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Tragedy Sparks ‘Ethan’s Law’

Ethan Song
(Gunmemorial.org photo)

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

It’s nearly 5 a.m., and I’m creeping around my house because we’ve got overnight guests.

Someone is stretched out on my favorite couch, and I’m taking pains to make coffee and feed the dog as quietly as possible. I’m relieved when I see the living room couch is free, meaning I have a place to write.

It’s still dark outside, and I don’t want to turn on the lights. I can hear crickets, and the occasional hoot of an owl. This is my favorite time to write because my mind is rested and fresh, not bolloxed up by the stuff of the day.

And I need a rested mind to approach this subject. It’s about gun safety and parents losing their son at age 15 because of an unlocked gun. It’s about a mom and dad channeling their grief into action, trying to make something good and lasting out of a senseless tragedy.

Ethan Song died in January, 2018, after he got ahold of an unlocked gun at a friend’s house and accidentally shot himself. The gun and ammunition were stored in a plastic container in a closet in his friend’s house near the public beach in Guilford, CT.

I still remember the day it happened. The schools let out early for a monthly teacher’s conference on the last Wednesday of the month. I wondered if things might have been different if the kids had a full school day.

The news of Ethan’s death shattered our tight-knit community. Two days after he died, hundreds of residents attended a candlelight vigil on the Green where his father Mike and friends shared stories of him. It was freezing that February night, but the sky was clear and full of stars. At the end of the vigil, Mike asked us to look to the sky and shout “Ethan, We Love You” on the count of three.

I just got chills recounting that part. Mike showed so much grace, leading us in a cheer just 48 hours after his son’s death. I admired his strength and composure. I know I’d be a zombie in the same situation.

Five months after Ethan’s death, the Songs organized a 5K road race to raise money for their organization promoting gun safety. This time, Mike stood atop a fire department ladder truck and looked out on the crowd, asking us to look skyward and shout, “Ethan, We Love You.”

Chills again, all through my body recalling it. Mike has such faith that Ethan is in heaven looking down on us. And when you are screaming the words and look at what the Songs have accomplished since losing Ethan, you believe it too.

But first, back to the kids on my couch. They’re here because they partied while watching Game 4 of the Boston Bruins vs. the St. Louis Blues. They know the dangers of drunk driving, so they stayed overnight on couches and floors.

I’m happy they’re here because they’re safe and will return to their families later today. It’s largely through the efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving – and parents who lost their own children to DWI crashes – that today’s kids know not to drink and drive.

It took years to change public opinion and attitudes about drunk driving, but MADD did it through victim impact statements at trials, advocating tougher DWI laws and penalties, speeches at schools and education, including DWI crash simulations at high schools.

And though it seems like public opinion is never going to change on guns, the shift in attitudes about DWI gives me hope about the gun issue. I hope that one day gun advocates understand that most people don’t want to take away their guns: we just want to keep them out of the hands of children and people who are mentally unfit to prevent senseless tragedies.

Much as the families of DWI victims rallied for tougher laws to spare others the pain they went through, the Songs have stepped to the forefront of the gun safety movement. Just 18 months after Ethan’s death, Gov. Ned Lamont this week signed “Ethan’s Law,” which requires the safe storage of guns, whether loaded or unloaded.

I have a feeling that everyone is eventually going to know the Songs’ name. They want to make “Ethan’s Law” a national law, and judging by recent headlines, it’s needed. Guns are still getting into the hands of kids with fatal results. Just last week, an 11-year-old was charged with negligent homicide in the fatal shooting death of his 9-year-old brother in Louisiana.

Ethan’s Law will make it safer for every child in Connecticut to be in homes where there are firearms. Under the law, no child will be able to get ahold a gun on a play date.

As Ethan’s mother Kristin recently pointed out on the town’s Facebook page “Simply Guilford”, you don’t always know if someone is a gun owner when you send your child to a friend’s house. Your child is really only as safe as a gun owner’s storage of his firearms.

Years ago, I sent my son to an in-home day care center. The day-care owner had NRA stickers on her car, which made me uncomfortable. I suspected that she had guns in the house, but I never asked her about it. I was too shy, figuring it wasn’t any of my business.

But it was my business. My child was in her house, and so were a lot of other kids. Parents have a right to know and be assured that their children are safe when they go to a friend’s house or day-care facility. I wouldn’t send my child to a known predator or drug dealer’s house, so why would I send him to a home with an unlocked gun?

I eventually pulled my son out of that day-care because he came home with a bite on his hand, and the day-care owner said she had no idea how it happened. “Maybe he bit himself,” she offered. Was she kidding? It looked like he’d been bitten hard by another kid. Teeth marks were still on his hand when I drove him back to the house to ask her what happened.

I never went back. It bothered me that she had no idea how my child was hurt. It was clear that she wasn’t watching him, or was having other people watch the kids while she went out. She was careless, and I didn’t want my son around her. I didn’t trust her.

In addition to gun safety, Ethan’s death has underscored the importance of knowing where you’re sending your child. We all take steps to child-proof our homes when our kids are little, yet the same diligence is needed when they are teens.

