Stories of missed diagnoses are everywhere. One woman endures severe pain for a decade before her endometriosis is diagnosed. The source of a woman’s stomach pain is a parasitic worm, but that diagnosis only comes after seven years. Another woman loses her mother to cancer, which her doctors missed until it was too late. After a December C-HIT column about women getting inferior treatment from health care providers, the stories came pouring in.
In ancient Greece, a woman who complained of pain—or one who acted outside the limited social norm available to her—was thought to be suffering from “wandering womb,” which was closely related to hysteria. The uterus was thought to float free within a woman’s body and cause all kinds of medical and emotional issues. The cure, for the most part, was marriage. Of course, that’s silly, but consider how far we haven’t come in the treatment of women’s complaints about pain. Recent data on women’s shoddy treatment by health care providers paints a stunning picture of medical apathy and worse.
Since two Greenwich students—Amy Barratt and Charlotte Hallisey—convinced their local school board to provide menstrual supplies for free to students in middle and high school, they’ve taken their initiative statewide with an online petition and lobbying at the state capitol. They’ve been joined by other activists. The young women’s initiative—dubbed the Period Project—has earned the support of key state senators and representatives, including Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford. “To me, this initiative is a no-brainer,” Slap said after meeting with other legislators and the Greenwich women in September. “This isn’t a women’s issue; it’s an issue of equality, and it’s something that men should be just as interested in.”
Imagine if you had to pay for toilet paper every time you visited a public bathroom at libraries, restaurants, or schools.
In theory, a do-it-yourself rape kit, where a victim of rape or sexual assault collects evidence in the privacy of his or her home, seems like a good idea. Going to the police or a hospital after a rape is immeasurably difficult for some. There’s a stigma, and victims may fear mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement or hospital personnel. But advocates and others say newly introduced home rape kits are roughly as useless as the boxes they come in. There’s no guarantee self-collected evidence is admissible in court, and the kits aren’t nearly as comprehensive as those offered by the state.
If you Googled “elderly sex” recently—in Connecticut, at least—up popped an August news story about the arrest of six seniors in connection with group sex in a Fairfield nature preserve. The people ranged in age from 62 to 85, though charges against two were dropped. Morning radio had a field day. When it comes to sex and the senior set, those jokes write themselves. And that’s unfortunate.
You can have prayers. Or you can have teeth. After two mass shootings within 16 hours stunned the nation earlier this month, conversation turned to how best to remove guns from the wrong hands. Seventeen states—including Connecticut—and the District of Columbia have “red flag” laws, also known as “extreme risk” laws, that, depending on the state, allow family members, household members, or law enforcement officials to petition the courts to remove guns from the hands of someone who might do harm to himself or herself, or to others. It’s an approach that is supported by 85% of registered voters, according to a 2018 Washington Post/ABC poll.
During 2018, members of the advocacy group CT Equality traveled around the state to listen to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community talk about their challenges and concerns about life in Connecticut. The conversations, said Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, deputy majority leader who attended one of the meetings in Hartford, had common themes, including a need for additional services and programs.
Among other tangible efforts during the legislative session that ended June 5, such as a ban on the so-called “gay panic defense,” the conversations moved Connecticut legislators to create an LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, which is charged with creating a safe environment for members of the community. This comes at a time when the Trump administration is rolling back rights at a historic rate. In June, the administration announced it would cut funding for a University of California HIV and AIDS research program. Trump has announced plans to allow “religious exemptions” to adoption agencies that want to deny services for LTBTQ couples.
While the American theocracy tightens its stranglehold on the wombs of women in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere, how safe are the women of Connecticut, which has some of the country’s least restrictive abortion laws? As always, your safety may depend on your income. Women with means will always be able to get abortions, whether that means spending money to travel where they are available, and finding (and paying) a doctor willing to perform the operation. But women who live in poverty are always vulnerable to the vagaries of politics, said Sarah Croucher, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut executive director. Connecticut is good for women, but women who are poor may have some significant challenges if abortion is restricted nationally.
Slowly—but perhaps surely—the country is beginning to address maternal mortality, both through legislation and through initiatives on the part of health care providers. This is critical. We have lost countless women to pregnancy and childbirth, and the majority of those deaths didn’t have to happen. This holds true especially for mothers of color. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from pregnancy as white women, according to a study released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I am writing to ask you to do the right thing. The U.S. House of Representatives—including the entire Connecticut delegation—voted last week to reauthorize a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes, among other changes, placing limits on convicted domestic abusers’ ability to buy firearms. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, and Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, were two of the co-sponsors of the bill. The reauthorization passed 263 to 158 despite heavy lobbying by the National Rifle Association, which has become nothing more than a soulless gun delivery system. The organization lobbied especially hard against an expansion of the act that adds restrictions on gun-ownership by current or former dating partners, which closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the presence of a gun in the home of someone who commits domestic abuse increases fivefold the possibility of a homicide happening in that home. In a study that compared violent death rates in the U.S. with other high-income countries, U.S. women were 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun.