Yearly Archives: 2014

12 posts

Want to know what is happening at the General Assembly?  Click here to see what bills CT NOW is tracking: 2014 CT NOW Bill Tracking.  Note – bills in rows highlighted green have already passed, ones highlighted in red have died, and ones highlighted in yellow will see action soon.

Shout out to members of  the House, who unanimously passed HB 5029, An Act Concerning Sexual Assault, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence, through their chamber last week.  The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate, and will hopefully see the Governor’s desk before Sine Die.

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2014 CT NOW Policy Agenda

2014 CT NOW Policy Agenda

The 2014 legislative session is in full swing, and CT NOW is supporting a broad policy agenda that will positively impact the lives of women in Connecticut. The bills we are following have the potential to do many things – from providing a better response to sexual assaults on college campuses to ensuring that women can retire without financial hardship to preserving female reproductive health services.  Details on the legislation that we are monitoring are included in our bill tracking spreadsheet: 2014 CT NOW Bill Tracking.

CT NOW is particularly proud of our General Assembly for becoming the first state in the nation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. Connecticut’s working residents are now one step closer to earning a livable wage.  For a summary of the bill, please follow this link: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/BA/2014SB-00032-R000024-BA.htm.

Please contact Brie Johnston at brie@bettygallo.com if you would like to get involved with legislative advocacy.

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February 16-March 2 Weekly News Roundup

A round up of current news stories on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

By Tess Koenigsmark

Governor Malloy sparred with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal at a press conference for the National Governor’s Association held outside the White House. Malloy objected to the highly partisan comments made by Jindal, who said that by focusing on increasing the minimum wage, Obama “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” on the economy. Malloy called Jindal’s assessment of the minimum wage issue “the most insane thing I’ve ever heard.”

The incident has garnered Malloy national attention, and some think it may be the reason why President Obama has announced a visit to Central Connecticut State University this Wednesday. Obama will appear at an event supporting proposed legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Democrat Gary Holder-Winfield has been elected as a state senator, filling the seat left open by Toni Harp. Holder-Winfield’s opponent, Steve Mullins, ran an odd campaign based on misleading or just plain false advertisements and accusations. Mullins accused Holder-Winfield of putting women and girls at risk of sexual violence because of his support for a 2011 bill protecting transgender people from discrimination. Luckily, transphobia was a failing campaign strategy.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, which would remove disciplinary proceedings for sexual assault cases from the military chain of command, will FINALLY have its day on the Senate floor for debate.

Apparently CVS has a policy that allows any employee to refuse to sell Plan B, the emergency contraception now available over the counter without any age restriction. But what if there happens to be no one there willing to sell a customer Plan B? The official, super professional CVS policy in this situation is essentially, “You’re out of luck.” Awesome.

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2013 Legislative Task Forces

2013 was truly the year of the task force! During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly commissioned a number of task forces to study issues that impact various populations of women. The subject matter of these task forces include family medical leave insurance, retirement security, trafficking in persons, civil restraining orders, family violence, alimony and the care and custody of minors. Each task force will publish their findings and recommendations on their website during the first couple of months of 2014. We have compiled an excel spreadsheet to track the information coming from each of these task forces: CT NOW 2013 Task Force Information WSV. Happy reading!

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Can you name a female jazz musician from the ’30s? I couldn’t.

My mom and I were lucky enough to see a new film called “Girls in the Band” this past Friday night at Real Art Ways in Hartford. The film itself is phenomenal, with wicked old film clips and photographs from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and great recent interviews with the women it was profiling.

 

The film struck a chord with me because in some ways, it is about me. I was astonished to realize while watching the film that unfortunately not much has changed since these women were my age; 60-70 years ago. They faced unfathomable sexism just trying to pursue their dream of playing in jazz bands during the ‘30s and ‘40s. Some of these women even faced racism.

 

In most of my jazz experiences I have either been the only female in the band, or been lucky enough to have one or two other women there as well. I have almost always been the only female horn player, especially trombone.