No parent has ever asked me if I have guns in my house, yet it’s a valid question. And maybe Ethan’s Law will get the conversation rolling and give parents the courage to ask the tough questions.

As for the Songs, they’re just getting started. They will host the 2nd annual Song Strong 5K Run/Walk June 8th in Guilford to raise money for their organization promoting gun safety. For more info, click here: https://runsignup.com/Race/CT/Guilford/SongStrong5K.

The Songs will be present when Lamont visits Guilford on June 13th to officially sign ‘Ethan’s Law.” In addition, the couple is co-sponsoring a gun buyback day in Guilford later this month. Click here for more info: https://patch.com/connecticut/guilford/ethan-song-foundation-sponsor-gun-buyback-day-guilford.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Guilford, and frequent contributor to this blog.

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ACTION ALERT: Print, sign and mail the ‘Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere’ pledge to affected states and Supreme Court justices before Tuesday’s National Day of Action for Reproductive Rights!

Like Alabama earlier this week, Missouri today passed a ban on abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest, that criminalizes doctors, and makes abortion a felony.

Women in Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi face similar assaults, and we must say STOP. NOW. On the streets, in the courts, and at the ballot box, we will fight to ensure women’s access to safe legal abortions in every state, and to keep Roe the law of the land.

With the help of the Women’s March CT and Fairfield Standing United, Connecticut NOW has created an updated list of places for you to send signed copies of the “Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere” pledge, WHICH WE NEED YOU TO DO ASAP – ideally before the #STOPTHEBANS National Day of Action for Reproductive Rights that is happening in all 50 states on Tuesday.

Download and print the “Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere” pledge, and mail to all those listed below.

Note that it’s important to send to even those officials you know are pro-choice. Numbers matter and show what constituents are demanding.

You can also download a jpeg of the “Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere” graphic to share on social media.

Missouri Governor Michael Parson
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
Riffe Center, 30th floor
77 S High St
Columbus, OH 43215

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin
700 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, KY 40601

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp
206 Washington Street, Suite 203, State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards
State Capitol
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
600 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36130

Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20543
Send individually to:
* Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
* Clarence Thomas
* Ruth Bader Ginsburg
* Stephen G. Breyer
* Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.
* Sonia Sotomayor
* Elena Kagan
* Neil Gorsuch
* Brett Kavanaugh

Senator Richard Blumenthal
706 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Chris Murphy
136 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Congressman John Larson
1501 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Joe Courtney
2332 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
2413 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Jim Himes
1227 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes
1415 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

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Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere. Print, sign and mail the pledge.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s decision yesterday to sign the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion bill into law has set into motion what for many is the unthinkable – the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade.

We can’t wait to take action. Every one of us needs to begin using our voices NOW, publicly telling anyone and everyone that we believe in reproductive freedom, and that we will fight to keep Roe the law of the land.

Download and print the “Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere” pledge, and mail to all those listed below. If you’re not in Connecticut, mail to your own U.S. senators and representatives.

Note that it’s important to send to even those officials you know are pro-choice. Numbers matter and show what constituents are demanding.

You can also download a jpeg of the “Not in Alabama. Not Anywhere” graphic to share on social media.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
600 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36130

Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20543
Send individually to:
* Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
* Clarence Thomas
* Ruth Bader Ginsburg
* Stephen G. Breyer
* Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.
* Sonia Sotomayor
* Elena Kagan
* Neil Gorsuch
* Brett Kavanaugh

Senator Richard Blumenthal
706 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Chris Murphy
136 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Congressman John Larson
1501 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Joe Courtney
2332 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
2413 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Jim Himes
1227 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes
1415 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

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Boynton plans ‘Hilgrimage’

Cindy Wolfe Boynton listens as my husband makes a point after Friday night’s talk at the Oakdale.

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

Cindy Wolfe Boynton is taking a Hilgrimage this summer.

Our plucky chapter president and admitted Hillary Clinton “groupie” plans to visit the former First Lady’s childhood home outside Chicago and other pivotal places in her life en route to NOW’s National Conference in Minneapolis, MN. in July.

Her route is a little circuitous, wending its way through several midwestern and southern states, including Arkansas, where she’ll find the house where Bill and Hillary Cilnton wed in 1974.
Cindy is making the 29-day trip decidedly alone, leaving her husband Ted and two adult sons to fend for themselves. She’s says she’s waited a lifetime for this trip and wants to do it her way, with no interference or input from anyone.
“If I want to sit in the sun and do nothing all day, that’s what I’m going to do,” Cindy, 51, said. “Since 1985 when I began dating my husband, I’ve always had to adjust to being someone’s wife, mother, or daughter. This is the first trip I’ll ever take where I can do whatever I want, when I want, and not have to apologize for it.”

Though Cindy can sunbathe if she wants, she plans to spend much of her time meeting with feminists in various states and visiting places that have been instrumental to the women’s movement. A longtime freelance writer and college writing instructor, she plans to write about her experiences, possibly for an upcoming book.

