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.
While the Trump administration seeks to dismantle any and all things Obamacare, Connecticut legislators, in the waning days of this year’s legislative session, passed a bill that protects important health benefits that are part of the 2010 reform package. Legislators also passed a law that seeks to reduce the times police officers arrest both the victim and the aggressor on domestic violence calls, or so-called “dual arrests.” And they, in an attempt to close the gender wage gap, passed a bill that prevents potential employers from asking job applicants about salary history. About that last one, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, “This inequity is perpetuated by the practice of asking for salary history during the hiring process, which can disproportionately ensure that women who were underpaid at their first job continue to be underpaid throughout their careers, creating a cycle of poverty and causing real harm to families.”
But let’s give an honest grade for what happened—and what didn’t happen—in the session that ended at midnight May 9. Connecticut legislators’ effort was a solid C for what they could do for families—or, if we’re feeling generous, maybe a C+. Too many pieces of legislations that could have made a big difference in a small state were left on the table, died in committee, or never got traction.
While we’ve been engrossed in the Republicans’ umpteenth attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration quietly has stopped funding 80-some teenage pregnancy prevention programs around the country, including a highly successful one in Hartford. The Trump administration has cut nearly $214 million in grants. Those grants were awarded under President Obama, and were supposed to have ended in 2020. Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services let grantees know that the funds would end in 2018—two years earlier than promised. The cut was first reported by Reveal, a product of The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Officials at St. Mary’s Hospital and Waterbury Hospital began negotiations in 2011 to merge and join a Texas-owned company. But the state Permanent Commission on the Status of Women—with MergerWatch, a hospital watchdog group—successfully argued against the merger by making the case that since the new hospital would honor Catholic religious directives, a significant portion of patients would be left vulnerable—because God help you if you are a woman and need emergency reproductive services at a Roman Catholic hospital. Medical professionals at Catholic-owned or -sponsored hospitals operate under directives—known officially as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. These directives come from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and take 43 pages (plus footnotes) to describe what constitutes appropriate Catholic health care.