 

I was telling my mom as we drove home that during the film it hit me that I have experienced sexism at almost every gig, especially jazz, that I have ever done.  I recognize this sounds weird. Like how could I have not known? But I never put two and two together until watching this film and seeing that the same comments these women got are the same comments I still get in 2014. “Wow, that’s a pretty big instrument. Sure you can handle it?” “The horn is your size, I bet you can’t make a good sound out of it.”

 

I always just smile, partially because I am shy, and partially because I have an even better comeback than words. My sound. My sound, I am lucky enough, is really good. I just let them laugh to themselves that a “girl” is playing bass trombone, and sometimes tuba, until I play my first LOUD low note. I have noticed that after a first-time gig I never get the same comments. Hrothgar, my beloved bass trombone, has never let me down on that.

 

The ladies in the film commented multiple times that they were told to “smile at the ladies” and they thought this was laughable because “How am I supposed to smile with a horn in my mouth?!” When I play, I hope that kids, and especially young girls can see and hear me, and see that this is possible. I never thought it wasn’t. There was an extremely talented young lady who was a few years ahead of me in high school who played the bass trombone in the top jazz band before I got there. So to me, having a female bass trombone player was basically the norm.

 

While I’m lucky that it was the norm to have female bass trombone players where I was growing up, it is distressing to come to terms with the fact that sexism is still apparent in the music world, especially jazz. I can’t get over it that the same things are still said to and about women as they were said in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

 

This film is an important film because it has a strong feminist message (!), and the history of these women is never told. I took many music history classes for my jazz trombone degree and never ONCE heard about the women mentioned in this film. That’s wrong because these women were EXTREMELY talented. It was so amazing to see bits of film from their day of them soloing. Their stories need to be told.

 

The culture of only telling the men’s jazz history will need to change in order to show women in jazz that they truly are equal. Maybe then men will feel less comfortable making comments about our size, or our ability just because we are women. I welcome that day.

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February 9-15 Weekly News Round Up

A round up of current news stories on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

By Tess Koenigsmark

Over 120,000 people have signed up for healthcare through Connecticut’s exchange.

A Wall Street Journal columnist promotes rape culture. Why do newspapers continue to give guys like these a podium? Oh, right, the rape culture thing.

Connecticut Representative Mae Flexer is proposing that a bill creating new requirements for how Connecticut colleges and universities handle sexual assault also includes financial penalties for colleges that fail to comply. Flexer argues that many of the new regulations being proposed are already a part of college policies, but aren’t enforced consistently.

New York Times Magazine runs an article about Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis with the sexist headline “Can Wendy Have It All?”  If you’re not sure why this is an issue, try to remember the last time someone asked if a man could have it all.

A lack of state funding for residential services leaves adults with developmental disabilities without any state support until their parents’ death. Tragic and infuriating.

A spokesperson for TEDWOMEN, a version of TED Talks that focuses on women’s rights issues, told feminist writer Jessica Valenti that their conference didn’t include talks about abortion because it didn’t fit the theme of  “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.” Silly feminists, thinking that women dying all over the world because of a lack of safe abortion care is a human rights issue! After justifiable outrage ensued, TED claimed Valenti’s article was based on “rumor” and was a “misrepresentation.” This turned out to be a not so great strategy, considering Valenti had the conversation with their spokesperson in writing.

The recently released The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink, reveals the gendered nature of poverty in the U.S.

The recent Connecticut gun control legislation prohibits people who are admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care voluntarily or through a court order from owning a firearm for six months. What lawmakers didn’t realize at the time of the bill’s passage is that this leaves out a significant chunk of people admitted for such care – those admitted under their physicians’ orders. This has reignited  debate over the mental health restrictions, with mental health advocates arguing the law contributes to stigma.

A great piece from Latino USA, an NPR show, on the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers. Warning: slut shaming ahead.

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Jan 27 – Feb 2 Weekly News Round Up

A round up of current news stories on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

 By Tess Koenigsmark

Last Tuesday the House of Representatives passed HR7, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion bill. The bill would bar insurance plans sold through the healthcare exchanges from providing abortion coverage, and ban abortion coverage for servicewomen. It will never pass in the Senate, making it yet another opportunity for House GOP members to say angry things about abortion instead of focusing on real problems. The great response from pro-choice members of Congress was the only thing that kept this story from being entirely depressing.