Cindy shared plans for her excellent adventure with me after attending “A Night With the Clintons” at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford. She deftly deflected my suggestion that I accompany her on one leg of the journey. Well, I tried. And let’s face it: we all secretly wish we can stow away with someone making a break for it Thelma and Louise-style.
Cindy has been mapping her journey for months, and in typical fashion, already has all of her motel rooms booked. Going to see Hillary at the last-minute was a no-brainer for Cindy, who worked tirelessly on her campaign in 2016.
Though ticket sales initially appeared sluggish for the even, the Clintons delayed their talk by about 40 minutes while hundreds of people jostled for parking spaces in heavy downpours Friday night.
By the time moderator Star Jones began questioning the couple, the hall was packed with Clinton supporters. There was hooting and hollering, with the occasional call of “We need you Hillary!” and “2020!” But it’s clear that Hillary’s campaign days are behind her, and she’s still regrouping from her loss to President Trump in November, 2016.
There were no surprises during the 90-minute talk, which included snippets about the Clintons’ courtship at Yale Law School in the early 70s. Fun fact: Bill Clinton once cajoled a Yale security guard to unlock a museum for Hillary, who was disappointed it was closed. The only caveat was the couple had to pick up garbage outside the museum because Yale workers were on strike.
“I’ve always considered myself very pro labor and this was the only time I crossed a picket line,” Bill said. “But I didn’t really cross a picket line because it was just one guy inside the museum. And I didn’t think anybody would mind us picking up leaves, sticks and other debris.”
Bill Clinton also confessed that he was smitten with Hillary from the start, proposing to her at least three times before she said yes. The couple joked that she has a history of turning down proposals from powerful men, noting she refused President Obama’s invitation to become Secretary of State several times before finally accepting it.
The Clintons appeared relaxed and rested during the talk, which was panned by some reporters a shameless and boring money-raising nostalgia tour for the couple. I guess they have a point. Listening to the Clintons made me long for the good old days when our country’s leaders listened and negotiated instead of ruling with an iron fist, accusing reporters of fake news and calling people names like a 6-year-old.
Bill’s voice is raspier than during his presidency, though he still has the southern charm that helped win him two elections. He spun several yarns about growing up in Arkansas, reminding the audience that the National Rifle Association plays on the fears of people in rural areas like those in his home state.

The couple spoke of the need for a ban on automatic assault weapons and stricter background checks to reduce the number of mass shootings in this country. And they pointed out that reducing gun violence won’t happen until voters take a stand at the polls and make gun control a voting issue.

I texted Cindy when I heard the Clintons would be at Oakdale. She had something on her calendar, but it looked like the weather wouldn’t cooperate so yes, she’d be there. In fact, she wanted to sit in the orchestra section so she could get a good look at “her girl” Hillary.
Though typically tardy like me, Cindy arrived about an hour early and stood in a long line in heavy rain as security officers searched people and ran them through metal detectors. She stood by the will call window for another hour as my husband and I sat in a traffic jam in the parking lot. Most people would have been angry or discouraged, but Cindy patiently asked for her ticket when I finally arrived.
I could see that Cindy was anxious to take her seat. She was about to see and hear her hero Hillary, whom she credits with helping her cope with the death of her father in the summer of 2016.
“If it wasn’t for the campaign, I’d probably have crawled into a ball and stayed in bed after my father’s death,” Cindy said. “Being involved in that campaign was important because it was something greater than myself. My father had never voted for a Democrat in his life, but he planned to vote for Hillary in November.”

Cindy dived head first into Hillary’s campaign, heading up a field office in Milford, CT., aimed at garnering votes in Connecticut and New Hampshire. Along the way, she met Hillary several times. She says she was most impressed by Hillary’s willingness to listen to people with an open mind, and change her opinion when necessary. She was also struck by her ability to make and forge lasting friendships with people along the campaign trail.

Though devastated by Hillary’s defeat in November, 2016, Cindy channeled her disappointment into her own political campaign. She ran as a Democrat for state representative in the 117th District covering Milford, Orange and West Haven, narrowly losing to the Republican incumbent last November.

I’ve long considered Cindy one of the most fearless, persistent and confident people I know. And I think the recent loss of her beloved mother Barbara, who died unexpectedly in March, has made her even stronger and more resilient, if that’s possible.

Nearly 18 years ago, Cindy was one of the first people I told that I adopted my daughter. She was my second child and only 6 days old, and I was still in the adjustment phase when Cindy called me one morning to ask me about an article I was writing for her health magazine.
“I’m sorry, I just adopted a little girl,” I said. “I’m a little out of it this morning.”
“I’m adopted!” she chirped.
Somehow, hearing Cindy say those words was comforting and reassuring. She is, after all, one of the most talented people I know. But it’s her self confidence and belief in herself that’s always impressed me most. She doesn’t take no for an answer, isn’t fazed by the haters who trashed her on Facebook during her campaign. In fact, she left the comments up, saying she’d be happy to discuss issues with people in person.
“She is so self-confident,” my husband Steve remarked this morning. “And it’s not in an arrogant or self-important way. She just exudes the feeling that nothing bothers her. It may on the inside, but she’s appears to be unflappable.”
And in this way, she is so very remarkable, a product of two parents who clearly adored her and convinced her she could do anything she wanted in life. She’s taking her “Hilgrimage,” and doing it her way. I wouldn’t expect anything less, and I’m sure her parents would approve.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy of Guilford is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut NOW chapter’s blog.

