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November 17-23 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

The current uproar over UConn President Susan Herbst’s inappropriate response to the accusations by Title IX complainants is not the first time she’s caught flack over statements regarding sexual assault. Sensitive though the subject may be, it doesn’t seem like it should be this difficult to address sexual assault in a tasteful, respectful manner. And, as a general rule, if you don’t how to broach a sensitive topic, how hard is it to consult someone who does?

Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at the ceiling in the presence of her abusive husband, has not been granted bail as she awaits her new trial.

President Obama has announced that, in response to news that many Americans’ insurance plans are being cancelled, insurance companies may continue to offer the cancelled plans for another year. However, Connecticut has rejected Obama’s offer as it is unlikely CT insurance companies would continue to offer cancelled plans even if given the option.

Albuquerque, New Mexico voters rejected a proposed 20-week abortion ban on Tuesday. Strong grassroots organizing, backed by support from larger national organizations, is responsible for defeating the bill. From RH Reality Check, how such laws contribute to the criminalization of all pregnant women.

Connecticut is considering legislation that would change how juvenile offenders are treated, including sentencing and parole. The legislation is being considered in response to Supreme Court decisions that juvenile offenders cannot be treated the same as adults.

A horrifying story of police abuse of power and racial profiling in Miami Gardens: One shop owner in the Florida city is fighting back after police have repeatedly arrested his employees and customers for “trespassing” inside his store.

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November 3-10 Weekly Round Up

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

By Tess Koenigsmark

The Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women’s Executive Director, Teresa Younger, was on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show to discuss the issue of reproductive healthcare at Catholic hospitals.

The UConn Foundation spent $660,000 on a Hartford house where President Susan Herbst can wine and dine potential donors. The purchase was funded through donations and used no taxpayer money, but such a lavish expenditure at the same time that UConn faces accusations of grossly mishandling sexual assault cases is in poor taste. Where are the donations for the UConn Women’s Center, which advocates for campus victims of sexual violence and has faced recent budget cuts?

An awesome Courant article takes down UConn President Susan Herbst’s unacceptable response to the Title IX complaint filed against the school.

Former UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni says that he was never informed of a sexual assault allegation against one of his players, contrary to claims by the UConn Police Department. Pasqualoni made the comments in response to allegations by one of the Title IX complainants, Rosemary Richi, that she was assaulted by a UConn football player in 2011. Granted, it may be his word against UConn’s, but Pasqualoni’s statements can only bolster allegations that the UConn Police Department has routinely mishandled sexual assault investigations.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is largely responsible for exposing Republican Senator Rand Paul’s blatant and persistent plagiarism problem. Instead of owning his mistakes, Paul commented that he wishes dueling were legal so that he could challenge Maddow to a showdown. How is that not a veiled threat of violence? “Oh, yeah, I would totally like to shoot or stab her, but obviously I won’t, since that’s illegal. *winks*”

The Illinois legislature has passed marriage equality legislation, making it the 15th state to approve same-sex marriage. Hawaii’s House of Representatives has also passed marriage equality legislation, which will now head to the Senate for approval.

How the anti-choice war against women is also a war against pregnant women.

Albuquerque, New Mexico could become the first municipality to ban abortion if its voters pass an upcoming ballot measure. If the measure passes, similar challenges are likely to spring up in municipalities across the country.  Here’s one way you can help stop this legislation.

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September 23-29 Weekly News Round Up

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

By Tess Koenigsmark

At a rally in Hamden, CT politicians and advocates for greater worker protections drew attention to how CT can improve its current laws. While CT was ahead of other states in passing family medical leave, many workers still can’t afford to take advantage of leave that is unpaid. Representative Rosa DeLauro spoke at the event and advocated for a federal paid sick leave bill.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz  “filibustered” the Senate vote on a House spending bill that would also have defunded the Affordable Care Act. Democrats and  some Republicans saw Cruz’s antics as having more to do with gaining personal publicity than the legislation at hand. Congress must pass a spending bill to continue funding the government and avoid a looming October 1 shutdown, but the Senate predictably rejected the House version that would defund the Affordable Care Act.

This Tuesday is the big day for the Affordable Care Act, as the state healthcare exchanges, one of the core pieces of the legislation, open in all 50 states. How smoothly the exchanges operate and how many people enroll will be a huge factor in judging the success of the Affordable Care Act. You can find information on CT’s exchange, Access Health CT, here.

A Connecticut task force created after the Newtown shooting is responsible for making recommendations on how to improve mental health services in the state. Figuring out how to better address mental illness is something that all states should be devoting greater energy to. However, one issue I do have is that addressing mental health as part of a response to Newtown reinforces the stereotype that the mentally ill are prone to violent behavior, ironically enabling the stigma the taskforce is trying to prevent.  Most mass shooters are not mentally ill, and to my knowledge there is still no evidence indicating that the Newtown shooter suffered from mental illness.

John Olsen, president of the CT AFL-CIO, stepped down earlier this week with a farewell speech that warned against threats to labor even in liberal states such as Connecticut. Governor Malloy was present to voice his support for organized labor. The new president, Lori Pelletier, will be the first openly gay woman to lead a US state labor federation.

Governor Malloy has issued an executive order that will make it easier for veterans to transfer their military experience into college credit.

