (NOW) Louisiana

New Orleans Abortion Fund

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

Women With a Vision

 

And Supported by

Birthmark Doulas

Independent Women’s Organization

League of Women Voters of Louisiana

Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Louisiana Progress

Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition

Med Students for Choice - Tulane University

National Birth Equity Collaborative

Power Coalition

Progressive Social Network of Baton Rouge

Solidarity Project Advocacy Network

Step Up Louisiana

Students United for Reproductive Freedom, Tulane School of Public Health

Students United for Reproductive Justice - Tulane University

Unitarian Universalist Voices for Reproductive Freedom