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Legislators: Pass SB972 to Eradicate Law that Marginalizes Women and is Unjust to All

April 16, 2019

Dear members of the Connecticut General Assembly:

The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women, committed to advancing women’s rights and ending all forms of discrimination, joins in partnership with the 16 additional organizations listed below to urge you to support SB 972, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records By Adult Adopted Persons. SB 972 would eradicate a misguided law put in place in the 1970s to “protect” Connecticut women, but instead is no more than a thinly veiled effort to silence and marginalize them.

There is an assumption that birth parents, especially birth mothers, are adversaries of adult adoptees when it comes to the question of restoring adult adoptees’ rights to their original birth certificates. However, for the majority of adult adoptees and their birth parents, nothing is further from the truth. Birth mothers have testified in support of SB 972 and, in doing so, have revealed a stain on our society about the actual circumstances surrounding the relinquishment of their children.

It is here where our support as women is rooted. Concerned United Birthparents, an organization made up of those with a lived birth parent experience, tells us about the great injustices done to women who relinquished their children. In written testimony submitted to the Legislature supporting SB 972, they write: “This misguided attempt to ‘protect our privacy’ actually perpetuates the shame that was originally inflicted on us by a society that rejected us a women and mothers.” Moreover, Connecticut birth mothers elaborate how this shame was a reality in their own testimonies:

“I never sought confidentiality as a birthmother. Anonymity was forced upon me. – Southbury, CT, birth mother Dr. Judy Kelly

“I was promised many things by social workers before I signed surrender papers—that my life would go on as if my pregnancy never happened, that I would forget, that my daughter would lead a better life than I could have given her.  I was never given any assurance of anonymity.” – Bethel, CT, birth mother Karen Waggoner

“The agency made it abundantly clear my rights to my child would be terminated and that I was not allowed to attempt to interfere with the adoptive family. I don’t believe they were concerned for MY privacy.”  – Newington, CT, birth mother Holly Harlow

The Connecticut Legislature’s vote in 1975 to seal the birth records of all adoptees—even for those who already knew the names of their biological parents as allowed under the law at that time—took place as part of an era where being pregnant, without being married, was almost the worst thing a woman could do. Starting in the late 1940s and ending around the time of this vote, this was a time in our history when single women who became pregnant were sent away, forced to live under assumed names, received “rehabilitation services” to help ensure they wouldn’t “repeat their mistake,” and were then told that they had absolutely no choice but to give up their babies, even though this was not the truth. During this period known as the “Baby Scoop Era,” more than 4 million mothers across the U.S. gave up their babies, including approximately 40,000 from Connecticut.

These statistics are as astounding as the shame cast on these “ruined women.” Doctors, nurses and social workers told them that they should forget that this “unfortunate situation” ever occurred and move on with their lives. What health and adoption experts know today, however, is that this secrecy instead inflicted ongoing pain. Citing the chronic physical and mental health issues that too many of these birth mothers have suffered, 27 Connecticut health and human service organizations have stated unwavering support for SB 972, including the Connecticut State Medical Society, the Connecticut Council on Adoption, the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Parents, and the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that we should be “suspicious of women-only protective legislation.” Yet Connecticut’s current law renders those caught in adoption—both adult adoptees and birth parents—as second-class citizens, living their entire lives under government-imposed gag orders that continue forced silence based in shame.

This misogynistic and outdated law treats adult women as if they require special legal protections given only to children and the legally incompetent. Keeping this law in place perpetuates the demeaning stereotype that women who relinquished their children are weak and less-than-competent adults who need state protection to handle their most basic affairs and personal choices. It is disrespectful of their autonomy and capacity as adults. Women are capable of managing their personal business and should be treated as full, equal adults under the law.

Furthermore, adult adopted women (and men) are also discriminated against by existing law. Against their will and without their consent, they have been deprived of a basic birthright to know their origins like all other citizens. Lack of knowledge of family medical history also puts adoptees at risk and, in too many instances, has led to life-threatening situations for them or their children.

Connecticut legislators have the opportunity today to be leaders in the ongoing fight for women’s equality. Passing SB 972 would repeal a law, written by men, that deemed women too “fragile” to speak in their own voices. It would put an end to an oppressive era in Connecticut history that denied women their choice of whether to parent, denied women the ability to control their sexuality and bodies, and that supported the premise that any woman who had broken society’s patriarchal norms by becoming pregnant “out of wedlock” should be shunned and shamed.

Our support for SB972 is about restoring optionality, giving all women a choice where they had none before, and treating all people equally under one consistent law. The time is now. The right side of history is today. Support SB 972, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records By Adult Adopted Persons along with the truth, equality, and justice it provides.

Sincerely,

Access Connecticut

Action Together CT

Charter Oak Cultural Center

Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ

Connecticut Council on Adoption

Connecticut Indivisible

Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund

Fairfield Standing United

ForwardCT

National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter

National Organization for Women, Connecticut Chapter

The Connecticut Women’s Consortium

True Colors

West Haven Progressive Action Network

Women’s March Connecticut Chapter

YWCA Greenwich

YWCA Hartford Region

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‘Be on the right side of history,’ Connecticut Organizations Tell Legislators

Pass SB972 to Eradicate Law that Marginalizes Women and is Unjust to All

HARTFORD, Conn.—Led by the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women, 17 Connecticut organizations and 26 cosponsoring legislators called on the General Assembly to pass SB 972, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records By Adult Adopted Persons, and eradicate a misguided law passed 44 years ago to “protect” Connecticut women, but instead is no more than a thinly veiled effort to silence and marginalize them.

The bill would restore the right of every adopted person in Connecticut to obtain a copy of his or her original birth certificate, which was allowed in Connecticut until a misguided bill that sealed the records was passed in 1975, said Connecticut NOW President Cindy Wolfe Boynton. Boynton spoke at a press conference today at the Legislative Office Building, organized by Connecticut NOW and co-sponsored by Access Connecticut, State Senator Steve Cassano and State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey.

SB972 would also build on a law passed in 2014 that allows individuals adopted after October 1, 1983 to obtain an uncertified copy of their original birth certificate. SB972 would provide the same rights to adoptees born before October 1, 1983.

“The Connecticut Legislature’s vote in 1975 to seal the birth records of all adoptees—even for those who already knew the names of their biological parents as allowed under the law at that time—took place as part of an era where being pregnant, without being married, was almost the worst thing a woman could do,” Connecticut NOW President Cindy Wolfe Boynton said today.

“Passing SB 972 would put an end to an oppressive era in Connecticut history that denied women their choice of whether to parent, denied women the ability to control their sexuality and bodies, and that supported the premise that any woman who had broken society’s patriarchal norms by becoming pregnant ‘out of wedlock’ should be shunned and shamed.

During this period from late 1940s to the mid-1970s, more than 4 million mothers from across the U.S. gave up their babies. Approximately 40,000 of the mothers affected by this “Baby Scoop Era” were from Connecticut.

Opponents of SB972 cite the incorrect assumption that birth parents, especially birth mothers, are adversaries of adult adoptees when it comes to the question of restoring adult adoptees’ rights to their original birth certificates.

“However, for the overwhelming majority of adult adoptees and their birth parents, nothing is further from the truth,” said Access Connecticut Now President Karen Caffrey. “In states that have passed laws similar to SB972, birth mothers say that hearing from the adult adoptee is the best thing that ever happened to them, ending years of worry and longing. Connecticut birth mothers have also testified in support of SB 972, saying they are heartily in favor of it passing.”

More than 25 Connecticut health and human service organizations have also stated unwavering support for SB 972, including the Connecticut State Medical Society, the Connecticut Council on Adoption, the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families, and the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

A 2007 survey by UConn’s Center for Survey and Research Analysis shows that an overwhelming 82 percent of Connecticut registered voters support adoptees having the ability to access their original birth records.

The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, Women’s March CT, Action Together, Connecticut Indivisible and the YMCAs of Hartford and Greenwich are among the statewide organizations that signed on to the letter Connecticut NOW presented to the General Assembly as part of the press conference earlier today.

Please read the full text of that letter here:

April 16, 2019

Dear members of the Connecticut General Assembly:

The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women, committed to advancing women’s rights and ending all forms of discrimination, joins in partnership with the 16 additional organizations listed below to urge you to support SB 972, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records By Adult Adopted Persons. SB 972 would eradicate a misguided law put in place in the 1970s to “protect” Connecticut women, but instead is no more than a thinly veiled effort to silence and marginalize them.

There is an assumption that birth parents, especially birth mothers, are adversaries of adult adoptees when it comes to the question of restoring adult adoptees’ rights to their original birth certificates. However, for the majority of adult adoptees and their birth parents, nothing is further from the truth. Birth mothers have testified in support of SB 972 and, in doing so, have revealed a stain on our society about the actual circumstances surrounding the relinquishment of their children.

It is here where our support as women is rooted. Concerned United Birthparents, an organization made up of those with a lived birth parent experience, tells us about the great injustices done to women who relinquished their children. In written testimony submitted to the Legislature supporting SB 972, they write: “This misguided attempt to ‘protect our privacy’ actually perpetuates the shame that was originally inflicted on us by a society that rejected us a women and mothers.” Moreover, Connecticut birth mothers elaborate how this shame was a reality in their own testimonies:

“I never sought confidentiality as a birthmother. Anonymity was forced upon me. – Southbury, CT, birth mother Dr. Judy Kelly

“I was promised many things by social workers before I signed surrender papers—that my life would go on as if my pregnancy never happened, that I would forget, that my daughter would lead a better life than I could have given her.  I was never given any assurance of anonymity.” – Bethel, CT, birth mother Karen Waggoner

“The agency made it abundantly clear my rights to my child would be terminated and that I was not allowed to attempt to interfere with the adoptive family. I don’t believe they were concerned for MY privacy.”  – Newington, CT, birth mother Holly Harlow

The Connecticut Legislature’s vote in 1975 to seal the birth records of all adoptees—even for those who already knew the names of their biological parents as allowed under the law at that time—took place as part of an era where being pregnant, without being married, was almost the worst thing a woman could do. Starting in the late 1940s and ending around the time of this vote, this was a time in our history when single women who became pregnant were sent away, forced to live under assumed names, received “rehabilitation services” to help ensure they wouldn’t “repeat their mistake,” and were then told that they had absolutely no choice but to give up their babies, even though this was not the truth. During this period known as the “Baby Scoop Era,” more than 4 million mothers across the U.S. gave up their babies, including approximately 40,000 from Connecticut.

These statistics are as astounding as the shame cast on these “ruined women.” Doctors, nurses and social workers told them that they should forget that this “unfortunate situation” ever occurred and move on with their lives. What health and adoption experts know today, however, is that this secrecy instead inflicted ongoing pain. Citing the chronic physical and mental health issues that too many of these birth mothers have suffered, 27 Connecticut health and human service organizations have stated unwavering support for SB 972, including the Connecticut State Medical Society, the Connecticut Council on Adoption, the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Parents, and the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that we should be “suspicious of women-only protective legislation.” Yet Connecticut’s current law renders those caught in adoption—both adult adoptees and birth parents—as second-class citizens, living their entire lives under government-imposed gag orders that continue forced silence based in shame.

This misogynistic and outdated law treats adult women as if they require special legal protections given only to children and the legally incompetent. Keeping this law in place perpetuates the demeaning stereotype that women who relinquished their children are weak and less-than-competent adults who need state protection to handle their most basic affairs and personal choices. It is disrespectful of their autonomy and capacity as adults. Women are capable of managing their personal business and should be treated as full, equal adults under the law.

Furthermore, adult adopted women (and men) are also discriminated against by existing law. Against their will and without their consent, they have been deprived of a basic birthright to know their origins like all other citizens. Lack of knowledge of family medical history also puts adoptees at risk and, in too many instances, has led to life-threatening situations for them or their children.

Connecticut legislators have the opportunity today to be leaders in the ongoing fight for women’s equality. Passing SB 972 would repeal a law, written by men, that deemed women too “fragile” to speak in their own voices. It would put an end to an oppressive era in Connecticut history that denied women their choice of whether to parent, denied women the ability to control their sexuality and bodies, and that supported the premise that any woman who had broken society’s patriarchal norms by becoming pregnant “out of wedlock” should be shunned and shamed.

Our support for SB972 is about restoring optionality, giving all women a choice where they had none before, and treating all people equally under one consistent law. The time is now. The right side of history is today. Support SB 972, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records By Adult Adopted Persons along with the truth, equality, and justice it provides.

Sincerely,

Access Connecticut

Action Together CT

Charter Oak Cultural Center

Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ

Connecticut Council on Adoption

Connecticut Indivisible

Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund

Fairfield Standing United

ForwardCT

National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter

National Organization for Women, Connecticut Chapter

The Connecticut Women’s Consortium

True Colors

West Haven Progressive Action Network

Women’s March Connecticut Chapter

YWCA Greenwich

YWCA Hartford Region

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Media Alert: Pass SB972 to Eradicate Law that Marginalizes Women and is Unjust to All

April 15, 2019

MEDIA ALERT

WHAT: Press conference sponsored by the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women in partnership with Access Connecticut Now, State Senator Steve Cassano and State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey. 

WHY: Connecticut NOW and more than 15 partner organizations have joined forces to urge the Connecticut General Assembly to pass SB 972, An Act Concerning Access to Original Birth Records By Adult Adopted Persons as a way to eradicate a misguided law put in place in the 1970s to “protect” Connecticut women, but instead is no more than a thinly veiled effort to silence and marginalize them.

WHEN: 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 16

WHERE: Room 1B of the Legislative Office Building, Hartford

For more information, please contact:

Cindy Wolfe Boynton – 203-214-7554 or president@now-ct.org
President, National Organization for Women, Connecticut Chapter

Karen Caffrey – 860-306-0900 or kdcaffrey@gmail.com
President, Access Connecticut Now

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I’m Knitting (Finally!)

Clarice Yasuhara is still smiling after teaching me to knit.