State government officials, including Governor Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen, are objecting to changes in federal tribal recognition standards proposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The concern is that the changes, which would relax current standards, would allow for the recognition of several additional tribes in Connecticut, entitling them to land and the right to open casinos. The clear stance of CT officials regarding the changes has led Indian news outlets to accuse state officials of being anti-Indian.

Women’s groups in Texas have filed a lawsuit against the new anti-abortion provisions in the legislation that was famously filibustered by Wendy Davis, who is running for Texas Governor. Hopefully, the suit will stop implementation of provisions that have the potential to shutter several Texas abortion clinics. The law will otherwise go into effect October 29.

Finally, what would a roundup be without a good dose of righteous outrage? The chairman of Barilla Pasta went on a radio show and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to discuss why he would never have a gay family in their advertisements. Seriously? Obviously anti-gay sentiment has not gone anywhere, but at least most public figures have figured out that no one wants to hear about their homophobia. And must we drag poor pasta, in all its carb-laden goodness, into this?

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On a positive note: abortion in the main stream.

So a pretty cool thing I noticed this week was that a profile in the NY Times Wedding section actually had a couple openly talking about abortion, and not just any couple, but captain of the Miami Heat Udonis Haslem.

“I am not a huge fan of abortion, but we both had sports careers, plus we could not financially handle a baby,” said Mr. Haslem, noting how he struggled with supporting Kedonis, the son he had in high school, who is now 14 and who lives with his mother.

“Udonis appreciated that I was willing to have an abortion,” Ms. Rein said. “I found him caring, supportive, nurturing and all over me to be sure I was O.K. I saw another side of him during that difficult time and fell deeply in love. He had a big heart and was the whole package.”

I love that. I love that there’s not a big fuss made about the fact that she had an abortion (just those lines). I love that they don’t stigmatize the abortion. And I love that they both seemed to come about the choice together and that he was supportive.

I’m happy that I can write about something nice for once, in a time where abortion access is getting repeatedly restricted and stigmatized, about how it’s a necessary and often best decision for many people out there.

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Difficult Circumstances Indeed

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’ heroic act of using her political weight to advocate for women who she has never met outweighed the physical feat of standing for over eleven hours talking on a single topic without learning or taking a break for water or the restroom.

I was impressed by the physical act that Wendy Davis accomplished and realize that it was as challenging as the content she spoke on. Davis came prepared – orange sneakers and a back brace – and knew the most important four words – “I will not yield”.

Davis was speaking for women throughout Texas to ensure the government kept its hands off their bodies. In a male dominated environment, she knew walking in that she would take heat after the night ended. But this was not new for Davis, she already cramped Texas Governor Rick Perry’s style once before. 

As background, Texas Senate Bill 5 contained language that if enacted, there would have been a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and would have imposed additional regulations on clinics, which would have closed as many as 37 of Texas’ 42 clinics.

Both patients’ and care-givers’ access and rights would have been affected. While the claim that the new regulations, such as proximity to a hospital, would have improved care, it actually would have prohibited the ability for countless women to receive services. For example, a woman would have had to drive more than 30 miles each way, twice, within a 48 hour period to receive the Plan B contraceptive pill.  There is no doubt that Texas Senate Bill 5 is an attempt to impose personal opinion and belief onto women’s bodies through the form of law.  

Anyone who honestly believes there is a divide between the personal and political is as mistaken as believing that there really is a separation between church and state. Just look to Gov. Perry’s remarks this morning at the National Right to Life Convention where he not only brought up Senator Davis and her (successful) filibuster, but also utilized her in his argument regarding right to life. He stated:

“No life is trivial in God’s eyes. And the fact is, who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives? In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.” 

For Gov. Perry, it is God who dictates the correct decision of legislation pertaining to women’s bodies. Not only did Perry bring religion into a human rights and legislative debate, but he also found it relevant to bring Senator Davis’s past into the matter by claiming her own life choices were a mistake, and degrading her as a woman, daughter and mother – utterly inappropriate. Who is he to say that Senator Davis was born into “difficult circumstances” and share her life story?  Would she have not fought the same if she had not had these particular life experiences?

The gender double standard here is unmistakably sadistic. Women seek to terminate pregnancies for a plethora of reasons. A significant number of women seek abortions for rape, to which the rapist of a woman inevitably is a man. Women choose not to carry a child due to financial insecurity, which would not be a staunch problem were it not for the gender gap in pay. And the mere fact that this bill is being brought forward by a government body that is comprised mostly by men, and it requires a woman’s voice to delineate its detrimental effects is by no means a coincidence. Senator Davis is the advocate we needed, now we need women AND men to come forward to defeat this bill permanently. 

Instead of narrowly looking at Senator Davis’ personal past, why not expand that view to her accomplishments that have changed the voice of women in Texas. Women chanted “Let her speak” as her words became their own.

This morning, Gov. Perry called for a second special session. I expect this bill will be brought up for a vote early to decrease the possibility of a successful filibuster. However, Senator Davis has shown women everywhere anyone can become an advocate and create change today

Come prepared, be ready to stand up for what you believe in (for a very long time), and don’t let the bullies get the better.  And remember those four words, “I will not yield”


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