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.
It would be hard to find a more successful federal program than Title X family planning clinics. Title X is a nearly 50-year-old federal family planning grant program. According to Guttmacher Institute, the program funds roughly 4,000 health centers around the country, with 4 million clients—including 20 percent of all U.S. women who need publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies. According to Connecticut’s attorney general, some 43,000 Connecticut residents relied on Title X clinics in 2017. Without these clinics, the rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion in the U.S. each would have been 33 percent higher, while the teen pregnancy rate would have been 30 percent higher.
Last month, newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont created the Council on Women and Girls, modeled after a similar council started under President Obama, which has been allowed to lie fallow under President Trump. The council will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and will include state agency commissioners, as well as the state’s constitutional officers and a handful of legislators. The council’s charge is to plan legislation and policies that work to end gender discrimination. Though Connecticut can be a wonderful place for women, the challenges are marked. • A Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut study says that in the eastern part of the state, women between the ages of 18 and 34 have a higher poverty rate—18 percent—than any other group in the area.
Much has been made of the #MeToo movement—and rightfully so—but an important discussion central to the movement has been sidelined. Again. This time, the safety of women has been subsumed in a strange debate about security at our country’s southern border. Amid unpaid furloughs, federal employees who are working without pay, and shuttered federal departments sits the expired Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA. VAWA funding supports a variety of initiatives in Connecticut, said Liza Andrews, Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence director of public policy and communications.
Bit by bit, regulation by regulation, the Trump administration – followed by a notable list of states — has been shrinking women’s access to birth control and abortion services. From packing the courts with anti-choice judges to repeated (failed) attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the White House has done its best to push reproductive freedom off the table. So, when a Connecticut hospital and two neighborhood health centers announced plans to collaborate and become the New Haven Primary Care Consortium, the conversation quickly turned to women’s reproductive health—as it should. Yale New Haven Hospital and two local federally qualified health centers proposed to merge services recently, with the clinics that serve adults, women’s reproductive needs and children moving to 150 Sargent Drive (Long Wharf). This is a big deal for the state’s health care landscape.
The Connecticut Childbirth & Women’s Center in Danbury is a 50-minute drive from Evelyn DeGraf’s home in Westchester. Pregnant with her second child, the 37-year-old didn’t hesitate to make the drive—she wanted her birth to be attended by a midwife, not a doctor. DeGraf believed midwifery care to be more personal and less rushed than that delivered by obstetrics/gynecologists (OB/GYNs). She also knew an OB/GYN would deem her relatively advanced maternal age and previous cesarean section history too high-risk to attempt a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean section. But she had to drive roughly 35 miles to find a midwife because there aren’t many of them.
The United States’ maternal mortality rate is abysmal, and women of color are particularly vulnerable. No amount of fame or fortune can run interference when it comes to mothers dying or at-risk during pregnancy, childbirth, or early motherhood. And that holds especially true for African American women. At 26.4 per 100,000 live births, the U.S. has the worst rate of maternal death in the developed world—by several times over. Even more disquieting, the U.S. rate rose by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013.
Why do so many pregnant women and young mothers die? Your guess is as good as our government’s. We simply don’t know. Even the statistics we have aren’t current, though from all indications the U.S.’s mortality rate is rising, as it is in Afghanistan and Sudan. But in the U.S., the rate has risen by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013.
As fertility rates fall nationwide, Connecticut continues to rank among the lowest in the country—a trend doctors attribute to women here delaying childbearing. In 2016, the most recent year for which state-level data is available, Connecticut had 53.4 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, compared with a national average of 62 per 1,000 women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just four states had lower rates than Connecticut in 2016, and all are in New England: Vermont at 50.3 births per 1,000 women, New Hampshire at 50.9, Rhode Island at 51.8 and Massachusetts at 51.9. The states with the highest fertility rates in 2016 were South Dakota at 77.7, North Dakota at 77.3, Utah at 76.2 and Alaska at 76.1, the CDC reports. Unlike birth rates, which take an entire population into account, fertility rates reflect the share of babies born to women of childbearing age. Connecticut typically ranks low on the list, along with other “high achievement, high education states,” said Dr. Harold J. Sauer, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale New Haven Health’s Bridgeport Hospital.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 700 women in the United States die each year as a result of pregnancy or pregnancy-related complications, and the rate has more than doubled since 1987. Pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births rose from 7.2 nationally in 1987 to 17.3 in 2013, peaking at 17.8 in 2009 and 2011. In Connecticut, there were eight pregnancy-related deaths from 2011 to 2014. But there’s no data available yet for the years since 2014 and at the moment there are precious few dollars devoted to accessing it
For more on this story by Christine Stuart of ctnewsjunkie.com click here.