 

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

Clarice Yasuhara has done the impossible.
In less than an hour and with an enormous amount of patience and restraint, Clarice taught me to knit. My kids made fun of my progress and I’m slower than dirt, but I’m on my way.
I can now knit, a skill that has eluded me for 50 years. And though I’m just starting, I think it will be relaxing once (if) I get the hang of it.
Clarice was one a handful of women who attended a “Learn to Knit” program Sunday sponsored by the Connecticut chapter of NOW. The goal is to teach women to knit so they can make a “With-You Wrap” for domestic violence victims across the state.
Chapter President Cindy Boynton launched the program to show domestic violence victims that someone cares. She hopes to collect and distribute about 1,200 handmade wraps to women in shelters across the state.
The Connecticut chapter is the only one doing this project, which has drawn donations from knitters from across the country. The parameters are pretty wide: a wrap in purple featuring some combination of three different yarns, colors or stitches.
We were lucky to have Clarice at Sunday’s event at my house. Clarice is an expert knitter who has taught knitting at area yarn shops for years. Just my luck, she knew how to teach a lefty and showed me the ropes.
At one point, she even suggested videotaping her knitting so I could watch it if I got stuck. There are also lots of great tutorials on YouTube.
Cindy, who is also a longtime knitter, worked with my 17-year-old daughter Maura. Neither of us are particularly dexterous. There were mistakes, lots of them. But apparently this is normal when knitting for the first time. It’s a lot harder than it looks, particularly when you’re watching someone who seems to do it effortlessly.

Chapter President Cindy Boynton shows Maura Murphy, 17, the basics.

Sunday’s session had a mix of experienced and novice knitters.

Julie Bartley, right, attended Sunday’s session with daughter Avery.

As a beginner, you want to be able to go fast, but you can’t. You must focus on the basics – behind, around, through and up – or you will mess up. It feels arduous at first, and then it finally clicks. By then, you need a little break because you’re exhausted from focusing so hard.
I am not a naturally crafty person. I think I was scared off after a home economics sewing class in 8th grade when I made a pantsuit out of green corduroy (it was the ’70s) and failed to realize that the material was not lined up correctly.
The finished product featured corduroy running in different directions. My mother tried not to laugh, but it was a disaster. I had no interest in sewing or anything crafty after that, focusing instead on easier things like tennis and golf.
But knowing how to knit has always been a secret wish. I find it fascinating and a little magical how a ball of yarn can be transformed into a blanket, sweater or wrap. I’ve always envied people who knit because it seems like such a satisfying hobby, particularly for someone with busy hands like me.
Like most things in life, knitting comes easier to some people than others. I happen to fall in the latter category, but I’m willing to accept it and forge ahead anyway. As they say, the expert was once a beginner.
Julie Bartley attended Sunday’s workshop with her daughter Avery Holzworth, a sophomore at the Norwich Free Academy. Both mother and daughter described themselves as basic knitters, though their progress on their wraps was impressive.

The next session is March 19th from 7-9 p.m. at 116 Brewster Road, West Hartford.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to this blog.

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‘Gloria – A Life’ Sparks Mix of Emotions

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

I’ve got 24 hours to do something outrageous.

I’m not sure what it will be – suburban life leans toward the safe side of things. But I’m committed. I’ve been assured the world will be a better place if I do one thing today in the name of social justice and activism.

The challenge came at the end of a “talk back” at the conclusion of the play Gloria – A Life in New York City. I attended Saturday’s matinee with about 35 members of NOW’s Connecticut chapter.

The play tells the story of women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, from her heartbreaking childhood caring for her mentally ill mother in Toledo, Ohio, to her rise as editor and co-founder of Ms. magazine in 1971.

Along the way, it traces Gloria’s years at Smith College (about 80 Smith students were at Saturday’s show) and her budding career in journalism, which included “A Bunny’s Tale,” her expose of her 11 days as a Playboy bunny in New York in 1963. Patricia Kalember, who plays Gloria, has done her homework. In addition to being a dead-ringer with her over-sized aviator glasses, streaked hair and slim frame, she embodies Steinem’s attitude and wit.

When she entered the stage in an all black outfit, I did a double take. For a minute, I thought it might be Steinem, who lives in New York, making a cameo. During the talk-back, Kalember clarified Steinem’s position on many subjects, taking exception when an audience member said she hated all men.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say you hate all men. I think you hate what’s happening now,” she said. “Never give up. As Gloria would say, ‘Be a Hopeaholic.'”

I rarely go to New York City or plays, which made this trip a treat. Chapter president Cindy Boynton said she planned the road trip because she loves Steinem, and wants to offer a broad range of activities for NOW members.

“Not everyone wants to march at a women’s rights rally,” said Cindy, who has feminist lectures, knitting circles, happy hours and wellness programs in the works. “Some people want to be involved in NOW in other ways.”

Cindy said she’s offering activities that women feel comfortable attending alone. The vast majority of women attending the play and January’s bus trip to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., went alone.

I like that NOW is offering these activities because it’s allowing me to break out of my routine and explore things that my husband has no interest in. I invited him to the play – a few men accompanied their wives – but he politely declined. Ordinarily, I might be nervous going my myself, but it’s fun traveling with the NOW group.

Our charter bus dropped us off at the Daryl Roth Theatre, a colorful theater-in-the-round that feels a little like sitting inside a kaleidoscope, and gave us a few hours to grab a bite  before heading home. We opted for Pete’s Tavern, a New York landmark with walls peppered with signed photos of famous guests. We sat under portraits of Soupy Sales, Peter Graves, Claire Danes, Bill Hader and my favorite, Johnny Depp.