In the wake of Title IX complaints at the University of Connecticut, lawmakers are proposing legislation to improve how Connecticut colleges and universities handle sexual assaults.

While progressives may not have gotten everything they wanted from Obama’s State of the Union address (*coughs* reproductive rights), we can all agree that it was pretty awesome to hear the president speak about pay inequality and workplace policies that disadvantage women. “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode,” may have been the most quotable line of the evening.

Additionally, check out the Connecticut delegation’s guests to the State of the Union. Good choices all around.

A Connecticut woman has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the senior living center she works for denied her wife health benefits. Although same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, it’s not in Tennessee, where Brookdale Senior Living is based. This rationalization is still being used by many employers to deny same-sex spouses benefits, although it’s certainly a less credible argument since the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down in June. Not to mention, it seems like a pretty bad PR move for a health care company to deny its employees health benefits. *Update*

As more hospitals consider becoming for-profit institutions, Connecticut legislators want to tighten regulations for changes to hospital ownership.

The National Women’s Law Center has filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Health and Human Services against four health insurance companies that they claim are charging women more than men for the same coverage. Known as “gender rating”, the practice was outlawed by the Affordable Care Act.

Dylan Farrow has written an open letter in the New York Times addressing how her adoptive father, Woody Allen, sexually abused her as a child. This is important, and you should read it.

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Wait, what?!

Did you see what Mike Huckabee, the former presidential candidate and Arkansas governor, said late last week about birth control? If you did, let me refresh your memory. If you didn’t, let me take you to a special place that lives in Huckabee’s head. He said, as quoted in the NYTimes this weekend,

 

“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America.”

 

Wait, what? He seems to think women are helpless and unable to control their bodies without the government. Based on the Democratic agenda, women need the government to control their reproductive systems and libido.

 

I can see where he gets that. But that isn’t really the Democrats. That is many of his fellow Republicans all across the country mandating waiting periods for abortions. Trying to legislate which types of birth control I can take. Legislating that if I wanted to have an abortion, I would have to have an ultrasound, maybe even an extremely invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound, to hear my baby’s heartbeat. Someone in America is trying to control women’s bodies. But it isn’t the “Democratic agenda”.

 

We don’t need to be told how to take care of our bodies. And we definitely don’t need, usually male, legislators making this decision. Our bodies, our choice. If I want to take or use birth control, I will. I do. Along with 99% of women.  

 

I’m not sure when people like Mike Huckabee will understand that it should be up to a woman to control her own body and reproductive system. Because it is JUST up to me; just up to you. I hope that they will get it sooner rather than later. But until then, we will continue to see people like Mike Huckabee making baseless comments without actually asking a woman how “this” all works. **sigh**

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January 19-26 Weekly News Round Up

A round up of current news stories on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

By Tess Koenigsmark

Health insurance coverage may be the next big abortion battle. Many states are passing legislation prohibiting private insurance plans sold through the healthcare exchanges from providing abortion coverage. This will primarily affect low-income women, since the exchanges are meant to help those who couldn’t previously afford insurance. The tactic of restricting abortion access by targeting poor women is far from new. In 1976, the Hyde Amendment made it illegal for any federal money to fund abortion, denying abortion coverage to women on Medicaid.

A great article on why Connecticut needs to be vigilant about protecting reproductive rights, and finally pass some pro-choice legislation.

President Obama has announced the creation of a federal task force to address sexual assault on college campuses. The task force will make recommendations about how the federal government can better track how colleges handle sexual assaults, and how to discipline colleges that fail to do so properly. There are some pretty wonderful quotes from Obama’s announcement, including, “I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women… We need to keep teaching young men to show women the respect they deserve, to recognize sexual violence and be outraged by it.” It’s refreshing to see a denouncement of sexual assault that’s followed by something more substantial than, “Walk in groups at night, ladies.”

Shortly before President Obama’s announcement of the new task force, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report showing that nearly 1 in 5 college women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape.