I planned to attend the play solo when Cindy told me that there were a few extra tickets. I asked my 17-year-old daughter Maura to go and she agreed to join me. She made it clear that she had no plans of actually conversing with me on the bus, scrambling to find her wireless headphones on Friday night.

That was fine with me. As the family’s chief driver, I look forward to these bus trips for chilling out and reading, maybe even looking out the window. One of the most disappointing days of my life was a train trip to NYC with my son when he was nine. I was looking forward to doing nothing while he spent two hours talking non-stop about Pokémon and Digimon. I thought I’d lose my mind.

But spending time with my girl is special because it’s so rare. I still remember my devastation when I asked her to go roller skating a few years ago and she brushed me off.

“Why don’t you just go yourself?” she said.

She likes her space, so much that I often have to remind her that I live in our house too. She finds me annoying, and has no problem telling me how she feels. She often leaves the room as soon as I enter, but texts me from school. I don’t get it.

I’d be offended if I hadn’t gone through the same thing with her 21-year-old brother from age 13 to 19 in one of the world’s longest rebellious stages. He had no use for me, and often let me know it. It’s a good thing I’m not easily offended.

We sat across the aisle on the bus and next to each other in the theater. I gave her the aisle seat and was gratified that she paid attention and got the funny parts of the play.

When I asked her what her favorite scene was, she said: “the crazy Russian lady with the hat.”

“You mean Bella Abzug?” I said. “She was a Jewish Congresswoman from New York.” I can see her assuming Abzug was Russian, but the actor’s Bronx accent was spot on. I don’t know how she confused the two, but I’ll give her credit for singling out Bella. With her trademark hat and outsize personality, she was known as “Battling Bella” and was larger than life.

I smiled throughout the play, maybe channeling the energy of the ensemble cast in the intimate theater. Many audience members were emotional and wept, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Perhaps it was my glee about being in NYC instead of Marie Kondo-ing my pantry back in Guilford.

Or maybe it was my joy about how far women have come under Steinem and other leaders of the women’s movement. I grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s when women were burning bras, breaking down barriers in the workplace and championing the sexual revolution.

I attended an all women’s college to further my education – not to grab a ring by spring – and kept my maiden name after I married. Though I insisted it was for professional reasons, it was personal: I didn’t think it was fair that women had to give up their surnames upon marriage. OK, that’s my first sort of outrageous act. I’ve never admitted that to anyone before. I kept my name for most of my marriage because I felt like it. And I have Gloria to thank.

I didn’t know any professional women while I was growing up – all of the mothers in my neighborhood left their jobs in their 20s to get married and raise families. But my generation was different, and we aspired for more. Most colleges went co-ed, and friends went to medical, law and graduate schools, and managed to build careers along with families. A lot changed in about 25 years.

Times were changing very, very quickly. And while there were growing pains along the way, the world is a much different place today than it was when I was born in 1958. Girls are raised to chase their dreams instead of boys. And while many women feel defeated by the current political climate in Washington, Gloria-A Life reminds us just how far we’ve come.

The play made me smile, reminding me that change is possible if you’re patient, persistent and believe. At 84, Gloria hasn’t given up, and neither should we.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut chapter’s blog. You can follow her blog at thegsandwich.wordpress.com.

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Several pro-choice bills coming up this legislative session

Photo from CT News Junkie

By Lauren Pizzoferrato

For the 46th Anniversary of Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, the CT Coalition for Choice held a press conference announcing proposed pro-choice legislation for this legislative session.

The bills, which have not all been assigned numbers yet, are:

  • Requiring insurance to cover abortions with no copay
  • Prevent Crisis Pregnancy Centers from deceptive advertising on a state level
  • Allow patients to opt out of the policy holder of their insurance from receiving the Explanation of Benefits, in order to protect their privacy
  • Reimburse Doulas through Medicaid
  • Reimburse Certified Nurse Midwives at the same rate as Ob/Gyns for medical services related to delivery
  • A nondiscrimination act to prevent employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their reproductive healthcare choices

You can watch a video of the press conference from NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut’s Facebook page. The event was also covered by the CT Mirror and CT News Junkie.

If any of the above bills strike you as particularly important or would/could have directly affected your life, you may have the opportunity to have your voice heard.

Connecticut NOW will inform you if and when these bills make it to the stage where they have a public hearing. This is the step before they are voted on by your local legislators in the House and Senate. Sometimes hearings happen without much notice, so it is wise to start thinking now about how you would state your support for a specific bill. If you can’t make it to the public hearing in person, you can submit written testimony. Sharing a personal story, and then listing the reasons why you support the bill, can be very effective.

The email address to send testimony and the deadline change from bill to bill. Connecticut NOW will communicate this information to you.

Click here for the Connecticut General Assembly’s guide to the testimony process. It doesn’t mention that you can submit written testimony without speaking at the public hearing, but that is always an option.

Lauren Pizzoferrato is Connecticut NOW’s representative on the CT Coalition for Choice.

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