A recent U.S. Senate hearing focused on health insurance company UnitedHealthcare’s decision to eliminate a large number of Connecticut doctors from its Medicare Advantage network. Currently, a court injunction against UnitedHealthcare that was sought by several CT medical associations is still in place, preventing the company from dropping the doctors. Many argue that the elimination of such a large number of practicioners would disrupt care for patients, particularly those who are unable to travel.

Governor Malloy has revealed that his budget package will include an additional $7.2 million for mental health services. The money will go toward increased rent assistance, services for young adults and vulnerable populations, a media campaign to reduce stigma, and crisis intervention training for police officers. It’s about time that mental health care became a priority.

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Clinic Violence Is Violence Against Women

The following is a guest blog post by Tess Koenigsmark. Tess is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut and currently works for a small but awesome reproductive rights non-profit. Her interests include intersectionality, exploring nature, and spending too much time watching funny cat videos.

Please note that views expressed by guest bloggers represent solely their own. CT NOW believes in open dialogue and multiple perspectives and welcomes (civilly worded) thoughts different from our own, but we do not necessarily endorse any writing done by the author here or elsewhere.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that challenges the legality of a Massachusetts buffer zone law. While there are different types of buffer zones, they generally create a space around the clinic (35 feet in the case of Massachusetts) in which only patients and staff are allowed. Prior to the buffer zone, Massachusetts found that protesters posed not just an inconvenience, but such a serious issue that they prevented women from accessing abortion care and other medical services.

Buffer zones are intended to protect patients at reproductive health clinics from anti-abortion protesters that routinely harass, obstruct, intimidate, and even assault patients attempting to enter clinics. They may not solve every problem, but clinics with any sort of protection are among the lucky ones. Reproductive health clinics have endured arson, bombings, death threats, and even the murders of staff. That is terrorism, plain and simple.

And while these acts are certainly the most heinous, and most newsworthy, the everyday harassment of patients is also a significant hindrance to women seeking medical care. Women already in a vulnerable position are confronted by protesters who scream in their faces, display graphic images of aborted fetuses, shove literature through car windows, record them, and obstruct their entry into the clinic.

Given this state of affairs, many reproductive rights advocates were justifiably furious that mainstream media outlets bought into the characterization of anti-choice protesters as gentle, peaceful people. Eleanor McCullen, the plaintiff in this case, is a harmless-looking grandmother who claims she just wants to speak to the women entering clinics. I don’t know enough about her to determine that her behavior is never harassing, but regardless, McCullen is not representative of the climate outside the average clinic. As the Supreme Courts arguments were taking place, Erin Matson, editor of RH Reality Check, was tweeting anti-choice protester behavior that she personally witnessed as a clinic escort. Below are just a couple of her many tweets:

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What was most shocking was how people – mostly women – repeatedly had to share their personal stories to prove that the violence, harassment, and general obstruction of women’s access to healthcare are indeed real. As mainstream news outlets overlooked this side of the story, instead painting clinic protesters as benign grandmothers, stories of harassment poured out onto Twitter and elsewhere. How loud do women have to collectively shout in order to be believed?

While watching the story of this Supreme Court case play out was frustrating for its own reasons, it was even more maddening to have the feeling that I had seen this movie before. For as much as this court case is about the constitutionally protected right to abortion, it is perhaps just as much about violence against women. Debate about the former has, perhaps strategically, clouded any discussion of the latter.

The way this case has played out so far is reminiscent of other forms of violence and harassment faced by women. Women can say, repeatedly, that street harassment restricts their movement and activities, at times creating a legitimate emotional burden. And yet many men will not take their female friends at their word on this subject. It is only when a woman tells them about the time that she was not sure if the hostile, aggressive man in an empty subway car was going to take no for an answer that they scratch their heads and reconsider.

It is the burden of every marginalized group to be denied credibility in talking about their own experiences. It is simply not good enough for women to say, “Yes, this happened to me.” They must expose the raw, gory details whether they would like to or not, almost as a penance for bringing their experiences into the light of the public.

When the media and Supreme Court justices deny the violence that happens at reproductive health clinics, it is no different than when our society dismisses women’s experiences with sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. The characters in this case may be different, but the story is still the same.

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